”Hello, Schlagerfiasko,” says Felix from Le Kid. ”This winter, I had nothing much to do at home in southern Sweden, so me and a friend decided to make a Melodifestivalen quiz app for the iPhone, called the ‘När•Var•Hur – Schlager quiz‘!”
A glorious Swedish lake. A blonde and a redhead step out. “Mercy, mercy!” they cry. But these two aren’t begging anyone. The person who wronged them is the one who should be showing them mercy.
And so Le Kid was introduced to the world, and the sun shone down on it (well, for the duration of the video, at least). They were well received across Europe and everyone was excited.
“A big massive uncompromising thumbs up.” “Le Kid ooze pop brilliance.”
And so on.
So what happened next? Well, we waited. And Mercy Mercy was eventually released to buy. And we waited. And British fans got the chance to get Mercy Mercy on the Clubland 18 compilation. And we got some more songs. And Melodifestivalen. And then, an album – Oh Alright! – due for release in June this year. So only two years to wait.
But then we had to wait for longer. And now, we know it’s going to be released on 7th September. For sure. But only in continental Europe. Not in Britain. So it’s not Alright just yet.
It’s not easy being a fan of Le Kid – a stunningly formed pop band with the best ingredients and you can’t get hold of the music. We’re all suffering for their art. But perhaps we all enjoy the fact that they’re our secret. Except they shouldn’t be, should they? Le Kid should be all over the telly and providing the soundtrack to ridiculous TV shows and going on tours of the US east coast playing to hipster fans ‘in the know’.
If only that album could get released, then Le Kid can move onto the world domination bit of the masterplan…
Well, let’s hurry it up, because frankly, Oh Alright! is already on the road to being almost a greatest hits compilation. Indeed, while we’ve waited, we’ve heard some of the songs on the album already. But if you think you’ve heard it all, then you’re definitely mistaken. Oh Alright! is full of surprises.
“We are the drums!” cry Robot Johanna and Robot Helena in distorted voices right at the very start. Where have our girls gone? They’ve turned into a song. “We are the chords and the lyrics and the melodies, so come on!”
It’s an audacious start. This is our sound, Le Kid is saying. So you either like it or you can leave us to enjoy ourselves regardless. We’re all staying, aren’t we.
The attitude continues straight into Mercy Mercy, where the band emerges from We Are The Drums and turns into the five members of Le Kid we love. From the first hit to the most recent release, America sees the band in reflective mood. Almost as if they’re wondering if they’re doing the right thing.
Having been released in May this year, America was, perhaps, the post-Melodifestivalen hangover following the showcasing of Oh My God to the public at large. It comes before that song here, though, giving it a new dimension as a song of guarded optimism at what the future might hold.
Or am I reading too much into it?
It doesn’t matter, because Le Kid has its own response. It’s Bigger Than Jesus. Moving the electronics centre-stage, it’s the bastard child of the 80s thanking its parents (Pet Shop Boys, New Order) as it walks out of the house.
And then, because we can, we’re going to come over all honky-tonk with Kiss Me – a joyfully innocent (innocent? Le Kid? Yeah, right) ode to summer loving. Le Kid doesn’t require a bracket. “Kiss me, you know the first one is free.”
From a kiss to the full-on treatment – We Should Go Home Together sees Johanna and Helena getting very bored of kissing, and wanting to take things further. I won’t lie, I’d be in that taxi.
And then it gets slightly darker. “If I were 17, would you love me? … I’m not even illegally young.” You thought Le Kid was all about fluffy pop? Wrapped up in a jolly summer beat, Seventeen punches you right in the gut.
Telephone is a song that’s been out almost as long as Mercy Mercy – and well before Gaga picked her own receiver. Another great electro track, this is a song which needs at least ten remixes to accompany its release. I’d quite like that.
And then we end with an Escape. It’s a melancholy finish – the heart has been broken after all. But they don’t care, and neither do we. Because we’re totally moving on to Mr Brightside. Brandon Flowers makes everything better.
So that’s Oh Alright! It’s not what you think it’s going to be. It’s better.
Gothenburg has been celebrating all things gay and trans this weekend at the annual HBTQ Festival. And by all accounts, they’ve been doing it with copious amounts of alcohol and food. Schlagerfiasko approves. Fortsätt läsa →
There are four plates of barely touched food on the table before us, and Schlagerfiasko feels really guilty. I’ve been pressing Le Kid into saying something scandalous about Melodifestivalen for about a quarter of an hour, but they’re far too lovely to fall for my shtick. All except Hansi, Le Kid’s manager, that is. He’s eyeing me across the table with an amused smile on his face. As I would also be if I had to listen to this schlager loon asking increasingly deranged questions.
He’s finished his lunch, though.
