The Slow Summits burst into our ears early this month with their superb Languid Belles EP (see below).
Intrigued about how this jangly indie-pop sensation could be so accomplished so quickly, Janglepophub hunted them down to Sweden (well sent them an e-mail) and chatted with Anders Nyberg and Mattias Holmqvist Larsson about their C86 affections, the search for unpolished beauty in music, the things that grate white middle class me and much much more…
Many thanks for agreeing to the interview gentlemen.
Where did you grow up, and what sort of a part did music play in your youth?
Anders: I grew up in a seaside town called Oskarshamn. We were a family who listened to a lot of, mostly mainstream, music. The radio was always on. I’ve liked singing since I could walk, but I learned to play the guitar when I was eighteen. It was at the university I found friends who really introduced me to alternative pop music. I started my first band with some friends at the university when I was 22.
Mattias: I’m born and raised in Linkoping. We didn’t really play any instruments in my family growing up, even though my father had a brief spell in a mods band in the 60’s. However, I was a complete music nerd and spent every penny on records from around age eleven. Around the same age I started to play different instruments in bands, but never very serious. And I never played the bass before we formed the Slow Summits.
The Slow Summits are good. There has to be a history here. Have you played together before? How did the band form and what other bands have you guys played in?
Anders: We haven´t. Except for our drummer, who play in all sorts of bands, no one of us had played in any band for a very long time. Me and Mattias, who also writes songs, first met through a friend. Then I saw him at a Nick Lowe concert and understood we had some similarities in our music preferences. It turned out we had perhaps too many. We started doing playlists where we put two bands best songs against each other to see what band was the best. Often, we loved the same bands, but we often had quite different favourite songs – he has more feelings for Robert Forster’s songs, me for Grant McLennan’s, as an example.
There is a definitive anglophile feel to the EP? What influences should might we feel in EP?
Anders: Well, Mattias and I are quite keen on British jangle pop. We both think Don´t stand me down with the Dexy´s midnight runners is the best record ever made. We love bands like Felt, The Pastels and Orange Juice. Kalle, who plays lead guitar, is also very much in to British bands like The Smiths and The Stone Roses. Our drummer, Fredrik, doesn’t care much for jangle pop, but he sometimes finds our own songs pretty decent. We also very much like American bands such as The Feelies, Beat Happening, Talking Heads and Guided by Voices. And we both love the Go-Betweens. Even though we write pop songs we listen to a lot of non pop music. My favourite song is Piss scene II with a band called Catatonic Youth. And I´m like a dog with two tails every time I watch the video of Sleaford Mods doing Job seeker on Jools Holland.
Mattias: The best song ever is This is what she’s like, by the Dexy’s. Anders knows this too, he’s just trying to be clever.
Anders: I’m not. But you’re right, it is.
Here´s an introduction to the world of ours, old and new songs that we love and are influenced by.
How did you decide upon the EP’s name?
Anders: I was googling Sarsaparilla for some reason and found text were a food writer was describing the advertisement of the drink as it evokes images of “languid belles and parched cowboys”. I thought it somehow described us fairly well. Better than “parched cowboys” anyway. Also Languid Belles could be a name of a mountain, which is the motif of our EP cover.
You’re a brand new band…and yet indie-pop goddess Amelia Fletcher appears on backing vocals in two of the tracks, which is a bit like Linkoping FF signing Ronaldo ! How did this happen?
Anders: Haha. She definitely has more of a Messi aura to us, but I see what you mean. Our producer Jörgen Wärnström. is playing bass with a pop band called 500 mil (Check them out!). They were playing at a festival in Stockholm. Amelia was there with her band. While we were recording, Jörgen came up with the idea to ask her if she wanted to sing on some of our songs. So he contacted her and she said yes. And we are still somewhat stunned. And happy.
There is just that slightest element of glorious under-whelming in your lyrics and under-production (stopping short of lo-fi) in your sound (the way all good indie-pop should be). What is the song writing and recording process for the Slow Summits?
