More than anywhere else among the architecture of music, in punk, the debut album is considered the pinnacle of a band’s inspiration and primal drive. It’s the monument from which everything else is measured and judged. One was never as hungry as on that first record. There’s also the shelf-life of the band at stake. Debuts matter so much because in many instances bands that volatile and cathartic don’t last long enough for a follow-up. Punk is a genre fueled on spontaneity and instantly changing the “now.” Though Keith Morris is still ranting in OFF, tipping over with piss and vinegar, I’ll take the first four years of Black Flag over anything else in his career.
That same youthful abandon is what makes Stockholm’s Holograms such a thrill. The quartet—Andreas Lagerström on bass and vocals, Anton Spetze on guitar and vocals, Filip Spetze on keyboards, and Anton Strandberg on drums—claims to be “too poor to drink” and filled with so much boredom that creating a record this immediate was inevitable. It’s not hardcore in the sense that it plays like the end of times, but there’s a sense the sun will never rise again. It’s not punk in that it continually rages against an unjust force, but there’s a sense that defiance against something is the motivating emotion here. Above it all, and in line with a number of acts from Scandinavia, Holograms exhibit a deft hand in crafting melodies among the action. Their debut for Captured Tracks is a landmark, as if nothing will come after it. But judging from my e-mail exchange with Lagerström, Holograms’ muse comes from both sides, pulling at either end, so there’s no danger that the band will fizzle any time soon.
How exactly did Holograms begin? Were you guys in a number of other bands before forming this group?
Andreas Lagerström: We’ve all been in several bands before. Anton and Anton have been playing together for awhile. We played in a venue called Vielle Montagne, which was an underground club on a boat, together all the time. I had recently gotten a synth from a friend’s dad, which I really wanted to have in a band. We didn’t really plan it out that much, though.
I hear a lot of pop and punk in the debut album. Do you have a preference for one or the other? Do you feel you lean on one or the other more when you write your songs?
AL: I’m really into punk, post-punk and that kind of stuff. That’s the kind of style that I’ve usually been writing in. We all have different musical backgrounds and personal tastes differ, of course. When we combine all our influences, there’s this feeling of strong melodies, a bit of anxiety and melancholy.
I suppose I ask this because Sweden is so well known for pop music. I’m wondering if you are embraced by both sides there.
AL: Well, before we signed to Captured Tracks, no “pop” people really took any notice of us. We were and still are a part of the punk/garage scene here in Stockholm, but we’re branching out a bit I think.
Where does the band fit in among other bands in Stockholm? What’s the musical landscape like there?
AL: The music scene here is not that exciting. There are some good bands in Sweden of course, but we don’t really have any contemporaries here in the city that we feel real close to musically. There’s really no scene so to speak and people don’t feel that excited about Stockholm as a music town.
I hear a lot of different things that might have inspired the record. Where there any particular albums that guided the creation of the band and the record?
AL: The main thing when we started the band was that I wanted to use this synth I had. That was the plan. The songs for the album were written during 2011 and we had our first show midsummer of that year.
The press release for you guys makes a big deal out of you being very poor. Is Sweden no longer the socialist’s paradise the rest of the world perceives it as? Does the government still award money to up-and-coming bands?
AL: Since the ’90s, it’s been pretty hard to get work. We’re poor in that we don’t have any money, but we don’t go hungry either, if you know what I mean. I’m the only one not living with my mother, though. Basically we’re a bunch of fuck-ups who can’t land a job and live in the suburbs. Stockholm is a very expensive city to live in too. I heard that maybe you can receive money from the government, but I have no idea how. We haven’t received any. Sweden is full of bureaucracy, like most countries.
I feel the root of your music is built on a lot of urgency and attitude. Is this just a result of being young or is there injustice that the music rebels against?
AL: We’re not an overtly political band and I think the music stems more from our own personal boredom more than being a rebellious act.
One line really stood out for me. In “Orpheo,” you say, “This is the age for running your mouth.” Can you explain that statement a little further?
AL: It’s pretty hard to discuss your own lyrics, but I’ll try. Basically the verse is about people’s ambition to garner attention in the digital age. The one who shouts the loudest and the most gets the most attention. Some people can build their lives on this.
One of the biggest cultural imports from Sweden is The Hives. How is a band like The Hives perceived in Sweden these days, with reverence or are they pretty much forgotten?
AL: I think they’re still a pretty big deal here in Sweden, although in no way as big as they were in early 2000s. We don’t really care about them, though.
I’m pretty excited to see how these songs play out live. Do you have any expectations for playing to crowds in the States?
AL: I have a romantic picture of the States. I hope the kids will get crazy and it won’t be just old record collector guys at the shows. Hopefully people will like us.
Fill in the blanks:
In high school I was listening to _____ in the _____ with _____ doing _____, wishing I was _____.
AL: In high school I was listening to Suicide in the park with my friends doing dirt, wishing I was not there.