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2010 Artist Survey: Lisa Millberg of The Concretes

Dec 10, 2010 Artist Surveys 2010
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For Under the Radar’s 8th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2010. Pick up a copy of Under the Radar’s Year End issue for interviews with: The Antlers, Bon Iver, Caribou, Club 8, Delphic, Rose Elinor Dougall, Gayngs, Hot Chip, Lost in the Trees, Love is All, The Love Language, Mogwai, of Montreal, Okkervil River, Yoko Ono, Owen Pallett, Plants and Animals, Mark Ronson, Superchunk, Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, Sharon Van Etten, and Vivian Girls. Here’s a surey from Lisa Millberg of The Concretes.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

I’ve just moved in to a new computer so I haven’t got access to my iTunes library at the moment. I’ll give you 10 songs instead. Not necessarily from this year but they’ve represented this year for me and they are all brilliant.

1. Katell Keineg: “World of Sex”—I can’t believe I almost missed out on this album. I bought it a while ago (just based on the label that put it out) but only got round to playing it a couple of weeks ago. The whole thing is incredible, her voice is a sexy, whiny, shiny and mildly eccentric force of nature that I can’t picture life without. And her cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” makes grown men cry. I know this for a fact.

2. The-Dream: “Yamaha”—The best non-Prince Prince song ever.

3. James Blake: “CMYK”—That James Blake guy is so talented I find it really very annoying.

4. Real Estate: “Out of Tune”—This is just so perfect. Somehow it sounds like the aftermath of a pop song. Like you missed it when they played it but its essence stuck around in the air and now you just kind of sense it in the air. Like the sun and the wind on your skin in spring.

5. Idiot Glee: “I Want the Night to Stay”—Homemade, slightly out-of-tune a cappella doo wop never sounded so enticing. I never tire of it.

6. Gayngs: “The Gaudy Side of Town”—This is just so ace. So slick, so middle of the dark and unexpected, sexy road.

7. Robert Lester Folsom: “My Stove’s on Fire”—Mexican Summer put out this reissue of an old ’70s album. The whole album is excellent but this is the standout track. The backing vocals going, “He thinks he loves you baby, his stove’s on fire,” states its case better than I ever could.

8. Patti Smith: “Redondo Beach (demo)”—I read Patti’s autobiography Just Kids earlier this year. What a truly wonderful book. I urge everyone to read it. I’ve never been too keen on her music but this demo is incredible. I always find demos better than the finished product and I find this one better than most demos, too.

9. Hot Chip: “I Feel Bonnie” (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billie remix)—This takes the excellent original and makes it a hundred times better. When he talks on top of the track I sit in front the speakers completely stunned, like the dog in the HMV logo.

10. Håkan Hellström: “Jag vet vilken dy hon varit I”—This is my biggest musical hero. Sadly I think it gets very lost in translation. The lyrics shake your soul and French kiss you on the lips, but without them it seems he doesn’t make sense. Of course I will never understand that, the way you will never likely understand him.

What was the highlight of 2010 for either you personally or for the band?

I had the best summer of my life. The sun never shone as brightly, the sky was never as blue, the sea was never as shimmering, etc. It was just wonderful.

What was the low point of 2010 for you?

The summer ended rather abruptly.

What are your hopes and plans for 2011?

I’m looking for a road less bumpy and I’d like to drive on it myself = I really intend to finally get a driver’s license. I think generally I’m looking to learn more stuff: learn to surf, take up French again, etc. A lot of it is working on my patience, I think. Patience is such a boring thing to acquire but it seems handy once you have it.

What are your thoughts on President Obama’s job performance in the last year? Has your optimism, if you were an Obama supporter, waned?

I don’t feel in a position to say too much about that. I’m still a big fan of his but the world is in very bad shape and he’s got a pretty hardcore job. I don’t feel I know the mechanics behind everything enough to comment beyond that. I do hope he gets to keep his job though.

What are your thoughts on the Tea Party movement?

I don’t agree with anything they say or stand for, to put it mildly.

With the Internet making every artist’s music potentially available to a wide audience, is it now easier to find listeners or more difficult because you have to compete with so many other musicians?

It’s neither I think. I still feel people recreate their own little micro-worlds on the Internet, and they rarely go beyond those patterns/comfort zones. Which means it’s hard to reach an audience we didn’t already reach, it also means my personal search for new, interesting music really isn’t much more overwhelming or, as I would have hoped, unpredictable than it was before the music blogs. At the moment I’m kind of dreaming of a new Internet. Where ideas are fresh and the focus is on individuality rather than underlining things someone else has already pointed out. There’s a lot of +1ing going on at the moment.

Who would you rather listen to—a totally original musician whose compositions are groundbreaking but difficult to listen to or a musician whose songs are immediately enjoyable but derivative? Why?

