The guys of the Swedish indiepop band Urban Cone are supporting their colleague and friend Tove Lo on her European tour at the moment and I had the chance to interview them during their short visit in Amsterdam. Their second album Polaroid Memories is ready for release (29 April in Sweden and Germany, other territories early May) and it is needless to say Rasmus (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Emil (vocals, bass), Jacob (keyboard), Magnus (drums) and Tim (guitar) are proud and excited. I chatted with them about the tough times they had creating this album, dolphin sounds, the Swedish pop scene and working with Tove Lo.
Let’s start from the beginning. How do you write songs? All together?
Rasmus: Me and Emil write everything and then we arrange it together with the whole band. Usually Emil is in one place and I am in another, both writing, and then we come together and put all our stuff in the computer and make something of it together. That is our process.
Do you often have arguments about your music and how do you solve this?
Rasmus: We do and we end them by fist fighting! No seriously, we think pretty alike and we have been working together for more than five years now so our tastes have developed in a similar way. If we do not agree on something we have to find a way to figure it out.
Tim: When we are in the rehearsal space we try the different things out and we hear what works best. It is a process of trying over and over again.
Magnus: The process on this record was a bit different though, wasn’t it? You guys were on an island writing the songs.
Rasmus: Yeah, we wrote about ten songs in one week there. We had these ideas and we turned them into songs and then we all met up in the studio in Stockholm and we finished them so that was slightly different from how we used to work but that’s cool.
How do you hear this change in the style of the new album?
Tim: We had this idea of recording our live sound for this record. On our previous work, all the parts were in their place but weren’t really swinging compared to how we sound on stage so that is something we changed for Polaroid Memories and that was fun to do.
On the cover of Polaroid Memories you look like pop stars, which is quite a contrast to the abstract design of Our Youth. Is that reflected in the music as well?
Rasmus: Jacob usually does all the covers, but not the picture of this one. As for the music, I’d say it does. We went through a rough period recording this album. In the end we made it and we wanted the cover to be super honest.
What happened in these rough times?
Rasmus: There were times when we didn’t even know if we would continue making music together. We recorded an album, we toured for over a year and then nothing really happened and people started to expect things from us. Maybe it was the pressure, but we kind of fell apart. Luckily we found our way back to each other.
How did you do that?
Rasmus: Through music. We wrote songs about this and that brought us back together. That’s why we wanted the cover to be honest and not pretentious in any way. This is Urban Cone and this is a picture of us… naked! It doesn’t get more honest than that, right?
Your new single ‘Come Back To Me’ is recorded with Tove Lo. How did that happen?
Rasmus: Tove is a friend of ours. We are huge fans of her music and we knew we wanted a duet on the album. The dream was to get Tove and when we sent her a demo we just couldn’t wait for her reaction and luckily she loved it! That was nerve wrecking for us!
Did you write the song with her in mind?
Emil: Not really, but once we wrote it she was the first person that came to mind to share it with. We were like kids on Christmas Eve waiting for her demo to appear and then it did! To see her success, it is crazy, we would love to achieve that one day as well. We dream big, we want to collaborate with Lana Del Rey…
Rasmus: And Rihanna! You can tell our ambitions are pretty high!
Nothing wrong with that! Actually, the Swedish pop scene is quite huge. Do you have an explanation for that?
Tim: It was on the news in Sweden that we are third on the list of countries that produce the most hit songs after the US and UK. Their explanation was that people in Sweden, like you guys in the Netherlands, are good at English and have a global way of thinking.
Jacob: Also our school system. You can take music lessons for free from a young age and you can choose what intstrument you want to play. That is how we all started.
Rasmus: And there is nothing to do in Stockholm in winters. We are alone in the woods so we make music.
That explains! Do you have a favourite song from the new album?
Rasmus: We all have our personal favourites, but I think I speak for all of us when I say ‘Treasure’. That is a song we wrote about the hard times and finding love for each other again.
Jacob: Agreed. I would add ‘Rocket Man’. That one has a rock vibe thanks to the guitars which is new for us.
Those are not the songs you released as singles yet. How come?
Emil: Well, ‘Sadness Disease’ was not our choice as first single. We imagined it as an album track, but in the end we were happy with it, as it is a natural progression from the sound of Our Youth to Polaroid Memories.
Tim: Also, it is a lot of fun to play live. It is full of energy.
Rasmus: The song is quirky but represents Polaroid Memories in a good way. You know what’s funny? The main hook is the sound of a dolphin Emil recorded on holiday.
Are you kidding me?
Rasmus: Nope, I’m serious! It’s processed like hell of course, but still it is Urban Cone featuring Dolphin basically.
Tim: ‘We Are Skeletons’, also a song from the new album, has a sample of the meow of Rasmus’ dead cat.
Rasmus: As you hear, we love to experiment with sounds.
Emil: We love to put animals in a computer.
Rasmus: True, but really, I think it is what makes us stand out. These samples contribute to the organic productions we want for our songs.
Last question! If you were to wake up one day with a ‘sadness disease’, how would you cure it?
Rasmus: I would say, hang out with the people you love and do stuff!
Tim: Drink beer, get drunk.
Rasmus: Or just listen to Urban Cone, what else?
Will do, thanks guys!
Polaroid Memories release dates:
29 April: Sweden and Germany
1 May: Australia
4 May: United Kingdom
12 May: United States