Denmark. Musically, they’ve given us Saturday night pop tart Whigfield, 90’s fantastic-plastic Aqua and Lars Ulrich, the surly backline to undisputed metal heads, Metallica. A country renowned for its electro prowess and international jazz festival, not to mention high quality meat products, but what of the Danish alternative scene – surely it’s not all burly back beats and novelty chart hits? Thankfully for us here at The Girls Are, somewhere in Copenhagen, Sune Wagner and Sharin Foo were quite literally brewing up that ‘Great Love Sound’ and doing their best to put this sovereign state back on the map with aplomb.
It’s been a decade since The Raveonettes released their debut album, Chain Gang of Love, and the duo are now set to release their sixth studio album, Observator, through The Orchard and the bands own Beat Die Records. Throughout their impressive, and time spanning, career the Danish duo have [with a considerable amount of understated and underground cool] explored sonic territories ranging from lush indie delight to colossal reverb drenched soundscapes and the pair continue to celebrate life through their collective songwriting. We caught up with the band’s sultry vocalist and ice blonde bassist, Sharin Foo at London’s swanky Sofitel Hotel to chat about Christmas concept albums, East Coast – West Coast rivalries and chasing Jim Morrison’s ghost…
Your brand new record, Observator, is set for release this September and was recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound Studios with mentor Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-Go’s, Richard Hell) who you worked with on your second album, “Pretty In Black.” What was it like working with him again?
It was good. He’s sort of family to us because we’ve stayed in touch throughout the years and he’s been our family in the US really, him and his wife. We wanted to work with him again for a couple of reasons, one of them being that he has had such a good influence on us in terms of making us feel comfortable so it’s very much like a psychological rapport. He’s not the kind of producer that goes in and works on the texture of the production – he’s about the songs and ‘good chorus’, if there’s a good chorus, repeat it! He’s very old school like that. That’s where he’s from, the Brill Building era – he wrote songs like, ‘My Boyfriends Back’ and ‘I Want Candy’. So, he’s a songwriter, you know? In that sense, I think it’s good to have him around, he creates a good atmosphere.
Album track, ‘The Enemy’ has certainly got that jangly pop joviality of The Bangles and The Go Gos but what bands were you listening to when you were growing up? Who inspired you into making music or was it always your intention to take this channel of creativity?
Actually a band that I listened to a lot and that I love, and which will probably come as a surprise to some people, is Fleetwood Mac. I was trying to channel that kind of feeling, from Rumours, that I felt when I was doing that specific track. I’m sure people will be surprised by that! I guess I grew up with a lot of rock and roll, The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones and also, a lot of country music actually Dolly Parton, Hank Williams but a lot of 60s rock and roll. I’ve gone through lots of different phases but I went through quite a serious jazz one in my life – I got really into singing and started studying vocals a lot and then went on to The Conservatory in Denmark, it’s called The Rhythmic Music Conservatory so it’s very jazz orientated. It was a lot of studying for five years. I took my masters in vocals there and then I finished and was all confused but met Suna shortly after, and everything just came together. I think the core of my heart always belonged to basic song writing.
Sune talks about this being your Californian record – are you guys based out there now? How does your setting contribute to song writing, for example, what you might produce in the West Coast to say, at home in Denmark?
Well, in fact, it’s just me in the West. Suna is based on the East Coast. It’s difficult to dissect what comes from where but I guess, when you go into making an album, it’s all about figuring out getting in the right mind set to be inspired. At that point, we were talking about The Doors and he was very much like “I’m going to come out to Venice Beach, let’s channel that kind of Doors-era atmosphere into this album”. He came over and he was booked into this B&B by the beach and I said to him “Suna, I don’t think you’re going to like it so much anymore, it’s not really what it used to be”. I live in LA and I know and I think you can try and chase that time and that ghost [Jim Morrison] but you should also, maybe embrace the time that you’re in. So, I was saying to him, “it’s not the coolest place on earth right now”. I mean, there are some cool areas in Venice but he wanted to try it out. He came out anyway but we couldn’t really make anything work really so he ended going into Hollywood and hanging out. I think eventually something sort of happened and I think, in the end, it’s really all about what’s going on internally at that moment. Suna is the main songwriter in the band so the record has quite a few references to things that he was going through. It’s the same as putting ourselves into Sunset Studios, I don’t know how it influenced us but it definitely did. Ultimately, you just keep trying to put yourself in a good position to find inspiration.
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Is it true that it only took seven days to write and record this album? That’s an impressive turnaround! What elements do you think helped such a productive and fruitful recording session – the setting? Taking time out? Recording again with one another?
I will say that we do a lot of things in advance so, all the samples and tracks for the drums, the sounds and a lot of the guitars are all pre-recorded. Basically, when we record the songs and they’re being demoed, a lot of that will get used on the actual record, it gets done at home. We like to go into the studio to make it all come together and also, do all the vocals with good microphones and good sound. I think going back to Sunset Sounds, in many ways, was like inspiration for us through the air of history which was really inspiring. I have to admit though, that when we walked into Sunset Sounds, I just thought there is no way that this is going to be finished in seven days. There’s no way! Everything was overwhelming at that point, in terms of pulling the album together, but then we’re not a very hi fi band. We’re lo-fi, lots of reverb and atmosphere. The record is layered but it’s not like a Radiohead production [who I love] but we’re just a very different kind of band. We get quite attached to all the little mistakes; we suffer from demo-itus, I think that’s what they call it, anyway?
