DiS has been long term fans of Danish duo The Raveonettes. In fact, it's fair to say that from the moment first EP Whip It On arrived amidst a hail of feedback and doo-wop harmonies in the summer of 2002, we were fairly smitten. Since then, they've gone on to release six albums, culminating in 2012's Observator. We were a little heavy hearted to hear murmurings toward the end of last year that Observator would probably be their last release.
Imagine our shock and joy then when we get a call from their label asking if we'd be up for a chat about the band's top secret (until today) new album.
The new album is entitled Pe'ahi and is released today (22nd July 2014), with a follow-up provisionally entitled #2 also imminent. Taking their PR up on his offer, DiS' Dom Gourlay quizzed singer, guitarist and songwriter Sune Rose Wagner about what inspired the new record, what he's been up to since Observator, longevity and breaking rules.
Pe'ahi - Album Stream
DiS: What have you been up to since we last spoke during the summer of 2012?
Sune Rose Wagner: I moved house. I was living in New York for ten years but I've been based in Los Angeles for almost two years. I live in the downtown area now but when I first moved I had a house in an area called Mount Washington. It's a really nice area but also kind of boring! And then just same old same old in a way. Touring and working with other bands.
DiS: Which other bands have you been working with?
Sune Rose Wagner: Mainly Dum Dum Girls, and then I've also done a bunch of Danish bands. I'm in the middle of mixing an album for one of them at the minute. I've been doing a bit of co-writing too. I guess it seems like I'm always doing something! And then all of a sudden I thought it was time we made a new album so the rest of my time has been devoted to that.
DiS: During our conversation in August 2012 you had talked about a possible follow-up to Observator but then later on that year in an interview with another publication you said that would be The Raveonettes last album. What made you change your mind?
Sune Rose Wagner: A few things. One of the reasons was I didn't think Observator was such an accomplished album. I thought it was a good album for what it was. The idea was always to make a very spontaneous album set in a specific time with that record and I think we succeeded but there were so many songs on there that I didn't think were quite good enough as those on our other records. So I thought maybe we'd be better just focusing on just four or five great songs at a time going forwards and just release them as singles or EPs. All the ones that aren't good enough just leave them alone. When you spend so much time making a record and it doesn't turn out how you'd hoped it would it makes you think about doing things differently in the future. But then we started the new album and... well, it wasn't really meant to be an album to begin with. It was going to be an EP, but then afterwards I realised we had more to put towards it than that. It made more sense to build on it.
DiS: How long did it take to put the album together? When did your writing process change from putting together songs for an EP to making an album?
Sune Rose Wagner: I started writing last summer but as I said initially it was never my intention to make an album. I tend to write songs for the sake of writing songs. Living in Los Angeles, it felt nice to be inspired by some of the things around me. The beaches and the sunshine particularly were so inspiring. There was also a certain darkness to it that sounded very appealing. The surface of what Los Angeles really is. It looks very pretty from the outside when you see all the tourist spots but there are 30,000 homeless people in the city and two-thirds of them are mentally disturbed. Even though the sun is shining here there's an underlying darkness throughout the city as well. Also, my father died which sent me in a completely different mood and all of a sudden I had all this energy and self-discipline and determination to write. Make an album that isn't out there. Make it different.
DiS: Which songs were on the original EP before it became an album?
Sune Rose Wagner: The very first song that was written is a song called 'Kill!' It didn't have any words at that point and was quite different to the version on the album. And then there were a bunch of other songs written for that EP but none of those made it onto the album. There were at least sixty songs written in total. And this was the first time myself and Sharin (Foo) have ever sat down and selected ten songs to specifically focus on from what we originally had. Usually it's quite a long process that might not be decided until the day the album is processed. We normally end up having quite a long discussion as we have very different opinions. However, this time, we ended up choosing exactly the same ten songs so it took about five minutes! So we knew which songs to go with quite early on, probably by the end of January this year.
DiS: Which leaves at least fifty songs that didn't make the album. Will any of those be revisited and/or released in the future?
Sune Rose Wagner: After we finished the album, I thought to myself what an amazing experience this was. It turned out even better than we imagined it would, so we then decided to go straight ahead with making the follow-up and call it #2. There are a lot of great songs still in the same style which can be built on and taken even further. We learned so much from this album in terms of how far songs can be taken. We want to break all the rules around structures and sonics, and with the songs we have ready there's no reason why we can't make them sound crazier than they already are.
DiS: What's the planned released date for the new record?
Sune Rose Wagner: Next Tuesday!
