Miike Snow shines through the rain

Swedish electronic pop group moves SU students to dancing despite dreary March drizzle.

A crowd of about 200 braved the cold and rain and descended upon the Schine Underground Tuesday night for the chance to enjoy the musical stylings of headliner Miike Snow and opening act Theophilus London, the musical guests for 2010’s first Bandersnatch Music Series concert.

Miike Snow was formed in 2007 by Swedish songwriting and producing duo Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, and American musician Andrew Wyatt. The band shot to prominence in 2009 with their self-titled debut album, which featured eleven dance ready, electro pop tracks. Though the trio handles the vocals, guitar, piano and synthesizers, they brought a drummer, bassist and additional keys player along for their Bandersnatch performance.

Photo: Nick Pray
Masked and Anonymous, a member of the electronic band Miike Snow, pauses before playing their first set.

Things at the Schine Underground got off to a late start. Theophilus London, a Brooklyn based musician who raps over self-made mixes that combine hip-hop, techno and electro pop, didn’t take the stage until about 20 minutes past the expected 8:00 p.m. start time. The eclectic artist walked out in a dark jacket, sunglasses and baseball cap with the word “JAZZ” stitched on it—and all he brought was himself. After merely pressing play on his silver MacBookPro, the singer grabbed the mic and started swaying to his prerecorded beats.

The setup made for a noticeably bare, boring set. London tried his hardest to compensate, however, by all but dancing with the microphone stand. In addition to a sort of stage dive, the singer took a page from Bruce Springsteen and pulled a girl onstage with him for the close of a song.

Yet for all his attention grabbing theatrics and catchy beats, Theophilus London just couldn’t really get his audience going. A few members of the front row swayed, but behind them were texting, talking and blank stares. The deafening bass also had several concert goers plugging their ears. If the antlers of the jackalope – Miike Snow’s emblem – looming behind him on the backdrop didn’t make it clear enough, this crowd was there for one act, and one act only: Miike Snow.

2010 Copyright Nick Pray|TheNewsHouse.com

Miike Snow, an electronic band from Sweden, played at the Schine Underground Tuesday night.  (PHOTO: Nick Pray)

Theophilus London wrapped up a little before nine, leaving the restless audience to wait just a little longer for the headliner. The crowd was getting antsy around 9:15, by which time the band had still failed to make an appearance. Thankfully, their prayers were answered just five minutes later when five men wearing eerie white masks walked onto the smoke-filled stage. As they got a beat going on the synthesizers, drums and bass, the final band member, Wyatt, took the mic. The first song was a little rocky, with the blasting bass that had plagued Theophilus London overpowering Wyatt’s voice. By the second song, however, the band had fixed the problem and received a burst of cheers from the audience.

The band removed their masks by the next song, an extended version of “Black and Blue.” As dim blue lights bathed the crowd, the group turned the song’s normally calm instrumentals into a head-banging, fist-pumping affair that finally got some of the sedentary masses going. One enthusiastic fan even yelled an offer to buy a burger and fries after the show for Wyatt, whose Phantom of the Opera mask had been replaced by John Lennon glasses.

After going through tracks like “Silvia” and “Plastic Jungle,” the group finished their set with what is unquestionably their most popular song, “Animal.” The crowd belted the lyrics from the very beginning. Wyatt even let them take a few bars, leaning away from the microphone as fans yelled the words. The band eventually launched into another extended instrumental bit, which grew steadily more feverish. As his band mates furiously pounded their synthesizers, Wyatt left the stage. He was soon followed by the rest of the group. Yet they returned mere minutes later to play an encore for the crowd, which had been chanting “One more song!”

The band officially left the stage at 10:30 p.m.  The lights came up, the crowd slowly dispersed; many were stiff from swaying and dancing. Still more moved just fine – even at the concert’s highest points, they had never busted a move – but they couldn’t help singing softly to themselves, “There was a time when my world was filled with darkness, darkness, darkness….”

It seems Miike Snow filled that darkness with something, something, something.


Q&A with Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg

Q: Your music has been featured in TV shows and recently in the trailer for the movie Cyrus. How does it feel to hear your music in these contexts, and how choosy are you with who gets to use your songs?

Winnberg: It’s impossible to just read everything about all the requests that we have gotten so far, so I guess we have almost said yes to everyone.

Karlsson: I think we turned down some stuff.

Winnberg: Early on we did.

Karlsson: But so far so good! With everything. That movie seems pretty all right, though.

Q: Your music videos are pretty distinct. Do you think music videos have taken on a greater significance in the last few years due to people like Lady Gaga, who have these really intricate videos?

Wyatt: Maybe they’ve taken on less significance. MTV is not really where everybody goes to find out about music.

Winnberg: We’re different. Everything is so viral.

Karlsson: Yeah, I haven’t really seen any videos from the bands I like. You know, like the recent ones.

Wyatt: I like the new Grizzly Bear one for “Two Weeks.” Have you seen that video?

Karlsson: No, I haven’t seen any videos from those bands.

Wyatt: Yeah, because you just don’t see the videos anymore.

Winnberg: And I haven’t seen the Lady Gaga videos either.

Karlsson: I haven’t seen them either.

Wyatt: I saw the one for “Telephone,” and it was actually pretty good. It’s like a ten-minute long movie with Beyonce. It’s very much of a rip of a Tarantino movie, though. Like all of the dialogue is very Tarantino-esque.

