Preparing for this interview meant getting a new passport, as I was supposed to fly over to Stockholm to speak to the band. Only after I’d shelled out did the record label’s PR let slip that it would only happen if the interview was syndicated nationally across all editions of the Big Issue.
So instead I applied a stick-on mic to my phone handset, ‘Tinker Tailor’ style, and talked to bass player Kalle Gustafsson…incidentally, I may be a bit slow, but I’ve never got the apostrophe pun in the headline. Anyone?
While a crowd of British bands sit cross-legged at the end of the century party, trying to suck a last lungful from the collapsed roach of Sixties rock, Sweden’s Soundtrack Of Our Lives possess the underground intelligence required to spark the joint back to life [I had a real downer on Britpop at the time, can you tell? AM] Even so, bass player Kalle Gustafsson isn’t one to intellectualise.
“It’s the music we like the most; it doesn’t matter if it’s new or not. It’s nostalgia, the music you grew up with when you were a kid” he offers, before contradicting himself. “With some music it doesn’t matter if it’s good, so long as it’s old, like Abba!” Quite.
Extended Revelation, the follow-up to their epic 20-track debut Welcome To The Infant Freebase, may try out all manner of outlandish musical gear from the Sixties and Seventies, but SOOL have learnt what sounds good on them and ignore the obvious totems of the era.
The Kinks and the Stones get a nod, but more dues are paid to West Coast American rock and the roughed-up blues of Captain Beefheart and the Doors.
“It’s more like that whole period”, says Gustafsson, coming clean. “Many people have accused us of stealing things, but it’s taken with love”. That’s all right then.
Luckily, this fondness for all things Sixties doesn’t extend to the stupefying chemical excess that poisoned the arse end of that decade – Soundtrack Of Our Lives are nothing if not a clean-living bunch.
“You don’t want to go into that rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle but if you’re on tour it’s hard not to do that”, admits Gustaffson. “We’re not really impressed with that kind of thing. Anyway we’re too old!”
All well and good, but you shouldn’t be fooled by these protestations of senility. If nothing else, the decision to release their next single Avenger Hill Street Blues via the internet shows that SOOL have been keeping up with current events. [Ee, I remember when my modem had to stop to take on more coal! AM]
Out in the real world, the band stamp the boards with the unhinged glee of eternal teenagers, egged on by their astonishing front man Ebbot Lundberg. His burly frame resplendent in a vintage kaftan, he gives the onlooker the impression of a contemporary John The Baptist hitting the disco biscuits.
Gustafsson explains the front man’s appeal: “We really want to give the audience something. Ebbot is quite a legend in Sweden because of Union Carbide” he says, adding unnecessarily, “He’s very confident live”.
The rest of the band shares this full-blooded charisma, the result of apprenticeships in other outfits – in particular the aforementioned Union Carbide Productions and playing every rock dive in Sweden. Twice. As a result, SOOL seem to like nothing better than to put the wind up unsuspecting headliners. They regularly outplayed Hurricane #1 (no hard feelings though: “It was very good vibes” says Gustafsson), made Kula Shaker sound like Lieutenant Pidgeon and, rumour has it, scared off at least one major name band who couldn’t risk being blown off stage. Now they sound good and ready to leave the beer-soaked dance floors behind.
“When we were playing with Kula Shaker it was in really nice venues for about 2,000 people and they don’t exist in Sweden. You can’t let a rock audience into those places because they’d smash the whole place up, they’re so drunk and crazy”, Gustafsson laughs.
Soundtrack of Our Lives are about to tour this country with fellow Swedes, The Cardigans, which wil not only see the band play in prestigious venues like the Royal Albert Hall, but also give them the chance to move on from the Welcome To The Infant Freebase songs, which they’ve been relentlessly promoting, even after Extended Revelation had been released in their home country.
“I’m not tired of those songs,” insists Gustafsson. “Some songs need time to mature: it might take two years to find out the right lyric. It doesn’t matter if it’s five years, if the song comes out good”.
In pop music, five years is a lifetime and Gustafsson [could] sound foolishly unassuming. Yet beneath the surface lies an implicit confidence: Soundtrack Of Our Lives fully expect to be around in five years time, but want their music in your head long before then.