Sharp Dressed Manskap

WRITTEN BY
Marc Spitz

We're not very incognito." Howlin' Pelle Almqvistfeels two-dozen eyes on him as he chews his muffin. His hair is adeep chestnut hue usually reserved for horses or wigs. The way itframes his high cheekbones and 90-degree jawline gives him an airof regal arrogance, like Mick Jagger in the 1970 filmPerformance. That is to say, the 25-year-old lead singer ofthe Hives looks like the perfect rock star. It's hard not tostare at him, especially as he and his older brother, guitaristNicholaus Arson (also dreamy in a close-cropped, haunted Ian Curtisway) are clad head to toe in matching ensembles: black trousers,black button-down shirts, black socks, white patent leather shoes,and white zip-up windbreakers. Call it Hives workwear.

We'renot very incognito." Howlin' Pelle Almqvist feels two-dozen eyes on himas he chews his muffin. His hair is a deep chestnut hue usuallyreserved for horses or wigs. The way it frames his high cheekbones and90-degree jawline gives him an air of regal arrogance, like Mick Jaggerin the 1970 film Performance. That is to say, the 25-year-oldlead singer of the Hives looks like the perfect rock star. It's hardnot to stare at him, especially as he and his older brother, guitaristNicholaus Arson (also dreamy in a close-cropped, haunted Ian Curtisway) are clad head to toe in matching ensembles: black trousers, blackbutton-down shirts, black socks, white patent leather shoes, and whitezip-up windbreakers. Call it Hives workwear.

Almqvist livesnearby, as does girlfriend Maria Andersson, of Swedish punk group andsummer touring partners Sahara Hotnights. The other Hives (excludingCarlstroem) are staying in a Stockholm hotel while they mix their firstalbum in four years, the excellently titled Tyrannosaurus Hives.As work stretches perilously close to the July 20 release date, manyshort coffee breaks are taken. This is one of them. Outside it'spouring. The cobblestone streets are slick and gray. Dampenedpedestrians have taken shelter in the warmly lit mall and now surroundus. Many of them observe, but never approach.

"That's just very typically Swe-dish," Almqvist notes."You're not supposed to act like you recognize someone. You just walkon a few extra blocks and then you whisper to your friend, 'Did you seewho that was?'" Suddenly a tiny pink hand tugs on his sleeve. A blondtoddler in a back harness has broken free from his mother's grip andbucked local etiquette. The little Hives fan's grin is beatific as hegazes at Almqvist. The singer smiles. Arson, 26, the more stoic of thepair, only smirks. The child's mother blushes and gently removes thetot from the harness and pulls him to her lap.

"Babies love the Hives," I suggest.

"They actually do!" Almqvist says. "At least from whenthey're three. They start doing this." He cheerfully imitates a babyemulating one of his signature hand-jive stage moves. "And that's likea receipt. It's something that we, as a band, always like, 'cause it'sa receipt of universal appeal. There's no coolness or cred involvedwith three-year-olds."

Almqvist uses the term receipt a lot in conversation.If you've ever seen him strutting onstage, shouting "Show me love! Youare not loud enough," or boasting of bogus album sales in the tens ofmillions, you know he's a guy who requires validation for what he'sgiving out: Fun. Release. Pure Rock Pleasure. The private Howlin' Pellesays similarly outlandish things.

"We think we should be popular because we are good," hetells me at one point. "This is what you should like. It's healthierfor you, our kind of music. We're like social workers telling peoplewhat to eat." Although part of him might just believe such claims,Almqvist, a former school teacher, is also completely aware he's beinga brat. The other Hives share this weird fondness for poker-facedimpudence. Earlier I tried to get a rise out of Dr. Matt Destructionjust to see how fierce he actually is (Destruction is a misnomer; he'sthe sweetest, most jovial Hive).

Spin: So, are you an actual doctor?
Destruction: Yes, of course.
Spin: Well, if someone got hit by a taxi outside, could you save them?
Destruction: Yes. With my bass guitar.

The Hives' fidelity to grand-scale impishness is one of thethings that makes children want to reach out and grab them. In theirmatching outfits, the band members can appear doll-like. Thanks to anunwavering code of conduct, a rigid distinction between rock's good andevil sides, and a solemn pledge to uphold the former, they conductthemselves like comic-book crime fighters (one B-side is called "TheHives Are Law, You Are Crime"). The uniforms remind the group of theircalling as they move through the city and, more crucially, through thecorrupt metropolis of the music industry.

"Maybe sometimes during the day you don't wanna play, butwhen you start getting dressed, it's more like a state of mind,"Carlstroem, 25, says a week later. "It is like the police wearinguniforms. We're on duty."

For more on the Hives, visit your local newsstand or subscribe to SPIN.

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