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Q&A with Miike Snow

Q&A with Miike Snow

You’ve seen the strange jackalope posters, you’ve read the rave live reviews, now meet the two Swedes and one American behind Miike Snow (and no, none of them is called Michael), the most enigmatic and intriguing pop outfit of the minute and stars of our February issue fashion portfolio, alongside Vampire Weekend, Biffy Clyro and others.

The Swedes are Pontus Winnberg (left) and Christian Karlsson (right), aka Bloodshy & Avant, the hot shot production duo — who could probably retire now considering they co-wrote “Toxic” for Britney Spears; the American is Andrew Wyatt (centre), the strikingly hirsute singer and songwriter who made his name with bands like The A.M. and Fires Of Rome. It’s a weird mix, and in a very good way.

ESQUIRE: You guys were all experienced musicians when you formed Miike Snow. Did you bring firm ideas about what you wanted it to be?

PONTUS WINNBERG: The only solid idea we talked about was to do something that merged the sound of a live thing — piano and drums — with something that is very programmed and old. That turned into “Black And Blue”. We had the studio door open so if someone was sitting doing something you could always hear what was going on. When you liked something or you had an idea, you just ran in and took over. It’s pretty open.

ANDREW WYATT: We did play a bunch of songs when we first got together, stuff we liked.

ESQ: What did you play?

CHRISTIAN KARLSSON: I played Stone Roses.

ANDREW: Stone Roses, that’s right! I played Grizzly Bear. And I played “Ante Up” by M.O.P.

PONTUS: I don’t remember what I played. It could have been Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk or Aphex Twin.

ESQ: How did you make yourselves feel like a band? Did you do any team-building exercises?!

ANDREW: We took a lot of boat trips together in the Swedish archipelago. We rode bikes. We rollerbladed together, all three of us. Just kidding. No, we went on a couple of hunting trips but we couldn’t really bring ourselves to kill anything. We bonded over crying because we couldn’t bring ourselves to kill. And because we were getting hungry.

ESQ: What about your symbol, the jackalope. Why did you come up with that?

PONTUS: We felt it was nice to have something apart from us that represented the music and the band, so it’s not related to the people behind it.

ESQ: Is it true it was suggested by your tattooist?

CHRISTIAN: Yeah, and she’d never heard of a jackalope. She put antlers on a rabbit. She was really upset when someone told her it was a thing that already existed.

ESQ: Have you invented a back story for it?

PONTUS: Different stories every time. We all talked about having antlers on something. In some way it represents something cold and Nordic.

ANDREW: I think we’re all wishing we’d called the band Miike Sun. We’ve had so many photo shoots outdoors in the cold. [FYI: the name comes from a combination of the Japanese director Takashi Miike and a favourite studio engineer.]

ESQ: What did you each give up to do this? Andrew, did you leave your band?

ANDREW: Pretty much. I mean, I wouldn’t put it in such dramatic terms, but at this point I don’t have any big plans for anything except Miike Snow.

CHRISTIAN: Same for us.

ANDREW: It’s not like I block phone calls that aren’t Miike Snow related.

PONTUS: You don’t? I do.

CHRISTIAN: I do.

ESQ: You make a point of not using computers much in your live performances. How often do things go wrong?

PONTUS: Yesterday everything went wrong. The piano fell off stage.

CHRISTIAN: Sometimes when something goes wrong we invent new things.

ESQ: Have you been surprised by the reaction in any places you’ve played?

CHRISTIAN: Mexico City.

ANDREW: That was really amazing. They knew every word.

CHRISTIAN: Every word of every song! That was crazy.

ANDREW: They were pretty up for it. Any time you get up and someone throws a beer can on stage second song, we know they’re up for a party.

ESQ: You’ve had Mark Ronson and other big names come to your gigs. Anyone you've been particularly pleased about?

ANDREW: Noel Fielding. He’s a super talented guy. We watch The Mighty Boosh on the tour bus. I’ve known about it for a while because they have that BBC America in the States, I started watching the shows a few years ago.

PONTUS: When it’s good it’s fucking fantastic.

ESQ: As a band you’ve been quite active in remixing other artists and being remixed by them. Do you think the nature of “ownership” in music is changing?

PONTUS: At least to me, I don’t have anything like that, like ownership of a song. It’s just something you do and then I totally step away from it and it just dissolves anyway. You have a relationship to playing it and different versions of it, but it’s nothing precious.

ANDREW: We’re going through a huge transition right now in how we think about music. There’s so much music being digested on the internet — probably not even being digested. It used to be that you’d just have one or two records that you’d listen to for a whole semester of school, and now there’s a voraciousness to the way in which people are consuming new music. I think the significance of any one particular song is immediately diminished.

ESQ: Is it too early to talk about a second album? Any thoughts about direction?

PONTUS: We’ll learn a lot from playing live and working on songs and versions of songs; it’s going to be really, really fun. I think we all have a lot of ideas about how to do it, both from the song writing perspective and how to produce it.

ANDREW: We know how to do a lot of things that we didn’t know how to do, readily.

ESQ: You mean literally in terms of making particular sounds?

ANDREW: Yeah, sounds.

PONTUS: And also how the world and the sounds have changed over the last two years pushed us, in a good way. You have to be creative because there’s so much music coming up and there’s so many talented kids making music. You want to do something that is unique. It’s going to be more about a not so computerised way of making music, like we do in the live shows.

ESQ: Are you learning new instruments?

PONTUS: Maybe.

CHRISTIAN: New machines!

PONTUS: I’ve just found a bagpipe…

Miike Snow are currently touring the UK. For dates visit www.myspace.com/miikesnow