Interview: Ikons

June 06, 2012

Next month, the beloved Swedish label Service will release Life Rhythms, the second LP by their most straightforward rock group, Ikons. The band’s members have fluctuated over the years, but Ikons always stays large, like a clever cell tangling up late-’80s indie, a la The Jesus and Mary Chain and Galaxie 500, experimental pop beats and vocal samples pulled from film, particularly those of Harmony Korine. According to the label, Life Rhythm is "the most majestic album [they've] ever presented," and it actually might be. The record's magnificent, devotedly nostalgic but not stuck in the past, instead bundling retro elements into a rocket like looking-back fuel and firing them over the clouds into a happy future. Below, read an interview with the band's co-founder Torbjörn Johansson, and stream two songs from Life Rhythm—"Polaroid Cocaine," a sax-driven shoegaze track, and Ikons' more Balearic pop single "Free Spirit." The beautifully packaged LP is up for order now.

Stream: Ikons, "Polaroid Cocaine"

How did the group come to be? Basically it's me and Jonas [Bengtsson] since the beginning. We have been playing together since we were quite young. Just before we got signed to Service, everybody else had left. Me and Jonas were trying to start something new and we got an e-mail from Service asking who we were and if we could send some songs. So my first thought was, Oh, this is typical. We just lost every band member and now this happens, but we decided to pick up the spirit and bring some new blood into it. Patrik [Johansson] does the visuals—I first bumped into him around 2003 and we started talking about making a record cover for a 7-inch EP we were making, which he ended up doing. When everything started to happen, we contacted him to bring in other people in. Calle and Andreas used to play in a band called Citylights, which were good friends of ours. We just basically brought in all of our friends that play instruments.

Is it hard being in a big band? The first record was mostly written before everybody came in. That's a big difference from this album, which everybody's been contributing to. Of course it's more difficult, but we set up a goal quite early where a few people should have the finishing—the last touch of it. We decided that to be Jonas and Ola [Borgström, who runs Service], actually. The way I see Ikons is just a basic rock and roll band with lots of people involved, but that makes it even more interesting, I think, and more unpredictable. That is something that's important to keep in the music. It can surprise you, even though most songs have the same structure no matter who wrote it. The best songs are always the same four-beat—if you make a song with some strange rhythm nobody can dance to it so nobody likes it. The less chorus, the better, if you find the strongest melodies.

Stream: Ikons, "Free Spirit"

Tell me a little more about where you come from. I'm from Gothenburg, just next to the airport. There's a small society. I grew up there. I don't know what there is to say, actually.

For some American fans, Gothenburg has this almost mythical status as a great music city. Living there, does it feel that way? I'm not sure if it's that important. Sometimes great music comes from here, I don't know. There's lots of bands, of course, but it feels like there's less bands nowadays than like five years ago. We've got a really great, really big rehearsal space, so we can shoot up huge projections and try out visuals. We put lots of work into it painting it white. It's really bright and I think that might have inspired us: from a quite early stage it felt obvious that white was the color for this album. These days it's easier to get a rehearsal space, but maybe that's just because lots of people use computers and such. Ikons would never work with two people on laptops.

Interview: Ikons