Sweden has a new secret weapon in the war on dull, predictable pop: a dash of Cinnamon.
The group, led by vocalist Frida Diesen and guitarist-keyboardist Jiri Novak, made its U.S. debut March 7 with the March Records album, “Vertigo.”
Produced by Bertrand Burgalat (Air, Divine Comedy), “Vertigo” is awash in buzzy guitars, vibraphones, harmonicas, synthesizers and Diesen’s alluring voice.
Diesen and Novak recently sat down to play “10 questions” with Pause & Play via e-mail, talking up their new album and touching on such sensitive matters as Abba and international politics.
Pause & Play – Just how popular are you in Sweden?
Jiri – “In terms of sales, not very much, but I’d say we are an influential band in terms of inspiration for new bands in Sweden. We have a good reputation when it comes to live gigs; we’ve done some legendary shows during the years we’ve existed and made some wonderful albums.”
P&P – “Vertigo” is a pure pop pleasure. A different kind of pop – the cookie-cutter style of Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and Britney Spears – is big in the United States. Do you think there’s an audience for your brand of sophisticated pop in the U.S.?
Frida – “Yes, why not? Since the examples you mention ought to make people fed up with the ready-made products of the record industry, there should be room for something that people can discover themselves – something with a bit more brain.”
Jiri – “Hmmm. … It’s kind of difficult to know that there is all this wonderful music just around the corner, when all you hear or read in every magazine on the planet is about these crap ‘artists.’ Consequently, the majority of kids go buy their records. Journalists give them total media exposure and then wonder why aren’t kids listening to xxxxxxx, this great band on this obscure indie label. But xxxxxxxx got dropped from their label as nobody bought their album. Nobody knew they existed. It wasn’t reviewed in any magazine. It is a vicious circle.”
P&P – Okay, you didn’t think you could escape without an Abba question, now did you? Seriously, have Swedes gotten over Abba? Are they still an influence, or is it just the rest of the world that’s going crazy over a group that broke up nearly 20 years ago?
Frida – “The recycling of Abba is a mystery to me. Probably it’s not only Swedes who think it has gotten to a point where it’s not funny anymore. I don’t know of any good Swedish band that would seriously cite them as an influence – I think maybe that would be like an American band citing, say, the Partridge Family as their biggest influence.”
Jiri – “I agree. Why always the worst of Swedish music has to become big internationally?”
P&P – Have you toured the States? If so, what impressed you about America … and what turned you off about America?
Frida – “Yes, we toured twice there. I guess this sounds kinda stupid, but everything is actually bigger in America. … And maybe that’s one of the turnoffs as well – like, for example, overwhelmingly big servings of food that you get full by just looking at it.”
Jiri – “We have met some great people there and I really enjoyed touring in the U.S. In L.A., they asked us: ‘Are you guys alternative?’ That was a bit bizarre. The turnoffs (as Frida mentioned) must be the food.”
(The band is scheduled for a U.S. tour this summer.)
P&P – I just read an interesting New York Times piece about how many Europeans think the United States is now an unchecked force on its way to ruling the world, that it’s appropriate to be downright anti-American these days because there’s a fear that the strength of America’s economy will impose economic and social changes in their countries. What’s your opinion on that? (Heavy question, isn’t it?)
Jiri – “It is already a fact that America’s economy is imposing economic and social changes in Europe and the rest of the world, but it doesn’t have to make you anti-American. What I think you need to be aware of, though, is that you need to question all forces imposed on you, such as multinational companies with too much power.”
P&P – What do you think of Madonna’s cover version of “American Pie”?
Frida – “It’s lame.”
Jiri – “I understand that ‘American Pie’ has some cultural significance to Americans, as I have been asked this before. What’s it all about? To us, it doesn’t mean a thing.”
P&P – Who are your personal musical heroes?
Frida + Jiri – “None.”
P&P – What was the first record you ever bought?
Frida + Jiri – “We cannot remember.”
P&P – What was the first concert you ever went to?
Frida + Jiri – “We cannot remember.”
P&P – What was the last CD you bought?
Jiri – ” ‘Harpsichord 2000.’ “
Frida – “Eternity’s Children reissue.”
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc