I had an enjoyable chat with I’m From Barcelona front man Emanuel Lundgren yesterday. While we spoke of magic and children’s programming, we focused on the noticeable change-in-tone of the band’s new release. Who Killed Harry Houdini is the band’s expressive new record which has been met with mixed reactions. Having taken years to create, it’s the most accurate reflection of Lundgren’s musical inclinations combined with the finest elements of the I’m From Barcelona experiment. I personally consider it a dynamic masterpiece.
Quiet Color: So I had an educational wake and bake this morning. Watching Nickelodeon‘s Yo Gabba Gabba, I learned that it’s wrong to be mean to people just because they look different. Midway through the show, I’m From Barcelona performed. What’s the appeal to making appearances on kid’s programs such as those. And did they approach you about it?
Emanuel Lundgren: Oh I haven’t seen that yet! I love those guys at Yo Gabba Gabba. I think they’re doing some great stuff. If you’re going to do a kid’s show you have to think of the parents as well.
QC: Yeah I’m very much into children’s programming when done right.
EL: Exactly.. They actually approached us for their first season and when I read it through I thought it sounded brilliant but I never saw it and we had no chance to come over at the right time for it. Then I kind of forgot about it and then I watched it after the first season aired and I realized it was great stuff. Then they emailed me again for the second season while we were actually going over for a short tour so it worked out perfectly to go by and record. And it was a real rush doing the arrangements and recording. They write most of the song for the program but I rearranged it quite heavily. I always like to tweak things. It’s not a standard I’m From Barcelona song. I tried to do a combination of their universe and ours.
QC: Having formed the group in 2005, it’s hard to talk progression on a grand scale. I love Let Me Introduce My Friends, but your newest album kind of blew me away upon first listen. Why do I sense such high meaning behind the songs off Who Killed Harry Houdini?
EL: You sense a high meaning?
QC: For some reason the songs just seem more serious..
EL: I agree with you. I also love the first album and out of respect for it I felt that there was no reason to do it all over again because it was based on a Summer and very special emotions in me and my friends. As a songwriter, the only thing you can try to be is honest. I think these songs reflect more of the last three years and a longer time span in general. The first album is about a summer but this album has songs that have been growing over several years that may include more feelings as well.
QC: And not to say that your past work hasn’t included meaningful and emotional songs. I think “Treehouse” is a very emotional track…
EL: It was like a literary vacation for me to do the first I’m From Barcelona album. A lot of people seemed surprised about the mood of the new album. What they don’t know is the music I was making before I’m From Barcelona. I’ve been much into melancholy songs and such so the first I’m From Barcelona album will probably end up being the strange record in my lifetime discography. A lot of people don’t know that, so this is really back to what I’ve been doing before and trying to combine that with what I discovered in meeting the guys from I’m From Barcelona.
I’ve been trying for many years actually when I was into all that melancholy stuff and I thought “this is too sad, I like to laugh with my friends as well, I’m not sad all the time.” And then I did the first I’m From Barcelona album that turned out to be very optimistic and happy so now I’ve finally tried to make the album that combines the euphoria with melancholy in a way.
QC: I think you did a tremendous job and I’m honored to speak with you because I think this album is really great and special to be honest with you.
EL: Well that’s great to hear because it’s been a confusing ride for me now because people feel so differently about the album. Very mixed reviews but sometimes I like that. When you’re into something that some people seem to like very much and others seem to hate. I think you’re on the right track.. as long as people feel something. It might be a big change for some people. We’ve been working on the album for two years and there’s almost a lost album in between the two that was necessary to do. A couple songs would serve as a bridge between the first album and this one. Sometimes you need to write songs that are just trampolines for other songs.
QC: I’ve read that the album title came to you after reading The Secret Life of Harry Houdini and that you yourself practiced magic. Does the title also reference the end of your career as a magician?
EL: Well I never had a career actually but I had a deep interest when I was kid about magicians and illusions. It has kind of stayed with me even though I don’t try to do bad card tricks anymore. But that’s why I kind of noticed that book when I was coming home from tour. It’s also a reflection of me reading biographies and about other people’s lives while working on the album, to get perspective on what I was doing myself. That Houdini book in particular was one of the best biographies I read and I guess that’s why it stayed. He’s also a nice role model for mysteries and I’m always intrigued by mysteries.
