The Raveonettes' Buddy System
"If I had to name one artist I would die for it would be Buddy Holly," says Wagner. "He really was one of the first songwriters and performers that I ever heard that truly touched my heart." Alongside, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers played a pivotal role in Wagner's musical development, inspiring him to make use of rich vocal harmonies, the type on display on the Raveonettes's new disc, Lust Lust Lust.
In addition to his fondness for early rock'n'roll, Wagner cites photographer Robert Frank and film directors David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock as influences. Showing similar elements of dark storytelling, Lust offers both melancholy and hope, balancing cascades of feedback with waves of melody.
Wagner estimates he wrote about 100 songs for the record before trimming back that number to the dozen that made the disc. "It's really spontaneous music. It's done very fast. It's just a feeling. You know it when you hit it," says Wagner.
Much of Lust was recorded by Wagner in his apartment in New York's East Village over a two-week span. During the making of the disc, he largely avoided entering a studio for clear reasons.
"You can go into the studio and use whatever old amplifier you have but it's never going to sound old anyways because it's recorded in a very modern studio. To me that's just boring," he says. "I like it when the sound has more of a character. Something that sticks out, something that's different, something that's personal."
That personal connection to music is a feature Wagner has treasured for years. Growing up in Denmark, Wagner, now 30, had limited access to music and lacked record nerd friends to open his ears to new sounds. "I didn't have any cool record stores where I could buy music. So I had to discover everything myself through books. I had to read about it. The only place I would get music was at the local library," says Wagner.
Inside the confines of a Danish library, he sifted through '50s and '60s rock'n'roll albums. Once he turned 18, Wagner began travelling outside Denmark, later relocating to the U.S., settling for periods of time in New York, Seattle and L.A. While in California, he wrote much of the band's first EP, Whip It On, but had to return to Denmark to find someone who shared his musical approach after unsuccessfully auditioning people in the U.S. Once back home, Wagner met up with Sharin Foo. The two launched their musical career as the Raveonettes, touring extensively and releasing Whip It On, The Chain Gang of Love and Pretty in Black between 2002 and 2005. After the band's three-album contract with Columbia expired, the group made the jump to Fierce Panda in the UK and Vice Records in North America for Lust, a disc that has landed the group numerous Danish music award nominations.
Denmark and its isolation had a defined musical effect on Wagner, but his transplanted home of New York has also had a pronounced effect, he says. "It's my favourite city in the world. It's like part Europe, part America. It's perfect for me. I like just walking around New York. It's very inspiring to me — just the vibe of the big city," says Wagner.
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