I apologise for obsessing, and move on to talk about Le Kid’s reasons for being in London. The group have had a ‘cult following’ (if that’s not a cliché) in the UK for some time – part of the Swedish cool gang that certainly doesn’t include the likes of the cheesy schlager stars, eh?
Felix: I don’t know how many fans we have in the UK, but ever since we released Mercy Mercy, there’s been so much more reaction from here than in Sweden. I like to think that we make pop in the best British tradition, but I don’t know for sure.
Johanna: I think we’re attractive. We’re a very colourful, very visual band. In Sweden, we’re used to acts that are ‘poppish’, but also ‘in the box’, as well.
So you’re not very Swedish, then?
Helena: UK bands have an attitude, they’re angry. In Sweden, if you’re angry, you say, “I’m very angry with you!”, and that’s it. Le Kid has an attitude, and we take it as far as we can to make it extreme. Maybe that suits people in the UK more than in Sweden. But of course, in Sweden we’re all very lagom. Le Kid isn’t lagom, though.
Felix: Look at things like H&M – which is fantastic – or Swedish design. It’s all a particular way. Everything should look like a hospital or an astronaut to be really trendy. There should be nothing on the floor, nothing on the walls. Perhaps a weirdly shaped glass table, but that’s it – and that’s why it’s great. And then something like Le Kid comes along, and we say, “No! Can we not just fill everything up with colour? And what do you say to putting a glass unicorn over there in the corner?” It’s much harder to break through that wall in Sweden.
Helena: If the UK accepts you as a band, then Sweden usually follows. “OK, you’re cool now!” It’s like, the British love them, so we have to accept them now, too.
It’s an interesting point of view, and one that comes up again when I move on (at last!) to talking about Le Kid’s new album, Oh Alright!. It’s due for release at the beginning of June, and my four interviewees are visibly excited at the prospect.
Helena: It’s Alright, and you know it! The album is on the presses – all ten songs, which was our aim. [The album also includes Le Kid’s cover of The Killers’ Mr Brightside as a bonus track.]
Felix: Ten songs is the perfect number for an album. When artists release albums with, like, 14 songs on, there are always four songs that aren’t as good as the rest. We have a bunch of songs that aren’t on the album, because they’re not good enough. We could have put an extra 20 minutes’ worth of material on there, but what’s the point? Oh Alright! has ten singles on it, that’s how we see it.
Are you releasing a single before then?
Helena: Yes. It’s a song called America. It’s a little bit different from our other songs, and takes you to another part of Le Kid. We haven’t released any clips of it yet.
Felix: The sound of America is more Pet Shop Boys, too.
Goodness! I wouldn’t have put you with them…
Felix: Well it doesn’t matter. We see it as our sound, and that’s the point. Le Kid wants to do songs that sound like Rihanna, or the Pet Shop Boys, or the Ting Tings, or the Saturdays, or Robyn. Everything is pop. We don’t care if it features a guitar, a string ensemble or synths. It’s pop.
Märta: It’s true – and when we produced the song, we got totally tuned into it.
Helena: When you hear it, you’ll know it’s Le Kid straight away. If you’ve only ever heard Mercy Mercy or Oh My God before now, this completes the picture of Le Kid. America is like our other side.
Do you have a favourite song on the album?
Helena: I love them all!
Märta: I think Kiss Me or Bigger Than Jesus.
Johanna: Yes, that’s the newest song, we only finished it about three weeks ago.
That’s an interesting title, and quite familiar…
Märta: Yes, it’s a quote by John Lennon.
Johanna: It’s a song about love.
Märta: Perhaps we might have to take that track off the album when we release it in the US, though…
Felix: It’s an amazing quote, isn’t it? Why not use it? The song is not about us being bigger than Jesus. It’s that our feelings of love are bigger than Jesus.
Märta: Yes, it’s all about the emotion.
Felix: And it’s kind of romantic. It’s not that provocative when you look at it that way.
Helena: It’s a great line, too. When you look back at it from a historical point of view, what Lennon said was quite cool.
So it’s coming out across Europe? We find it quite hard to get hold of your stuff on iTunes here in the UK.
Märta: That’s why we’re here in London! We’re working on that.
Felix: We are releasing it everywhere, starting in Denmark.
Helena: Denmark was really quick to accept us.
Johanna: They’re very pop-friendly there. They have Alphabeat, who we supported a year ago.
So the Danish scene is quite different to Sweden, do you think?
Felix: In Sweden, it’s the exception when songs from people like Mika, Marina And The Diamonds, La Roux or Scissor Sisters get successful. But in Denmark, that’s what’s played on the radio all the time, which is amazing. They can’t make songs, but they know good songs!
Märta: A lot of Swedish acts are popular in Denmark, though.
It’s really interesting to hear who you like and who influences you. Robyn is the only Swedish act you’ve mentioned, and she’s heavily influenced by American sounds.
