Through May 1, download a free Labrador Records compilation, with tracks from The Radio Dept., Acid House Kings, The Mary Onettes and more.
File under: Retro and electro-influenced pop, with just a splash of Scandinavian melancholy
Flagship Acts: The Radio Dept., Club 8, The Mary Onettes/Det Vackra Livet, Acid House Kings, Amanda Mair
Based in: Stockholm, Sweden
Labrador Records owner John Angergård wasn’t setting out to change the music world – or even become an indie pop icon – when he first started a label. The Swedish imprint’s first incarnation, called Summer Sound Recordings, was just a way to release his music from Angergård’s hometown …hus. “It was not like, ‘Oh let’s start a label and then we’ll start looking for bands,’” says Angergård of his decision to leap into the business side of music. “It was more like, ‘Oh we can start a label because we have all these bands.’”
Angergård – who also holds down quadruple musical duties as a member of Labrador bands Acid House Kings, Club 8, Pallers and The Legends – joined up with the fledgling Labrador when they released the initial Club 8 single in 1998. “We sort of merged our two tiny record labels into one tiny record label,” Angergård laughs.
While the label has evolved from a means to an end to a full-time job, its mission is still the same: to showcase the best in current pop. Angergård remains emphatic about only releasing bands he personally enjoys. “When we have the finished albums, then we start worrying about the sales,” he jokes.
On their all-Swedish roster:
Maybe after two years or something like that, we were actually talking about releasing bands from outside of Sweden. We got recordings from a band called Stars, which we all kind of liked. They had a manager who was contacting us. Maybe he just wanted us to release it in Scandinavia or Europe or something like that. I don’t remember why we didn’t, actually. It’s a good thing. After awhile, it became like “there are so many good Swedish bands. There’s no need to look outside the borders.” There are more good Swedish bands than we can release. So let’s stick with that. I think it’s kind of nice.
On the majority of their bands performing in English:
I think it’s just because people grew up with music in English, so it seems natural that music is something you do in English. At least for me it was like that. All the bands I was listening to when I was young were singing in English. It would feel almost silly to make music in Swedish. Especially at that time, all the band singing in Swedish were really crappy. Now it’s not quite like that. I think more and more bands will be singing in Swedish. It’s a positive thing – people inspire each other.
Some words on a few Labrador acts…
It’s been a long time! Ten years. It’s scary when you think about it that way. You directly understand how close you are to dying. I still remember when I got the first song by them. It doesn’t seem so long ago. It was “Why Won’t You Talk About it.” It was actually on a free CD in a magazine in Sweden. I thought it was great. It sounded like a band called Metrotone. Metrotone had a song called “Kiss Me Awake,” which I really loved. I thought, oh, this sounds a bit like Metrotone, but even better. I remember telling them, “Oh this is indie as fuck.” Me and Mattias [Berglund, in-house graphic designer] who lived in the office then and did things for with Labrador, we said to each other, “This will sell 200 copies worldwide.” We didn’t really believe it would sell.
We released this Euro-disco single called “Missing You.” That was the first thing. I remember when Bengt [Raham, Labrador co-owner] contacted me; I was in Spain at the time, living there for a couple of months. There was no Swedish labels around that time, so it was kind of weird to be approached by a Swedish label who wanted to release you. So we said yes right away, because it was so unusual.
For a little while we were slightly not popular. But we had a minor hit in Spain (with “Missing You”). At least in Barcelona and Madrid, and stuff like that. People judged us by that single. Actually Karolina [Komstedt, Club 8 vocalist] hates the song. It’s the worst song ever by Club 8 if you ask her! Our next album will very different. It will be quite different from all our other albums. It’ll be like a mixtape. It’ll be a mixtape of all your favorite songs.
The drummer for Club 8 told me about her. When she recorded the stuff he played for me, she was 14. She sounded so finished. When she sings, it really touches you. I don’t usually become that touched by vocals alone. It has to be special production and special lyrics and blah, blah, blah. Special everything. But this was the vocals really, that was it. It was the same when I played it for people, actually. People become a little bit wet in the eye when you play it for them. It was a little bit weird. It was even more weird that someone that young could have that impact on people…She had no songs at all when we signed her. It’s a very different way of working for Labrador. It was more like a Motown thing. She’s the great voice, and other guys are the great producers, and another guy is a great songwriter. All together it will be an amazing album.
They sent me a demo CD with quite a lot of songs. They all sounded very finished. It was almost like having a finished album in your hand. The first song on the CD was “Pleasure Songs.” I really, really loved it. I played it over and over again. That kind of music, especially “Pleasure Songs,” is really mature. It almost has a stadium quality, almost in a Coldplay, U2 kind of way. Something like that. A little bit of The Smiths as well. I was very surprised that I liked it so much. Which made it even more exciting.
The Mary Onettes’ side-project, Det Vackra Livet
I’m not sure if they will make any more albums with Det Vacka Livet. Right now it seems like a one-off. It would be a shame if it were, because I think [their self-titled debut] is absolutely amazing. Maybe you can’t tell how good it is if you don’t know Swedish. The lyrics are very, very good. They’re sentimental, but not in a creepy, cheesy way. More in a poetic way. It’s very nice.
We’re sort of niche. For me at least, Acid House Kings is quite a niche band. The style of pop we do is quite the same from album to album. Even if we evolve and become better from each album, it’s still us trying to do the same thing, but better. And since it would be impossible to make one album each year in the same style – it would be really boring – Acid House Kings can’t release an album more than every three or four years.
With the last album (2011′s Music Sounds Better With You) the work wasn’t that constant. We really didn’t do anything at all for a couple of years. And then we tried to do something. And then we did nothing at all for a couple of years. And then we did the album. We’re hoping to have a new album out in 2016 or 2017. If everything goes as planned.