Ebbot Lundberg, the rotund and intense front man for Sweden's The Soundtrack to Our Lives, had just landed in D.C. a couple of hours before giving me a few minutes of his time. Perhaps suffering from a bit of jet lag, but Lundberg sounded like a guy happy to be on the ground.
His band is currently touring the states in support of Communion, a double-disc statement of purpose that alternates between swirling, psychedelic pop tunes and rough and tumble, Who-like rockers. It's a big record from a band that's been banging around the fringes of international success for more than a decade.
If things were right in this world, The Soundtrack of Our Lives would already be as big here as it is in its homeland.
How was the flight over from Sweden?
You kind of get used to it. I guess it was smooth. It was nothing special, not like flying to China. The coolest thing is that we just went into town and we saw Obama. We were buying suits and he was in the same store and it was really weird, policemen everywhere.
Are you guys big Obama fans?
We gave him a CD! So we will see what happens...
Were you ever worried that your band name might stereotype you as an emo or progressive rock act?
Of course. There's always the chance that people will think you are too pretentious. It's a challenge. So far, so good. People can just come and check out the band, see if it's true or not.
The band has been together for 15 years. How have the members changed over the years?
Luckily, we haven't changed members that often. We only have changed one member and that was 13 years ago. We have grown together seeing as we didn't really know one another very well when we started. The communication and chemistry are much better now.
How surprised were you when your 2001 album Behind the Music was nominated for a Grammy?
It was a good thing because in Sweden, when that album came out, people didn't really like it. We were hyped with the first album and then they thought it was over. Suddenly, we started getting picked up in England and then the Grammy nomination in America. And then, suddenly, everybody in Sweden just changed their minds. We have American to thank for that turn of events.
Your most recent album, Communion, is a bit different than your earlier efforts. Was that a conscious decision?
This was a real group effort. We did everything together, recording, mixing, mastering, everything, The atmosphere was so good. We didn't have any expectations. We were relaxed when we did it. We think it is the best thing we've done and it was by far the most fun record to make.
The song "Bigtime" was the theme of the WWE event Wrestlemania 21. What is it about your music that lends itself to professional wrestling?
Maybe it's because Jack Black shows up at our concerts. He is kind of connected to wrestling. Our music can be played at funerals and weddings as well. It's funny because we don't have wrestling in Sweden.
Really? There's no wrestling in Sweden?
Only when people are drunk in the streets and then we have the real thing. Then you don't have to pay to see it. Just go outside.
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When you wear the robes on stage, is that to foster some mystical image?
I think it's just a weight problem. The robe looks better than leather. I don't know if I could wear an Elvis suit, but I might.
What's the biggest difference between Swedes and Americans?
Actually, the fans in America are more fanatical than those in Sweden. Because we are from there, the Swedish people don't want to show that they are really impressed. We really enjoy playing here in America. The people are just into the music. They are not trying to analyze it as much. Sweden is a very analytical place. Everybody stands around looking for a meeting of this or that. Maybe because it's so cold.
Do you ever get tired of being described as a psychedelic rock band?
No, I don't care what people call us, as long as they don't say we suck. We try to be very organic and improvise a lot, so that lends itself to the psychedelic description. We are just folks hanging out in your living room trying to make something happen. Most of the time, something does.