Friday, May 7, 2010

An Interview with Lars Ludvig Löfgren

Well, if you're upset at us for not providing another installment of FRIDAY NOSTALGIA!! this week, I'm not sure what to tell you... 'cause this week we have something much, much better. Swedish-born and based songwriter Lars Ludvig Löfgren made us seriously swoon back in January with his Häleri debut, Heterochromia. It's the type of album that swells your heart two-sizes-too-big for your chest it's so good. Sweet, charming, up-beat, a little nostalgic, and a ton of fun... all words I'd use to describe its wholly cohesive and focused sound. Lars Ludvig Löfgren is one of those rare artists who knows just what he wants from his songs, and buys into a very specific style with so much enthusiasm that it's impossible not to hear an honest sincerity in the music, even if cute or silly might be a hasty, knee-jerk impression. One thing's for sure, Heterochromia is damned addicting... the record's found its way miles out in front for most plays of the year on my iTunes library in a year already chock-full of excellent releases by a number of excellent artists.

Mr. Löfgren took the time to answer some of our questions via e-mail this week, as we asked him about his geographical history, the virtues of American pop, and the possibilities of running into him stateside any time soon. Don't forget to visit his bandcamp page to download the latest record, and please enjoy our exchange below!

—Craw'z 5/7/2010

THE TOME: What town are you from in Sweden? Did you grow up there? Can you describe the music scene where you’re living? What are some other artists in your area we should be checking out?

L L L: My family comes from a town in Northern Sweden called Luleå, I grew up in a small, shitty place called Vänersborg close to Göteborg. Later, I moved to Umeå. At the moment, I live in the middle of Sweden in a city called Karlstad. The music scene in Karlstad is nothing special, but for my songwriting it doesn't make any difference at all. In general, I like bands who don’t look at trends and stuff like that, so I don't have to live close to a cool city to write music. Last year I stayed in New York City for two months and wrote some songs. I could live there, but I could live in the forest as well.

Why do you choose to write your songs in English?

It feels stupid to not let the rest of the world know what you're saying, that's why I don't sing in Swedish. But it's also easier to sing in English. I think it would be more naked in Swedish, but I prefer English.

I’d like to know a little about your creative process. Where did you record the album? Did you write everything yourself? Where do your songs come from exactly?

I recorded my album last year in a studio in Göteborg, Sweden. On the album I play all of the instruments except the drums and the guest appearances. I wrote all the songs and lyrics on the album. I used to like writing songs with someone else, but for this project I like to decide every tune by myself. The good thing about this is that I don't have to compromise; the negative side is that you might miss some cool ideas for your song. After all, I don't have anyone else to blame.

Your album is all about guitars, which is something I love. Have you ever considered using any electronic instruments or production?

Well, on my next album there might be some electronic elements. Why not? It's not like I have to have someone's permission for having electronic instruments. On my last tour, in January, I brought my keyboard and performed some songs with that. That was fun, but my songs mostly sound better with guitar. Haha!

What are your goals for breaking into the American market, and what’s the best way for you to do that? Do you plan on touring North America any time soon?

I know you have a show called American Idol. I might try that, otherwise I'll just wait and see what happens. I'm going to tour around Europe this summer, but I don't know when North America is ready for me.

Your MySpace influences list ranges from sitcom to soccer stars. Are those more of a joke, or do you really draw inspiration from all of these places? Your only musical reference is Madonna... gotta admit, I don’t hear much. Where did that come from? Who are some of your real musical heroes?

Hm, I see why people get a bit confused by reading my influences. But I'm 100% serious about my influences. I've been listening to so many different types of music through the years, and after a while I got tired... These days I'm mostly listening to Motown groups like Sam Cooke, Temptations, Supremes, etc... What else? I like the indie music of the 90's, like Pavement, Ride, Lemonheads, My Bloody Valentine, etc. Ricky Gervais is an idol. Did you know he was a singer in a band called Shauna Dancing in the 80's? He was also a manager for Suede. I think you could be influenced by whatever you want, you just have to open your eyes. It's up to journalists to find out my influences, some of them do but most of them don't.

How did you get started with music? Where did you find your band mates—is there a rotating cast of characters there, or have you formed something fairly solid?

I started to play piano when I was 5 years old. Later on I played the clarinet, but I never liked the clarinet. After I heard Nirvana for the first time I wanted to play guitar, write songs and be in a band. That was at the age of 10. For almost a year I've been surrounded by the same musicians. It's good to have it that way. I like to meet new people but it's easier when you're going on tour and you know the people you're traveling with. But the live line-up could be changed, I'm not addicted to anyone.

How has your experience with Bandcamp and the “pay what you want” scheme been working for you? Are people paying any sum of money for your album? How has Häleri Records been helpful for you?

Actually I don't know that much about Bandcamp or how much people pay, you'll have to ask Häleri about that. In Sweden, they don't have many record stores left, so the most money comes in during concerts. I like the fact that you can find my album on Spotify, so Häleri has been doing something good for the rest of the world. Häleri is a small company with a lot of contacts.

What do you admire about North American pop music, and what do you dislike about it? In your opinion, is your take on pop somehow different from what is going on this side of the world?

Wow... that was a hard one. I mean punk, hip-hop, grunge comes from America. That's a lot. And everything that was going at the CBGB'S in the 70's. The alternative music scene would be nothing today without Velvet Underground. I like the D.I.Y. attitude in America. From what I've heard, it's much harder to tour in America than in Europe. With my hand on my weak Swedish heart I can't come up with anything negative.

I love the last track on your album, “My Kid Could Paint That.” Does the song reference the documentary of the same name?

Thank you! I've never seen that documentary, but I've heard from a lot of people who asked me about the same thing, so I better check it out. I once had a discussion with some friends about art, when one of my friends said: "my kid could paint that." I like the sentence and I like the song. A good song deserves a good name.

Your song “Opportunity Knocks,” sounds like it might be about yourself. What are you “tired of,” and what opportunities are helping you develop a new attitude towards life?

An opportunity is often something you can't control and when you least excpect it, opportunity knocks. It could be about anything or anyone. I write most of my songs from a "I-perspective" but "I" doesn't necessary have to be about me. In this case, it's more about everyone, a common fact. I hope I'll have the opportunity to come to America soon.

What if folks out there wanted MORE Lars Ludvig Löfgren? What would you recommend they hear from you, and where would they go to get it?

People should come to my shows. To see an artist live is a feeling that you can't download. Otherwise, I don't know how to help them. They should pay my MySpace page a visit every now and then and they should read Tome To The Weather Machine daily. I'm going to record some songs this summer, I might post something on MySpace during that period.

Onward: what’s next for your project? Are there any other bands that you play with?

At the moment I don't play in another band. I don't have time for that now. I sometimes play with some friends for fun, nothing else. There will be a new Lars Ludvig Löfgren album next year, that's a promise!

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