The Radio Dept.
Published May 06, 2010Four years after having a trio of their tracks chosen for Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette soundtrack, and over a year and a half after initial rumblings of its existence, Sweden's the Radio Dept. have finally released their third studio album Clinging to a Scheme. With the new record, the band continue to experiment with the shimmering pop sound laid out on 2006's Pet Grief, honing their songwriting while incorporating a wide range of influences into the music. But while they've spent plenty of time hunkered down in their home studio, according to Johan Duncanson they're not the reclusive perfectionists many might take them for.
So what took you so long to put out this record?
I got tired really quickly with the songs we were recording so I kept writing and recording new ones all the time. If we don't finish a song really fast after starting to record it, we never finish it. So we haven't been polishing sounds for three or four years. We've just been writing new material. In August we had 120 or 130 songs; some were just basic sketches and some were nearly finished. But none of them were completely done. We could have kept on working forever because we do everything at home. There's no one who can tell us, "Guys you should finish this." We took the 12 or 15 songs that were on the list at the moment and decided we have to finish these songs and wouldn't allow ourselves to write any new ones until they were done. Then we wrote one new song.
Which was the new song?
The last song to be added to the album was "Never Follow Suit."
In the past you've released a lot of EPs in between your full-lengths. Why didn't you do that this time around?
We love singles and EPs, or anything short. But we like albums as well and people care about albums much more than they care about singles for some reason. We had been working on it for so long that instead of just continuously releasing singles, we wanted to get an album out there. That's what counts in a way. Most people aren't that impressed with a new single. But as soon as you release an album they start caring. I don't know why.
Once again you've self-produced this record. What is it about producers you don't like?
I have a hard time compromising and it took me years just to be able to compromise with Martin [Larsson]. So letting someone else make decisions… I think about the band all the time and I don't think I could give away that control to someone else. I would just be really hard to work with. It wouldn't be good.
So you don't have anything against other bands who use producers?
No. I mean, I've said that sometimes, but no. Of course not. It's just me and my sick mind.
You've also said that your influences are very fluid. Which records inspired Clinging to a Scheme?
There's so many. I should email you a list of 150 bands and artist to give you a correct list of influences on this album. At the beginning when we released the first album we mentioned My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Since then every review, even if we released a single that sounds like Prefab Sprout, we'd read My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain in most magazines. If I can't name like 70 bands I try not to mention any. We've been listening to a lot of '60s soul, even if you can 't hear it and a lot of lover's rock from the '80s and old-school hip-hop that you can hear in some tracks where we've used drum loops, the late '80s, early '90s stuff. And of course a lot of anti-Thatcher pop from the UK like Style Council, they're a huge influence. And even cheesy commercial music from the early '90s like Ace of Base and I love Midi Maxi & Efti.
You mentioned 80s lover's rock and you just covered a Sade track for the "Heaven's On Fire" B-side.
Yeah, I love Sade.
Since they put out their new album I feel like all these closeted Sade fans have come out of the woodwork.
Yeah. She must be almost 50 now, or 45 at least.
You've incorporated spoken word samples in both "Never Follow Suit" and "Heaven's On Fire."
A lot of my favourite records have weird voice samples like that. Like the early Saint Etienne albums Foxbase Alpha and So Tough. When we started out we used a lot of field recordings, birds, traffic, parties… so it's kind of the same idea in a way, just to place the music somewhere in a real situation. I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud here. But I like the way it sounds. We can really identify with what Thurston Moore is saying in "Heaven on Fire." And also the sample we used in "Never Follow Suit," which is from this graffiti artist called Skeme, whose one of the graffiti pioneers in this film Style Wars, just talking about why he's doing what he's doing. It was really easy to relate to his approach to art.
Where did the Thurston Moore sample come from?
It's from a film called 1991: The Year Punk Broke that we used to watch a lot when we grew up.
The Dave Markey one with Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr?
Yeah. One day I was just thinking about that quote. I don't know where the idea to use it came from, but it just popped up. I guess it was one of those just before going to sleep moments.