Raving On With The Raveonettes

Music Features The Raveonettes
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After a late-night performance at Seattle’s Crocodile Café and post-show partying with The Kills, The Raveonettes look remarkably well this afternoon. Sune Rose Wagner, lead singer and songwriter of this duo from Denmark, sits comfortably in his chair. The darker of the two, Wagner is impeccably dressed in black — from his pointy boots to his jet black crown. In contrast sits the statuesque, six-foot-tall blonde, Sharin Foo, quietly sipping on a Perrier. She’s dressed for the unusually warm September day.
The Raveonettes are touring in support of their new album, Chain Gang of Love, and six hours before they take the stage of Vancouver club Richard’s on Richards, they take a few minutes to chat with Paste on the patio of the Georgian Court hotel.

PASTE: You’ve been called “darlings of the garage-rock revival.” Do you think this label fits your sound? Does it bother you to be lumped into this category?
SUNE: You see, I really have no problem with it. It’s nothing that upsets me at all. It’s just that when people ask me, ‘are you a part of this garage movement,’ I just don’t think we are. We don’t tour with any of the garage bands. We just aren’t really a part of it.
SHARIN: I think we’re definitely a part of what they call the revitalized rock’n’roll wave — with bands that kind of go back to something more simplistic and realistic.
SUNE: And also, what is garage music? In England they have a different word for it. They call our music ‘smack rock’ ’cause they think it’s very sexy and heroin-oriented music. The Kills, The Raveonettes and stuff like that — it’s called ‘smack rock.’

P: Weeks leading up to the release of Chain Gang of Love, you couldn’t pick up a magazine in America without reading something about The Raveonettes. What kind of buzz is going on back home?
SHARIN: When the first album was released in May of last year in Denmark, we got really bad reviews and at that point we chose to get out of there, but now we’re totally mainstream down there and we’re just totally amazed. They sell the album in grocery stores, and we’re even getting played on the radio.

P: At what point did you say to yourself, “I think we’re onto something?”
SHARIN: I don’t know. There have been various points. I mean, the day we signed with Columbia records in NYC that was pretty significant, and then when we played our first American talk show [Late Night with Conan O’Brien]. That was like, oh my god, I don’t think any Danish band has ever done that.

P: Was it a calculated move to record in B-major? Was the intent to make a poppier sounding album?
SUNE: Oh yeah, I wanted to do a minor album and a major. Initially, it was meant for Chain Gang of Love to be released right afterward, but armed with only eight tracks so that we could put them together and have a 16-track record, but then we got signed and didn’t want to put out another EP at that point.

P: I read that you chose not to use a real drummer because you wanted to keep it simple, but on the new album you give credit to a drummer…
SUNE: On this one, we had our live drummer come in and play along with the drum tracks to add some ambience to it, but it’s still a very simple sound. It was merely for sound purposes.

P: I don’t have an answer when I’m asked what The Raveonettes sound like. How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard you?
SHARIN: There’s definitely a lot of stuff in there, lots of different layers. I think what we do different is take lots of inspiration from many different eras — which is not so typical for bands to do. Most will do something very ’70s or very ’60s or something like that. We like to take something very old and combine it with something very modern so it sounds very old-fashioned but with a new progression.

P: So your own influences are?
SUNE: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons, Suicide, Television, The Ramones.

P: I read an article recently where the interviewer got very close to saying you were ripping off The Jesus and Mary Chain. They are a fairly obvious comparison, but…
SUNE: I can completely understand the comparison. I mean, what The Jesus and Mary Chain did was basically the same thing that we’re doing, where we take ’60s music, make it poppy but add some noisy, more edgy elements to it. So I can completely understand [the comparison] but we just take it one step further, we have a lot more different influences.

P: You were compiling songs for the first album while driving around the U.S. What was the inspiration for the second album?
SUNE: Well, a lot of stuff really. Some pain, some stories from Copenhagen

P: You might not want to look this far ahead, but it seems like everything old is new again and what’s new will become old at some point. With your style of music, can you see yourselves doing something different, maybe more ‘modern’ in the future?
SUNE: Well on the new album, we’re using a lot of very minimalistic kind of tech drums and I could easily see ourselves becoming more ‘modern’ beat oriented but still having the more classic melodies and stuff like that on top. I mean, let’s see what happens.

P: Is it tough for the Raveonettes to get radio play?
SUNE: Yeah it is. See, we’re too light to get played on KROQ and we’re too strange to be on anything mainstream. It’s tough.
SHARIN: It’s still ‘new metal’ that rules that area, and The White Stripes — they had a great opportunity and a lot of stations they kind of say ‘oh well we already have The White Stripes so we don’t really need another.’

P: Who does your artwork?
SUNE: We do, we come up with all the ideas.

P: Tell me something about Denmark that most people in North America know nothing about?
(Both Laugh)
SHARIN: We have a great social security system, and there’s something called Copenhagen chewing tobacco, do you know of it? Well it’s not from Copenhagen; it’s from Sweden.