Smile Politely

Prepare for Karmageddon!!!

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Swedish alternative band The Soundtrack of Our Lives is playing at Highdive on the evening of Thursday, June 2nd. Common Loon is opening for them. Local company Parasol Records — who have issued The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ records on their Hidden Agenda label in the past — were involved in setting up the show.

In addition to the show at Highdive, there will be a special, all-ages acoustic set by the band the same day at 4:30 p.m. at Parasol in Urbana. The acoustic set at Parasol is free to ticket-holders for the Highdive show and those under 19. Donations are welcome.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives was formed in 1995 when vocalist Ebbot Lundberg’s previous band, punk outfit Union Carbide Productions, came to an end. Since then, TSOOL has released a number of albums, the most recent being a greatest hits collection entitled Golden Greats No. 1. They’ve had many triumphs on both sides of the Atlantic, including being nominated for a 2003 Grammy award for Behind the Music, touring with Oasis, and being praised by Robert Plant and other notable musicians. They were called “The greatest post-everything six piece space rock band in the history of the eardrum” by NME, a quote which appears frequently in the band’s publicity information and of which they seem justifiably proud.

Parasol and TSOOL

I spoke with Jim Kelly of Parasol Records recently. He told me about the unlikely alliance that goes back a decade between an independent record company in Urbana, Illinois and an alternative rock band from Gothenburg, Sweden who were signed at the turn of the century to Warner/Telegram in Europe:

It was mainly just full-on fandom. The Parasol crew had been fans of the band prior to The Soundtrack of Our Lives — called Union Carbide Productions. Very much a Stooges-worshiping band that released albums in the late-80s and early-90s. Extremely high energy shows, bad behavior, the whole works. They put out four brilliant, noisy rock albums. It wasn’t quite punk, but definitely feeding off that attitude and energy. They had their own cult following over here, in NYC, Chicago, and L.A. Union Carbide sort of flamed out in the early 90s and from those ashes rose The Soundtrack of Our Lives. There were three members in TSOOL from Union Carbide Productions, and UCP’s last album had hinted at the new sound that they were headed towards. In TSOOL, they got a little more psychedelic, a little more slowed down and expansive — touching on some more obvious points like The Who, The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, The Moody Blues and definitely The Doors.

Eventually the stateside enthusiasts at Parasol got involved through forming a personal connection with the band and through having the ability to help the band establish a beachhead in the U.S. Kelly said:

Behind the MusicSoundtrack put out their first full length album, Welcome to the Infant Freebase in ’96. Parasol was a music mail order at the time, and it was our job to search out awesome new bands like TSOOL. We got their first album in and everybody loved it, and we got their second album, Extended Revelation in ’98 and we were even more smitten. In 2001, they released what many consider their best work, Behind the Music. It was Grammy nominated and had the single “Sister Surround,” which got a lot of play in a lot of places. 2001, Behind the Music comes out, and we were like, ‘OK, it’s time to do something — this new album is so powerful, and we’ve got these two previous albums working up to this, that — to us — are equally as good, if quite a bit different.’

So, what we ended up doing is releasing those three records simultaneously. I think it was September or October of 2001. So, six months after Behind the Music landed in our laps we had something going.

The deal made sense for TSOOL at the time economically. Kelly continued: “For the price of them shipping us the CDs, they had these people who were going to work the band really hard in the U.S. — and at the time, making it big in the States was the Holy Grail for European bands.”

But for the band, Kelly said, the Parasol connection was also about working with their new friends overseas:

Once the band caught wind of these people over in Urbana, Illinois — which they had never heard of — who were this hyped about them, it was just sort of like ‘Let’s do this.’ And their manager at the time, Ulf Anderson, was also instrumental in making this happen. Tiny little Parasol records dealing with Warner Music, Sweden. There was a great divide there and even to this day I’m surprised anything worked out.

Kelly recalled the heady work of promoting TSOOL as they gained a major buzz, especially when Behind the Music picked up steam.

Michael Roux was Parasol’s publicist at the time and he did an amazing job of getting the word out. He had everyone talking about them, and the superlatives were really out there. At that time, press folks would still get packages in the mail, and our job was to make that package interesting. Sending out 51 songs by a somewhat pedigreed Swedish band people had never heard of that was being touted as the greatest living rock band on the planet … that caught people’s attention and the music did the rest.