QC: You write the majority music for I’m From Barcelona, so why they huge band? The number seems to fluctuate slightly but how many people are you at now during shows and recordings?
EL: It was so accidental that we even became a band. If no one had cared about our music it would’ve only lasted a Summer. But I realized when we did our first gig that we were into something. I could feel it in my stomach. As an artist I’ve been looking for that. Ten years back I was in the band at a school and since then I’ve been looking for that feeling all over again, to have as much fun as I had in that band. And when we did the first gig for I’m From Barcelona it felt amazing and I felt that it was what I had been looking for. But had I known that the band would tour all over the world, I’m not sure I would’ve dared to do it so large. Sometimes it’s a good thing not knowing what’s going to happen.
People always ask about the band size but it’s actually a way to not have problems on tour with arguments and such. People usually assume the opposite but compared to touring in a band with four guys which is intense and like a monster movie, it’s never like that with I’m From Barcelona because if you have an argument with someone you can always avoid each other for two days. You always go to the back of the bus.
QC: It’s awesome that you’re friends and touring with Soko. How did that relationship get started?
EL: Yeah I’m glad I met her. We started talking at a festival in the U.K. and she had watched our show. I’m not often spontaneous but I said to her right away “let’s go on tour together.” We were headed toward France and she’s very popular in Denmark and Australia and interest in her has even grown a lot since we met. It was harder in France for her back then so she went with us for a week and stayed on the bus. We spent a lot of nights discussing the best way to record stuff. We became friends and I tried to record some of her songs and she recorded vocals on one of ours. I’m so glad she’s on the album.
QC: Yeah the song “Gunhild” is beautiful.
EL: Oh thanks.. I love the way you pronounce it. It’s actually an old lady’s name. It’s a Swedish name and it’s the name of my old acoustic guitar. That might give you a new perspective on the song..
QC: Adventure Kid is another artist you’ve collaborated with. In addition to touring with you in 2006, his remix of “Music Killed Me” is flat out awesome. He’s an extremely talented electronica artist, were you two friends in Sweden prior to your musical success?
EL: Yes he’s very talented. The only problem is he’s a bit too lazy. He’s doing a lot of stuff in his apartment and a lot of people don’t get to hear what he’s doing. He’s a very old friend of mine so I’m glad to promote him in every way possible. He did the remix for “Music Killed Me” almost three years ago which is kind of amazing. We did a live concert, him and I, in Sweden and there’s some great versions of other songs. He has an amazing version of “Treehouse” so I think we should so something with that material. But it would be hard to release some of that stuff [legally] because of the samples.
QC: What’s Sweden like? Why should I visit?
EL: It has very distant landscapes and people. It’s a long country in height so we have different points, depending on what you’e looking for. I’m from down south and it’s very beautiful there.
QC: What are you listening to these days? What’s on your life playlist right now?
EL: I’m catching up right now on all the things I missed because when I’m working on an album I don’t like to listen to a lot of music really. I don’t want to copy anyone and it’s easy to get influenced by other people’s music so it kind of disturbs me in the process. Now that I’m not recording I have a break to catch up again and a chance to enjoy being in the moment. I’ve been checking out the new Beck album. I’m impressed with the producing and soundscapes. I’m also checking out the new Dungen album. I think he’s been touring a lot in the states and he’s actually bigger over there. He’s doing psychedelic stuff that almost sounds like 60′s music. I’m also looking forward to the new album from my friend Loney, Dear. I think he said they finished it last week so it should be out this Winter or maybe next year.
Cool Dungen Vid:
QC: Alright well that’s all I got, but do you have any secret messages that you want to make public to the world today?
EL: There’s a secret message on the album cover you can look for. It’s not that hidden but there’s a written message and you have to do your homework to know what it means.
QC: Awesome.. well thanks for taking the time today.
EL: No problem, I’m glad you called.