Helena: Well, I’m always on Spotify looking for new Swedish music. It’s just that in Sweden, everyone wants to produce Swedish music, but not listen to it!
Felix: We do like many bands, especially those from the UK. There’s also acts from the US, like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and The Killers, who are great, but sound like they should be from Britain, not the States! In Sweden, I love The Knife.
Johanna: I love Miike Snow.
Felix: And The Sound Of Arrows. So we do listen to Swedish music. It’s just a shame that we can’t call them pop.
Märta: You know, Hurts is that kind of pop band. They’re definitely pop, but have great lyrics and music you can love.
Johanna: And their image is amazing.
Märta: In Sweden, it seems like you have to decide what side you’re on. If you’re indie, you can do that, but if you’re mainstream, you have to do something else.
Felix: So basically, your guitar can be out of tune and you can’t sing, but you can be really good. Or you can sing Manboy.
Märta: Why can’t you just produce good music?
Felix: It might be that we’re not as good at speaking English in Sweden, but there’s a gap. In the UK, it’s not strange to be like La Roux, Marina And The Diamonds or Little Boots. It’s OK to make pop music without being labelled as stupid. I don’t mean to sound negative, but that’s the way it is. We are good at making music in Sweden, but for some reason, we only listen to you guys.
It was quite a surprise to realise that soft rock, like Nickelback and Takida, is huge in Sweden, too.
Helena: Oh, it’s really depressing, isn’t it? Soft rock! I agree. That’s the difference between switching on the radio in Sweden and Denmark. We seem to have a lot of sad people playing guitar.
Johanna: My home town of Eskilstuna – where Kent is also from – is a real music town. Everyone plays music, but with guitars and things in their hair. They’re feeling!
Märta: Then they go off to the factory to work.
Johanna: It’s a bit depressing, but also charming.
Felix: In a world where everyone is healthy, you wouldn’t choose to be a doctor. In a world where no one eats, you wouldn’t choose to be a chef. In this world, people get sick, so you need doctors. I want to be a doctor, because Nickelback is still on the radio in Sweden. We need to cure that, and that’s why Le Kid exists.
Märta: We need to save people!
Johanna: So we are bigger than Jesus after all!
I’m glad to hear it. OK, you’re food’s cold now, so I need an exclusive before you throttle me. Give me anything.
Märta: We’re working with Kate Ryan right now. Her first single is out soon.
Felix: Kate’s in the studio, and we left Anders [Hansson] with her to do all the recording!
Johanna: And Helena and I are Kate’s backing singers!
Felix: These two have done backing vocals for Agnes, Malena Ernman, Emilia… They know what they’re doing.
I don’t doubt that. Thank you.
Felix: There’s one or two exciting things in the pipeline, but we can’t tell you about them.
Märta: But you’ll be the first to know!
And with that, Le Kid get back to their cold food. They haven’t called since.
Le Kid’s new single, America, is due to be released soon, and the album, Oh Alright!, will be out in June. For a preview of the album, the marvellous Swedish Stereo has collated various clips from around the internet. Have a listen here.
It feels like the first day of spring. Well, it’s the first time this year that no one seems to be wearing coats on the streets of London, at least. And inside a Soho bar, four members of Le Kid are about to have lunch with their manager.
Until Schlagerfiasko arrives.
In what has become a seasoned pastime, I’ve been stalking the band for this interview for some time, so after a bit of badgering, I’ve been given permission to stop them from eating.
Le Kid (all except Anton, who has stayed at home for family reasons) is in London on various missions. In no order of importance, these are: to eat sushi; to see Sophie Ellis-Bextor at G.A.Y.; to meet record companies; to visit the British Museum; to get rid of Schlagerfiasko quickly so they can have lunch in peace. I empathise with all these goals.
The five-piece group is made up of Felix Persson, Märta Grauers and Anton Malmberg Hård af Segersted – all songwriters and musicians, who are joined by lead singers Helena Lillberg and Johanna Berglund. Between them, they’ve worked with the likes of Agnes, BWO, Alcazar, Velvet, Eric Saade and Malena Ernman, among many others. So it’s fair to say that they know what they’re doing when it comes to pop.
Debut single Mercy Mercy was released to acclaim throughout Europe in 2009, and after plenty of time in the studio, the debut album, Oh Alright!, is in the can, and waiting to be released at the start of June.
Before then, of course, there’s the aftermath of Melodifestivalen to pick over. At least, that’s what I’m making them do…
You entered the Melodifestivalen bubble for the first time this year with Oh My God, and came fifth in your heat. How do you feel about that in retrospect?
