The Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner Talks Past, Present, and 'Observator'
It takes a lot of ambition to form a band, let alone stay in one for ten years. Yet Danish noise rockers Raveonettes — now the US-dwelling duo Sharin Foo (in LA) and Sune Rose Wagner (in New York) — have made it, surviving five albums, a signing and resigning at Sony Records, bicoastal dwelling, and buzz that made them out to be the next U2. (They weren’t. They were, in fact, a better kind of awesome.)
Now, out to drop The Raveonettes’ sixth album Observator on Vice, Sune talked about the old days, the days ahead, their penchant for reverb, and the practical uses of alcohol.
So, 10 years. What keeps you guys going back to it?
Um, music. That’s really the only thing these days. If we weren’t making what we think is great music, we wouldn’t have the band that’s for sure.
Like a lot of people in the states I’d only start listening to you guys in recent years. Tell me a story about starting out.
Well, I got the idea for the band in 1999 the first time I visited LA, that’s when it started. I traveled in the states, I lived in New York. I went back to Copenhagen and made the first album and called up Sharin and said ‘listen to it.’ She really liked it. We just started touring like crazy. It’s been pretty much that way ever since. That’s the very short version of it.
And a more specific story?
Let’s see. I threw a microphone stand at the crowd at one of the first performances. I was in a small town north of Copenhagen. That was before we were signed or anything. It was just for fun. We had a lot of crazy shows in the beginning. A lot of different people were in the band, we kept changing people every time. The only thing that stayed the same was Sharin and I.
What’s your synergy like in the studios, and how do you handle Sharin being on the opposite coast?
We never really worked like that because Sharin is not a songwriter. It’s just me writing the songs. We don’t work together too closely on music, you know? She’ll obviously state her opinion about things and say ‘maybe you should try it with a different sound,’ but mainly I just sit here and do the tunes. It’s just all about ambition. If we’re both ambitious and we have a drive forward let’s do it, and if we don’t, then we shouldn’t do it.
You seem kinda ‘whatever’ about what happens.
The way we look at it is, we’re both very ambitious people, and we always have been. Our ambition is just to do really really good music, and we both know when we do really good music and we know when we don’t. If it comes a time that we’ve lost an edge or a spark, we’ll just say fuck it. The only thing we were ever inspired to do was write good songs. If we get a number 1 single, God forbid, that would be absolutely wonderful. But don’t get me wrong we love what we do. We’re really excited about playing on tour, we’re in a very good position right now. Probably better than we’ve ever been. We’re in control of everything now whereas before [on Sony] we had a lot of people saying ‘now you have to do this, now this.’ Now we do things ourselves. we only work with people we want to work with, then we find the video directors, the graphic designer, we do everything.
Were you always piling on reverb?
Yeah. we always had a fondness for that kind of guitar sound, because it was just really interesting to us. People weren’t doing it at the time when we were starting out. now there’s a lot of it, but we thought it would be interesting to revise that kind of sound.
Where did you think the band was going at the time?
Oh, I have no idea. There were a lot of expectations around the band. We were one of those buzz bands. We didn’t take to that too well because the expectations were just too high, and we were signed to a major label and we were the ‘new big thing’ and all that crap. We had only played like 15 shows, we’d only written one album, it’s like, give us a chance here. I think people dismissed us unfortunately, from the very beginning, because they thought we were gonna be really great. We’ve turned into a great band now, but not in the beginning, we weren’t that great. There were ramshackle live shows, very energetic. It was a weird time. People were talking like we had failed! They seriously thought we were going to be as big as U2 or Coldplay, and then they seriously listened to the music, and it’s noisy, surf guitars and vocal harmonies – no one does that shit. It’s a novelty, but it’s not going to be number 1 on the singles charts. We never aspired to that either.
Observator sounds like a peeping robot.
It does sound like a robot. But it’s basically an old English word that means observer. I read it in a book, I can’t remember which one. It reminded of the Depeche Mode album Violator which I like, and so I thought: ‘this is meant to be. this must be it.’ And it fits really well. It’s small observations of crazy things in life. I can’t call the album ‘observer,’ or even ‘observations’ because so many albums have been called that before, so you need to be a little inventive.
Watch “She Owns the Streets” off Raveonettes’ upcoming album, Obervator.
What new territory are you charting on the album?
Well it’s hard for me to say because I just write music. Some people say it sounds great because of the piano on there. I write on the piano so it’s very natural to put the piano on the album, and it makes for a beautiful sound. Besides that I don’t focus on what’s new or old, I want to write a good song.
How do you get in the zone when you write ?
I like to write when we’re really close to deadline, because it works better that way. Unfortunately I’m a lazy songwriter when it comes to that. I can do it, but I’m not gonna do it six months in advance. I’m just not interested. I can do it in two weeks. For me, I want songs to be spontaneous, a moment in time. I just sit home and write and it doesn’t take me very long. I’m fortunate to always be inspired to write. I have friends who go years with writers block.
Also I go out like anyone else, have dinners and drinks, and I always get in a really really good mood when I drink. So when I’m in a good mood I get a lot of ideas. I’ll write it down on my phone, and the next day I’ll wake up and most of my ideas work! I was thinking about it in a time of good spirit. I can’t physically sit down and write and record when I’m drunk, but when I’m inebriated I like to have a good time. For me sitting and writing isn’t a good time. Then I get up and 7 or 8 and record, and at 5 o’clock I’m done. no interest in working after 5. I think night should be reserved for night and food.