There’s a good chance you won’t have heard of Division of Laura Lee. It’s a chance that probably extends to their music and an assumption some of the more art-rock types and those who believe their finger to be well and truly syncopated with the pulse of new music, may find defamatory should they actually hear their latest album ‘Black City’.
Y’see, those who have heard _Black City _find themselves with a real sense of impatience, at a band all too ready to sweep aside all the pretenders and take their rightful place at the forefront of the garage-rock revolution.
Firing a big hefty attitude-soaked bullet up the arse of garage-punk it’s an album revelling in the energy of The Stooges *and *Radio Birdman, searing with the ferocity of Sonic Youth *and *Fugazi *and bubbling with a fresh 21st century aura of modern creativity. All the time it’s lined with a persona that only Division of Laura Lee can create. It’s maximum rock ‘n’ roll but one with personality. One with feelings, brought out in songs like *‘I Guess I’m Healed’, a warm, atmospheric sunset that softly speaks words of encouragement while it’s patting drums and echoing guitar invokes memories you forgot you once had. It’s a sentiment that similar track ‘I Walk on Broken Glass’ _takes further, offering shelter from the feral intensity of ‘Pretty Electric’ and recent single _‘Need To Get Some’.
However, these subtle shades of colour that illustrate DOLL’s piquant persona may be overlooked by the younger, more casual neo-garage rock listener in favour of more up-beat tearaway rock ‘n’ roll anthems that play into the hands of the new generation of Strokes/ Hives *lovers. But as vocalist Per and guitarist Johan are keen to point out, there’s a lot more to Division of Laura Lee than just modernising the Stooges and *MC5.
“We’re from another scene”, explains Per along a drafty backstage corridor in Manchester University. _“I mean, I know that we’re compared to those bands and, well, they’re good bands but I think we’re from the more arty [crowd] you know? When we started the band we had bands like Fugazi and Sonic Youth and *Drive Like Jehu *as the biggest influences. We didn’t care about anything else y’know. And as we were getting older we developed a lot and of course we always liked bands like *The Stones *and The Stooges, whatever. And I think they made a big influence on us too but I think it’s funny that people compare us to bands like The Hives. I mean, they’re great, but I don’t think we’re similar at all.”
And boy is he right. Of course, the rabid lo-fi guitar attack of _‘Need To Get Some’ _immediately brings to mind The Hives as well as fellow countrymen, and close friends, *The (International) Noise Conspiracy *but it’s only when you fully engross yourself in _‘Black City’ _that whole new sounds open up and envelop you.
“I can figure out that there are some garage [elements] in Division of Laura Lee”, continues Per. “But those bands are like really retro y’know? And we’re a band for the future."
Johan: “We do not struggle backwards in time. We’re kinda focussed on moving forward.”
AT LAST!! A band that’s prepared to acknowledge their older influences without trying to re-create them and turning out like a poor imitation. A band that’s ready to create a rock ‘n’ roll for the 21st century that actually kicks out the jams rather than being afraid to mess your neat retro hair and Oxfam Originals flairs.
Per: “We have bands like Joy Division, who are one of the biggest influences, and bands like Jesus & Mary Chain, Stone Roses **(of which Per is a huge fan, later showing off a well-thumbed biography of the band, with plans to return to Manchester with his wife next year to visit famous haunts detailed in the book) and **Ride. That’s the stuff we love but of course we’re a punk rock band and that’s the scene we grew up with when we were like, 10.”
Over here, the focus on the Swedish music scene creates an impression that it is experiencing a kind of renaissance of new music that’s suddenly coming through. Are you surprised by this new-found attention or has a high level of creativity always been there?
Per: “Well, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before because it’s always been pretty good in Sweden. I think the bands needed their time maybe to y’know, put the shit together but I’m happy. Those bands were helping us out a lot because people have opened their eyes."
Johan: “Yeah, they’re making waves for us.”
Per: _“Now it’s our time to take over the world!” _
One thing that’s very clear from talking to Division of Laura Lee is their outright commitment to the band and their burning passion for making honest music and “spreading the word”, paving the way for a whole new crop of truthful and passionate bands, ready to sweep aside the fakers.
Per: “That’s the thing with Division of Laura Lee. I’ve been in lots of bands but I’ve never been in a band before DOLL that are totally honest to what we are doing. We don’t hide behind things, we don’t need costumes, we don’t need to look like, specific or something. We’re really just 100% honest and truthful and it’s important to us that we have to tell the truth of what we’ve been feeling through the years growing up. That’s what it’s always been about with Division of Laura Lee. Using the heart is the main priority here - to follow our hearts.”
Many bands voice similar beliefs to the ones above but only a select few actually mean it. They maybe once did but when the crowds got bigger and the screams got louder the word ‘humble’ became a foreign word. Division of Laura Lee are all noticeably humble and grounded in this pivotal point in their career but they also have an overwhelming self-confidence, introducing the song ‘Pretty Electric’ _tonight as _"probably the best song ever written" and even proclaiming themselves the saviours of *Burning Heart *at a show in Paris last September.
