Meet Swedish Shoegaze Trio Spunsugar

Spunsugar, photo by Charlie Wedin

Spunsugar from Malmö, Sweden released its debut album Drive-Through Chapel in October 2020 on Adrian Recordings. Rather than the ethereal post-rock that passes for entirely too much shoegaze and psychedelic rock of late, Spunsugar’s music has a grittiness and emotional urgency that pairs well with elements of an industrial aesthetic. In that way Spunsugar has more in common with groups like Curve and A Place to Bury Strangers that have embraced a similarly hybrid approach to songwriting and soundscaping. We recently sent some questions to the band about its origins, the subjects of its songs and its decision to sing in English. Connect with the band at the links following the Q&A. Article and interview by Tom Murphy.

Queen City Sounds and Art: Cordelia and Elin met at 13. What did a small town outsider clique look like at that age and what mutual interests draw people who are part of that together?

Elin Ramstedt: We mostly hung out with the weirdos and bonded over music, alcohol and alienation.

Cordelia Moreau: We also had less parental supervision than a lot of the kids at our age so that made it easier for us to do mischief at nights without repercussions!

Q: Cordelia and Elin spent some time hardly speaking to each other and not writing music for several years. What were they discovering and exploring separately that seemed to inform what they would do with the new band?

E: I wrote music by myself but always felt that I wanted Cordelias input because of the way that we complement each other when writing music. I felt restrained. I listened to a lot of music and went to concerts and built up the eagerness to play music with others. I mean it is not easy to be a female in a male dominated industry and I guess it took some time before I realised that this was actually something that we could do as well.

Q: In what ways do you think coming up as the children of farmers and fundamentalists and “trailer trash” in small towns in Sweden shaped your view of and approach to making your music?

E: Maybe that we don’t really take anything for granted. We don’t really feel the urge to be famous or anything, we are just very thankful that we make music that people like and can relate to.

C: It makes us less snobby, I think.

F: Yeah, and it’s something to be proud of. Pride is a feeling we haven’t got an abundance of growing up. I spent a lot of time in my teens being somewhat ashamed of the circumstances around my upbringing, family etc. So to have this thing (the band) that is 100% our own is a great source of pride.

Q: What kinds of places did you play before moving to Malmö and how did that environment influence your early development as musicians?

E: Spunsugar didn’t exist before we all lived in Malmö, from 2018. Cordelia and I played in a band when we were teenagers. We mostly played at youth centers. One time we participated in some kind of music competition and the judges told us that we looked like we were dead on stage.

F: Haha, the same here. I played in several metal bands and also a cover band. We played Creedence, Rollings Stones and Ted Gärdestad songs. That kind of stuff. We played shows at small pubs in front of audiences of a bunch of 50-year old women trying to hit on us. Which was strange for me being 18 at the time. I mean, these gigs weren’t the most inspiring but it gave me a lot of experience of playing live and solving situations revolving playing live.

Q: Knowing virtually nothing about the music world of Malmö myself, I wonder what it’s like for an independent even underground band to develop, book shows and connect with other bands to perform and cultivate an audience? Are there places to play that were integral to your growth as a band? Publications/media outlets that write about local band that were helpful to Spunsugar and other groups?

E: Malmö is a city with a lot of really great pop and rock bands! There are a few places that we have been playing at in Malmö. I think that it is kind of easy to get to play small gigs around Malmö, even if you are a new band. We have played at Plan B like four times haha. We haven’t really had any contact with local media outlets. I mean 2020 has been shitty and we haven’t really played that much live at all since we started the band, but we’re aiming at replacing COVID-19 in taking over the world.

F: Yeah, like Elin said, Plan B has been important to us. They gave us a chance for our first gig and our relationship with them has kind of developed with the growth of the band. We had our release-show for our album there and it was a fantastic night. The local media has been awfully quiet to be honest, but that’s not a problem really. There is a big scene of alternative bands and venues that talked to and about each other so I feel that bands can evolve anyway.

Q: You once opened for Nothing. When and where was that? In what ways do you feel Nothing is an influence on your own art?

E: It was at Plan B in Malmö November 2018. It was our first gig ever!! I think Nothing inspired and inspires us to write heavier music. When we started playing music together our music was much poppier but then we realised that we wanted to play music that is a mix of Britney Spears and Slayer.

