Q&A: The Raveonettes’ psychoactive observations

The Raveonettes: ObservatorThe Raveonettes: Observator (Vice, 9/11/12)

“She Owns the Streets”

The Raveonettes: “She Owns the Streets”

The Raveonettes’ sixth studio album, Observator, shares a common thread with its previous five: it’s ethereal, haunting, and dark, which perhaps is not surprising considering how songwriter Sune Rose Wagner went about developing the nine songs. “I [spent] four days in a Benzo trance, drinking, eating, talking, and soaking up the real lives of the people I encountered,” he wrote about his process.

The result, recorded over seven days at Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Sound, is a hodgepodge of disconnected emotion, soul, and — yes — observation. In charmingly Danish-inflected English, Wagner enthusiastically speaks about the making of Observator, adding a “gloomy” piano, and The Raveonettes’ status as an influential band.

Is releasing your sixth album as exciting as releasing the first one?

No. [Laughs] Nowadays, people release albums all the time. I don’t know any musician who doesn’t have some sort of record deal or at least three albums out. When I started 20 years ago, it was extremely different. To have a label even interested in you was almost unheard of. It’s definitely changed, but I think the most important thing is that you still feel excited about the music.

You made the album rather quickly. Why?

Sometimes you don’t really have a clue of what you want to do, so you feel your way in the dark. Sometimes you know what you want; it’s easier. This time around, I knew what I wanted, but it was hard to get into the whole process of it. I was being very lazy. I didn’t really want to work. I had to pull it all together in a very short amount of time, which turned out to be really good for the album, but you don’t know that at the moment. It’s whatever happens. I always enjoy spontaneity and don’t over-think it. This was one of those moments.

Why did you use piano for the first time on Observator?

It’s because I have a piano at home. [Laughs] I’ve been playing for many years, but I never really play “rock” piano. I never thought to incorporate it into our music until I came home and started writing songs for this album. I wrote most of them on piano. I liked it. It seemed to be easier than writing on guitar for some reason. A lot of the chord progressions and the riffs sounded really good on piano, like the whole riff that goes through “Observations.” I tried to transcribe it to a guitar thing, but it sounded way better on piano. It was dark and gloomy, which was exactly the sound I was looking for.

Your songwriting process sounds very “go along to get along.” Is that fair?

If it works, it works. I don’t spend a lot of time on each song, because it should be a no-brainer. If it’s a good song, there you have it; it’s there. If it’s not a very good song, then you spend a lot of time writing on it and waste a week. I tend to go from idea to idea a lot. Before I start doing individual songs, I have eight hours of small ideas, which potentially could turn into 500 songs. I pick nine or ten that I really like.

As you get older, do you find that where you look for influences and ideas is changing?

No, I mostly just write from experiences and things I know. That’s where the soul is. Those are real people. But sometimes you need more traditional means of inspiration such as music, watching movies, going to a museum, and reading. Whenever I do that, it tends to be the same stuff that influences me. It just depends on what mood I’m in. For this album, I listened to a lot of The Doors.

The Raveonettes has developed a following over the years. Do you think about your legacy as a band?

You know, sometimes I do. It’s flattering, for sure, because we started in a place where we were inspired by a lot of bands. I did get to meet a lot of people that inspired me, and I got to tell them that they were the reason I started music in the first place. I saw how they reacted to that. It made them proud. If we can give something like that to people, I think it’s absolutely brilliant.

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