The Concretes: The Return Of... | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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The Concretes

The Return Of...

Jan 05, 2011 Web Exclusive
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Let's get this out of the way. Four and a half years ago (summer of 2006 to be exact), Victoria Bergsman quit The Concretes, the band she took to indie prominence with such albums as 2003's The Concretes and its 2006 follow up, In Colour. Since then, the band has soldiered on, led by one of its other founding members, Lisa Milberg, who has assumed vocal and lead songwriting duties. The band's first album without Bergsman, 2007's Hey Trouble, was never released Stateside, but now, finally, Milberg and her cohorts are back with their first international release since Bergsman's departure and a U.S. tour coming up later this month and into March. WYWH is very much a different album than one might expect, even from Milberg's songwriting turns on In Colour. Its seductive disco textures are much unlike the songs The Concretes made a name for themselves with in the early-to-mid 2000s. Milberg took some time to talk with Under the Radar about who and what The Concretes mean to her these days, and how she came to such a seemingly unlikely sonic change. 

Frank Valish: When did you begin work on WYWH?

Lisa Milberg: We did the first recording session maybe 18 months ago but most of it was recorded in February this year [2010].

How long did the album take to write and record?

Probably three weeks or a month all in all. That doesn't include the actual writing process though, which is good. Because if I knew exactly how much time I spend with songs I'd probably never go there again. I think I started humming on "Good Evening" about 4 years ago.

What had you been up to since the release of Hey Trouble? Since that album was never released in the U.S., it has seemed that you've been gone for quite a while.

There's been the usual: love old and new, friends, work, travel, rest, play, disaster, success, red wine, TV. Martin [Hansson, bassist] had a baby. Me and Daniel [Värjö, guitar/mandolin/etc.] got married, but not to each other. I also borrowed a lighthouse in the Hebrides for a while. Ate canned food, watched oysters catchers stroll on the beach, read books. Best thing I ever did. Such a shame so many of the lighthouses are automated these days.

The press release says that someone joined the circus.

Yes this is true. Sadly just as a musician in the circus band though. But we all gotta start at the bottom.

What does WYWH stand for?

It can mean whatever you want it to mean but for us, most days, it means Wish You Were Here. Which in turn I guess must stem from the very human idea of the grass being greener elsewhere etc. It seems everyone thinks so, which in itself makes the very theory impossible. But it sums up the album nicely. It is about love, loss and longing.

I guess the most obvious question here is what prompted the change in sound. Even those who are familiar with your songwriting on In Colour probably wouldn't have seen this coming.

To me, it's really not that surprising at all. I think we change with each new album, always have and always will. We are too many and we consume too much music to not wanna try new things all the time. Also since these changes and influences happen little by little each day, and we've been there for all those days, we notice it less than you do who hear nothing for four years and then have us knocking on the door all of a sudden. From out of the blue, in new haircuts and all. But for us it's a very natural process.

Were you at all concerned about how audiences would react to WYWH, especially those that hadn't heard from you since In Colour?

Not in the slightest. I don't think like that, nor does anyone else in the band. If someone doesn't like the album based on how the last album sounded, that makes very little sense to me. Also I've always felt we're allowed to change. It seems to me that people who listen to us are generally very open minded. And if not, they can pick one album they like and ignore the others, that's fine too.

Did you expect for it to take a little while for some to come around to a Concretes' "disco" album, as the press release calls it?

No not at all! I can't think of anything easier to come around to than disco. It's such an excellent musical premise and we've always flirted with disco, from the very first songs we wrote as a band to our cover of [The Rolling Stones'] "Miss You." Which was always one of our favorite songs. And also, as I think most people who have heard WYWH would agree, it's only ever disco between the lines.

Do you feel that, since Victoria left the band, you have been able to assert more of your own personal songwriting style and taste?

It's definitely more personal for me now when I write the lyrics and the melodies. I've always loved the band, our songs and being in the band but it's harder to turn it off now than it used to be. It occupies a lot of my mind and sometimes I find it very annoying. There's always a melody I don't want to lose or an answer I'm looking for within the song somehow. It's a very interesting process and Joan Didion put it very well once when she said that she writes to find out what she is thinking. She's a very clever lady.

What sorts of music, literature, or art was inspiring to you in writing and recording WYWH? Was there a particular artist or work that inspired WYWH specifically?

No there wasn't a specific artist. I think out of all of our albums this is the one that wouldn't have had any posters on its bedroom walls. It's inspired by a million little things but I think the album title sums it up the best. We wanted to explore a mood and we wanted you to be able to dance to it.

Was there ever a question of whether you should change the name of the band? Personally, I'm of the opinion that name The Concretes is as much yours and Maria's as it was Victoria's, but some may be of the belief that, especially given the change in sonics, a name change may have been in order.

As always we said to ourselves WWFMD? (We didn't really but I couldn't resist leaving you with another abbreviation). Honestly though, yes of course we thought of changing the name. I love Victoria's voice and it was a huge part of the band. We didn't keep the name to try and diminish any of that. In the end though we just felt we had been through too much together to just kick it out the door and Maria and I formed the band when we were teenagers. And one thing that is very much The Concretes is the through thick and thin aspect so from that perspective we were probably never more The Concretes than four years ago.

What plans do you have for touring? Will you be coming to the States?

Oh, yes, we will indeed. In January and then again in February/March. We're doing more US dates than ever before. And we can't wait!



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