Anders: Both me and Mattias write songs. Then we share them with each other. I usually try to get in some new, extra, part in his and he usually tries to get some part out of mine. Kalle also writes songs, but not lyrics. I think both me and Mattias have somewhat the same goal when we write lyrics. We’re both married and have kids. So we don’t have to write about unrequited love. Also we think lyrics are important. And we want to say something, in our own sulky way. I always preferred lyrics where seriousness and humour meet.
Mattias: In my sense, good music should be beautiful but never polished or neat. We are very particular about our music not sounding slick and I rather write a somewhat underwhelming, perhaps even unintelligible, line of lyrics than write something overly sentimental or obvious.
Anders: Our recording process when making Languid Belles where a bit naïve looking back, thinking we could come up with backing vocals, piano and violin melodies and percussion parts while recording. That said, these last minute composing perhaps gave the songs a more jolly sound which is not a bad thing.
All the tracks are at around 3.00 minutes? Is this the perfect length for the perfect pop song? Is there a perfect length for a pop song?
Mattias: Yeah! Most good pop songs are around 3 minutes long. But not the best ones. So I guess our best is yet to come.
Anders: I think there´s a perfect length for every song. Some songs I love are too short, some are too long. These four songs should definitely not be longer than they are.
Sweden may not churn out jangly indie-pop bands like they do in the UK, but when they do they tend to be memorable (Acid House Kings, Sambassadeur, Holy Now, The Radio Dept, Club 8) are there any new bands that are particularly impressing you right now?
Mattias: I won’t say there’s no good Swedish jangly indie-pop bands. However, the relative lack of such bands was somewhat of an inspiration to us forming the Slow Summits.
Anders: No one that comes to mind. Then again, I can´t say I have put my mind to find one. My new favourite band is the Goon Sax. Sadly, they´re far from Swedish.
There appears to be a recurring lyrical theme of denigrating ‘merely existing’ on the tracks? Am I far off with such a conclusion? Does this particular characteristic of human nature annoy you?
Mattias: I guess we’re quite fond of denigrating. And maybe you’re right. There’s a lot of things that are really wrong in this world such as extreme inequities, climate crisis, etc. I get quite annoyed with people who just keep on keeping on in a world like this.
In your Bio you state that your songs are judgmental but ‘the arrows are pointed just as much towards the band’…In what way?
Mattias: Many of our songs, some not recorded yet, are about social problems, spanning from the interpersonal level to macro-politics and economy. We are white middle class men. Hence, we’re always part of the problems we write about. We try to acknowledge this in our lyrics. For instance, we write about retail therapy, like in “(A hit) to Your Wallet”, or highly educated people getting estranged from a working class they claim to champion, like in “Less Than Impressed”, because it’s things we both dislike and can relate to.
Anders: The will to be seen and listened to, be it in an argument, like in “Regrets”, or on a stage, like in “The spirit of the lyrics”, is very human. Things we do to feel better about ourselves. By getting someone’s respect, someone’s admiration or a new semi-hollow electric guitar.
Janglepophub provides you with our famous time machine. If you could be successful as a band in any musical decade, which decade would it be and what would your idea of success be?
Anders: The late 60´s. I get the feeling it was much easier to find nice semi-hollow electric guitars then. Absolute success would be to inspire the Rolling Stones to quit playing their bare chested rock n roll. If we could have influenced any band to not play rock n roll it would be great.
You have released your debut on digital format only? Do you still see any need for the physical format and if so why?
Anders: So far yes, but we´re thinking hard about releasing it on vinyl. Being our debut it would be nice to have something physical to put in a box in a drawer. I´d love to buy more records but then I seldom find time to listen to them. Which I would if there were no streaming services. I want to own a physical copy of every record I love.
How easily does your music translate to a live setting? Any plans for any live gigs?
Anders: Even if we haven´t performed much in public, I want to think that can we give the music more life and charm when we play it live. Then there’s the thing with Amelia. We need to find someone to sing her parts. Preferably someone who plays the piano, the violin and the glockenspiel. We will probably play a gig in Linköping later this summer.
What are your plans for the future of the band?
Mattias: Since Anders’ dream of getting the Rolling Stones to quit playing rock n roll is still possible to fulfil, I guess this will be our quest for the future. The first major step will be to record a few more of the denigrating songs we’ve written.