Within a year major label Universal Records picked up Behind the Music in the States and re-released it, but there were no sour grapes on Kelly’s part:

Our whole idea all along was to get the band over here so we could see them play live. If we could get them over here once, we’d be happy. This was the best way to do it and get the way paved for them to get signed over here and tour over here. We got our wish; they came over here to tour, and they’ve toured the United States just about every year since 2002.

First TSOOL show in Champaign-Urbana

While TSOOL has performed in the U.S. many times over the past decade or so, the show on June 2nd at the High Dive will be their first performance in C-U. It’s something both the band and Parasol have wanted to do for years, but playing in a smaller metro area is cost-prohibitive for the band. Kelly said:

We’re not the market they’re seeking to exploit. It costs so much to come over here. Chicago is fine — we’ve seen them there probably a half dozen times.

They’ve said, ‘When can we come play in Urbana?’ and we’ve said, ‘It’s up to you guys — you have to work out all the logistics and everything else. But when it’s ready to happen we’ve got people just waiting.’

Finally, in 2011, the timing was right. Kelly explained:

Ward at Highdive pretty much said, ‘Hell yeah, let’s do this,’ so that was not a problem. It was just a question of getting the band routed in. They’ve recently gotten a new manager, Holger Carlson. The first time I met him I said, ‘You’ve got to get them down to Champaign-Urbana.’

They’ve come full circle. I think part of it now is they’ve got this Best Of collection. After ten years, they’ve got their retrospective out, and their manager called one day and said, ‘It just seems like the right time to do it. To come back to where it all started for them in the States.’ It started right here. They’re doing a little short tour — Chicago, I think a couple of dates in Canada, New York and then they’re flying back home.

WPGU and Analog Outfitters are also helping make the show happen — Analog Outfitters in part by supplying instruments and amps. Kelly believes that the show will be worth the $20.00 ticket price:

When they put on a rock show — someone wrote it’s like seeing The Who, The Doors, and Led Zeppelin on stage at the same time. There are six of them wailing away up there, and it’s a Total Rock Show. They’re not just up there staring at their shoes. Every night they are totally losing their minds and bringing the audience with them. I expect this show to be a very special show, and longtime fans will be treated to a pretty wide-ranging setlist.

Kelly, unsurprisingly, is also pumped about the special acoustic set Thursday afternoon at Parasol (see info. below): “As awesome as the band will be Thursday night at Highdive, fully electrified, this quiet side of them might be my favorite, and it will be my first time seeing an acoustic set by the band in person.”

Kelly, along with former Parasol employee Lisa Bralts, appeared on this week’s episode of Smile Politely Radio. For more about TSOOL, Parasol the record label, and the changing world of music liscensing/distribution, you can listen to the podcast here.



Q & A with Ebbot Lundberg

Golden Greats No. 1For each song on the band’s most recent CD, retrospective Golden Greats No.1, I e-mailed front man Ebbot Lundberg a corresponding question. Lundberg’s written responses are below. Take from the Q & A what you will, and enjoy the show if you’re going!

SP about INSTANT REPEATER ’99 — This song was the first single off of the first TSOOL album, which came out in the ’90s. You’ve been playing this song for a long time. Has its meaning to you personally changed over time?

Lundberg: Not really. We’re still rewinding to get high.

SP about CENTURY CHILD — This song is taken from the album Extended Revelation (For the Psychic Weaklings of the Western Civilization). Does TSOOL offer another revelation — extended or otherwise — for those of the Western Civilization who are psychically strong?

Lundberg: No way. There´s no point.

SP about SISTER SURROUND — Your voice sounds a little different to me on this song than on the others on the record — a bit more laid back, although the song is definitely a rocker. Is that a conscious thing on your part, or just an inaccurate assessment on my part?

Lundberg: It´s a subconscious way of fitting into the groove. Like most of the TSOOL songs when it comes to vocabulary.

SP about BELIEVE I’VE FOUND — I’m hearing an element of bitterness in lyrics like: There goes my childhood/ There goes all I thought was true. But then a little hopefulness in the line: I believe I’ve found/ A better way to satisfy your kind.

Is that “better way” still working for you?

Lundberg: With a little help from my friends and some Viagra it surely does.

SP about KARMAGEDDON — This song wound up on the EA Sports’ NHL video game. Did you know that was going to happen when you wrote it?

Lundberg: We knew it was going to be a soundtrack for some sort of exercise physically. Virtual or not. And it did of course. But it was originally meant for skateboarding when push comes to shove.

SP about LIFELINE — This song has a very acoustic sound. Why did you choose a more mellow approach on this song as compared to rockers like “Karmageddon?”