Q: Do you think that videos like that distract from the actual music, then?

Wyatt: It depends. You know, in certain cases, I guess it does. And it’s probably a good thing for it to be distracting in some cases – to be distracting from the music.

Karlsson: I don’t think a great video makes a shit song better.

Winnberg: No, but it becomes something interesting that’s related to it.

Wyatt: Yeah, it can become a new different piece of whatever.

Winnberg: I mean, Lady Gaga, she needs the Star Wars trilogy or something.

Wyatt: [laughs] I think that’s her ambition.

Q: In your songs you have some pretty outlandish lyrics sometimes. Where do you get lines like, “I married the beetle and learned to be graceful” from?

Wyatt: Oh, I don’t know. The unconscious mind.

Q: So do you have guys have some kind of songwriting process?

Winnberg: I think it’s different from song to song. You can’t get everything from sitting around with a guitar or on a piano.

Karlsson: But we’re always in the room at the same time. We never send files or anything like that.

Wyatt: It’s like a porno. Unless the people are all just there and ready to make it happen, you know, there’s no magic.

Winnberg: That’s true.

Karlsson: I didn’t know that about pornos.

Q: Andrew [Wyatt], you told Interview Magazine that you guys have no interest in being pop stars. Yet you’ve written songs for some major pop artists, including “Toxic” [for Britney Spears]. How do you negotiate writing these pop hits while trying to stay away from the superstardom that comes with them?

Wyatt: Well, I think you have to invite that kind of thing into your life. There are certain people where the whole deal with their music reaching people has to do with their own stardom. And I have nothing against that, but I just don’t think that any of us three are interested in that. Also you don’t get locked in doing one thing. People don’t expect you to be a certain thing. I don’t think people expect the jackalope to be anything in particular, except to have horns and look cute. Cute and dangerous, simultaneously.

Q: Since you mentioned the jackalope, do you guys ever worry about being perceived as inaccessible by adopting this mysterious persona?

Wyatt: No, I don’t think anyone’s charged us with that.

Q: There have been a lot of remixes of your songs, and you yourselves have done a lot of mash-ups. With the emergence of Girl Talk and these other acts, there’s this debate going on with some saying that these people aren’t real musicians and others praising them for retooling it and making it their own. What’s your take on this argument?

Karlsson: I think they definitely are [real musicians].

Winnberg: It doesn’t really matter if the music is good. Like, what is a real musician? I don’t even know what that argument is about, to be honest. We like people that make sweet remixes.

Wyatt: We like people that make fake music.

Karlsson: We like music. Can we just agree on that?

Wyatt: Can’t we all just get along? Like Rodney King said.

Q: You guys recently performed at SXSW. What was that experience like?

Winnberg: It was good. It was kinda chaotic. We didn’t have that much time to prepare for every show, but it went pretty well.

Karlsson: Yeah, it was good. I mean, some shows went better than others, but I think we got to experience why [SXSW] gets that rumor of being different from other festivals.

Q: What do you think makes it different?

Karlsson: Because, you know, everyone goes to play a lot of shows everywhere, and you play small stages, and everything is pretty chaotic. You don’t get any time to sound check or anything like that.

Wyatt: And everything’s free. They give you everything for free.

Karlsson: Yeah, they give you stuff everywhere.

Wyatt: And lemonade comes out of the water faucets.

Q: So you said in past interviews that this band started out as an experiment. Has the experiment turned out as you expected, or has it mutated differently?

Winnberg: I mean, we didn’t have any expectations, so I guess it turned out exactly as we thought it would be.

Q: Who would you guys say are some of your biggest influences?

Winnberg: That’s very hard to say. I mean, there are some obvious ones like Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Q: Are there any current bands out right now that you guys really admire?

Winnberg: Yeah, there are a lot of bands out now that we admire. There’s a bunch of interesting stuff happening. Beach House to Grizzly Bear, which we mentioned before. I don’t have any particular favorite.

Karlsson: A lot of really good music.

Q: Backtracking a little: you guys have four music videos out now. Do you have plans to make any others, and if so, what can people expect?

Winnberg: We’re actually looking at treatments right now.

Karlsson: I think this next one’s going to be our best one yet.

Winnberg: All the treatments are actually amazing.

Q: So are you guys really involved in the process for that kind of stuff?

Karlsson: Too much!

Wyatt: Now we are. I think we’re getting the hang of it. The whole thing kind of took us by surprise when we first started.

Q: So you guys have been touring a lot, but not at many college campuses. What are you expecting out of this crowd tonight?

Wyatt: Good people, good rhythm.

Winnberg: A lot of dancing!

Karlsson: I hear there are a lot of good dancers here.

Q: What kind of goes into a show? Do you really plan out all the lights and those aspects?

Wyatt: We have help from a very skilled lighting artist.

Karlsson: We have a big light show that we can’t do here. There was not enough power, actually.

Winnberg: That will eventually be solved. We have some pretty cool ideas, but it will take some time to develop, so it probably won’t be ready until the tour in October. So that will be something pretty unique. But I really like the setup we have, too.

Miike Snow

I've been listening to Miike Snow for only about a week now, but when I get hooked on music, I'm hooked!
Miike Snow's music is like a cross between Electropop, soul, autotune, Beatles, easy listening and much more and it's AWESOME!

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