Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Separately, the members of Miike Snow have enviable day jobs. Swedes Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg are also known as production duo Bloodshy & Avant, who’ve spent the better part of the last decade crafting tracks for pop royalty like Madonna and Kylie Minogue. But their crowning achievement is writing Britney Spears’ finest recorded moment to date, “Toxic,” which earned them the best dance recording Grammy in 2005.
American Andrew Wyatt is a producer in his own right, earning his wings in the studios of the hip Downtown Music label (Santigold, Brett Dennen) and working alongside Mark Ronson on the latest Daniel Merriweather album.
As Miike Snow (many stories exist regarding the extra “i,” but more than anything it seems to serve as a most effective Google tool), the three have crafted a cool collection of ornate pop melodrama with a penchant for classic rock. Combining accomplished songwriting skills with relentlessly contemporary production values, the band’s eponymous debut is poised to be the melancholy comedown album of the summer. It’s the ideal morning-after remedy to the sunshine pop of “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.”
“The live shows have been a huge relief,” admits Wyatt as the band sweats it out at the Canadian border en route to a show in Vancouver. “We’ve realized that we can actually pull it off and not use anything canned. Every sound you hear onstage is being manufactured by a person.”
The trio utilize three additional musicians in concert. “The best thing about playing live is that it’s a little bit dangerous, and it could go terribly wrong at any moment,” Wyatt says.
“We want to be as far from the whole laptop show as possible,” adds Karlsson wryly.
It’s a point well taken listening to their recent live session on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” where already expansive songs like “Silvia” are stretched out into epic, digital jam sessions. Show host Jason Bentlely was even forced to basically cut the band off as their extended version of “In Search Of” pulsated onward.
“We’re into bands like Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk, artists with a strong cult of persona that always put the music first,” elaborates Winnberg in reference to the band keeping their individual identities under wraps when they first emerged with singles like the deceptively bouncy and reggae-tinged “Animal” and the moody, emotional “Burial.”
The band struggles when asked to define their sound, eventually pointing at “something special” that happens when the three of them get together to make music.
“None of this was really planned. It all just kind of happened,” says Karlsson sheepishly.
“We did this pretty much for ourselves, for fun,” adds Wyatt. “We were just going to release songs on Myspace. We didn’t stress about how people would interpret it. We made something we find interesting and fresh, that’s all.”
The album bears out their claims, built on sturdy, piano-based songs given flight on the wings of endless dreamy synthesizer tones, as if the Alan Parsons Project and Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” served as sonic muses. The lush sounds and subtle electronic flourishes make it all thoroughly modern, thick with a tactile atmosphere similar to Depeche Mode’s “Violator” album.
When speaking on the downbeat quality of the album’s lyrics, primary wordsmith Wyatt admits that a lot of the words are more than a little personal. “They may describe why I’m single at the moment,” he deadpans as the rest of the band snicker in the background.
The band plans on keeping their all-the-way-live electronic road show on tour through the end of the year, sighing in unison when asked what exactly it is they’re shooting for as the latest pop savants on the block.
“Continuing to develop the live show is our mission right now, and that will probably never change,” says Karlsson finally. “Right now, it’s really interesting to see how far we can stretch it, and how we can build on what we’ve done so far.”
-- Scott T. Sterling
Miike Snow perform tonight, June 16, with Art Brut and Golden Years at Spaceland, 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., $15, 21 and up
Photo credit: Magnus Magnusson
(Originally published in the L.A. Times)