So ABC News poked and prodded the almost painfully-charming and affable Emil Svanangen, on camera for their “Amplified” series. (The music-series started up a few months ago, galvanized by the spiel of Ryan Schreiber, editor of def.-hip. institute Pitchfork Media(.com), making his picks for 2009.) Since then, ABC has ran with this new splash of “with it,” and are actually going out of their way to find some commendably unconventional interview selections. Like Sweden’s Svanangen, a quasi-recluse/home-recording songwriter and lead singer/performer of five-piece Loney Dear (acting both as his writing moniker and the live band name).
Svanangen, twitching a bit, but seemingly comforted by the nearness of his guitar, says during the interview that he didn’t want the band name to sound like “lonely,” so he made up his own word…, That, even though the word strikes close to forlorn, or seclusion, that it’s different, it’s more nuanced…that a Loner isn’t exactly Lonely…
But most of the readers, the listeners, and the “critics” are tagging it as thus – this, music-to-be-listened-to-alone, bullshit.
I don’t know if I’m overthinking this…but when I see the apparent “music critic” on ABC, (who looks as though she’d be as at-home judging fashion decisions on red carpets, and in fact, delivers the on-camera review in similar fashion, “If you’re going to pick up [2009's Dear John], now is the season…”) – she limitedly gages it as “a break-up record” that feels sad, or feels, indeed, like “a Dear, John letter.” Then, she re-phrases that lonely music perception.
“I’m just trying to do what feels important,” said Svanangen, who hails from Jonkoping, Sweden, where, through the early 00’s, he recorded homemade (made in the basement of his parent’s home) albums and released them online. “Every time I’m out touring I get a bit closer to what I want to express. It’s still a long way to go. Sometimes its fun to play dancey happy music and other times that just feels shallow. I guess it has a lot to do with the audience and the rooms you play.”
Listen: "Airport Surroundings"
Svanangen’s homemade works started gaining attention through 2005 – and fate would have it that his CD-R’s surfed the desks at Sub Pop. From there, he was signed and the baroque-pop beauty Loney Noir was released in 2007.
“[Sub Pop] sort of let me go after the first album,” said Svanangen of dealing with the attention-storm and having been scooped up by the Seattle-based label. “So they were never really involved in ANY sort of musical development or creativity, but I felt very proud to be working with them and think they had a huge impact on my music all over the world.” He adds, “…thanks.” But, in late 2008, signed with Polyvinyl, for the release of 2009’s darker, more cinematic Dear John, a still-delicate yet palpably urgent sounding hybrid of folk, electronic and…just slightly, subtle dancebeats, albeit unobtrusively rolling underneath.
Melodramatic strings that saw and sway over certain songs, draping it in a specific kind of sadness, not the kind of cutesy Belle & Sebastian forlorn effused by Loney Noir, but instead, something more hard-boiled. “I guess I tried to make it darker with that. Maybe I felt less afraid of trying that sort of sounds.” He adds that these theatrical dressings were “…a long process” and self-effacingly shrugs, “I’m not sure it was a perfect result.” (Which would echo his deflections on ABC news, being asked if it was true that he tried to make a masterpiece with Dear John – and that, did he succeed? No, he didn’t think so…but he tried, and that that was what mattered…)
Identifiable. Everyday we write the book.
Asked about his relaxation time – or where he may look for inspiration during the quieter hours: "Difficult. I still don’t know if listening to music is good for my writing. When I do the jockeying in the tour bus I mostly play jazz music from the 60's and the 00's. It means a lot to me.”
Svanangen is currently finishing up a tour with the flavorful gypsy-folk, string-heavy-swing and jazzy pop auteur Andrew Bird.
“It’s an amazing thing to come out and meet fans, if there are any. We are still so early in our careers and it’s always a surprise every time there is a crowd. On the Bird tour were playing 1000-1500 almost every night and that’s different. Besides the live thing I’m currently thinking about what I want to express for the next album. Hoping for some sort of really BIG acoustic sound. I have been trying to get my hands on a double bass for a long time, plus looking for different small string instruments from all over the northern hemisphere.”
Loney Dear headline Schuba’s Tavern, in Chicago on March 1st (with Anni Rossi) – then it’s a bit of time-off before SXSW madness and a tour through Europe (particularly Scandanavia) in April.
Svanangen said he’s looking forward to “…actually, touring and playing. And writing new music. I really hope the next record could be the big breakthrough for me.”
New Video: "Airport Surroundings":