It’s my second day in Gothenburg. Last autumn I wrote to Air France and asked if I could do an interview with them when I was in town. Of course, they said that was ok as long as I agreed to call their part-time job supervisors, saying I was from Rolling Stone Magazine and wanted to have a comment on their latest night out. How that played out, I think we’ll leave unsaid for now.
I meet the band on an early April Thursday afternoon by a large statue which is located by the city’s main street, The Avenue. Henrik Markstedt and Joel Karlsson, who basically are Air France’s only permanent members, arrive at the aforementioned statue from two different directions. One of them ten minutes early, the other ten minutes late.
They take me to a market hall nearby, a place they have luncheon every day between 1 and 2pm. As Joel orders “the usual”, the shop assistant looks slightly perplexed, like she doesn’t know what he means. Henrik orders lasagna and pomegranate juice, “for the vitamins”.
As we receive our food, I ask about the progress of the recording. Henrik says it is done, but that there’s nothing written down or recorded yet. “Everything is here”, he says, pointing to his head. Joel giggles, and goes on to say “we will take lot of songs and do them backwards, it’s easy and takes no more than two days, max. The only question is when I will find a gap in my calendar for these two days.”
I notice quite soon that interviewing Air France is difficult. Each answer is a bit meandering, and you’re not really sure where to draw the line between truth and fiction, with each story seeming stranger than the next. At one point Joel says, for example, that when they were DJing with Saint Etienne last Spring, Henrik fell into the original Fox Base Alpha-plate which they have on the cover of their 1992 debut album, breaking it in three pieces. Henrik does not know if it’s true, but says that it seems probable enough. Stranger still, Henrik says that Henning of The Tough Alliance has Joel on a 24 hour surveillance via Google Maps after he alledgedly borrowed 10,000 Swedish Kronor which he bet, and lost, at a greyhound race last winter. Joel says he could have sworn that number nine was a “safe bet”.
>When lunch is over, we take a stroll along the moat, and the subject turns to critique. When No Way Down, the duo’s second EP, came out nearly two years ago, it received rave reviews both Stateside and in the UK, but in Sweden went pretty much unnoticed. “It didn’t bother me at all”, Henrik says, “I had other problems to think about”. “In the beginning”, Joel fills in, “‘No Excuses’ was supposed to be called ‘No Apologies’, but ‘apologies’ is not a very nice sounding word, we thought. Anyway, we wanted to question why people try to tell themselves that certain things have to be in a certain way, and for me it was a problem that I was so polite when I was younger. I apologized for just about anything. I totally shut my eyes to the fact that if there’s a problem, it might be because of other people, not me. Life is a fucking mass spectra with external variables and I’ll be surprised if there’s anyone who feels the same as someone else about anything I’ve done”. As we cross one of the bridges over the moat, Henrik continues “we said yes to being a part of an article for a local newspaper from the town we’re from. We responded nicely and politely at first, but the questions gradually became more and more ridiculous and I said to Joel, we’ll say fuck all, and put a fucking stop to this. And then, of course, we got a hateful article written about us. Things felt really bad. Our parents were ashamed to sit in the lunchroom at work for God’s sake. Everyone in town reads that goddamn paper. I stayed in Gothenburg that Christmas with my cat.”
The next day, we meet at Henriks place. He lives on a hill with a view of the city and a large cemetery. The sky is pink and there are many people about who are heading out to parties. Henrik points to the city’s amusement park, Liseberg, and tells me that Joel lives just beyond the ferris wheel. “That’s why he’s so giddy”. Henrik lives with his girlfriend who is still at school, studying fashion design. We listen to music, The Monkees, some crossovers, a little British dance music, anything really. Henrik has a few bottles of Kronenburg at home. Not because he regards it as especially good, mostly because he and Joel had a super evening in Strasbourg once, and because there “might be a song by The Streets where he sings about Kronenburg”. After much groveling I get to hear a snippet of one of the songs that they said hadn’t been recorded yet, and as I walk home to the hotel later that night I try to keep it fresh in mind, humming what little of the lyrics I remember: ”I always think about you when I’m drunk and I wonder how my words sound when they reach you, you always look so asthonished and confused”.
Some new Air France material is expected in September. But don’t count on it.