Felix: Well, I think the Melodifestivalen voting public isn’t necessarily the same as the general music-buying public – in fact, the voters are probably a small segment of that. I think it’s hard to compare the popularity of someone like Sanna Nielsen with Love Generation based on Melodifestivalen results. I’m not criticising Sanna in any way, but with Love Generation there was the whole RedOne thing, and even that didn’t succeed in the competition. You know, Le Kid is like really spicy food – the first time you have a taste, you don’t like us – but give it a year, and you want ever be able to eat that bland old thing again. We’re whisky and modern art! So the result doesn’t matter.
Johanna: We’re sushi!
And how was the experience of the actual competition itself?
Helena: Luleå was cold.
Johanna: As soon as we went into the schlagerbubble, people were asking us who our biggest competitors were. But we just wanted to make it the best Le Kid gig ever – we wanted to have fun. That sounds like a cliché, but for us, we were performing to show everyone what we’re about.
Märta: It was hard to see the other competitors as our ‘enemies’, because everyone was doing something different.
Johanna: Yes, everyone was friendly. There was no rivalry at all.
Felix: Look, you have a choice. You can buy into all that perceived rivalry and enter into the competition like you’re a football player, and do everything you can to make it as likely as possible that you’ll go through to the final. That isn’t always the best thing to do, of course. But we sat down and decided we wouldn’t do anything like that. We could either make it popular or good. And we wanted to do a fantastic performance. When you decide that, you have to leave the competition thing alone, because you can’t do both.
Despite that, did you have any hopes of winning?
Märta: Of course. But we didn’t want to win the whole thing. We certainly didn’t want to go to the Eurovision Song Contest.
Helena: No, that wasn’t the goal at all.
Johanna: We wanted to reach the biggest audience possible. If we’d gone through to the final, perhaps more people would have seen us, and we could have gained more fans. But the contest part of it wasn’t important in itself.
Helena: The final would have been great, though…
Felix: Going to Eurovision would have been too much, even just thinking about all the preparation to perform there. It’s not that beneficial for our careers to represent Sweden at Eurovision – it would have been a bad move, in fact. If we had gone to the Melodifestivalen final, we would have wanted to win that, of course.
Helena: Loreen is amazing, I have her song on all the time!
Felix: Sure, we’d have done the same. But with all due respect, there are artists that live in the schlagerbubble all year round – singers like Sanna Nielsen and Nanne Grönvall. They’re great, but we’re not them. For Melodifestivalen, we just wanted to pop in, say “Hi!”, and get out again. And that’s not being rude, it’s just the way that Le Kid is.
Johanna: Yes, it wasn’t about Eurovision. We wanted to meet Sweden, and Melodifestivalen is the only real way to do that. It wasn’t a hard decision to enter.
Felix: And it was amazing fun.
Johanna: It was also a shock. We went in there thinking that we could make it all as ‘Le Kiddish’ as possible. But we quickly realised that we could also be killed by the media. That actually didn’t happen. We realised afterwards that we’d got so much positive press. We weren’t reading it at the time, though.
Helena: No, our PR made a deal with us that we wouldn’t read anything while it was all going on. It was such a great surprise afterwards that people who love pop music loved us! That gave us some real credibility.
Felix: There were a couple of mean stories, but in general everyone was really nice. We could have got so much more press if we wanted, though. That’s the weird deal about it all. We did some really good interviews, saying some fun things, but they didn’t make it into the papers – the reason being that we didn’t diss anyone, we didn’t complain about our hotel, or cause any scandals.
Märta: And we weren’t obsessed with the competition, we just talked about everyone else and what we’ve been doing ourselves.
Felix: Yes, that was the deal. We refused to be negative. But if you’re not negative, then you don’t make the papers.
Johanna: But that’s just us – we’re not like that. We have to be ourselves, so we got on the carousel, said hello, and got off. We did that and it went well.
Felix: It was weird doing interviews knowing that they were really good, but would never be published just because we weren’t being scandalous – just interesting. That wasn’t enough. Weird.
Johanna: We did have some fun, tough. We did an interview and just mentioned that Felix had lost something. Then they asked us about what was the worst thing that has ever happened to us, so I said that it was when Felix has lost a prosthetic! And later on, Felix said the same to someone else. So this rumour started, and everyone was asking us if it was true!
Felix: We’d pretend to be really uncomfortable if they asked us about it.
Helena: So they’d be thinking they’d offended us, and apologise for asking the question!
Felix: We heard rumours in the production team that people thought we’d lost my arm.
Helena: So Felix walked around with a stiff arm!
You’re very naughty. And hilarious. (I can confirm there was nothing stiff about Felix because I was sitting next to him.) Would you go through this experience again?
Märta: No way! Or if we did, I’d want to do it in a different country…
Märta: Or Liechtenstein!
Felix: If we were to do it again, I think it’s likely that we wouldn’t do it in Sweden, just for the fun of it. It’d be fun to represent the Netherlands and beat Sweden in some place like Helsingborg…