Monday, November 16, 2009


Tuesday, October 23, 2007 

Emanuel Lundgren is a gentle, gregarious and gingery guy. Describing himself as being fueled by love and vacations, the composer of such giddily joyful brilliance as We're From Barcelona, Collection of Stamps and Treehouse is well-known to many indie-pop aficionados as the ringleader of the 29-piece circus of infectious pop I'm From Barcelona, a band whose live shows are rapidly becoming stuff of legend. They're also getting known outside the indie-pop world via the use of their song Oversleeping in a recent episode of Grey's Anatomy, but despite this and the reams of positive press 2006's Let Me Introduce My Friends album garnered, Emanuel is ambivalent about their heady rise to prominence. "It's always warming to read nice words about our music, but sometimes the power of the media scares me a bit. I think it's important that everybody decides for themselves what's good music or not."

Fresh off the bus from converting thousands of Americans and Europeans during their most recent tour, Emanuel is clearly in a good space, and so he should be. "The summer has been amazing. Going to Lollapalooza in Chicago was a really big project. There was 20 of us, and we nearly had to cancel the show because the plane was canceled. But we made it... half the band had to fly to Houston and the other half to Cleveland, then we met up one hour before the gig. There has been a lot of crazy moments like this and my head is a blur of balloons, good times and confetti. Frida [co-singer, AKA The Observer] has hundreds of hours of film material and she's aiming to do a personal documentary out of it."

Though he denies he'd be able to manage a kindergarten should he ever tire of the road, Emanuel does admit that touring can be both a nightmare and a beautiful thing. "Sometimes people have forgotten their passports... that's sad. But touring is actually not as hard as many people seem to believe, I guess it's harder when it's just four guys in a van hating each other. Actually everybody in the band is very easy to deal with. Sometimes in my nightmares I think of how things would have turned out if we toured as 17year-olds... aaargh!" Given that, is there anything that the band all actually agree on, apart from the songs. "(laughs) Well we all like The River by Bruce, we sing it on the bus all the time. We also like alot of the bands we play with, I like the guys in Herman Düne. They´re the definition of cool. Also Yo La Tengo and Flaming Lips are bands I don't think people should miss."

Given that IFB is more a collective of like-minded human beings some of whom just happen to play instruments than a standard rock band (including a sign-language translator "That's Marcus. He's damn good at that, but I don't understand half of it"), what is it that glues IFB together? "I made a list of people I wanted to invite to the happening, and sometimes I improvised and invited people late nights hanging out... Everything was very coincidental, and I'm amazed today when I see how everybody in the band really enjoys hanging out with each other. I had the idea of the sound pretty clear at the beginning, and had so little time (it was meant to last for 4 weeks during my vacation) so I had to plan everything in detail to make it happen. I wanted to break a lot of musical rules compared to the bands I've been in before..."

One of those rules seems to be where the stage ends and the audience begins. People have been known to join the band for a gig without Emanuel actually noticing. Online competitions offer the prize of being able to join the band for a concert and, unlike some more style-conscious (and often Stockholm-based) Swedish bands, there is no chance of not fitting in at an IFB gig. "We're not as good looking as the Concretes," lies Emanuel. "A lot of concerts ends with half the audience up on stage and I love that!"

Inclusion seems to be a great characteristic of Emanuel's songs, and a robust shamelessness is the part of the uniting force that glues the songs with the audience, and audience with band. "I don't know if it's true that I turn into a 12-year old. I think I'm 12 years most of the time. I'm not that good at being a grown up, I pretend most of the time. But I don't know if I'm any good at being a 12-year old either." For the most part the subject matter of the songs concern an open-eyed and honest child relating experiences. For example, treehouses; "When I built treehouses with my friends as a kid it wasn't very ambitious. We just needed a place for ourselves where we could hang out and make our own laws and languages." Stamp collecting: "What inspired me to write that song was a list I found when I went to my parents house to get some old boxes of mine. I now keep it on my bathroom wall. And I still love traveling. Brasil, Iceland, Japan and Australia is where I would especially like to go." "And bed-wetting? "You have to ask my mother about that." comes the taciturn reply.

Other Swedish bands are a constant source of wonder to people outside Sweden. Is it worth hypothesizing that warmer places have more bass-heavy sounds because bass carries better in humid air, and drier, colder places higher pitches carry well so the Swedes would be more more melody-minded people? Emanuel thinks not. "I think we're bored. Maybe there's not a lot to do here, so we end up with a guitar and a bunch of melodies. There is of course a lot of good Swedish bands, but I haven't tried being anything else but Swedish so I don't know if we're especially proud to be from here. There might be some rivalry between bands, but since we don't live in Stockholm we're not a part of that. It's calmer here in Jönköping, most part of the band live in Jönköping because they grew up around here."

Given that Emanuel is keen to travel to Australia, what is it that he pictures? "It seems kind of warm, dry and huge. I watched the TV series The Flying Doctors a lot as a kid, so I guess my imagination of Australia is based upon that. Aren't Architecture in Helsinki from Australia? I'm working on making the CDs available there. It feels kind of bad when I know there's a lot of you guys listening to us and you haven't got a chance to buy the album... Of course we would love to come, and I hope we will someday. Unfortunately it's kind of expensive for us to fly. If we work hard on it maybe we could swim?"

Though the forthcoming album is also in it's infancy, Emanuel tells us that there should be a single coming out around March/April, as well as Christmas single for an American TV show, which of course, necessitates a Christmas party in the studio for it's recording. "It depends on what week you ask me." he says of the new album's sound. "I've been playing around with a lot of ideas but I think I found something this week. A new path. And it will be exciting!"

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