Behind the scenes at The Filmore in Union Square (which I prefer to still call 'Irving Plaza' for nostalgic reasons), artists get a pretty sweet setup... the back room was loaded with tons of beer and comfy furniture, and a door that led right out to the stage via some stairs ("Too bad none of us drink except me" one band member quipped). Spending time in such not-so-notable VIP rooms like Bowery's nimble but dingy dressing areas, and Mercury Lounge's bug-infested basement, I was pleasantly surprised. It felt more like the classy back areas of Radio City. But there is a reason I spend most of my show-going nights at the Merc, and that is because I love the damn place and its roster, despite itself. Rock Stars shouldn't be sleeping in luxury linens until twenty, thirty years out... if then. These guys, The Sound Track Of Our Lives know what I'm talking about... they love what they do, and they don't often do it with frilly backrooms. They didn't care about their surroundings, in fact, they welcome odd situations as long as it means travel. Although the venue was only half full (and I heard a show in Denton also provided a small turnout) they blew out the speakers with their energy and their vigor. They looked like they were having fun up there.
Ebbot Lundberg, lead singer, took some time to chat with me backstage. This guy lumbers; meeting him before the show I didn't quite understand that his larger-than-life Nordic stature translated to his intensity while performing. In his thirty year span of making music, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives is his most successful venture, and he is continually amazed at their continuity. "We're still here" he told me, "which is strange and amazing."
Lundberg started in a band called Union Carbide Productions, a little known art-punk outfit that rolled with the underground scene in America in the late eighties and early nineties. They were in talks with Sub Pop at one point, and even recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini (a footprint Nirvana admired, and followed to infamy). When the band broke up, he met up with a few friends to record a little music for other friends films. It was out of this unintentional scoring that The Soundtrack Of Our Lives was born. The movies were simple, "people climbing mountains or paddling canoes, so we did some songs to that movie and thought oh f*ck this sounds great. Maybe we should start a band." The first record in the late nineties came out to considerable hype in Europe and the UK.
Fifteen years later, "it's crazy to say" the band is working on their seventh album (title: TBD). But the discernible highs and lows of the band depend on location. "Our kind of heights or lows or whatever it is, is changing in different countries." In America, their height came with 2002's Behind The Music
, a grammy nominated album with songs like "Sister Surround" that not only captured audiences but made some licensing revenue as well. 2008's Communion
was a double album and a critical success, but even by then the sounds of early 90's post-punk were waining in mainstream radio favor. The band, widely considered the Swedes version of Oasis in terms of stature (they toured with Oasis as well), are still playing mid-level clubs in America as opposed to the arenas and festivals they champion in Sweden.
But who cares about radio, or the outlet, "playing is still fun" for these guys and it shows. The songs have aged well, I think, after scanning the crowd (mostly older, fans who were probably twenty in the nineties) or people from Sweden, all rocked out. The most interesting thing about Soundtrack is their resilience to the collapse of the industry juggernaut of the 90's. Universal was behind Behind The Music
but obviously pulled out after massive layoffs and unsustainable losses. Soundtrack got their creative control back and according to Lundberg, "it kind of saved us. We are used to doing things our way, from the beginning. "We got away with everything. Never got that big height." And I don't think that matters.
The band enjoys travel and just wants to go "to strange places around this planet." Though the band has never peaked or bottomed out, perhaps the kind of mid-level success they've sustained worldwide has been the key to their longevity. "We got away with everything and never got that big height." And they have fans everywhere, from Egypt (where they've played by the pyramids) to China (where they played without electric lights). "It's like going back to the 12th century." China has strict policy regarding performances, which the punk in Lundberg promptly disregarded. "Can't stage dive. Well, I did you know."
And Lundberg rounds out his own time by producing new talent in Sweden, particuarly a band called The Oholics. He passed along a few CDs (good stuff, psych-rock). He has been collaborating/producing the band since they met in 2006. But recording with Soundtrack has yet to take a back seat, particularly because it's still working. Citing prior experience, "you can actually feel when it's not good anymore." As long as the six are still enjoying themselves, we can expect more from the band in the future.
Lundberg told me he has been asked the question so many times; how is the band still going? How will they keep going? I think the answer has always been there. Being in it for the music, for making it and living it, it doesn't matter what it's called. "Where we're from, it's easy to hide from everything" Lundberg said. I'll bet that includes any backlash that strikes down a supposedly aging or irrelevant band (not that I'd dare call STOOL either, because I don't buy that mentality). To see Lundberg and the band hopping around like they are still 25, and loving every second of it, gives hope to the rest of us that we'll find something we love and be able to do it for a lifetime. Whether the venue is half full or half empty is up to your point of view. -joe puglisi
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Soundtrack Of Our Lives on Myspace