Blame it on their country’s endless frigid weather, but Swedish pop acts love to lyrically expose a person’s darkest emotions and simultaneously obscure them in foamy synths, precious keyboard tinkles, and handclap-heavy beats (see: El Perro Del Mar, the Mary Onettes, and Jens Lekman, among others). Since founding Labrador Records in 1998, Johan Angerga?rd has been a key figure in both crafting and promoting such heart-bruising Scandinavian sounds, signing (and sometimes singing in) projects like Acid House Kings, Eternal Death, Pallers, Club 8, and the post-punk-leaning Legends.
Though Angerga?rd has been recording solo as the Legends since 2003, he puts out new material infrequently. “Life decides for me,” he explains over email. “Certain emotional periods produce certain songs and sounds, and those songs and sounds are best produced in a particular project. I can do a lot of different things with Club 8, while Acid House Kings has a more narrow and specific sound spectrum. It’s easier to do things with Club 8 than Acid House Kings. Sometimes it doesn’t fit anywhere, then I start a new project like Eternal Death.”
Now, Angerga?rd has returned as the Legends for the first time in seven years and plans to put out a fifth studio album, It’s Love, on June 30 via new label home Cascine Records. Longtime listeners will notice a palpable difference in tone, though. While an earlier effort like Up Against the Legends (2003) showcases upbeat and hazily cheery cuts like garage-rock standout “Right On” and retro-pop track “Make It All Right,” It’s Love sounds substantially more brooding than in previous years, something the singer ascribes to a break-up with the mother of his daughter and unexpectedly falling in love again.
Below, listen to the slow-moving new single “Something Left to Die For,” and read our coversation with Sweden’s premier Acid House King, in which Angerga?rd expands on his decision to create another Legends record, talks turning 40, and explains why It’s Love isn’t necessarily a break-up album (even though he just parted ways with his ex).
What compelled you to put out another Legends record, as opposed to Club 8 or Acid House Kings?
It just happened. I hadn’t planned to make another Legends album ever again. I was under the impression that I could do anything I wanted to with my other bands. Also, I had no urge to sing more than absolutely necessary. When me and Henrik [Mårtensson] did the Pallers album [2011’s Come Rain, Come Sunshine] it was a real struggle for me to get the vocals to sound like it sounded in my head.
”Keep Him” and ”Smoke and Mirrors” were two of the first songs I wrote for It’s Love, and they immediately changed my mind and made me want to do another Legends album. First of all, they were so personal and autobiographical, it felt like they needed to be sung by me. I also — possibly for the first time in my life — actually enjoyed singing. It came naturally. The album was written and recorded in a very short time, and in most cases I wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals the same day as I started writing the songs. Because of that I think I’ve managed to capture the heart of the songs very well. There are no filters. No time has passed since I felt the way I did when I wrote the songs.
It was just something I had to do on my own. When I do things on my own, it is the Legends.
A lot of the tracks on It’s Love sound slower and a bit more contemplative than the band’s trademark upbeat material. What explains today’s change in tone and pace?
Those songs were written 10-12 years ago, and my life was totally different around that time. Also, I feel it’s very natural to evolve and change musically — not only because life changes but because it would be boring to write the same album over and over again. Bands that do that generally just become bad copies of themselves after some time. It’s difficult to find inspiration in repeating yourself year after year. I want to stay naive and unknowing. It’s a very typical thing to say, but I don’t want to be smart. If you see making music as a career, you’re creatively fucked.
You have said that when making this record, you were struggling with “issues of love, loss and identity.” Do you mind expanding on that a bit?
More than anything, it’s an album about love. I broke up with my previous girlfriend last year. She met another guy. And to be honest, I wasn’t all that sad about that. We have a daughter together though, and that made it difficult.
One might expect a typical break-up album, but that’s not the case. It’s not one of those albums. It’s a melancholic album about falling in love and being in love. I met my current girlfriend right after the break up. Things like that happening that fast is a very uncommon thing for me. Maybe for everyone. I fell in love. Perhaps in a way I haven’t done in a very long time. It made me nervous and anxious.
I also felt manic-depressive at that time. Like I couldn’t quite handle it. I felt a lot of pressure making it work and making it work with my daughter. Around the same time I had also stopped identifying with what I do. I have not run my record label in the past; I have been the label. But all of a sudden, it was no longer like that. I love the stuff we put out just as much as I have ever done, and I would never release anything unless I truly loved it. But it’s no longer a source of identity. And I no longer had a family (not in it’s original form, anyway). I had just turned 40, which made me feel old. I felt like I should have been settled, safe, and secure, but instead I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.