The Mary Onettes
'Livin' On An Island'
The Mary Onettes’ critically acclaimed debut was described as the perfect mix between A-ha and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Now they are back with a grandiose new album. Imagine a Swedish equivalent of The National on a diet of speed, Planet Earth DVDs, and 80’s guitar pop singles and you’ll have a vague idea of how amazing this is.
The year 2008 was characterized by the deaths of close relatives and friends of Philip Ekström (singer and songwriter of the band) and on 'Islands' he’s put more focus on the lyrics. 'The disappearance of my youth' and 'Cry for love' were written in his girlfriend’s mother’s estate and most of the songs on the album are highly marked by his time in Stockholm after her death.
Even though things have been going well these past years, they’ve still had their share of misfortune. They started recording 'Islands' last year and had about 5-6 almost finished songs in the summer of 2008. By an unlikely series of events the computer on which they recorded the songs got stolen at the same time as the back-up drive was broken… which meant they had to start from the very beginning again.
As unlucky as it seemed at the time, 'Islands' might not have turned out quite as amazing as it did if this hadn’t happened. The re-recordings are more lively, and they’ve used more organic instruments like strings, pianos, and children’s choirs than originally intended.
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? "Well, we grew up with so many different musical influences. Me and Henrik grew up with a dad that always played Beatles and The Stones so that affected me a lot . And I also grew up with all the grunge bands like Nirvana etc, but I started to listen to The Cure quite early. But I loved the Beach Boys to. I have always been very wide in my taste in music. And I am still! And that is really present today when Im making music."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard your previous material, and was thinking of buying your new album 'Islands,' how would you describe your sound? "Emotions and epic images, embodied with reverb and glimmering strings. Very rich in small shiny details. Many people say that we have the 80's sound. I agree but we also sound a lot like The Mary Onettes now."
Tell us more about your new album, 'Islands' ... does it tell a story and why that particular album title in general? "It does tell a story. It's reflection of my passed two years. It's about how life have been treating me. And it's almost a little emotional journal, but very fragmentary. Just like Islands makes a greater ensemble. A country."
I’ve read the songs ”The Disappearance of My Youth” and “Cry for Love” were almost too personal and that you’ve had a hard time playing them for even friends. How does it feel to perform such a personal pieces of music and share your soulful lyrics with the public? "At the moment it feels great! Because I've passed the personal part. Now im kind of glad to be able to share it. It's more like an interaction with the audience now. Some can relate to it and It feels nothing but good."
Did you ever consider pulling these songs from the album? "Yes! But I suddenly I realized that the songs were really important for the album. The rest of the benad kept telling me that we should have them on the album. And now Im glad we did. It's always hard to get a proper overview when you write all the songs. I always get doubtful when it comes to picking songs."
You started recording 'Islands' last year and had about 5-6 almost finished songs in the summer of 2008 but then the computer on which songs were recorded on got stolen and at the same time you back-up drive was broken which forced you guys into restart situation… How did you guys bounce back from the experience and do you chalk it up as one of those “blessing in disguise” moments in life? "If I hadn't lost the songs I believe the record would have been different! It would have been a few different songs and maybe a different sound as well.
We never give up on things. Of course it was uphill for a while after this."
"But in this case it was very important to not give up. I wrote some new songs just to give the project some new energy. And after that things came easy after a while.
The songs were to good to just leave behind.
Capitulate was never an option!"
When you started back up on this album after these disasters did you guys start fresh or try to piece what was lost back together again? "I wrote a few new songs. And I also tried very hard to recreate the essence of the lost songs. It's always hard to do something all over again. It's so often based on what feelings you had at the moment of the recording. And that's a very good thing with music.
I really think we did solve it thou. The only song I think is better as original is the song "Century". I can live with that."
The band has had two songs feature in the TV-series Grey’s Anatomy… Which songs were they and how has that experience impacted the band’s popularity? "The song "lost" and the song "explosions". I guess alot of people discovered us thru this. I was a immediate launching for us. We don't care for this tv show at all. But we can understand that they want to have good music in order to make a bad tv show better... ; )"
The band is currently touring through Europe so any plans for an upcoming North America tour? "We just did a small north american promotional tour. But we will come back in spring 2010. Looking forward to that."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today ... and why?! "'Take My Breath Away' is a really good song! Maybe we could do it even better!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "Is it a band ? If it is, never heard of them! Could it be a ice-hockeyteam, never seen them play!
If it is just Penguins... Love them!!! The Mary Onettes loves animals!!"
Interviewed by: Ken Tebo
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