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Post-punk menace Holograms escape from the shadows of Scandinavia

February 18, 2014

Before we get into his own story, we spend our first few minutes talking to Andreas Lagerström, the frontman for the cavernous Swedish post-punk band Holograms, about the dominant mythologies of other bands. “The guy from Girls, people loved to play up the fact that he was in a cult. And I was talking to a journalist in Denmark about how Iceage all lived in a church,” he laughs.

How about how, 15 years on, people are talking about Kurt Vile’s short stint as a forklift operator? “That must not be nice for him,” he laughs. “But now he’s rich.”

“But I can understand why people are tempted to create these stories. Maybe it’s a PR thing. But maybe it’s that musicians, myself included, are boring to talk to, so journalists want to create compelling angles about them.”

There’s a reason we’re on the topic; Holograms’ own constructed backstory won’t leave them alone. The band hails from Stockholm’s working-class suburbs, which inevitably leads to two narratives—one surrounds the fact that the band rose from poverty, working in factories. The other, based on geography, ties into to the Iceage-led D.I.Y. scene in Copenhagen, which has earned international acclaim on the backs of post-punks like Lower, Vår, and the Posh Isolation roster.

But aside from their shared Nordic roots, Holograms have nothing to do with Copenhagen’s punk scene. “Yes, I really do [get tired of Iceage comparisons],” admits Lagerström. “You don’t want to be in the shadow of another band all the time. People think that because we’re Scandinavian, we’re part of the same scene, but we’re really not. Stockholm and Copenhagen are completely different places. In Stockholm, the punk scene’s very traditional, and there’s a lot of garage stuff. We don’t feel like a part of anything there.”

Which explains why they were scooped up by ever-buzzy Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, who most recently cut their second LP, Forever. Unlike their stripped-down, vitriolic debut, Forever feels like its own coherent grey-hued, brutalist universe. It’s a glacial-cold offering, complete with reverb that sounds like it’s bouncing off the walls of a cathedral. Lagerström says much of that sound was sculpted using a Roland Juno 60 synth.

“We wanted to use synths for something other than melodies, and you can’t build much mood with monophonic synthesizers,” he adds.  “We wanted to see what we could do in the studio with the songs. We didn’t want them to just sound the way they sound in the rehearsal space or live.”

Their monolithic songs aren’t strictly menacing—there’s a reason that the band, to their own confusion, get played on Stockholm commercial radio. Beneath the aggression, the band has a penchant for legit earworms (“Ättepusta,” whose chorus, “I’m So Tired,” betrays its airy synths), colourful bursts of noise (“Luminous,” which pairs a non-linguistic singalong with post-rock guitars), and arena-sized singalongs (“Lay Us Down,” a gorgeous, sprawling number accented by church bells).

There’s an unmistakeable grandeur to Forever, and when we ask Lagerström to explain it, he cites the influence of stoic philosophers—namely, Marcus Aurelius’s seminal Meditations, which inspired a song of the same name on the LP. “We wanted these songs to sound massive, but not in a bombastic way. We wanted a big record, but a bleak record. We wanted a funeral march sound.”

[magazine month=”February” year=”2014″]

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