The Raveonettes Dish On The New Album & The High-'n'-Lows Of The Biz

It's been a decade since The Raveonettes came on the scene with its explosive first EP Whip It On – that's much longer than most bands survive, let alone continue to make exciting music. Yet, while much time has passed, the band's fundamentals remain the same. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo both command the stage better than ever — Sharin's white-blond hair counter-balancing the band's stark black outfits, and its sound is just as sharp and haunting.
And now, the band has released its sixth album — the often morose, but still catchy Observator – after a short but intense few weeks in the studio. Described by Wagner as "very bleak, very dark, not very optimistic, and quite sad," the album still bleeds Raveonettes and piles on the hooks underneath the grime. Talking to Wagner about the last ten years, you get the sense that he's both happy about his accomplishments, but still longs for something more. We caught up with him to talk about the Raveonettes past, present, and future – and he gave us an honest look at the highs and lows of playing music as his life's vocation.
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Tell us about the new record. How was writing and recording it different from your experience with your last record, In And Out Of Control?
"Well the one was done super fast – in just a few weeks, basically. [Our last record] was written over a much longer time."
Is there a specific mood that permeates the new album?
"I approach the songs one by one, but because the songs were written so close together and so fast they all became part of the same mood. If you stretch the songwriting process out over six months your mood will change a lot, and so will the songs."
What mood would that be?
"I thought the album before – Raven in the Grave – was dark in a manic kind of way. This album is more dark in personal kind of way."
You recently produced some music for the Dum Dum Girls. How does producing another band compare to working on your own music?
"I enjoy working on my own music the best, but it's kind of inspiring to work with other people as well. Especially Dum Dum Girls, because I respect Dee Dee a lot as a songwriter. We had known each other for many years. Then Richard [Gottehrer] started working with them and sort of gotten involved in it. She has respect for me as a songwriter, and I respect her as a songwriter."
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Does being labeled as a "retro" garage-rock band bother you? Do you mind being compared to older bands?
"I don't really care. You can't really control what people things about your music, or what they want to compare it to."
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How do you keep things fun and fluid after being in a band for so long?
"It's not always easy to find the fun stuff. Sometimes we go through periods where it's really rough for us. When it comes down to the actual music – at least for me because I'm the songwriter, I really enjoy that. I think it's fun to come up with ideas and have thoughts about how you want the album to sound and what direction to go. You know, when you're an older band, you've gone through a lot of stuff over the years and things can become quite tedious and boring. When we make albums, and when we're out on the road, it feels like we're having fun because that's what we always dreamt of doing. But, when we're at home, it's just business. That's the part that gets a little boring. If we could just record and tour all the time, it would be much easier."
Will you be doing the same thing in ten years?
"I don't think so. I just think, speaking for both Sharin and I, we have very different lives. She has a direction she has to take and I have a direction I have to take. We do this together – we meet in the middle. I think there's a timeframe of how long we can stay focused before those two roads diverge too much."
Is there anything that you set out to accomplish with this project that you haven't?
"What we originally set out to do – we've done it all ten times over. And we've done things I never thought we were going to go. We're super lucky, and I'm very appreciative of all that. But as you go along with your career, your goals become bigger and bigger. And you realize some of those goals are impossible to attain. We're not a young band anymore, we're not front-page news and we're not a buzz band. So, that makes it difficult for us to reach certain levels. People already have a notion of who you are and in that way, it's incredible difficult to get away from how people have pigeonholed you. For the people who label us a "retro garage band," or whatever, we could make a country album or an electronic album, and they'd still call it the same. People have short attention spans and rely on what other people tell them."
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Looking back, how do you feel about your work with The Raveonettes?
"I'm super proud of what we have done with all our albums. I wouldn't have done them any differently. And that we inspire younger musicians – I'm not being negative about it. That I can work with new up-and-coming bands. Just that people rely so much on what other people tell them these days, on certain blogs, or whatever. And maybe that's just because I'm older or because I'm from a different place. I had to discover everything myself. No one told me who Jimi Hendrix was or who the Beatles were. I had to go to the library and read about it in books, and borrow albums from friends to see what it was like. It was just this wonderful way of discovering things. I was totally free to form my own opinions."
What do you want people to take away from the new record?
"I think it's totally up to them – people have to interpret it in their own way. Again, It goes back to what I was saying about discovering it on your own. If I told people it was about this and this and this, then they might be disappointed if they thought it was about something else that made sense to them. I may have shattered that dream. Songs are just made for whatever mood you're in. However you want to perceive it, you should have it that way."
Photos: Courtesy of Big Hassle
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