The Concretes

The Concretes aren’t. But, then again, they are too. They have suffered a few shocks (having all their instruments stolen while on tour), and without crumbling they survived the equivalent of an earthquake (losing renowned singer Victoria Bergsman). Drummer Lisa Milberg took on the job of lead. They recruited Dante Kinnunen to play drums. With these minor alterations they become a new outfit. Durable, if not concrete. Made in Sweden.

Established in 1995 by Victoria Bergsman, Maria Eriksson and Lisa Milberg, The Concretes expanded into eight people and many instruments, including organist Per Nystrom.

There are so many great indie, electro and pop bands from Sweden at the moment: Hello Saferide, Jenny Wilson, The Knife, The Legends. Why do the melodies run like water from Stockholm?

“The melodic, indie pop sound was really big in the –  “90s,” Nystrom begins. “A lot of bands moved to Stockholm. But it was also in the –  “90s that a lot of indie pop bands sounded the same. Now there are lots of indie labels here, but it’s not like everything’s pop. There is noise, punk – it’s much more varied. But the first wave of indie music was in the –  “90s.”

What is it about Stockholm that inspires this activity?

“A lot of bands have moved there, it’s easier to get gigs.”

Are there a lot of venues?

“Well, there are a lot of places opening and closing all the time. It’s quite hard to run a venue, there are lot’s of regulations. But at the moment there are lots of small bars, so it’s good. And there are other cities in Sweden that are good for music, Goteborg, Umea – they are university towns, so there is a music scene.”

Do any of your musical influences come from Stockholm?

“It’s different from album to album. The first album in 2003 The Concretes had a mellotron sound. The second album In Colour was more –  “70s, more folk, like Fleetwood Mac and Fairport Convention. For our latest album Hey Trouble the production is more raw, more –  “80s, so it’s like The Jesus and Mary Chain or The Raincoats. But that is for me. I am sure the other band members have their own influences.”

So the new album is rougher?

“The title of our new album Hey Trouble is taken from our 2006 US tour. This is when we had our instruments stolen, in New York.”

What happened?

“It was in New York during the night, they broke into our trailer. That is when the tour went bad, afterwards the lead singer Victoria quit.”

What reason did she give you?

“She wasn’t happy with touring. She didn’t enjoy being the front figure and being on stage. Then she had a creative crisis, and decided she wanted to do something else. Now she has her own solo project. One of the many things was that she really didn’t enjoy was touring. She agreed but she didn’t want to do it. We knew it was coming but it was still a shock.’

It was the night you flew back to London to appear on the BBC Ian Ross Show?

“It was really weird doing that show. We all thought we were going back to the States to continue our tour. But that day she announced she wasn’t staying in the band, it was the end. And there we were at this show. There were agents there from our record label. They said it was our big chance to impress. So we were all standing on stage together trying to keep straight faces.” Nystrom pauses. “It was some months before we decided to continue. I moved to Berlin. But we decided we were like a big family and we had to continue. I think we got some revenge feeling that kept us going.”

Did Victoria’s departure change your sound?

–  “Yeah, well, I mean it changes from album to album, even when she was in the band. But she did most of the melodies, so now we have different melodies. It’s not her voice, and we have different lyrics. But we were all always involved in the songwriting process.”

With eight members, The Concretes seem more like an ensemble than a band. You play the organ, and there is also a mandolin, glockenspiel and horns. Why the range? Was it to distinguish your sound from others in the Stockholm indie scene?

“It happened naturally. In the beginning when the three girls started the band they invited me to play the organ on one song and it sounded so good I stayed. Then we had ideas for all these other instruments, and people stayed because we like to play together. It’s not that we decided we should have lots of instruments to be different. And it changes – on Hey Trouble we do not have so many horns.”

You are described on as a “pop collective”, not a band. Is it because you are always collecting new members, or new instruments?

“Now I think we’ve become like a band, actually. Though we do have one new member, Dante Kinnunen. He began as a stand-in on drums, but then everybody liked him, so he stayed. He’s really young.”

Even concrete can regenerate.

Hey Trouble will be released March 15 as a double CD in Australia and New Zealand on the Etch n Sketch label. For details check the band’s website.