C: Also, the soundscape of their latest album is really inspiring. Melodically, their geniuses, and they have a certain atmosphere in their songs that are gentle but hard, depressing but catchy. That’s a great way to write music.

F: I think that gig was a bit of an eye opener too. It was quite daunting to play with a band that we respect so much on our first show. It made me realise that this is real and experiences like this actually could happen to us as well, not only to other more fortunate people. I think we put in a higher gear after that. We took things a bit more seriously.

Drive-Thru Chapel cover (cropped)

Q: Your songs are in English. What informed that decision and what helped you coming up to learn and connect with the language in a way that makes it a comfortable choice for creative expression (assuming it is)?

C: I guess it’s because pretty much every song, movie and TV-show we consume is in English. It’s personal enough since it’s a language we speak but if I wrote lyrics in Swedish I’d sometimes lack the ability to reference things I want to reference, as well as a vast enough vocabulary. But I sometimes write in Swedish but not for Spunsugar.

E: It would be too embarrassing for me to sing swedish lyrics. You really can sing about nothing when it is not your native language and it sounds cool anyway.

Q: The title Drive-Through Chapel suggests much like the nature of religion and its role in society. What inspired giving the album that title?

E: You could actually say that we are antichrist himself, kind of, and I think that we are fascinated about commercialization of religion and how it can be expressed.

F: And it’s a good title. I mean, I like how it sounds and looks.

C: I grew up in a religious village, it shaped me a lot. When I moved with my mom I got to see something different while my dad was still in that southern religious world. My mom was heavy into rock music and dark movies so she showed me a lot of dark stuff at a young age. That was a scary, intriguing contrast, but it gave perspective that helped me question organized religion. If that music and those books and films were so evil, why did they make me feel so nice? It planted the seed for my obsession with the plastic workings behind these small time churches.

Q: “Video Nasty” is an interesting title to a song as it references a category of film given that designation in the UK in the early 1980s. How did you become familiar with that concept and do you have particular video nasties you like and why?

C: I’m a horror movie buff and have always been fascinated with the idea of media ruining young peoples minds and making them violent, because I was scared into believing that was how it worked as a child. It doesn’t, by the way. In that song I use this concept as a metaphor for peoples invasion and fear of the sexualities of others. I haven’t done many deep dives into the most obscure ones but I absolutely love I Spit On Your Grave, The Last House on the Left and The Beyond.

Q: There is a real synthesis of electronic music and rock in your songwriting with the drum machine fully integrated. What about that sort of sound have you appreciated in other artists?

E: I like the contrasts.

C: I think it blurs the lines of what time the music belongs to. It’s a little bit 80s, a little bit now and a little bit future sounding. I am a big fan of late 80s to late 90s electronical/industrial sounding metal. Everything from Type O Negative, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, it has a certain type of grit to it while at the same time being cheesier and more mellow than other types of metal.

F: It’s very much a mix of all the things we like. I was a big heavy metal kid growing up, and a quite conservative one too. It was a big eye opener when I found bands that could blend that intensity with other influences. That you didn’t need to sound like Entombed or Sleep to sound heavy or that you could sound beautiful and heavy at the same time.

https://www.instagram.com/spunsugarmusic/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/Spunsugar-1954664354594177

adrianrecordings.com/artists/spunsugar

Best Shows in Denver 10/11/18 – 10/17/18

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ADULT. performs at Larimer Lounge on Saturday, 10/13/18, with Plack Blague and Voight

Thursday | October 11, 2018

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The Church circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Karl Blau w/Porlolo and High Plains Honky
When: Thursday, 10.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Karl Blau has had a rich and varied career spanning the past two decades or so. As a member of lo-fi rock band D+ he wrote songs and performed with Bret Lunsford formerly of Beat Happening and future Microphones and Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elverum. As a solo artist and musical curator with his Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society musical subscription artist, Blau has been involved in making music in widely disparate styles and often hybridizing them or outright creating something that’s impossible to classify beyond maybe simply pop. In recent years, Blau has been writing songs that seem shaped by everything else he’s made up to now with bossa nova percussion, African pop vocal cadences, hip-hop-and-reggae-informed lyrical phrasing and indie/freak folk sensibilities. In the past Blau has performed solo with a loop pedal and pulled off what sounds like a full band minus robust drums so you’re never full sure what you’re in for barring that it’ll be exceptional.

