An interview with Jens Lekman

Photograph by Dani.

Jens Lekman is back after a two year break with new album Night Falls Over Kortedala. The twelve tracks see Jens tread on the familiar ground of his previous work. Tales of heartbreak, first kisses and love affairs interweave against a backdrop of the most joyous pop that would crack even the hardest of hearts. As the release date looms ever closer we caught up with Jens to discuss the new album, how he nearly gave up music altogether and why a game of badminton holds the key to the future of pop music.

Hello Jens! You took a break from music last year to work in a Bingo hall. What made you get away from it all and why, in the end, did you want to come back?
Hello, yes, that was two years ago. I just became obsessed with controlling everything. There was this girl I was seeing who gave up on me cause there were so many rumours circulating and I couldn’t handle them. So I decided to take a break. Eventually I made a half-hearted comeback even though I didn’t really want to. I just felt I couldn’t work in that bingo hall. So I went to England for a tour and everything was just miserable. The shows were great but the tour was really poorly booked and I just lost money for every night until I was almost broke. But after doing some shows in Japan I met Maher Shalal Hash Baz and one night they did a cover of Black Cab. I had never heard such beautiful music ever.

When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog, was a collection of your work over a four year period, rather than a planned cohesive album. Do you see Night Falls Over Kortedala as your first proper album, or simply just another ‘collection’ of songs? How did you set about whittling down the 30-40 tracks recorded down to the 12 that feature on the album?
Just another collection of songs. But this time I gave the songs, something like 30 tracks, to my friends and had them choose the tracklist.

I read in an interview you did with Pop Matters a couple of years ago that you weren’t planning on releasing any more albums. Saying you preferred the idea of releasing just singles or EP’s. Was this just a throwaway comment that got taken slightly out of context?
No I was very serious. I just don’t have the focus and pure vision to put together something like an album. That’s why I don’t write books or movies, I only have a pure vision when I’m writing a song. But then I came up with the idea of giving the songs to my friends and that worked out really well. But this is all horribly boring, next question!

The song Shirin is a song about your hairdresser. Have you played her the song yet? What does she make of it?
No, she’s not here anymore and I’m kinda worried cause she fled to Sweden from Iraq when the war started. From what I understood there was a risk that she would be sent back and one day her beauty salon was just closed. I never saw her again…

You’re one of very few artists that have shunned the myspace phenomenon. Choosing instead to create a fake page that’s totally blank. Is there any particular reasoning behind this? It was obviously some kind of statement as you posted a link to it on your online journals..
I tried. I really tried to like Myspace, and I tried to do something with it. I put up an audio diary and stuff. But it’s just such an insult to everything I love about pop music. I want to be personal, and I want to communicate with people who like my music. But the communication I had with people on Myspace was just so dumb and meaningless. And I can’t help but feel that it’s designed for that purpose, you just fill in blanks… I mean you don’t sell cellphone signals to people who discuss something creative and intelligent. In the end the whole thing made me feel like a stocktrader rather than a human. Just clicking on that add button, watching strange faces flicker by…

Can you recall the moment when you first decided you wanted to become a musician?
Yes, I think I was 19 and I wrote in my diary “If this dream doesn’t come true then I will have to face the truth that I will grow old and bitter very soon”.

Did you play in any bands when you were younger, or have you always just worked on your own?
Yes but none of them were interesting. I just played bass. I didn’t even like the music…

Out of all the Swedish acts around at the moment Loney, dear seem to be winning over the hearts of audiences wherever they go. Both yourself and Emil seem to share a similar DIY ethic in your work. I’m just curious as to what you think of his music? Would you maybe like to collaborate with him in the future?
He sent me his records a long time ago and I slowly started loving them. He’s great!

You’re playing the End Of The Road Festival over here in September. Will that be a full band performance or just solo. Also, are there any plans for further UK dates this year? Perhaps a tour of the finest Bingo Halls the nation has to offer? That would be something…
YES! A Bingo hall tour would be amazing. I’ve done that in Australia and New Zealand before, played these small mining towns for a bunch of local goth kids and their grandparents. Hook me up!

When you’re not crafting out miniature pop nuggets, what does one do to relax and unwind?
I play badminton with my friend Henning from my favourite swedish band TTA. I sometimes like to think we are the Clinton and Jeltsin of swedish pop music and that our badminton sessions are important meetings where we try to merge together musical continents that were never supposed to meet. We discuss the future of pop and then whoever wins the set wins the argument.

What’s currently taking up space on your itunes library? Any recomendations for our readers to check out?
I’ve gone over to CD at the moment, remember CD? The little shiny plastic discs? They’re great, such clean perfect sound… My favourite CD at the moment is by a turkish band called Kim Ki O, they have a homemade CD which is amazing. A bit post-punk but with some kind of eastern touch to it, the harmonies are weird but very familiar at the same time.

And finally, if you had to leave a body part to science, what would it be?
I believe I once sang “I would cut off my right arm to be someones lover”….
But for science…nah.

Night Falls Over Kortedala is released in Sweden via Srvice on September 5th. Secretly Canadian release the record worldwide on 9th October.

Jens Lekman [official site] [fan site] [20 questions]
mp3:> Jens Lekman: You Are The Light
[From When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog; out now on Secretly Canadian]