The music scene has produced quite an elite of chill wave bands of late making alluring soundscapes – Best Coast, Veronica Falls – do you think the Raveonettes fit into that music scene or would you place yourself away from that?
I think we always manage to be somewhere at the right time. We’ve been pretty good at that. I think the one thing we did get right is that in the beginning there was this certain wave of garage bands with The White Stripes and also, BRMC a little bit . We were part of the wave I think, and that’s why we picked up some of that interest at first but we always felt a little bit like the outsiders really because we’re not purists, we’re all over the place. We’re everything from New Wave to shoegaze to garage to really pure pop – in the sort of Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers vein and then, we have all the girl group references! So, there’s a lot going on and sometimes maybe people get a little bit confused with that but it‘s just what we gravitate towards at that moment. It’s all very sincere. Anyway, I think we never really felt that we belonged to one sort of scene and I think that’s both good and bad. I think in terms of our career and where we’re at, I mean I am super grateful for where we’re at but, sometimes people often say ‘why are you not bigger than you are?’ Well, I guess maybe we make it a bit difficult for people because it’s not so simple.
Your band line up has changed quite a bit throughout your various records and tours –was it always a conscious decision to stay as a two piece?
Yes, that’s another thing that confuses people! At the core of the band, it was always the two of us. We pretty much record just the two of us except for Pretty In Black where we brought in a bass player and a drummer. So, that was more like session with musicians but that was the only album where we actually brought musicians in otherwise it’s always the two of us. We make the decisions but we do bring musicians on the road. It’s everything from three to four to five. We like to keep it complicated.
A little bit of the Jack White mentality there with the chopping and changing of bands?
Yes, exactly. Have you seen them?
TGA digress into their mega girl crush on Carla Azar – the female drummer within Mr White’s current gal ensemble.
You’re coming back to the UK to do some tour dates later on in the year; do you look forward to coming back to the UK? Where is your favourite place to play?
I do, I used to live here for three years. I lived in Camden and then up in West Hampstead. I like it a lot but I’m also a bit terrified as we haven’t been in the UK for a really long time so I’m sort of scared that it’s going to be terrible. It will be good though – also, we get to go to Glasgow and I love to go to Glasgow. I just wish it wasn’t in December but in a way, maybe that will be good. It will be kind of Christmas-y. Maybe we should play a Christimas cover? [there’s apoll in that somewhere] We love Christmas. In fact, we’re a little obsessed with it actually. It’s kind of embarrassing how much we love it. We did a video last year, it’s not so good but it’s OK.
We did it at home in Suna’s apartment of a Christmas song we wrote. We also, have a Christmas themed EP too… this was also way before everyone else started doing Christmas EPs. [Aside from Wham, of course!]
This record marks the tenth anniversary for The Raveonettes and the sixth studio album to boot but what’s been your highlight within The Raveonettes musical career during this last decade?
Yes, it marks ten years since our first album release. There’s been a lot of big highlights – there’s a couple of things that immediately jump into my mind, like touring with Depeche Mode. That was so flattering to be asked, Martin Gore is a fan of the band. It’s just amazing to watch them on stage every night. Also, doing things like The Letterman show, especially because we’re a band from a small country, there isn’t that many bands that have done that. We’re Danish and we did it, you know? I also, think it’s just incredible to have met all the really legendary people that we have; Martin Gore, Martin Rev, Moe Tucker, Ronnie Spector, Richard Gotteher who is now like one of our friends. Plus a bunch of young people, we’re good friends with Dum Dum Girls who Suna produced, Dee Dee is wonderful. The Drums too, we’ve just been touring with them.
Where would you like to be in the next ten?
Potentially, we could still be doing this. I have to admit there’s like two sides – I would love for us to just be inspired and make albums and for people to appreciate it, I think that would be great but I’ll be honest and say I wouldn’t mind if we achieved some sort of world domination! That would be great too, you know? That’s just on another note because of course it would be nice to be able to afford to have the visual show that we want to have. We sort of still have to do some compromises because we’re just no at that level yet to do whatever we want.
What are you currently listening to?
I have to say I love Beach House. James Blake I love, I think he’s incredible. I love Joanna Newsome, I think she’s a genius. I really the like new Brian Jonestown Massacre album, I think it’s really good. I’m looking forward to hearing the new stuff from Grizzly Bear, I think they made an incredible album two years ago. I like the Dum Dum Girls, they’re fun.
You must be excited that the ‘Mac are back?
Yeah, well…we’ll wait to see what happens! Sometimes reunions aren’t always good, we’ll see!
I’m really looking forward to hearing the Autolux new album, my husband’s album. He won’t play anything to me! I keep saying ‘c’mon’ but he won’t let me. I think it’s out early next year though.
The Raveonettes release their sixth studio album, Observator, on Sept 10th through The Orchard; catch them live at a city near you this Winter too for choice Christmas requests and seasonal knitwear.
‘Tis the season, after all.
Photography by Emli Bendixen for the girls are.