Sweden's rock and roll legends talk staying sane during the pandemic, their favourite Australian acts and more.
As life returns to Australia’s city streets, so does the sound of rowdy bandrooms, dance halls and venues all around the country. But despite the welcome return of crashing and bashing into one another, one notable absence is the lack of foreign acts on Australian stages.
With Australia’s international borders and quarantine regulations presenting logistical challenges for touring acts, artists are finding new ways to head down under. In an effort to bypass these geographic borders, beloved Swedish rock ’n’ rollers The Hives are touring the globe via the web in a world first unique and interactive format, offering exclusive live shows and merchandise specifically tailored to the crowds of each country.
Acclaimed by music critics as one of the best live rock bands in the world, The Hives are all too eager to return to the stage and showcase their trademark high energy and fast paced punk style, all while in their clean cut strict white and black dress code.
We caught up with the group’s frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist to chat about their upcoming virtual tour on Thursday 28 January, HPA’s firsthand experience with COVID-19, some fond memories from down under and his now famous slinky black venetian silk pyjamas.
Live music is something that has become synonymous with The Hives and the band’s identity. How has 2020 and the absence from touring affected the band both financially and personally – and what have some of the silver linings for the band been from being home in lockdown? Is there any specific aspect of playing live gigs that you miss – and how have you managed that not touring?
HPA: Well, financially it is pretty horrible. Basically, a year without income. We have been a successful band for a very long time so we have money, but it must be horrible for younger artists without a long career of world beating success. Personally, it is also pretty horrible. I’ve been terribly bored. The only nice thing is having a lot of time to think and being forced to not do anything for long stretches of time makes you think in new ways. You start to understand why monks are doing it.
Building on live performance – The Hives live shows are known for their high energy and crowd interaction. How important is that energy in your live shows, and how do you think the band will bring this out with a streamed audience?
HPA: Well I’m answering this having actually done one of the shows (Berlin) at the time of this interview, so I have an idea. We are overcompensating wildly with energy of our own. The biggest life hack is playing crowd noise over the speakers in the room. It feels surprisingly awesome after a year without applause. It really keeps us going, being the suckers for applause we are.
In April 2020 HPA posted a video telling fans that he was recovering from Covid-like symptoms – what did you do during your quarantine and what did you listen to while recovering? Was there a particular band or genre that served as a soundtrack for the lockdown?
HPA: I didn’t do that much. I was completely drained of energy for most of those 10 days. I worked on some music, but mostly I just waited till I felt better. I was listening to Viagra Boys and French YeYe music from the 60s, I think.
Touching onto the live-streamed show now – what can fans and audiences expect from the live streams?
HPA: After just performing for the Berlin show, it honestly feels like it could be the best thing we have ever done! It looks awesome and for fans, you will feel like you’re walking around with the band onstage since its shot with one camera. The setting is beautiful, and it sounds next level because the guy that produced our first three records (Pelle Gunnerfelt) is manning the controls. We are very, very proud of it honestly.
In 2020, the band ran the HIVEMANOR LIVEMANOR where you played footage from a 2009 show at the Metro Theatre in Sydney where you played a broad range of covers, including ‘Early Morning Wake Up Call’ and ‘Lost and Found’. Can Aussie fans hope to hear some more covers within the show?
HPA: Yeah that was fun! We love so much Australian music! The Saints, Flash and The Pan, Hoodoo Gurus, Hard Ons, The Victims, AC/DC, Easybeats, Alex Cameron. Speaking of Alex, he told me that show opened his mind to the fact that there was a lot of cool new wave music from his homeland. Happy to have played a small role in the musical education of such a young icon.
Keeping it with Australia, what are some of the fondest memories you have from touring down under? Were there any bands that stood out to you that you played with, saw, or knew about prior to touring? And were there any venues or stories you can share from shows you played while on tour in Australia?
HPA: Oh, too many to mention. Touring with AC/DC was true bucket list brilliance. All of Australia all the time was a fond memory. Love it. If it were any closer to Sweden I would live there! Just fucking about in vineyards on the countryside, surfing, eating delicious food stuffs, hanging out with the friendliest people anywhere etc. One of the fondest memories is having spent a week over New Years Eve after 250-ish shows in 2001 where we got to borrow a beach house in Lorne and rest up and then play a show at the Falls festival.
Also noting the timeslot of 11.00am local time for the band, will we see an onstage debut of the black silk pyjamas you’ve been sporting in the recent Q&A’s?
HPA: I would love to, but the other Hives don’t have them. Maybe some other time in the future we will rock out in slinky black venetian silk together.
Finally – what does 2021 have in store for you or hope to have in store for the band? With the global rollout of vaccines touring may become a possibility in the not-too-distant future- where would the band want to play first? Is there any venue or city that jumps out in particular?
HPA: We will take anything at this point. Four people in a pub or a house party, one friend in our rehearsal space, Bar Mitzvahs and birthdays – anything! Hopefully we’ll also agree on some new music to release. We have a tonne of awesome new songs…
Grab your tickets to The Hives’ Sydney leg of the World Wide Web World Tour here.