The Null Device

The Swedish Invasion

Jude Rogers (who, I believe, co-edits the Smoke zine, along with Matt Haynes) has an article in the Graun about the recent explosion of Swedish indie pop, and how Sweden seems to have recently become the homeland of indie-pop (in the old-school, pre-Britpop/Carling/Xfm sense of the word):
"Things have always been very do-it-yourself here," says Angergard. "Labrador has never had a grand, ambitious plan. Partly because bands don't expect much in Sweden. They never think of the fame, or the money like you do in Britain; there's just not that attitude. Bands are more laid-back, they all have jobs and normal lives." Angergard pats his chest contentedly. "They just make music because it's a fun thing to do."
Which sounds a bit like Melbourne; at least compared to hyper-competitive, status-conscious England. Of course, in England you do get bands in the old-school indie-pop tradition, though they're the exception rather than the rule, and when you mention "indie" to someone, you have to explain that you're not referring to the Kaiser Monkeys or some other hyper-stylised, massively commercial, aggressively success-oriented outfit.
What's noticeable about these Swedish indie bands is their ambition - not in terms of a rock'n'roll attitude, but in terms of them wanting to put more in, and get more out of, their songs. Johan Duncanson of the Radio Dept - a Labrador band who had two NME singles of the week with their last album and hope for more with their new one, Pet Grief - reckons that this difference is because Sweden's musical culture's less laddish than elsewhere. "So much indie music in America and Britain these days is very male, very urrgghh. Dirty, smelly, heterosexual music. We're less about getting drunk and more about sitting with friends, playing around with keyboards and guitars, finding different sounds and textures - making something exciting for ourselves."
Duncanson admits that it helps that the Swedish government is so supportive of the arts. Anyone can get money for guitar strings, or form a studiocirkel - a group of individuals who apply for government funding for rehearsal rooms. This encourages bands such as the Radio Dept to take the DIY ethos further. Bands who, in Duncanson's words, want to "go back to what indie used to be about, before it became a term that doesn't mean anything".
Of course, this would never happen in Britain. There's no economically rational reason for the government to fund indie music, when corporate sponsors can do so, and additionally result with a more efficiently marketable form of "indie music".
Have these "old English indie principles" helped Swedish indie connect with indie kids here in Britain? It helps, obviously, that most Swedish indie is written in English - mainly, the bands say, because they have grown up with pop music being sung in English, or they have been Anglophiles themselves. Still, there are Swedish language bands such as [ingenting] (which means [nothing] in English) and Vapnet, who are getting record label interest over here, and who are regularly played at Brighton's Scandophile club night, Sweden Made Me. "It's mainly the sound of these records rather than the language they sing in," says the club's founder, Rob Sinden. "It's homegrown music, made in bedrooms, there's this whole DIY ethic. There's a pride about that, a real happiness about it, that appeals to English indie fans."

There are 3 comments on "The Swedish Invasion":

Posted by: Jim Fri Sep 22 09:53:13 2006

"this would never happen in Britain" - actually, it does happen, in Wales. Many of the small bands and record labels here are part-funded by the Welsh Language Board. Who knows what'll happen to that funding once the Welsh Language Board is shut down, folded into the rest of the Assembly by Rhodri Morgan's "Bonfire of the Quangos." But here's an example - the Board have just released the new "Dan y Cownter 2" CD, which anyone can have for free, showcasing 10 bands on 10 different labels. If you want a copy, just email You don't even have to do it in Welsh. <a href="">Review here.</a> Sorry to sound like an advert, but it's an excellent thing.

Posted by: JIm Fri Sep 22 09:54:13 2006

dammit, forgot that markup was stripped. Edit that, acb, if you could, please :)

Posted by: acb Fri Sep 22 11:32:01 2006

The difference between Welsh and Swedish indie pop is that the Swedes usually sing in English. I agree that there is a lot of interesting music coming out of Wales (you played me quite a bit when I last came down), though the language issue isolates it somewhat. I guess it's because the English never tried to wipe out Swedish culture.

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