Upon taking the stage at the Pearl Street Nightclub two weeks ago clad in a black t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the film “Back to the Future,” musician Sune Rose Wagner no doubt felt the irony that those simple words represented.
As guitarist, songwriter and vocalist for the Danish noise pop duo the Raveonettes, Wagner together with bandmate Sharin Foo has made a steady living in recent years by reviving sounds from the past and giving them new bite under a healthy layer of fuzz and menace. Much like the Scottish lads from the Jesus and Mary Chain, Wagner and Foo’s signature trick is combining ‘60s girl group harmonies with vicious distortion to often thrilling effect. However, on their latest release “Raven in the Grave” the group has seemingly traded in their wall of noise attack for more of a slow-burn approach.
Fortunately, the Underground was able to catch up with Wagner after his gig at Pearl Street and asked him his thoughts on his band’s new sound, their recent change to a two-drummer setup, and how their success has differed between the U.S. and overseas.
Underground: First off, what led to the formation of the Raveonettes as a band?
Wagner: We didn’t have a choice, it was meant to be.
Did either of you have a particularly musical background before deciding to form the group?
Just various bands and listening to music.
How would you characterize your musical upbringing/ education?
I read about music and grew up with 1950s and 1980s music.
What are some themes you typically try to explore in your work?
Love and death.
Why are these themes important to you?
That’s all there is in life.
What themes interest you the most at the moment?
Love and death.
What are some differences you have noticed between the success you have had overseas and the kind of coverage you have received here in the U.S.?
They sometimes seem to understand the music a bit better in Europe, perhaps because we’re Europeans, not sure. I love playing in the U.S. though, we have amazing fans here.
How would you describe your approach to choosing instruments in order to achieve a desired tone or sound? You have been noted in the past for gravitating towards Fender brands, especially their Jazzmasters.
It’s just whatever feels and sounds good. It could be any brand really, but Hendrix played Fender and I love him.
Who are some artists/ bands you are currently into?
What has the experience been like to work other artists who were inspirations for your sound and musical direction, people like Ronnie Spector, Maureen Tucker and Martin Rev?
Great and very inspiring. Very different artists but all amazing.
What did you learn from working with them?
Nothing really but I heard many great stories!
What happened while you were in the studio together?
We laughed and worked and talked about different times.
How would you describe your songwriting process?
I write hours and hours of music at home and then I go to our studio and record.
You’ve said in previous interviews that you “like the contradictions” in your music, the dichotomy between the sweet pop melodies and the abrasive feedback and noise. What do you mean by this statement?
I like luring people into what they think is safe but it turns out completely different and evil. It’s a game really.
How would you characterize your decisions to engage in album-wide experiments or concepts? For example, “Whip It On” contained tracks that were all written in the key of B flat minor and the songs on “Chain Gang of Love” were all in B flat major.
It’s incredibly inspiring and challenging. I always make up little rules whenever we do an album.
Speaking of albums, your most recent release “Raven in the Grave” has been noted for its more “dark and gloomy” approach. What do you think of this assessment?
I concur. It’s a really dark Scandinavian album with glimmers of hope and joy.
How would you characterize your approach to recording the new album?
The same as all the albums really. We just record as much as we can and then we pick the gold.
What were some challenges you faced while recording?
To find the right sound for the feeling we were trying to put across. That’s always the hardest part.
What did you try to do differently?
Just experimenting with different sounds and higher pitched vocals.
How has utilizing a two-drummer setup altered your stage show?
It’s the best line-up ever. It’s explosive and gives us a huge arsenal of cool sounds.
What can you share about your current band lineup for this tour?
You said it, two drummers.
Watch the video for the Raveonettes’ track “Attack of the Ghost Riders” here:
What might audiences expect from your show at the Pearl Street Nightclub?
A full on assault.
What might they not expect?
Finally, what are some words of wisdom you would like to pass on to aspiring artists and musicians?
Don’t listen to anyone.
What about some words of warning?
Don’t listen to anyone.
For more information on the Raveonettes and to see future tour dates please visit http://www.theraveonettes.com/#/home.