2015 officially marks two full decades of Swedish indie duo Club 8… although their latest studio album, Pleasure (which dropped last week on Labrador), sounds like the very most brilliant youthful prodigies of the synth age (And quite frankly, it’s better than most of their younger peers.) It’s quite lush and highly danceable, but as existentially poignant as anything to his shelves this year. It would seem to be their most cohesive effort and they apparently also consider it to be maybe their best. Thematically, the album tends to deal with the darkest and sexiest aspects of the human experience, primarily things that fit relatively neatly into the categories of “sex” and “death,” which, let’s face it, when done well, tends to make for a good narrative. Well, I recently got a chance to chat with Johan Angergård, one-half of Club 8, about not only the band’s present state but just how they got to their 20th year.
Izzy Cihak: First of all, thanks so much for sending me a CD copy of your new album all the way over here in Philadelphia. I really dig it.
Johan: Thanks a lot! Me too. I totally love it, actually.
Izzy: How do you think Pleasure compares to previous releases?
Johan: It’s been the most focused and intense writing and recording process since we recorded Spring Came, Rain Fell in 2001.
This last year or year has been the most inspired time in my entire life ever when it comes to making music. I’ve went through a few different life cycles too during this period and each album that I’ve done during this time has been done from a certain emotional state, which makes my albums, like Pleasure now, cohesive and kept together both musically, emotionally, and thematically.
I love this new way of working. We just go with the flow and create music for as long as this particular type of flow keeps going. And when my emotional state has changed, and hence the type of songs I’m writing changes, the album is done. No matter if it’s 3 or 17 songs, this is when the album is done. There’s no going back to songs that we started one a year ago, instead we finish everything while we’re still feeling it. I think it makes the music a whole lot more emotional.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences?
Johan: As always, my own pathetic life. Musically, I’m not so sure. I’m not really listening to any guitar music right now. I’ve been listening a bit to Medio Mutante, College, In Aetarnam Vale, Bal Paré, Symmetry and as much as I like, or even love, the synth sounds from these bands, it’s not what we’ve wanted to do. We wanted to make something that felt luxurious, glittering bright and dark as the night at same time. Something filled with pain hidden beneath royal gold dust.
Izzy: The album is one of my favorites of the year, but I particularly love “Late Nights” and “Hush.” How did those two particular tracks come about?
Johan: “Late nights” is about desperate longing for affirmation. My previous album, which was with The Legends, was about falling in love quite a lot. This one touches the subject of falling out of love, emptiness, and longing for life and love to be bigger. This particular track is the poppiest track on the album. And perhaps the most sparkling production. I wanted it to sound crystal clear.
“Hush” is a dry, deadpan line up of everything that goes wrong in life. It comes out sounding ambiguous or so much like irony that I almost thought I was being ironic when I wrote it. But the more I listened to it and compared it with my life, the more it has struck me that it’s just an objective observation of what’s going on in my life.
Izzy: I’m a big fan of your music videos (especially “Western Hospitality” and “Stop Taking My Time”) and I understand you’re working on a video for “Skin” [which officially dropped Monday] What is it that most inspires or influences the visual elements of Club 8? Are there any visual artists you’re especially fond of?
Johan: It’s probably the most boring answer possible, but I do like how Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks look. They have a certain glittering, aesthetic quality combined with something dark and mysterious that fits Pleasure fairly well.
Izzy: I’ll apologize in advance for asking such a huge question, but considering that Club 8 has officially been around for two decades now, what have been some of your personal highlights of Club 8’s first twenty years? I actually just really enjoyed looking through the photos on Culture Collide that sort of very, very briefly summarize your career thus far.
Johan: We’ve been through a lot of phases and each one of them has been really special to me.
In 1995 we sent out three songs we recorded in my bedroom to ten of our favourite labels and half of them wanted to release us. One of the tracks was “Me too” that ended up on our debut single on Siesta. I loved that track. I loved Karolina’s vocals on it. She sings so much better today, but that still opened up a whole new world of making music for me.
Our first album, Nouvelle, was released on Siesta and it’s not a very good album I’m afraid. Our 2nd album, The Friend I Once Had, was a huge step forward. Sure, it has a weak moment or two, but I’m still proud of it. And we started to make a name internationally a little bit via releases on March Records in the US and various labels in Asia. It was also our first album that was released on Labrador (Europe only) and via Labrador we got somewhat of a club hit in Spain with “Missing you”.
Spring Came, Rain Fell was the first album we recorded entirely on our own. That was a huge thing for me. Very very inspiring. Such a relief to be able to experiment as much as we wanted to. I stayed up all night every night. We recorded the album in three months in the summer of 2001 and it came out in 2002.
Our first show in Taiwan was a rather special event. In the early days we very very rarely played live. I think we played live something like 5 times in the first 8 or 9 years. In 2004 we were offered to play the Formosa festival in Taipei. We didn’t know it before, but there had been a votation about which band people wanted to play the festival and we ”won.” We were supposed to sign CDs afterwards, something we felt quite awkward about and I believe I worried no one would show up and we’d look like complete idiots. But once there there was a 100-200 meter or so long line with fans waiting to have their CDs signed. That was a sort of, ”aha”-moment. We knew, of course, that our albums were released in different parts of Asia. But it was special to all of a sudden discover that we were actually popular in distant countries rather far away.
The People’s Record is the only album that hasn’t been produced by me and I don’t play that much on it. Being quite bad at playing instruments myself it was pretty amazing to work with all these gifted musicians. We just played them our demos once and said ’make it sound like it was recorded in Mali in the 70’s’ or something like that and they immediately did just that. Weird. For me it takes hours to learn a song I’ve written myself the week before.
Pleasure has truly been another personal highlight. I love this new way of working intensely and I think it’s our best album ever.
Izzy: And to follow-up with an equally big question, what are your ultimate hopes and dreams for the next twenty years of Club 8?
Johan: I hope we can stay as inspired and musically curious as we are right now. It’s what life is all about.
Izzy: And finally, what are your plans for the immediate future, whether relating to Club 8 or not? I know you each have various projects that you work on on a regular basis.
Johan: I’m in a good place right now so I’d love to do another Club 8 album next year. I also would like to travel a bit with Club 8 and play a few shows. It’s the best way of travelling. I’m with friends and we have something of a purpose and people are kind to us.
Right now I’m writing and recording songs with Rose Suao from Shoestrings/Invisible Twins. We’ve known each other for 15-20 years or so but never met. We’ll have some kind of album ready around New Year I think so that should be out sometime next year.