Who: The Church
When: Thursday, 10.11, 7:30/8 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: Australian rock band The Church is currently undertaking it’s tour for the thirtieth anniversary of its 1988 album Starfish. The band had already made a name for itself with fans of adventurous, inventive, literate and thoughtful yet heartfelt rock music. But Starfish was the group’s breakthrough to not just a wider audience but the mainstream with hits like “Under the Milky Way” and “Reptile.” While the group is justly celebrating the release of its iconic album for itself and fans that maybe didn’t get to see The Church in its 80s heyday (pardon the referential joke to the band’s 1985 album of the same name), the band’s new material is as vital as anything it has done in the past and you’ll get the best of both worlds at this show.

Friday | October 12, 2018

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Ralph Gean (with Andrew Lindstrom) circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Anxious Little Friends Fest Day 1
When: Friday, 10.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Record labels Snappy Little Numbers and Anxious and Angry collaborated on this two day festival at the Hi-Dive with some of the better local and not local punk and punk-related bands. For this night you can see two night headliners Off With Their Heads as well as Riverboat Gamblers, SPELLS, Dirty Few, Black Dots, Hooper and Modern Goon.

What: Franksgiving 2018
When: Friday, 10.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This yearly event benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America is hosted by local connoisseur of weird music Franklin Bell. Naturally he always finds some of the best local odd yet accessible bands for the vent. As usual, Little Fyodor & Babushka Band, one of Denver’s longest running and most consistently interesting weirdo punk institutions will perform as well as not-widely-recognized-but-absolutely-a-local-rock-and-roll-legend Ralph Gean, Fyodor drummer Tricky Dick Wicket’s side project that isn’t Universal Devils, Whiskey Orphans, the “sweet and sensitive keyboard songs” of No Pants Katie with DJ Frank Bell spinning kooky kuts.

Who: Screwtape w/Potato Pirates, Noogy, World Movement and Ultraviolet
When: Friday, 10.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Screwtape’s politically-charged hardcore and dynamic live show has already made it a favorite among local fans of punk and the group is kicking off its latest tour to the south with this show sharing the bill with ska-punk veterans Potato Pirates and Colorado Springs hardcore outfit Ultraviolet.
Who: Multidim Records Official Launch Party
When: Friday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Leon
Why: Multidim Records is a new Denver-based label focusing on emerging artists in electronic and abstract music. Founded by Tommy Metz (Glissline) and Michael David King (Cities of Earth), this event will feature some of the artists on the label’s roster including the respective projects of the label’s founders as well as Andre Cactus + Ah, River and Mirror Fears.

Saturday | October 13, 2018

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Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: ADULT. w/Plack Blague and Voight
When: Saturday, 10.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: For twenty years, Detroit’s ADULT. has been on the forefront of mixing electronic pop, techno and industrial music with an experimental flair. In the late 90s, ADULT. helped to pioneer the sound and aesthetic that came to be called electroclash by around the turn of the century. As the duo explored sounds and performance it garnered a cult following among connoisseurs of electronic music paired with a dynamic and sometimes confrontational performance style. It adopted and mutated the sound and production ideas running through underground techno throughout the 2000s giving it a powerful and imaginative soundscape to match singer Nicola Kuperus’s emotionally-nuanced vocals. The band’s 2018 album This Behavior was the darker side of the songwriting that went into the 2017 album Detroit House Guests—both rich and dense with sonic detail and inventive rhythms.

Also on the this leg of the tour is Lincoln, Nebraska’s Plack Blague. Raws Schlesinger had been, maybe still is, involved in the Nebraska grind and extreme metal scene in various bands. But Plack Blague is a bit like a leather daddy Big Freedia but with beats that are the industrial and techno analogue to sissy bounce. On previous occasions in Denver, Plack Blague may have seemed to be a sonically abrasive spectacle but the act’s songs have taken on a compelling form beyond the spectacle without sacrificing the striking visual aspect of the band including Schleslinger’s undeniably amazing dance moves.

What: Anxious Little Friends Fest Day 2
When: Saturday, 10.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This second night of Anxious Little Friends Fest includes performances from Off With Their Heads, The Bollweevils, SPELLS, Friends of Cesar Romero, Lawsuit Models, Great American House Fire and Bad Year.

