Mando Diao

By • Apr 23rd, 2007 • Category: Interviews

Mando Diao is Swedish. Even if front man Bjorn Dixgard’s thick Muppet Chef accent didn’t give it away, his band’s brash style of mod garage revival should have. After all, it seems like every band copping 1960’s style and 1970’s sweat-driven harmonies comes from the region (Caesars, Fireside, The Hives, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, etc). But Mando Diao has always stood out, even since their debut.

While other likeminded acts spent their time molding arrogantly distant or sheepishly mysterious public personas, Dixgard and his bandmates released the optimistic “Bring ‘em In” in 2003. On the cusp of an international guitar rock explosion, the record perfectly captured music’s need for adrenaline-fueled sing-a-longs while also embracing the group’s youthful excitement. It was – and sounded like – a group thrilled to bring their music to the rest of the world.

A line-up shift and a new record in 2005 found the group’s sound take a slightly angrier twist. Dixgard’s throaty, Tom Jones-like voice was used in fewer contrast to co-vocalist Gustaf Noren’s smarmy shout. The road, the pressures of the recording studio and the expectations to follow an impressive debut resulted in the edgier, “Hurricane Bar.” That’s not to say the sophomore record was a step backward for the band, but rather a step sideways.

The band has spent most of 2007 finishing up its third LP, “Ode to Ochrasy.” A U.S. tour in the spring culminated with a much buzzed-about stint at South by Southwest. And with another North American jaunt in the near future – including a stop in Chicago’s Double Door on May 9 – Mando Diao is primed for a year of tour busses and sleeping on friend’s couches.

BEEP: To fully understand this third record, you sort of have to understand the first two. “Bring ‘em In” was a happy record, there was a bit of excitement on that recording.
Bjorn Dixgard: That is really true. That was a happy record at a happy time for us. We were really excited about everything. The thing about that record, though, is that those are all demos that we recorded on our own before we had a deal. The people at Mute [Records] heard them and wanted to put the album out.

BEEP: And then “Hurricane Bar” seems a bit smarmier or on edge.
BD: That was our first studio album. I don’t think it is more angry on purpose. Nothing was wrong in the band or anything. I mean, there were little things here and there, but nothing big. It’s just how it was recorded really, that is just the sound we got. But we weren’t an angry band or anything.

BEEP: So then, what was the mindset headed into this third record?
BD: From the beginning we were supposed to work with a producer. We recorded a couple songs with him, but then decided we wanted to just be free and make the record on our own. So we got an engineer to just work the equipment and we produced it by ourselves.

BEEP: This was all you guys then?
BD: Yeah. It’s actually all live basically. We just set the band up in the studio and played. We wanted it to sound like a live performance because that is really the best way to experience Mando Diao. Everything on there is us, even the horns and string arrangements are us live in the studio.

BEEP: So are you tired of talking about being apart of the recent Swedish explosion?
BD: Ha, I guess. It does seem like every guitar band is from there. But we don’t think of ourselves as a Swedish band, we think of ourselves as a European band. All of the bands in Sweden aren’t very well connected, and we’re all sort of off on our own most of the time. I mean, I’m not a professor, but it does seem like there are a lot of bands playing guitars.

BEEP: Does that make touring places like the U.S. harder or easier, because people group you with all the other bands?
BD: It makes it busy. We want to make it in America because it is such an important place for our type of music.

BEEP: You’ve certainly been busy. You played nine shows in a week at SxSW.
BD: That was great. We don’t have anything like that in Sweden. That is something America should be very proud of. There is so much music, so many bands.

BEEP: Chicago won’t have anything like that when you’re here.
BD: We’ve played Chicago twice. We wish the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup, but I found out they are not. The last time we were there we went to a hockey game.

BEEP: You have a couple days between stops that you can spend in the city, and you want to see the last-place Blackhawks? Nobody in Chicago even wants to go to their games, including the players.
BD: We all love hockey. But I’m sure there are many things in Chicago that we should do. Maybe have a big party.

Daily Herald BEEP, Apr. 23, 2007

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