Without each other they are both completely useless and you wouldn’t even know what was what if it wasn’t for the other one. But knowing them both I tend to find myself searching in the middle—I do like a direct pop melody or a good old stupid hook, but I also want an unexpected chord progression, a beautifully crafted sentence or a strange looped sample. For me, though, Robert Wyatt is the perfect man. He writes sweet instant melodies and then dresses them up in funny old coats.

In the race to find new bands, are too many unworthy bands being hyped up by music blogs and websites? How are music fans supposed to filter through all these new bands being hyped?

I find too few bands are being hyped. It tends to be a little bunch of bands that get a lot of attention. Every breath they take and every move they make, every bond they break, every step they take, the blogosphere will be watching them.

If your house was on fire, what would you grab as you were running out?
Probably something easily replaceable, like my brand new computer or something random I found by the front door, like a shoehorn. I have reason to believe I don’t function all too well under that kind of stress. I was once almost eaten by two hyenas and I picked a powder-pink cardigan and a tea candle as weapons to defend myself with. So it’s not my object-picking-skills that’s kept me alive this far.

If you could relive one day of your life, which would it be?

A day I did a stupid thing I really wish I hadn’t done. And I’m pretty sure I could go back and not do that without changing much of the bigger picture. I think I’m willing to take the chance.

What’s the strangest fan encounter you’ve ever had?

Some of them have strange taste in gifts is all I’ll say. If we’re talking good strange, I’m still really touched by the guy we met in Manchester who had our artwork tattooed all over his arms.

If you had a bucket list, what would be the Top 4 things on that list?

I’d like to think I’m already checking stuff off that list. I don’t really do mottos but “Don’t wait around for a terminal illness before you do stuff you wanna do” seems a reasonable one.

Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares?

No. Dreams I dream I tend to forget.

Who was your first love and do you still keep in touch with them?

My first love was a guy called Billy. He tasted of apple. We don’t keep in touch. I have a feeling he’d be too short for me now.

Is there anything that most people are able to do that you can’t (such as drive a car, swim, ride a bike)?

Use any old pen to write stuff with (I use Artline 0.5 and preferably no other pen or pencil ever).

Have you ever been starstruck when meeting another musician? If so, by who?

Morrissey! But he’s become such an idiot lately that I almost don’t want to admit to it any more.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you?

That must be the two hyenas from question number 10 I think. It was very unpleasant.

What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to you in the last year?

Sweden’s equivalent to The National Front entering Swedish government. It made me almost cut my passport in half, until I realized that would make it impossible for me to leave Sweden and that would defeat the purpose.

What or whom do you miss most when you’re touring?

I usually just miss being the inner spoon. And decent coffee in some countries.

When you think of the future, what scares you most?

Everything and nothing. The future is such a vague concept. It’s so close and so far away at the same time, I think I’m too stupid to grasp it.

Do you (or did you) have any pets? If so, can you tell us about them? Who takes care of your pets while you are on tour?

I used to have a cat called F.U.S. He was named after a denim brand but I didn’t name him. I think he died but my parents claim they gave him away. He’s dead now either way, this is ages ago. No pets since. I’d love a dog now if it promised to never die.

If you could freeze time, what would you do?

Put a few years in the freezer and defrost as I started running out of them?

What are your thoughts on chillwave? Do you feel that it’s a legitimate genre/movement or something simply created by music journalists? In general, do you feel that most scenes/movements are organic or are created by the media?

I find chillwave to be music that would never exist without the Internet. In fact I’m not sure it exists outside of the Internet now either. Sometimes it’s like the Internet is a parallel world that’s got very little to do with the real world, and the two will never really meet. I find a lot of it to be a bit meh, really. But having said that, with music I also think a little bit of meh can be a good thing sometimes. Not all songs can be “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

What do you predict will be the next big social change?

I think the outdoors will be the new indoors and offline the new online. But obviously some kind of demented version of offline that is very much online indeed.

In 2010, what was the best movie you saw, book you read, comic book you read, video game you played, and/or TV show you watched?

Film: I saw the documentary Catfish yesterday. I found that to be very endearing. In all its bizarreness it ended up giving me back some hope for humankind. We’re a forgiving race after all. And we’re not so different from each other as we’d like to think. (Well I am of course!!)

Book: I am reading Who Are We by Gary Younge at the moment. It’s very promising this far. I also really enjoyed Sum by David Eagleman. It’s a very modern-sized book too. I like that.

TV: I watch the U.K. edition of Masterchef: The Professionals with more enthusiasm than I care to tell you about. I also really love Mad Men and 30 Rock. And the first episode of BBC’s new Sherlock Holmes was ace.

Do you have any other thoughts about the current state of the world or the state of the music industry?

Don’t know, don’t care.



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