The Bees Knees (2012-12-12 Street Press Australia)

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Published in Street Press Australia's Inpress Magazine on 12th December 2012 and Drum Magazine on 18th December 2012.

Also available online. Source

Article

“For The Hives, the bar has to be set very high when we go out jumping,” the band’s guitarist/keyboardist Nicholaus Arson advises Bryget Chrisfield. “We only aim for the world record. We don’t really go out jumping for fun.”

Whenever The Hives are on tour, Nicholaus Arson (Niklas Almqvist on his marriage certificate) has his wife and kids to mind the Swedish fort. “And my pet rabbit. A giant one,” Arson adds. “Its name is klöver. It actually means clover.” (NB: The Swedish and English words don’t even sound remotely similar.) Is said rabbit black and white, in accordance with his band’s monochromatic dress code? “It’s black.” Any other shade just wouldn’t suit The Hives, would it? Almqvist chuckles and announced deliberately, “It. Would. Not.”

Australian audiences were last blessed with The Hives’ presence at Splendour In The Grass 2011. They’ve previously helped us ring in the New Year at Falls Festival in 2001 and 2008 and are set to do so again this year (also at Southbound). Almqvist’s 2008 visit was a family affair, with the guitarist/keyboardist joined by mum and dad as well as his wife and children. “We came over Christmas so I had my whole family with me ‘cause, you know, me and [Howlin’] Pelle [Almqvist, lead singer] are brothers,” Almqvist stresses. “We tried celebrating Christmas in Australia… It was actually pretty weird. My children cried on Christmas day [laughs]. They missed their grandma. But it was really fun.”

This upcoming visit will be the first since The Hives released Lex Hives, the band’s fifth longplayer, which dropped more than four-and-a-half years after preceding set The Black And White Album. “It was really taking a long time to finish,” Almqvist acknowledges. Is that because they’re perfectionists? “Yeah, I can’t really blame it on anything else. I think it is that because we had tons and tons of songs and some of them we couldn’t really finish and some of them we just didn’t think were good enough… But we kinda always have that. Even though we’ve been faster in the process before, it always feels like, ‘This is impossible. This is the last record we ever make’,” he laughingly admits. “Like, ‘We can never go through this process again,’ you know? And then as soon as you release the record you go, ‘That wasn’t so hard. Let’s make another’. I mean, I went through my demos at one point during working on the record and I think we had 300 snippets recorded and out of those 300 I liked four. That’s a pretty bad percentage, like, we basically release one per cent – well, we don’t release one per cent but we, at certain points, at least according to my own survey, definitely, we only like one per cent of what we make, haha. For The Hives, the bar has to be set very high when we go out jumping. We only aim for the world record. We don’t really go out jumping for fun.”

Go Right Ahead, the lead single off Lex Hives, calls to mind ELO’s Don’t Bring Me Down and earned Jeff Lynne a songwriting credit once the band were alerted to this similarity. It wasn’t an intentional riff rip, but Lynne was contacted and permission granted. On another album track, I Want More, the vocal delivery evokes Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc. “Ah yeah, I hear that,” Almqvist allows. “It’s sort of a cross between that and 99 Problems with Jay-Z… This is the first time pretty much with Pelle talking or sorta rapping all the stuff that he’s doing.” Do The Hives listen to hip hop on occasion? “Yeah, yeah we love Tone Loc especially,” Almqvist enthuses. “It’s really cool.”

When asked whether they’re sticking with the dapper top hat and tails ensembles from their last Australian visit, Almqvist enlightens, “We basically decided to tour this record to death in the top hats and tails, but the last show we did, which was – they built a new national arena in Sweden for football, or for basically anything, and we played the opening ceremony. And playing that we wore our new mariachi suits.” They sound spectacular! “They are very spectacular. We basically look like matadors or something. We’re gonna play with The Bronx on our European tour and maybe we bring those and we can record a mariachi split or something – it’ll be the new thing. You know [how] you’d always have those punk splits where bands would share costs and put their songs on the one record and then release? We could do that with The Bronx and make a mariachi record.”

The Bronx, Mariachi Bronx, The Hives, Mariachi Hives – that would be quite the back-to-back live experience. “I think that would be too much almost,” Almqvist considers. “But there would be no liquid left in that room after that, like, you’d all be evaporated.”

While mixing the latest Hives album in LA, the band still had some overdubs to do, which took them to Josh Homme’s Pink Duck studio. “We were hanging out there and just recording stuff,” the guitarist/keyboardist elaborates. “[Homme would] show up every once in a while and Pelle used to always say that we owe it to the cosmos, doing something [together] if we were in the same studio, you know. So, yeah, we decided to record a couple of songs to try and see what it would be like recording with him. He’s a good producer and he’s got great ideas, and basically he’s always recording in a different manner than we do, like, he’s always been into recording very dry stuff. We sort of wanted to tap into his cosmic flow and see what he could do with The Hives, and plus we were so tired of producing ourselves we just wanted, ‘Josh, this is your call, you tell us exactly what to do and we’ll do it’. And then we just picked two songs that we really like. We recorded one song that’s called High School Shuffle, which is actually a record that Chris [Dangerous – aka Christian Grahn – Hives drummer] produced. It’s [by] a band from Fagersta, our hometown, called Alex Carole And The Crush: we usually keep it pretty local sometimes for when we record a cover… And then we recorded another song: Mike [Karlsson – aka Vigilante Carlstroem – Hives guitarist], he’s in another band called The Dragtones and they have this great song called Insane. It’s a real killer and that song we‘ve been playing a lot live actually.”

There seems to be a lot of band bromances going down in Hives Manor and one gets the impression this dapper Swede wouldn’t feel intimidated approaching anyone at all, even Jay-Z. “Well he’s kind of impossible to approach,” Almqvist imparts. “We played the Jay-Z festival. It was called Made In America in Philadelphia and Beyoncé showed up backstage, and they have the biggest security posting I have ever seen. Plus, like, 150 people just walking behind them, I don’t really know,” he laughs, bewildered. “Basically I think it’d be too much work to exchange a couple of phrases. In my opinion they’re sort of making a bit of a mistake, like, you gotta keep it at a level where you’re popular enough that people leave you the fuck alone and popular enough that when you tour as The Hives you go out and play to people that absolutely love you.”

Some musical scenes attract disproportionate amounts of cray-cray perhaps. “Well I saw that movie The Bodyguard,” Almqvist contributes. “Rachel [Marron, played by Whitney Houston] or whatever she’s called in that movie: if you play that sort of music you would attract the crazies.” Well please don’t play that style of music then. “That’ll never happen,” Almqvist promises.

The Hives will be playing the following dates:

Friday 28 December - Tuesday 1 January - Falls Festival, Lorne VIC

Saturday 29 December - Tuesday 1 January - Falls Festival, Marion Bay TAS

Wednesday 2 January - The Tivoli, Brisbane QLD

Sunday 6 January - The Forum, Melbourne VIC

Monday 7 January - The Metro, Sydney NSW