Miike Snow: Pop Culture Invaders
One of Sweden's greatest exports rides again.
Andrew Wyatt is a rare breed, even if he’d be the last to admit it. Slung between calls and press obligations, and still in the process of setting up his brand-new Los Angeles digs (he’s moved in, but still doesn’t call himself a full-time resident), the Miike Snow frontman has every right to be distracted. Instead he’s waxing poetic about Hollywood’s Barnsdall Park (“Like a little hobbit village—it’s beautiful!”), lovingly describing a project he wrote and performed at MoMA on Valentine’s Day (yup, he’s currently single, a fact that doesn’t really bother him), and briefly horrifying himself when he mixes up personal icons, mistaking poet Marilyn Hacker with experimental visual artist Marilyn Minter (“Please correct that when you write this,” he asks, insistently). One’s left with the impression there’s a lot going on in Wyatt’s mind, and he’s just polite enough to peel up a small corner for inspection.
No pausing for shock and awe. Since 2009, Wyatt and Miike Snow bandmates Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (better known as production team Bloodshy & Avant) have been prime players in the eclectic electro-pop game, garnering mentions alongside everyone from The Postal Service to Lykke Li and Peter Bjorn and John. (“Seven years ago we put out our first album,” Wyatt moans, upon calling up the date. “My God!”) Their self-titled debut established the group as a sprightly configuration unafraid of buoyant hooks, jittery instrumentals, and heartsick ballads. The band’s follow-up, 2012’s Happy to You, proved that catchy is the only constant in the Miike Snow world—the rest is just details.
The trio began work on their third release, iii, in 2013. It would take two years before they were satisfied. Wyatt obliquely references some “ups and downs during the process.” But to hear him tell it, there was never any doubt Miike Snow would ride again.
“Everybody has a pretty rich and meaningful contribution,” he says emphatically of the album’s creation. “And a pretty fundamental contribution to the album. When you have that kind of arrangement and you can stick together for any length of time, it’s always going to involve a lot of will power and a lot of love. So there is definitely something very powerful gluing us together after all this time… I don’t think you can make the music if there’s not love in it. It just won’t happen. Or it will be super flat. For us to put out an album that was flat, it wouldn’t have made any sense. We all have a lot of other outlets for our talents.”
Catchy is the only constant in the Miike Snow world—the rest is just details.
As with their previous outings, iii is a powder keg of ideas. Wyatt’s indie sensibilities and reedy vocals swim amongst electro hooks, drum machine triggers, and the occasional old-school R&B sample. But for the first time they’re met with a string of spry beats that could’ve been ripped from a hip-hop record, underscoring wanton tales of jealous lovers, shady characters, and lonely hearts determined to party. But even with assists from cultural juggernauts Run the Jewels and Charli XCX, Wyatt is unconcerned with the idea that the fragments in his head might just add up to commercial gold. He’s not doing anything terribly new, he contends, just putting his personal spin on the proceedings.
“I do think that between Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper and a lot of these younger-generation cats, there is a lot of ’90s hip-hop feeling coming back into the music, which is something that—we’re old enough now—we caught the first time around,” Wyatt notes.
“It felt super at home for us… Things seem exciting in a different way than they seemed exciting in 2009,” he says. “I always try to find a way to have a dialogue with what’s going on around me. And not just being in my own little world. But then doing it in a way that feels really authentic, coming from a really natural place.”
Fair enough—given all the places Wyatt has traversed so far, who’s to say where his creative impulses will take him next? FL