What: KGNU Quarterly Showcase
When: Saturday, 10.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This edition of the KGNU Quarterly Showcase features some of Denver’s most innovative electronic artists. Shocker Mom’s dreamy, ambient R&B is the latest vehicle from Robin Walker. As a member of Cougar Pants, walker, along with Jessica Hughes, made a particularly tender and emotionally deep yet playful type of indie pop. As a solo performer, Walker distinguished herself as a talented vocalist and songwriter whose use of sound taps into a pre-linguistic part of the human brain, communicating the vibrations of a loving, healing aspect of the universe—which she has manifested most strongly with Shocker Mom. Also catch her in excellent hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus. Larians is the solo side project of Male Blonding singer/guitarist Noah Simons. His brilliant take on IDM, techno and ambient may just be getting started but it’s obvious he’s learned a few things to build beyond from Burial and Aphex Twin. Bios+a+ic is the solo project of Textures Ambient Showcase and Symbolic Insight head Wesley Davis. All of his albums with the project are different and conceptual, representing ideas and sound experiments that tickled Davis’ imagination at the time of their creation. Also on the bill are All Mask and DJ Winter

Sunday | October 14, 2018

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Future Generations, photo (cropped) by Shervin Lainez

Who: Henry Rollins Travel Slideshow Tour
When: Sunday, 10.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: It’s been a good longer while than usual since Henry Rollins has done one of his spoken tours. This time around he’s sharing his photography and telling stories from his travels around the world. His spoken word shows are always worth checking out and with the images to prompt his memory and engage those who show up it will be a more immersive experience when coupled with his already fantastic storytelling.

Who: Future Generations w/Zuli and Whiskey Autumn
When: Sunday, 10.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Brooklyn has long been home to eclectic indie rock with artists, of necessity, trying out innovative musical ideas and strong songwriting in order to stand out. Future Generations’ 2018 album Landscape is like a stroll through a person’s day and life and composed as though the melodies and rhythms are a soundtrack with electronic, ambient textures to give the songwriting a context that connects all the music. Sure, each piece can be enjoyed on its own but the record feels like a new take on the classic album format from a time when bands felt like there were no throwaway songs and thought in terms of interconnecting themes. Probably not a concept album but one that works on a very conceptual level too.

Tuesday | October 16, 2018

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A Place To Bury Strangers circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: A Place to Bury Strangers w/Kraus and cindygod
When: Tuesday, 10.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: A Place To Bury Strangers is often credited as one of the bands that helped to re-popularize shoegaze in the underground. But the band’s contribution has run deeper as guitarist/vocalist Oliver Ackerman created unique guitar pedals with functionality that has helped push the sound of the instrument into new realms of noise and texture. As part of the pedal and sound equipment company/DIY space Death By Audio, Ackerman and company contributed to its creative community in a direct, pragmatic way. APTBS fused lo-fi, shoegaze, noise, post-punk and hardcore in fascinating ways. For an album or two it felt like maybe the project had plateaued even if the songwriting was still good. But the 2018 album Pinned with new drummer Lia Simon Braswell demonstrated that the band hasn’t run out of ideas for heady and disorienting soundscaping. Opening the show is Denver’s cindygod, the follow-up band to shoegaze/noise rock duo Gauntlet Hair. Now the band is a quartet with an even more exhilarating panoply of sound.

Wednesday | October 17, 2018

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Gold Trash, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sarah Ruth Alexander, Polecat Moon Pussy and Gold Trash
When: Wednesday, 10.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: [update, Shiny Around the Edges no longer on the bill] Sarah Ruth Alexander’s brooding yet luminous compositions utilizing effected vocals and acoustic instruments have made Dallas’ They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy one of the more interesting bands and critically acclaimed bands that in the past his intentionally been more or less off the internet because its music works best live. Alexander’s solo performances recall some of the most chilling moments of Nico’s solo work, The Marble Index, Desertshore and The End in particular, in its use of organic instruments in a manner suggesting an electronic music aesthetic as a way to tap into deeply rooted spaces in the psyche. One might also hear in her songs resonances with Jarboe’s more intensely tranquil performances with Swans. Moon Pussy is a noise rock band from Denver and Gold Trash could be said to be a soulful yet noisy version of an electroclash band.