Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg were producers Bloodshy and Avant, the shady Swedish svengalis behind Britney Spears‘s highpoint, Toxic. In 2007 they were joined by American Andrew Wyatt on vocals, forming Miike Snow, a band named in part after Japanese film director Takeshi Miike.
But does Bloodshy still insist on knob-twiddling duties? “We always write together,” he says. “It’s always me, Pontus and Andrew. Whoever’s got an idea, we go with it and it’s the three styles of music jumbled together. Whoever wants to write the song gets to write the song. Every song is written differently.”
What about Black & Blue, the new single? “Some of the stuff on that chorus, me and Pontus actually had before; it’s the only song on the album that we had an idea before and we kind of saved, like we want this song for our own project. When we met Andrew and we decided to start the band, it was only an idea, but we played it for Andrew and he really liked it.”
Miike Snow’s music, evidenced on their eponymous debut album, is predominantly bouncy and cheerful, yet the lyrics are quite dark and reflective. Where does that dark influence come from? “That’s just us,” he says. “We love dance music, but just because we love dance music doesn’t mean you have to dance to happy stuff; it’s not sad, it’s just darker, and maybe a deeper thing, but we still want people to dance to it.”
Having returned from an American tour only to set off round the UK, do they have time to go out dancing these days? “I’ll probably grow up some day, but I don’t think I’ll stop going clubbing! That’s something that I can’t be without. I’d go fucking crazy if I don’t go out and listen to dance music. It’s really something I need all the time.” Even on tour? “Yeah. And we’ll DJ after the show, sometimes, which is cool. We’ll go from the venue to another club and see other DJs and then spin for an hour or two.”
“I’d go fucking crazy if I don’t go out and listen to dance music.”
– Miike Snow’s Christian Karlsson
As for their own material, turning it from the album’s glossy production into something that could be played live was far from straightforward. “It took us a long time to translate all this into a live thing,” he says. “We had to go into rehearsals for a really long time. We realised also that the three of us wasn’t enough onstage, so we had to invite some friends.” Miike Snow live is now a six-piece who’ve been known to appear in ghostly white masks. These, combined with black clothes and lighting, gives their show an eerie appearance.
Over the summer they took to the stages of festivals up and down the land. How do festivals compare to the club gigs? “Festivals are a little bit harder for us than a club, because we have so much gear,” says Karlsson. “We have so much stuff; at a festival, you only get, like, 10 minutes (to set up)! It’s challenging, but it’s fun. We don’t have any computers or any pre-recorded tracks, so every show is different. And we don’t have any arrangements for the songs, so each song can be two minutes or 12 minutes, which makes it more interesting for whoever paid to see us. They always get something original, and it’s more fun for us to do it every day. But it also means that something can go very wrong – which can add excitement, of course…”
Playing live has changed how they plan to approach writing the next album. “It has a big impact. We really love the live thing. It’s taken us a long time to develop it, but we really, really like it. We’ve drawn so much inspiration from playing live for people,” he continues, “But we have so many concerts right now! We probably have started (the next album) in our heads, but we haven’t actually sat down and put anything down yet. We probably will in the beginning of next year. We have stuff on the bus, so we’ve done stuff like the mini mix for Annie Mac; we had to do it on the bus! So we have to learn to do stuff on tour.”
All this frantic activity has meant the shelving, at least for now, of Bloodshy and Avant. “We came from being in bands. Being songwriters and producers was not something that we really wanted; it just fell into our lap while we hustled to get money to pay the bills! We loved that whole train ride; we got to meet a lot of people and derive a lot from doing it. But when we got back into being a band again, we kind of felt like this was where we always wanted to be. We’re just happy that this time around, it feels like there are people that like our music. It feels like it’s going to be Miiike Snow.”
But what is with the cold obsession, themed with the word ‘Snow’ in the title; ice cubes on the album cover; bunnies with antlers – or jackalopes, if you must – all over the place? “It’s just Sweden. A big part of why I’m so into music and in the studio all day long is because you can’t be outside, because it’s fucking freezing and cold and miserable. That’s a big part of why our sound is what it is, the programming and shit, because we don’t have anything else to do. That’s why I like to dance too – to keep warm.”