Lundberg: Because we are interested in the opposite sex I guess.

SP about FIRMAMENT VACATION — I’m not sure if the play on the phrase “Permanent Vacation” is also a reference to the Aerosmith record of the same name. In any event, what are your thoughts concerning Aerosmith in general?

Lundberg: Rocks is a brilliant album and Aerosmith was an amazing band in the 70s. Never really heard Permanent Vacation to be honest. The only thing I wanted with “Firmament Vacation” was to make a better song than “Gimme Shelter.” And I think it is in a way. Lyrically at least.

SP about THRILL ME — There’s some laughter in the background during this song. What was so funny?

Lundberg: Somebody in the band farted real bad during this take of the song.

SP about NEVERMORE — The word “more” is in both this song and the Love classic “Andmoreagain.” I’ve seen Love listed as one of your influences. What does that particular band mean to you?

Lundberg: Very observant of you. “Nevermoreagain” may be the next tribute song to Arthur Lee since he passed away. May he rest in peace. Him and Love in general mean everything to me. And always will.

SP about BIGTIME — TSOOL has had a lot of success – you’ve been nominated for a Grammy, toured with Oasis, etc. In that sense of the phrase “big time,” how is being in a popular band different than — and the same as — you expected it would be when you started out?

Lundberg: Almost exactly or absolutely, maybe. With all the ups and downs. The albums are there. That´s the most important thing.

SP about CONFRONTATION CAMP — Like “Karmageddon” and “Firmament Vacation,” the title is an intriguing play on words. The band is from Sweden, so I’m guessing English wasn’t the first language you learned – any thoughts in general on writing lyrics in English?

Lundberg: Yes, we love playing with words as much as any instrument. Old English was the first language I´ve learned along with the Swedish so there is a lot of artistic freedom when it comes to lyrics. You are constantly in a blender with Shakespeare and the Swedish chef of the Muppet Show most of the time. Very interesting indeed I must say.

SP about BROKEN IMAGINARY TIME — This comes across as a very dark song to me; the church organ and the voices at the end sound like a mental breakdown. Where were you coming from on this one?

Lundberg: Our bass player wrote this, but I guess it´s about life, in general. Something like Jim Jarmusch´s hairdo. Sad and Beautiful.

SP about STILL AGING — You were born in 1966. Now that you’re in your forties, how is life in a rock and roll band different from when you were in your twenties? Or is it?

Lundberg: Rock ´n roll (and everything else) was at its peak in 1966, and I was screaming a lot that year. Probably for the same reason as I do today. With or without the milk. So I guess there´s never been much of a difference really.

SP about THE PASSOVER — There are some wise words in this song, for example, Don’t pass it on, if you know it’s wrong. Is the advice meant for the narrator of the song himself or more for someone else?

Lundberg: For everybody. Because there´s only one of us here.

SP about TONIGHT — This song is from the album Behind the Music. The reference to the VH1 show displays an awareness of popular culture while simultaneously poking fun at it. Is it possible to genuinely enjoy Behind the Music episodes while knowing at the same time that the problems the musicians face are often relatively shallow in the larger scheme of things?

Lundberg: Good music or shit music, the story is always the same. To use an old phrase from an ancient dandy: you were born original but you die as a copy. And I do hate that phrase.

SP about FLIPSIDE — This song seems more bluesy than the others on the CD, especially the guitar riff at the very end. Why the more roots/traditional sound?

Lundberg: No reason at all. We just felt like doing it at the time because we were restless.

SP about JEHOVAH SUNRISE — There’s some nice whistling on this song. Can whistling be taught or is it only a talent that some people are born with and others aren’t?

Lundberg: Very few people on this planet know the true art of whistling. And we are one of these people.

SP about SECOND LIFE REPLAY — If there’s another life after this one, are you looking forward to it?

Lundberg: I have to finish this one first to give a proper answer to that question.


Very Special Acoustic Set by The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Time: Thursday, June 2, 4:30–6:00 p.m.
Location: Parasol
                 303 W. Griggs St.
                 Urbana, IL

This all-ages, acoustic in-store appearance is FREE to ticket-holders and those under 19.


The Soundtrack of Our Lives @ The Highdive
Opening act:
Common Loon

Time: Thursday–Friday, June 2–3, 9:00 p.m.–12:00 a.m.
8:00 p.m.
Tickets: Available at Parasol, Exile, Dandelion, and through the Highdive site.

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