“This is one of the first bands I’ve played in where music is the primary thing. In previous projects, it used to be music is just the excuse for me to go crazy.” Dennis Lyxzén is characterizing the live experience of his latest project, INVSN. However, he later goes on to clarify, “Everyone in this band has a punk and hardcore background so I think that comes through in the live performances.” Lyxzén is best known as the world’s greatest living frontman (Well, second to Iggy… As an on-stage presence, Dennis is about 40% Mr. Osterberg, with his other 60% being equal parts James Brown and Mick Jagger.) He most famously howled radical leftist critiques of the state of the world for hardcore legends Refused and post-punk garage outfit The (International) Noise Conspiracy. His current band are finding themselves in a slightly different musical realm. INVSN embrace the sexually sleekest aspects of post-punk and synth pop, seamlessly bridging the gap between Joy Division and New Order. The band are currently wrapping up a month of US dates that began at SXSW and conclude this Saturday, March 29th, right here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, at Milkboy.
In addition to Lyxzén, INVSN includes André Sandström of D.S.-13, Sara Almgren of T(I)NC, and Richard Österman and Anders Stenberg of Lykke Li’s band and Deportees, who’ve all played alongside each other at some point or another prior to this project. Dennis tells me that the band came about quite organically: “We’re all friends and felt like we should be in a band together.” Before bringing their sounds stateside, the band, under the name Invasionen, recorded two Swedish-language albums in their native country. However, last September they released their self-titled, first-English-language, album on Razor & Tie. And while the album sounds quite different from Lyxzén’s time in Refused and T(I)NC, he tells me that it actually followed quite logically from their last two efforts: “We’d done a couple records in Sweden, but they never got released outside of Sweden, so we recorded this record about a year ago, over the summer, but it was not unlike our other recordings. It was just a matter of us honing in on what we were doing on our previous album.”
And although I’m curious about Lyxzén’s shift to something a little less sonically abrasive in INVSN, I must admit that his take on contemporary cultural politics are what most interest me. As an angsty, cross-dressing punk teen who constantly battled cultural norms in the realms of things like gender identity and Eurocentricity in the arts, Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy first introduced me to high-minded, academic cultural theory and confrontational artistic pop spectacles. They first introduced me to my all-time favorite cultural theorist, Judith Butler, and my all-time favorite film, William Klein’s Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? They might be my most probable seque from “angsty, cross-dressing punk teen” to humanities professor. So I’m inclined to ask Dennis about what he considers to be the aspects of culture in 2014 most worth examining and what it is, in particular, that this generation of youth should be aware of. His response? Pretty much everything…
“The way the world is set up and the way the world functions has always been the most important thing, deconstructing the structures of power and considering things like the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing, now more so than ever. I think the problem with a lot of people is that they believe political power is out of their hands and that that’s up to other people. That’s what I’ve been singing about for so many years. I mean, we were just at SXSW, where there are 600 bands and no political statements. And it’s just sad, really. I mean, there’s something about bands these days not embracing the position of an opposing force. It’s not like the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, or ‘90s. There are no big protest movements, like there were previously. I mean, you had Occupy, but that was a bit vague. We need to get something going that really has a more solid foundation. There are artists, musicians, films, and things like that are inspiring, but not on the wide scale that we actually need it to be. And the problem is that people are cowards… and most politicians are cowards.”
Finally, I have to ask Dennis about his style. He has, after all, developed an impeccably chic, yet still very punk, style that could be characterized as “dandy anarchist” (see: Malcolm McDowell in if…., but if he’d owned a copy of Unknown Pleasures.) In 2004 he was even voted the sexiest man in Sweden by Elle Magazine. And I’m not going to lie, at 29, teaching the likes of Marx, Thomas More, and Jane Jacobs at Temple University, while still trying to embrace the subversive sartorial aesthetic of the New York Dolls to a significant degree, I may be currently mirroring Mr. Lyxzén’s style more so than any of my other thousands of style icons, still donning skintights and Chucks, but paired with designer blazers and modish scarves. And when I asked him about how his style arose, I find out that it’s not actually that different from the origins of my current look.
“For a long time I was just kind of that punk guy. But I remember this one time standing outside a club and people wouldn’t take our fliers, which was just kind of weird to me. But I thought maybe if I looked a little less punk, people might take us more seriously. I mean, I thought it might be necessary for our political ideology to hold any merit outside of the punk movement. The next day I bought a button-down shirt and these black pants and it just turned into this full-on lifelong obsession with style.”