Since 2003, Loney Dear - Jönköping, Sweden-born Emil Svanängen - has consistently been an artist that does things his way with little or no outside influence.
A bafflingly brilliant genius who went from self-releasing CD-Rs via his website to inking deals with major labels to losing everything and starting over. His sound, an ever evolving clusterfuck of symphonic brilliance and savvy pop smarts, never ceases to amaze and inspire.
Despite fairly prolific beginnings, things have been rather quiet since the release of Hall Music in October 2011. Upon sharing new song "Humbug" - described as a "salty teaser for the good candy stuff to come" - we caught up with Emil to get the lowdown on what's been happening in his world.
It’s been almost five years since you last released a record. You’ve been missed… What have you been up to since Hall Music?
I went through some major crisis. I wouldn't say (the new record is a) breakup album, but I had to do a whole lot of learning, developing, experiencing and crying. It's like things actually finally broke down, and I learned exactly how fucked up my head is.
It sounds like it’s been a tough few years. Would you say the new album is the most personal record you’ve made so far?
Actually no, it’s more telling stories, telling about vivid dreams and other people’s troubles. Sure, I’m in there also, but it’s definitely not therapy or a diary. Though, the music is. Music has the strangest of powers, impossible to put in words. Regarding the tough years, I think all years have been the tough years, but the last two years have somewhat lightened; it’s got to do with a creative force being released. I found I’m allowed to create anything I want, such as this short film for "Humbug".
Speaking of which, can you talk us through the concept of “Humbug”? It feels like it deals with a lot of heavy themes
It's a video I have made containing basically nothing but copyrighted images of different brands and evil people. It's a definite result of how I felt I wanted to express my music in the simplest way. It could probably have been lots of different ways of doing it, but this is what I really wanted to say. It’s more of a stream of conciousness and a narrative, but I like to see how the story becomes visible even through the madness of just following the brain. One important theme is a pretty upsetting letter 25 Swedish major business executives posted a year ago. “Den grundläggande svenska inställningen har varit och bör förbli att vapenhandel är ett betydelsefullt verktyg för att främja utvecklingen av mänskliga rättigheter och demokrati” - which translates to "the basic Swedish position has been and should remain the arms trade - an important tool to promote the development of human rights and democracy". I have added the word 'weapons' into the text, but between the lines is what they were saying. It was regarding Swedish trade with Saudi Arabia, which is a bloody disgrace.
What can you tell us about the new record?
I would say it's a big brother to Loney Noir dressed like Nick Cave, smoking Chinese cigarettes and polishing expensive crystals, stolen from a rich CEO’s home. I've tried to move towards the analogy of the Italian kitchen, with fewer ingredients, but it's moved a bit to the brown mess at the end. This is gonna be a classic, with timeless electronic arrangements and decent songwriting. As usual, the songs are written whilst being arranged and performed, so it's not traditional songwriting but with a mental foot in how the music will feel on stage. The concert is the new album - it's almost insane how much attention you get from an audience in a room...
Can you reveal its name?
Sometimes the most obvious names and solutions are hidden under a layer of “doing the proper thing”. The album has been named unofficially (only by me though) as #7. So maybe it is. This is an aim to hit the strange-good-things-happening-from-this-album-jackpot, so I guess I should go with the lucky number seven.
The last time we saw you in the UK you were touring solo with an array of loop pedals and instruments. You’ve since done a series of shows with orchestras in and around Sweden. What’s next in terms of the ‘live sound’ for Loney Dear? Will we ever see ‘the old band’ of circa 2006 back on the road again?
I keep moving around between the instruments, constantly feeling like “man with guitar”, “man with double bass”, “man with modular synthesizers”, but I’ve grown attached to a quite petite little synthesizer I’m getting comfortable performing with. I learned how much the band contributes, not just musically, but to my own experience, the parties and aftershow shenanigans. This is the new Loney Dear and I want us to tour with the band.
Last year you released a cover of "Love Hurts" in honour of Emmylou Harris for the Polar Prize. How did you go about channelling your inner Gram Parsons?
When I started doing albums, it was a bit of a bakery, doing things and selling the result directly to people, immediately. I started doing a similar thing to drunk texting... recorded music, mixed it a little, maybe added something the next day, and then published it immediately to Spotify and iTunes with the plan; “I look forward to hear how the mix turned out!”. Action painting, in a way. And it really started to tickle my creative senses. I released some backwards tracks, pulled them back conciously, as some sort of cute performance for myself.
I was going to play some music at the Polar Prize concert, and five days before the show I felt I wanted to release something connected to this new process of recording and releasing music. It took an hour to record and the next day I moved a few minor things and published it. Stock, Aitken, and Waterman on drugs. The drums are exactly as close as it it possible before the rhythm falls apart. Quite amusing.
#7 is expected in the near future through Woah Dad/Border Music.