wears the trousers magazine

sad day for puppets: head over feet
June 14, 2009, 9:17 pm
Filed under: feature, interrupting yr broadcast | Tags: , , , ,


interrupting yr broadcast: sad day for puppets

Billie Holiday, Kiss, and a secret passion for Swedish folk music don’t sound like the usual inspirations for a band most often associated with the type to stare at their footwear, but Sad Day For Puppets are happily unpredictable. Lead singer Anna Eklund is just, well, happy as she chats briefly to Wears The Trousers from a rehearsal studio in downtown Stockholm. Her heavily accented voice dents the background rumble of the rest of the band practicing: “Allo there, Anna here”. She’s breathing hard, having just run from the studio to answer my call, and as she catches her breath I get down to the real cutting edge issues…like, what’s with the band name Anna?

“Ah yeah it’s from some kind of TV show!” she enthuses in deliciously broken English. “Er, was it maybe ‘Saturday Night Fever’ or something? I’m not really sure. It comes from the guy who writes the lyrics and the melodies [band founder Martin Källholm]; he saw some TV show and there was a special episode including two puppets and they were arguing a lot, and then somebody else said ‘this is a sad day for puppets’. I don’t really remember the details…sorry.” Thank goodness for Google then, which reveals that the line was spoken by Barry Bostwick’s Mayor in an episode of Michael J Fox vehicle ‘Spin City’ in an episode entitled ‘Gobble The Wonder Turkey Saves The Day’.

Sad Day For Puppets reside in a resonant place, with a musical style that’s shot through with the rejuvenated sound of yesterday. Sweetly refreshing a stale scene rife with bland bands, the Swedish quintet sound as though they’ve slipped through a wormhole from 1991. Then again, in terms of declining economics and music we could well be back in those days. Back then, the fag end of dance music culture had been flogged to the masses and grunge was, for many, still a wailing American infant, and when the inherent introspection of a recession hit hard it paved the way for a profitable peak for shoegaze bands. For those of us who were there, it seemed sensible to wallow in those pedal-altered, fuzzed-out “cathedrals of sound” and keep the nasty world at bay.

Like Asobi Seksu before them, Sad Day For Puppets are seen by some to herald the renaissance of that sound. But is this really where Anna believes the band to be? “Not really, I think it’s like, you know, the two guitarists [Källholm and lead guitarist Marcus Sandgren]…they’ve known each other since they were, like, 13, and they’ve played together since that age. I think that’s just the way they play the guitar. It’s like it was formed during those years and they’ve just continued playing in that way, I think. I don’t think it’s really shoegaze to be honest. When we play live it’s a bit harder compared with our recordings. The melodies are very strong, and there are other influences and other labels that could be just as true.”

It’s true that the Sad Day For Puppets wall of sound has many varied bricks. Their sound perhaps owes more to more recent Scandinavian exports like The Concretes and The Raveonettes, but welcome hints of Lush, My Bloody Valentine, and even The Jesus & Mary Chain creep into their debut album Unknown Colors, first released late last year in Sweden and recently made available throughout the rest of Europe. Released through respected indie label Sonic Cathedral, the singles ‘Marble Gods’ and ‘Cherry Blossom’ have since brought Anna and the band to the attention of discerning music fans here, with more no doubt still to pile on board the wagon when the band appear at this year’s Truck Festival on July 25th.

Has Anna picked up on any differences between playing in Sweden and playing before an English audience? “Yeah, well, if I generalise a bit…” she says, before trailing off into a characteristically dreamy silence. “The public in Stockholm is not really so fond of dancing so…” She laughs. “I think most of the places we play around here, people stand quite still. And I think that the few gigs we’ve had in London – well, people really danced! So maybe people in England dance a bit more.” Not so much gazing at their dirty Converse here then.

Anyone who still harbours some romantic idea that Anna was raised on a heady diet of My Bloody Valentine and 4AD bands might be surprised that her formative years were spent indulging in something quite different. “When I was younger…” she begins with some reticence. “Well…er, I was very fond of Swedish folk music!” She gives an embarrassed laugh at this statement as if revealing a passion for something truly awful, like Razorlight or something. “And I love Billie Holiday, but you can’t hear that in me. She’s one of my favourite singers because there’s so much sorrow in her voice. I can’t really say there are so many pop singers that I have been listening to and tried to sound like. I just try to follow the melodies and listen to the music we do.”

New bands often require a flash of good fortune to strike, and the break for Sad Day For Puppets came courtesy of Dan Treacy of “part-time punks” TV Personalities, who provided Anna and the band with some crucial early support slots in London. “One of the guys who plays with Treacy – he heard our music on MySpace and then contacted us. They came to Sweden and we supported them, then we met them in England, as well, when we played at the [Putney] Half Moon, and I like them. They are really sweet men. I’m glad that we have got to known them, yeah…”

The band – without Anna – have now finished rehearsing. My call has interrupted their final session before they fly to England for “seven gigs, one after another”, and I ask whether Anna is looking forward to spending so much time with the band? “It’s really a good thing…they are all very kind,” she says, diplomatically. “They are also quite funny to be with. I like their jokes!” She laughs again. “And I don’t think about…oh, this sounds a bit stupid – they don’t give me any reason to think of their sex. They are just nice people who I really appreciate. So I think that’s really good because when you sleep in the same hotel rooms and you sit in the same cars, the same buses – if there was someone that you had some kind of bad feeling for then it would be really hard. I really like all of them.”

So not even any rows over what to play on the tour bus? “I haven’t really brought so much music on the other small tours, but I think most of them like older, hard rock bands like Kiss and Black Sabbath – that kind of music. It’s like some kind of connection to the past. Many of them listened to that kind of music when they were really young and sometimes when we go somewhere by car it’s like they have this preference for old music.”

Just before I leave Anna to rejoin the band, we ponder the relative meaning of success. What does Anna want from Sad Day For Puppets? “As a band?” she asks. “Well, I think it would be nice if we could do all of this for a while – to play and travel. If we could do it for a living for a while that would be success, I think. And also, of course, you want to be better and better on stage – that’s what I want.”

Don Blandford
Unknown Colors is out now through Sonic Cathedral. Sad Day For Puppets return to the Half Moon in Putney for a headline show on July 26th. Tickets on sale now.



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