If there’s one genre that pervades Swedish music at the moment it’s surely pop. How else could so many impossibly catchy choruses and bop-along tunes emerge from one country? From the likes of twee loves Sambassadeur to indie-electro light Lykke Li, there is a common factor – hugely enjoyable hooks and songs that you can’t help but sing along to. Even impossibly cool bright young things Niki & the Dove owe a fair chunk of their hype to the fact that their music is laced with irresistible melodies.
Simian Ghost – the moniker du jour of writer-singer-performer-producer Sebastian Arnström – is no exception to the rule, with a back catalogue perhaps best described as a jingly Postal Service peppered with beautifully harmonized Fleet Foxy vocals.
“Much or maybe most of the music that feels important to us can be viewed as pop music,” reveals Sebastian when quizzed on the subject. “It all comes down to how you define pop. It is such a broad genre definition.”
Simian Ghost is possibly Sebastian at his most pop – previous incarnations as part of post-rock outfit Ariel and his 2010 solo effort ‘Infinite Traffic Everywhere’ are more indie- and electronica-led respectively – yet the Fleet Foxes comparison also bears weight. “Fleet Foxes draw heavily upon this 60s folk vibe and in many ways we´re inspired by this scene as well,” says the multi-talented musician. “So I understand that people feel a connection there.”
Since making Simian Ghost his full time project in 2011 two records have appeared – last year’s Lovelorn EP and last month’s Youth LP – as have two fellow band members, Sebastian’s younger brother Erik Klinga and his high school friend Mathias Zachrisson, who initially provided live support. In addition to touring Sweden and playing alongside the likes of Mount Kimbie, SBTRKT and Niki & the Dove, the trio put together Youth. “It is the first record we’ve done as a band, so that’s quite a big difference,” explains Sebastian. “We recorded the album ourselves last summer in Mathias’ parents’ basement with no budget and no one intruding. This way of working feels good for us right now and we’re very happy with how the album turned out.”
This might explain the difference between Youth and 2011’s Lovelorn – Simian Ghost’s latest offering is a more dreamy affair, packed with rolling reveries, perhaps due to the fact that it was recorded in relative solitude. Lovelorn, however, seemed to draw directly from events taking place around Sebastian as he recorded it. At the time he revealed that one of the songs – ‘Gently Submissive’ – had a “soft quality” to it, because he’d recorded it in the middle of the night and didn’t want to wake up the neighbours.
One influence that remains on the constantly shape-shifting Simian Ghost is Sebastian’s background as a visual artist. “We’re influenced by a lot of visual artists, filmmakers and so forth,” he explains. “All cover art we’ve used so far, except that for our first single, has been made by and with Weronika Bela. She’s an awesome photographer.” She’s also Sebastian’s girlfriend. “We try and keep most things close to home,” he says. “We’re all focusing on our work with Simian Ghost at the moment. Music comes first, and then we try to work on a visual approach that feels fitting. Most of the plans we make musically are kind of short sighted and we tend to stray off from our original intention most of the time.”
It’s clearly a formula for success as both Lovelorn and Youth have been met with critical praise, the latter even gathering glowing ‘early contender for album of the year’ reviews. And if the meaning behind the moniker Simian Ghost is anything to go by – “It is a poetic description of the perception of the artist in the massive flow of information we´re all subjected to these days,” he explains – contemplating where the band will take its pop-based blend of electronica next is an exciting prospect indeed.
Youth is available now through Heist Or Hit Records.