The Raveonettes emerged in 2001 from the acclaim of Rolling Stone’s editor, David Fricke, and were later described by the magazine as the “Next Wave” of contemporary music. Four albums later and a bad record label situation, the Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, are now touring in support of their new album, In and Out of Control. The lo-fi sounding group, have never been afraid of comparisons, as their name is a direct reference to The Ronettes and Buddy Holly’s “Rave On!” In the past their reverb drench sound, has been critiqued as dark, compared to a wall of sound. On their new album the melodies are lush, and the harmonies are upbeat; but, a dark ironic tone remains embedded in the lyrics of songs like, “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed).” In an interview with Sharin Foo, SFCritic talked about their journey to the US and how their music continues to evolve.
For those in San Francisco, The Raveonettes are playing at Bimbos on Nov. 9th.
SFCritic (SFC): How did you and Sune get started together?
Sharin Foo (SF): Well we met in Copenhagen. I think it was about a decade ago. We met through mutual friends. Both of us were hanging out in the alternative Copenhagen music scene. Sune had just gotten back from the US. After he had written the material for Whip It On, he called me and asked me if I wanted to try the stuff out with him. He was looking to making a band with a female and male vocal. It just worked out really well and we started out. Not a very interesting story.
(SFC): You guys do a lot of touring between the States and Europe. Do you as a person ever feel lost between your dual identities?
(SF): The more you start to integrate in the place you moved to, the more you also start feel like its home. It’s strange. When I’m in Denmark I miss my home in LA, and when I’m in LA I miss Denmark.
(SFC): It seemed that when you left Denmark, heading to London and then the US, you were done with the scene. What was going on?
(SF): It was more like being young and rebellious and having lots of ambition for our band. Denmark was too small for us. I sound very cocky, but I don’t mean it like that. Denmark is a small country of five million people. There are only so many people you can reach if your music is alternative and we wanted a broad audience. We also felt like our music would appeal to a crowd especially in the bigger cities around the world.
(SFC): At points it’s been implied that your music is kind of an escape from politics, life, or just a wall of sound. Is music an escape for you?
(SF): Well, yeah I guess you could say that. There is definitely some escapism in our music for sure.
If you listen to the new album it’s definitely very confrontational. The last previous album was more an introvert and personal album; whereas this album is more reflection and stories from the world around, and the people we know and their stories. There is always a sense of nostalgia and in a sense irony. It’s full of contrasts, the themes in our music. It tends to always have a little sentimental, nostalgic creation, for example “Suicide.” It still has innocence to it, though it’s such a harsh topic.
Photo by C Davey Wilson
(SFC): My question is more directed at your personally. I know when I listen to music, and I need to push something aside, I can use music in that way. So I’m curious if that is something that is a part of your creative process. Is this where music comes for you?
(SF): I guess it’s both really. It is a way finding an outlet for whatever you’re dealing with emotionally and any kind of reaction to the world. It’s an outlet for that, and it’s also getting away from it.
(SFC): You were saying that this album is more confrontational, and so I want to ask you about the song, “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed).” Can you tell me where this song’s inspiration came from?
(SF): It is from hearing stories from people that we know. That’s what it is, and also, it’s our way of making a bubblegum tragedy. It’s a tragedy, but then we apply the contrast. If you listen to the song it’s seem like an innocent, happy song, but then it becomes sort of bizarre because it is confrontational as an anti-rape song.
Songs like “Gone Forever,” and this one, were done later in the recording because we felt the album needed these songs. This song was the really crazy, bizarre element on the album. I think it’s the most bizarre song we’ve ever done as a whole with the lyrics, and how it sounds, and comes across. It has this sweetness to it and then it’s kind of dark.
(SFC): This album has a lot of a lot melody which I think is somewhat unusual with typical lo-fi groups. After your last album was described as really dark by several critics, was this a conscious decision to go with more harmony and melody?
(SF): We’ve been in that dark space for several years, that I think we just needed something that was more celebratory. When Sune and I met up in New York, to listen to new ideas and also have a conversation about what we wanted for this album. We were talking about how we wanted a lot more chorus on this album, and sung, not this sort of reverb drenched vocals, but more this in-your-face vocals.
We also talked about working on songs individually, whereas previously the albums have a sort of drone, hypnotic feel. This one we wanted to take each song and go where that song needed individually. We didn’t consciously decide whether it should be an upbeat, or down beat, or extroverted or introverted that was more just in the process gravitating towards ideas. This album was done in basically in six to eight weeks. Some songs the sketches were there before that, but really we just went into the studio and went with it.
(SFC): I read that you wrote and recorded the album in the studio which was new for you. Sune has even admitted in an interview that he doesn’t remember all the lyrics. Does this album feel as personal for you?
(SF): Well—that’s a tough question. All of our albums feel personal to us one way or another, but I would say this album is more of a celebration, and kind of the fun part of us sonically. It’s not the most personal and emotional album we’ve done, but this is more the fun, the party if you don’t think about the lyrics too much.