Les Big Byrd

Just like the band itself, Les Big Byrd�s second record is the product of frustration.Jocke �hlund and Frans Johansson had both long been fixtures on the Stockholm rock scene bythe time they finally began to collaborate with each other by forming the group in 2011. They�dbeen wanting to work together for years, and had never quite found the time, with a quickglance over their CVs quickly making it clear why. �hlund co-founded cult hardcore outfit/genre-benders Teddybears with his brother Klas in 1991, and went on to play guitar in Caesars andform another duo, Smile, with Bj�rn Yttling of Peter, Bj�rn and John. He found room in betweento flex his commercial pop muscles, too, writing and producing for amongst others GiorgioMoroder and his compatriot Robyn. Johansson, meanwhile, had played bass in Swedish GrammyAward-winners Fireside since the early nineties and worked as a touring bassist with TheSoundtrack of Our Lives.By 2011, both were becoming disillusioned with their primary projects, and finally, it made senseto begin bouncing ideas off of each other, with the lineup eventually fleshed out by anothercouple of Stockholm veterans, keyboardist Martin �Konie� Ehrencrona and Caesars drummerNino Keller. The initial result, in February of 2014, was the atmospheric, guitar-driven�Back toBagarmossen�EP, a ten-inch release that took the band as far as national TV in Sweden. Aroundthe same time, they ran into Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre in a recordstore and, after hitting it off with the psych stalwart, headed to his Berlin studio to jam. A coupleof tracks on the band�s debut record,�They Worshipped Cats, emerged from those sessions, withthe album taking a left turn into blissed-out space rock and garnering rave reviews in theprocess.By the winter of 2015, eighteen months after�They Worshipped Cats� release, �hlund was ready tobreak ground on new material. He was determined, though, to bring in a producer, havinghandled the duties himself to personally exhausting effect last time around. With Les Big Byrdtaking their cues more and more from psych and drone, whilst still retaining a pop sensibility,Pete Kember of pre-Spiritualized experimentalists Spacemen 3 seemed like a good fit; after all,he�d balanced MGMT�s ear for melody with their weirder impulses to stirring effect on their 2010LP�Congratulations. He took the job and travelled to Stockholm.Ultimately, though, the sessions with Kember went awry; he clashed with Newcombe, who alsoheaded for Sweden to work on ideas for the record with the band, and �hlund found himselftaking on more and more of the production responsibilities he�d sought to avoid. Burned out bythe turbulence in the studio, Les Big Byrd ended up putting a second album on ice for a while. �Ididn�t know it at the time, but I needed to get some distance from it,� says �hlund. �It was onlyafter a while that I was able to go back and realise that there was a really good album in there.�The band spent 2017 remaking the songs in their own image; in the end, both Kember andNewcombe�s contributions were limited. The result is�Iran Iraq IKEA, a bright, bold and ambitiouscollection that takes �hlund and Johansson�s long-standing influences and imbues them with askyward trajectory and a sense of creative freedom. Opener �Ger�usche� takes its name from theGerman word for noise, but in fact is a breezy krautrock number. �I Fucked Up I Was a Child� setsbuoyant guitars against undulating beds of synth. �Eon�, meanwhile, is an epic numberbordering on electropop. �I thought, at times, that it sounded a little bit like stadium rock,�laughs �hlund of�Iran Iraq IKEA�s cleaner production and irrepressible energy. He�s only half-joking.Recorded between two studios in Stockholm - �hlund�s own, and Konie�s Studio Cobra -�Iran IraqIKEA�is named after a slogan �hlund first saw printed on a tie in Berlin years ago and has wantedto use ever since; he thought that it suited this album �because it gave it all some kind of subtlypoetic political intrigue�. The artwork on the cover is an 1960�s painting by a Gothenburg artist,depicting a blind Statue of Liberty - its eyes have taken off as helicopters. �It�s fitting that it�sgoing to evoke weird, suggestive images in your head.�In truth, though, the politics of�Iran Iraq IKEA�are rooted more in the personal. �It�s about classictopics like love and failure. And about being older and feeling like you�ve pissed your life away,It�s about regrets and wishing you�d done things another way,� explains �hlund. �You know, thisis the first band that I�ve ever been the singer in, so it�s the first time I can take ownership of thelyrics. In my previous bands I�ve written words for other people to sing, and that�s always a littlebit weird.�Iran Iraq IKEA�feels more personal and more true.�That�s something that can also be said of the album musically; with �hlund having taken thereins as producer again, and now admitting that he might never have been ready to give up theposition in the first place,�Iran Iraq IKEA�is the sound of a group with combined decades ofexperience freeing themselves up to reinvent themselves whilst remaining true to the soundsthat they�ve always treasured. �I still love my krautrock, and space rock, and experimental,improvisational stuff� says �hlund. �But I also have a strong love for psychedelic sixties popmusic, and I love reverb-drenched guitar with a lot of tremolo on it. All of those things make iton to�Iran Iraq IKEA, but the lines are blurred - there�s a lot of electronics, and you can�t alwaystell where each individual sound is coming from. Hopefully it�s suggestive, a little bit uncertainand unpredictable, at least that�s what I wanted.�

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