DiS: Really? What made you decide to release it unannounced and so soon?
Sune Rose Wagner: We've always done things by the rules with every record we've made so far. Announced the date three months or so in advance then spent the lead-up time doing loads of promo and interviews to the point that by the time the record comes out we're already sick of it. I'm so excited about the album coming out and this is the first time I've talked about it. To me that's a golden thing. I think everybody should do it like that. Everything we can do to break down the rules of how the industry works I am all for.
DiS: The album's called Pe'ahi. Where does the title originate from?
Sune Rose Wagner: The title is actually a Hawaiian word. It's a big, famous surf break off the shore of Maui. It only comes to life during the winter months. It's a scary place even for professional big wave surfers. We used that as the title because the album has a lot of references to surf culture. Musically there's a lot of surf guitar sounds in there. But used in very different ways to the traditional surf record sound. There's also a lot of references to surf language and beaches in the lyrics but again used in a very different context. It was a challenge to try and channel some of the inspiration I found - especially the surf history of Southern California - but not in an obvious way. A guy once referred to our band very early on in our career as being what it would sound like if you went surfing in the rain. It's a pretty good analogy which I always thought made a lot of sense. So in essence I guess that's what we sound like which is why we used a lot of the references, and Pe'ahi is also a dangerous place. And not just for surfers either. It's also become a hangout for the disenchanted. I went to Maui recently and people there advised me not to go down to Pe'ahi, even in summertime. Some pregnant girl was murdered there not long ago so it all kind of makes sense with the title because I always want that to have a certain theme to it. Which is why we put the knife on the cover of the record.
DiS: Is there a running theme through Pe'ahi that links all the songs together?
Sune Rose Wagner: I guess there are a bunch of themes. There isn't really a specific one that goes through all the songs. I guess you could say the record is mostly about dying and the here on after. It's about being young and growing old. Being on your own and breaking away from friends, family. Some of it is about infidelity, abandonment also. So there's some of the themes.
DiS: Who produced the record?
Sune Rose Wagner: I started producing it myself. Then after a while when the music became more intricate I started toying with the idea of using unconventional song structures, intending to break the rules. So I needed a sparring partner in the studio as it were. And I remembered this guy Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who's a phenomenal bass player. He's also produced a lot of great artists. People like Paramore, M83 and Macy Gray for instance. So I was over at his studio one day and asked him how he would feel about producing a Raveonettes album. He loved the idea and then we started working together. He's been a tremendous influence on this record. There's no way this album could have been done without him. I think at least 50% of this record is what it is because of Justin.
DiS: Will you be releasing any singles off the album?
Sune Rose Wagner: Hopefully we'll release all of them as singles. At least that was the plan. I think the first one will be 'Endless Sleeper' which is also the first song on the album.
DiS: Will there be a tour to coincide with the record?
Sune Rose Wagner: Yes, absolutely. We have already announced some American dates for late September and we're finalising the European ones right now.
DiS: The last time you toured the UK towards the end of 2012 you took Holy Esque on tour with you. Will you be taking young, up-and-coming bands out on the road with you this time too?
Sune Rose Wagner: I hope so. When we first started out, the very first tour we did in the States was opening up for Interpol which was a great support slot for us to have. After that we got to open up for The Strokes, so I believe you should always give up-and-coming bands a chance. Depeche Mode took us on the road and had us open up for them on their arena tour. It's a great experience for new bands.
DiS: The Raveonettes are fast approaching their fifteenth year together. What would you say is the secret behind your longevity?
Sune Rose Wagner: I suppose you could say fifteen years but then the early days of The Raveonettes was mainly me and Sharin just bouncing around doing cover versions. 2001 was the year when we started taking this seriously. I guess our longevity comes down to us believing we still have something musical to offer the world. Luckily for us we're only two people, so we tend to agree on most things whereas a band with four or five members may not. Also, I'm the only songwriter which probably makes things a lot easier too. If the music still makes a difference and you've still got something to say then I think you're good to go.
DiS: Finally, what advice would you give to new bands just starting out?
Sune Rose Wagner: As fun as it is touring, going crazy and meeting girls - it's definitely a part of your job although not so much for us any more - the most important thing about making music and being in a band is the graft. You've got to work on your skills and your craft. It just doesn't come easy. It's like anything else. You have to work on it relentlessly. The more you work on it the better it gets. In the end, it really is all about the songs.
The album Pe'ahi is released on Tuesday 22nd July.
For more information on The Raveonettes visit their official website.