Perhaps one of the reasons behind Miike Snow’s success as a trio is that they are untraditional.
American Andrew Wyatt and his Swedish band mates Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (production duo also known as Bloodshy & Avant) have defied conventional music making, and have reigned supreme once again with their latest release, iii.
Whether you call it Miike Snow three, Third i, or simply iii, the highly anticipated album was a welcome release after a four year hiatus. The vast variety of beats, synths, vocals, and melodic layers on the album is authentically Miike Snow. And as witnessed by a solid sold-out Saturday night crowd in Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, Miike Snow live is a fiery musical experience – and one not to miss. Evidently, their fans know this already, most of their shows have been sold-out since the tour announcement.
From the start of the set and “My Trigger” to the grand finale that is “Animal“ their blend of riffs and rhythms resulted in a dance floor party. Leave it to Miike Snow to bring out a diverse crowd of music fans; a mix of predominantly older fans that included a bachelorette party, a lot of bearded men, and several ex-boyfriends. But between the flashing light cubes on stage, and the fans’ dance moves during their latest hit single “Genghis Khan,” it’s hard to imagine this latest album was written by a trio that live in opposite sides of the word. With Karlsson living in Bangkok (due to his wife being an Ambassador there), Winnberg living in Sweden, and Wyatt in L.A, Wyatt said he made half the record with Karlsson and half with Winnberg. But whatever their songwriting techniques are, they certainly are working.
“It’s very hard for me to tell what type of a song I’m writing. We’re always doing so many different songs in so many different configurations all three of us,” Wyatt said about writing their latest album. “It’s more whether the recording really works as a joint song/instrumental and I don’t think we have that many considerations beyond that. Sometimes you’ll listen and think, ‘is this sound having a dialogue with the time that we’re living in?’”
The sound of iii definitely is, on record and live in concert as proven on Saturday night. And for a band that is often labeled as “pop” or “alternative,” Miike Snow is a trio that defies traditional genres. “I let people say whatever they want about [our music], we just make it,” Wyatt said. The blend of music and technology has allowed genres to crossover, changing the musical environment as a whole.
“There are different cultural phenomenons which people play their music into, so it has to fit inside certain parameters. But outside of that, everyone is taking from everyone else all the time and it has kind of always been like that. Now it just happens at a much quicker rate and it happens before it gets to a mass level,” explained Wyatt, as we chatted with him prior to the show.
“It used to be five years before anybody who had liked The Beatles or Led Zeppelin to find out about punk rock because punk rock – in America or Canada, let’s say – started out as a much more under the radar thing. But now, if there’s a new instinct about music, it’s represented online and is on Soundcloud and everybody can find out about it in like 30 days. I don’t feel like scenes of music have as long time to gestate because we’re all sharing the same culture now.”
And as the musicscape changes, each member of Miike Snow continues to work on their different projects alongside their main band. Karlsson is in electronic duo Galantis, Winnberg is in the Swedish band Amason, and as Bloodshy & Avant, the two have worked with some of the world’s biggest popstars like Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, and Madonna. Wyatt has worked with Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, and most recently, Flume.
“In someways, it’s very of the times,” Wyatt said. “Everyone is doing multiple projects and then coming back to do their main thing. Everyone seems to be engaged in a lot of different projects all the time no matter how successful they are. Even if you are some pop figure, you’re more likely than ever to be collaborating with different people from all over the place, which ties into what we were talking about earlier. It’s like Rhianna having a Tame Impala song on her album, that’s very indicative of the music business today.”
As part of this year’s music projects, Wyatt collaborated with German artists Sarah Ortmeyer for a six-hour musical performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “The improvisational side of it is quite different. But I kind of see it as all the same thing,” Wyatt said. “My favourite band was always The Beatles, and one great thing that they did was they combined experimental music and pop song writing, rock & roll, Chuck Berry, and Bach. That was the blueprint for me for how to go about this. I don’t see that doing an experimental music project and doing Miike Snow and doing a song with Bruno [Mars] is any different. It’s all music and the heat behind it is the thing that has to happen. There has to be passion in it. If that’s the driving force, it doesn’t really matter what the boundaries are. Whether it’s a six hour improvise thing, or three and a half minute song, if there’s a passion to it, it’s going to hit the target. I’m not saying that every song I do does, but but that’s what I am always aiming for.”
And while that may have been the aim for the record, on the road, Wyatt described a new touring lifestyle for the band. As they head off on tour for the next five months, the boys are keeping things healthy this time around.
“This time it’s all about juicing,” he laughed. “Kale, ginger, green apples. It’s a secret to touring and spending a lot of years on the road. You have to figure out the ways to make it lighter and more healthy for yourselves. We used to be the band that would have five bottles of Grey Goose and two Jamesons on our rider. But now we have a juicer and one bottle of Grey Goose.”
Watching the energy of the band on stage, it appears the juicer is working. From start to finish, Miike Snow’s performance was exceptional. It reminded me of something Wyatt said during our chat earlier in the day. He had quoted Spanish poet Frederico Garcia-Lorca, “Duende.” Wyatt said, “Lorca described this force duende, which is like the palpable, out of the ordinary life force.”
And duende is how it felt watching Miike Snow live.
Photos for Vancity Buzz provided by Brandon Artis. Connect with him at @_brandonartis.