**I guess it’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence in the music you’re creating.
Per: “Yeah, we’re not arrogant. We just _know _that we’re one of the best bands in the world and that’s true. I think we always had a good self-confidence because we always knew that we were better than all the rest and that we had something that most of the bands nowadays don’t have. And it [Pretty Electric] is one of the best songs in the world. I wouldn’t say it unless. Ok maybe I would. People can say whatever they want about us and our music but for us we do the best songs in the world right now.”
Johan: “That’s right. I mean, why do something that you cannot like 100%?"
Per: “I’m glad now that we released music with Division of Laura Lee because we weren’t really sure in the beginning if we wanted to be a band or be an art collective – just paint & shit.”
Sweden’s Burning Heart Records weren’t the only label to pick up on DOLL’s potential to turn punk rock upside down and totally transform the current state of alternative music. Renowned US punk label Epitaph (who also happen to own BHR) also signed DOLL in America and are making them the number one priority band this coming autumn. In an age where music has sadly been overshadowed by the allure of fame, fortune & fake smiles it seems musical integrity is beginning to come back. It’s something Per gets exasperated just thinking about but with *Ian Mackaye *as his mentor he’s hoping to use DOLL to change all that.
Per: _“Well it’s time to take back the music from all the boring products, like the whole 90s almost. I think 2000 and 2002 have been really good for rock and Indie music – y’know, bands who practise, bands who play together for years before they fucking get a record deal. I never understood like, the products. I never understood the people who are musicians who work with those people in, whatever, this kind of band. I think the late 90s was terrible because then even the punk bands became like ‘the products’, like boy bands. And punk is not about being fucking happy and you know, having a fucking rock star life style – it’s about understanding how shitty the world is.
”I loved it when I read an interview with Ian Mackaye when I was like, 14 years old and he said like, “we wanted to change the punk because all the punk rockers had were weird clothes”. And that‘s it, otherwise they were acting like normal people. They [Fugazi] wanted to realise change, to keep your head clear and to think a bit more and I loved that. Punk is not about how you fucking sound. I think that *Primal Scream *were a punk band. They’re _very _punk actually, and *the Offsrping *is not a punk band. It’s not really a style of how you play the guitar.”
A true punk band has that punk attitude that shows through their music. You could say that *Blink 182 *(used to)play in a punk rock style but is having major corporations sponsor your arena tour and giving away a car at every show really classed as ‘punk‘?
Joahn: “It kinda becomes more of a circus.”
Per: _"Yeah, they’re more like entertainers putting on a show for kids and that’s what people think that punk is. But it’s getting better and it’s gonna get way better. I mean, we wanna get BIG. We wanna be huge, massive, take over the world. Still, we’re gonna do it our way and we’re gonna give the people honest music.”
Indeed, you won’t find lyrics about beer, teenage girls and adolescent fantasies in DOLL. They tell it how it is and tackle difficult subject matters in songs such as ‘I Walk On Broken Glass'.
“It’s maybe the most difficult lyrics on the record" explains co-songwriter with Per, Johan. "It’s about a friend of mine who died and how I felt during the time but I didn’t just write ‘a friend of mine died and I’m feeling really sad’ because I wanted to spare those words so I just wrote metaphors of how I felt.”_
Per: _“A lot of our lyrics are like that – it might be about so much & it’s not so easy to get really but it gives you a good feeling, like people can take the lyrics their own way or understand it their own way. We didn’t put the lyrics on the record because it’s so good to just sit and listen to the record and then hear the lyrics and get your imagination going.
“I put a lot of effort into that record. I almost cried sometimes when I was singing because it’s stuff I haven’t really talked about with everybody, we put a lot of feelings into that. I’m really happy about it – the whole record, musically and lyrically.” _
Such an intense focus on the band, and a passion for bands like *Minor Threat *and Fugazi, not to mention Per’s ‘I Got Straightedge’ tattoo on his arm may make you think DOLL are a full-on straightedge band. But then you’d be wrong.
Per: _“When we started out the whole band was straightedge. Never in a fucking *Earth Crisis *way or anything. We were, and still are, really open-minded and we wanted self-control which is important in some levels but I hate it when someone is trying to be better than somebody else, like ‘Oh, you’re not sXe, you’re not my friend’, you know. It’s just stupid. It’s probably why I started drinking beer, just to piss the fucking sXe movement off. For me it was like a teenage thing and it was awesome – I loved it. I still love it that’s why I did the tattoo after I was straightedge. This is about my youth, the stuff I did when I was fucking punk, the memories and I’m proud of it still. The straightedge attitude has a lot to do with Division of Laura Lee.”
As I said at the beginning of this article, there’s a good chance you won’t have heard of Division of Laura Lee. Yet. Less than a week after this interview the band supported The Hives at New York’s Ballroom, receiving rave reviews in magazines and newspapers all over New York, possibly amazed that such an outstanding act could support what amounts to an average retro rock band. Even the record company for *Gluecifer *(the headline band for their recent UK tour) were angry at the choice of DOLL for support, purely because they upstaged Gluecifier at every show.
Per:_ “The music is coming back, I’m sure. It has to mean something. It can be easy to get into, whatever, but it has to be real.” _
Just make sure you catch them when they return for a mammoth European and US tour this autumn.