Johan Angergård didn’t go to Vietnam looking for a revelation, but while he was performing recently in Hanoi as the hipper-than-thou one man-band The Legends, he found one anyway.
“When you play live you can feel a little bit fragile being on stage,” the Swedish musician muses via Skype from his Stockholm apartment. “Trying to deliver something personal. But this was more getting into my ‘cool drug dealing’ mode.”
Record scratch. Note to any authorities that might be reading this: the statement was delivered with air quotes. He’s not actually slinging illicit substances. For Angergård, the alter-ego is a white-suited, no-damns-given new wave Bogart rather than an excuse to become an all-out rebel with zero social constructs.
“The character is me, but it’s not my everyday me,” Angergård confirms, laughing at the assumption that he’s going too far off the rails. “I was more comfortable walking out into the audience with a microphone in my hand. Generally, if you play a song whining about yourself it’s weird to do that because you’re walking out into your fans and asking them to feel sorry for you. But this is more something else.”
“I’ve made music that makes me feel cool. I listen to it to feel cool. Can I get more stupid?”
It’s a persona born from the musician’s fifth album as The Legends. (Fun fact: Angergård also logs time with Acid House Kings, Club 8, Pallers, Eternal Death, Djustin—and probably your band if you ask nicely.) An ambitious double release, Nightshift delivers exactly what the name would imply: beat-heavy, dance-worthy electro pop. It’s a song-cycle drenched in ones and zeroes, from the swoony multilingual duet “Cocaine” (featuring Spanish verses by Maria Usbeck) to the tongue-in-cheek ode to bombast, “In Love With Myself.” Save for the closing duet “Messages,” inspired by a late-night text conversation with a brokenhearted friend, the themes could be written in neon club lights. Go out, dance it out, and come home when the birds start singing. In the case of heartache? The prescription remains the same. Don’t think so hard.
“I think it’s kinda carefree,” says Angergård of Nightshift’s resonance. “Usually you do whine a little bit on albums. ‘Oh poor me, blah blah blah.’ My last album had a lot of focus on ‘Oh I’m in love. Oh, I’m sad. It’s so terrible, being in love.’ It’s very different in that way. It’s my party album…I listen to ‘Cash’ from the album a lot on my way out. You feel cool. You feel good. You feel like you’re on top of the world. Everything is coming your way.”
Heck, even when he’s not feeling good, it’s still all good—as is the case with “Summer in The City (Living Is For Somebody Else),” a vocoder-and-synth anthem to the pressures of the season. To his credit, Angergård admits that complaining about the season—which in the Nordics seems to last only a few weeks—isn’t his aim. He likes sitting in the sun and going swimming.
“It’s all the expectations,” he explains. “You’re supposed to have super fun. It can never live up to expectations. It’s not possible. In Sweden there’s generally even more expectations. As everyone says all the time, it’s cold here year around and then we have two months where it’s not so cold. It’s a bit warm. Everyone is supposed to do everything those warm happy two months. You have your holidays. All those kinds of things are happening. And of course it doesn’t turn out like that. It’s probably raining and all your friends are doing fun stuff and your girlfriend breaks up with you. You lose your job and you’re sitting at home drinking. What I hate most about summer, which it doesn’t happen that often anymore, is when you go home at four in the morning and you’ve been going out, and you go home and it’s light and the birds are singing. It’s the worst feeling. It feels like a total failure.”
Yes, the words are harsh, and Angergård will be the first to give you an honest self-evaluation. Sometimes he feels like a failure and sometimes he gets bummed out. But hey, if it takes writing an album of slick electro-pop that you actually want to hear to feel better, why not? Even the Morrissey-worshipping Swede can see the value in music that makes even the most mild-mannered among us feel downright hip.
“That’s the most embarrassing part,” Angergård moans. “I’ve made music that makes me feel cool. I listen to it to feel cool. Can I get more stupid?”
At this, he laughs.
“You can’t just listen to Straight Outta Compton every time you go out,” he reasons. “Sometimes you need something else. But still you’re cool. You have The Legends, Nightshift.”