Sometimes hanging loose and taking a little time off just to relax gives musicians the opportunity to alleviate the burden of high-pressured tour travel, hefty recording fees, online merchandizing, and demanding recording deadlines. That’s what happened to Sweden’s indie pop punk darlings, Love Is All, after leaving their boutique record label for a short sabbatical following many exhausting live dates supporting a solid sophomore album.
Relaxed and recharged, composing drummer Markus Gorsch and lyrical keyboard comrade Josephine Olausson (with guitarist Nicholaus Sparding, bassist Johan Lindwall, and saxophonist Ake Stromer in tow) started casually laying down tracks with no firm plans for any of these offhandedly conceived tunes to see the light of day. Using a primal 24-track analog tape machine to capture the glorious results proved fortuitous since these song ideas formed the core of energetic breakthrough Two Thousand And Ten Injuries.
The rewarding follow-up to a few more numerically-dubbed offerings, formative ’05 debut, Nine Times That Same Song, and its ensuing supplement, ‘08’s A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night, this third set cuts like a knife when Olausson’s roughed-up yelps and banshee wails emulate snotty punk revelers of yore. Love Is All then counter such roughhewn tendencies with an innate ability to indulge tuneful melancholic pop.
A massive sugar rush conjuring ‘60s bubblegum, exhilarating highlight “Kungen” brings snappy multi-harmony choruses, loud tribal drums and ascending guitar riffs to the party, creating ecstatically orgasmic climaxes that resonate forever. Nearly as magnificent, “Bigger, Bolder” co-opts rudimentary ‘70s-styled X-Ray Spex punk vigor for nervy riot grrrl-derived vindictiveness with its charging six-string scrum, chewy bass melody, and a blurting sax wail that’s vital to Burundi beat-driven dive-bomb, “Early Warnings,” and dulcet jangle, “Dust.”
The remainder of Two Thousand And Ten Injuries has a more accessible lullaby-like dreaminess that’s just left of the finest mainstream commercialism. For starters, twee xylophone tinkles trail the echo-laden guitar leads fortifying giddy lil’ ditty, “Repetition.” Then, minimalist Slits-inspired cut-up, “False Pretense,” and alluring Cathedral organ-imbibed ballad, “Take Your Time,” compete favorably against lilting no wave funk trinket, “A Side In A Bed.”
Inspiringly, Love Is All has managed to craft a dozen rewardingly eclectic numbers developed completely on their own premises and conditions with Olausson’s knob-twisting co-producing husband (and former Aislers Set guitarist) Wyatt Cusick.
What’s with all the numbered titles for each album so far?
Gorsch: Josephine comes up with all the names. She puts numbers in the titles for our signature. We’re working with a new record label, Polyvinyl, and when we made the album, we didn’t know if we’d ever get another record deal. So we made the songs whenever we wanted and just jammed together. We had no rules concerning what the songs would sound like. We didn’t know anyone outside the band would ever hear it. We just satisfied our own desires.
Part of Two Thousand And Ten Injuries’ title had to do with Josephine’s tendency to injure herself by accident, falling down the stairs in a Switzerland hotel, bumping her face against the door and wearing a Band-Aid on her nose when we had to shoot a video the next day. It looked ridiculous. Also, on a deeper philosophical thought beyond the accidents is the hope for something to turn out one way but it doesn’t. It deals with disappointments and accidents in a comical way. She thinks working early in the morning makes things go wrong.
Who were some of your formative influences?
I was really into heavy metal. Twisted Sister’s ‘I Wanna Rock,’ bands like that were my idols. They made me want to play electric guitar. Eventually I became a drummer. Nowadays, I don’t listen to that much, but I appreciate the energy. You don’t hear that in music nowadays. As for Josephine, she discovered the punk and indie DIY scene when she was young. She was into English punk like X-Ray Spex, Lung Leg, and some other obscure ones with one vinyl 7” release. Also, the riot grrrl scene interested her. My underground punk was the Buzzcocks and The Fall—more well-known masculine punks.
I could definitely feel the Poly Styrene (of X-Ray Spex) influence on ‘Bigger, Bolder.’
Some people say that sounds like the Strokes. I like them, but we don’t sound like them at all. That’s not our goal.
Another highlight, ‘Kungen,’ has an insouciantly addictive good-timey ‘60s pop uplift.
Kungen is Swedish for ‘king.’ The reason it’s called that is because it was a working title that was unchanged. We’re from Gothenburg. It’s similar in relation to Stockholm as New Jersey is to New York—a little brother with an inferiority complex. It’s a big city with great bands but no true cultural focus or art institution. It’s a backwater fun place to be. Anyway, we were on a tour bus one day and saw the royal family with lifeguards and security wearing black glasses stepping out of a building. It was very unlikely in this industrial town. Everyone was shocked seeing that outside the bus. The song points out the absurdly surreal ridiculousness of Sweden’s ancient Medieval hierarchy.
Despite being one of the most progressive institutions in the world, we have a king and queen for sentimental reasons. Also, the Zombies’ adventurous Odyssey & Oracle was inspirational. It’s an album everyone in the band loved even though we all have different musical tastes. We wanted to do something with powerful wordless choruses. Somehow, it corresponds to the monarchic system.
A few Love Is All tunes utilize penetrating Burundi-styled rhythms.
I’m not sure I know that beat, but it’s on 60 percent of the songs (laughter). As a guitarist originally, I don’t consider myself a real drummer. I’m just looking to have fun coming up with a new style of playing. In the last three to five years, I noticed popular music had that type of beat due to the minority population from Iran and Iraq working at pizza parlors playing Arabic music. I thought that beat was taking over the world and tried to incorporate and adapt that into our songs. The straight four-on-the-floor beat.
Tell me about Girlfriendo, the project you worked with Josephine on prior to forming Love Is All.
I only joined at the end and wasn’t really involved in the making of the songs. I became their drummer on a few tours. They were a poppy bubblegum band. Originally, it was Josephine, another girl, and a guy making carefree drum-machined New Order-like pop with two maniac girl singers.
What did co-producer Wyatt Cusick add to Love Is All’s sound?
We like to do everything ourselves from recording to artwork. He’s a live soundman who helped us build a studio and is a good sound engineer. It was very natural to work with him during every step of the process. He was in (San Francisco-based indie rockers) Aislers Set and we became friends during the Girlfriendo days. He moved to Sweden and got married to Josephine. We communicate well.
What new avenues will Love Is All explore next?
If we make another album, it won’t be numbered like the first few. I’m done with schemes. On a musical level, I’m not sure where we’re going. I don’t have theories. It just sort of happens.
Love Is All play Maxwell’s in Hoboken March 27 and Knitting Factory in Brooklyn March 28.