The Raveonettes’ popularity soars


By Lee Ann Westover

The “Lust! Lust! Lust!” musicians open up about their flight

Since the release of “Whip it On” in 2001, The Raveonettes have skirted a line between being an odd act on the fringe and being an “it” band on the point of blowing up. The buzz surrounding this once-indie group’s debut threw them up to the top of critics’ buzz lists everywhere, and into the studios of Sony/Columbia Records. Seven years later, the Danish-born duo has fulfilled their two-album contract at the big label, and have gone indie again with the release of their latest album, “Lust Lust Lust,” on Vice.

I had the chance to speak with bassist and singer Sharin Foo about their new CD as she prepared for the first of their 13 shows at Austin’s SXSW Music Festival last week. Of the mutual decision to cease relations with Sony, Foo explained, “We just weren’t commercial enough for them. It was time to work with smaller labels around the world—to choose our collaborators—so that we felt like the people we were working with were genuinely excited about the music, and not that they had been told by headquarters that they had to release it. The majors are not the right place to be for a band like us.”

On “Lust! Lust! Lust!” Sune Rose Wager (guitar, vocals) and Foo once again sing their androgynous, Everly Brothers harmonies over a shape-shifting pad of distorted guitar fuzz, Buddy Holly backbeats and electronic noises that push their sound into something utterly modern. In the past, the band’s albums had been constructed around a concept. “Whip it On,” for instance, included only songs lasting less than three minutes played in the key of B-flat minor. “This time around,” recalled Foo, “I said to Sune, ‘You know, you should be really personal.’ Everything that we’ve done previously has been very fictional. They are like little screenplays for little movies.” Wagner writes all the tunes, and Foo acts as a sort of editor to help him pare down and choose what they will eventually include on a CD. “You know, the title says ‘Lust.’ It’s the dilemma of being torn between the primitive part of you and the very intellectual, romantic, sentimental…profoundness. It’s about trying to find a balance with those things.”

The theme of balance is particularly apt for The Raveonettes at this point in their career. “We were so naive when we started out,” says Foo. The exhaustion that comes from a relentless tour schedule reduced the once-vibrant artists to shadows of their former selves. “In retrospect we were just kind of lost. We were drinking too much and partying too much. We weren’t professional. Onstage we just weren’t present anymore. That’s sort of sad to think about.” Because of the burnout, it took some time for the duo to create material for a new album. “It’s been three years since ‘Pretty in Black.’ We pretty much toured from 2003 until 2006—a lot really. We needed to be at home and cook and shop and have a regular life again for a little bit.”

Regular life for Foo is in Los Angeles, while Wagner makes his home in New York City. When The Raveonettes finally began working on a new album, their physical separation didn’t get in the way of their creativity. As Wagner wrote the songs, he would send them via the Internet to Foo. Sometimes they would meet and record vocals in a traditional studio, but more often than not the recordings would grow as each Raveonette added their own layers to a ProTools file (industry standard recording software) and then send the track back across the continent for more listening and tweaking. Said Foo of their recording process, “You have the comfort of being yourself, and the comfort of not feeling the pressure of being in a super expensive studio and having to perform. We’ve mainly done it DIY and at home. It’s been very spontaneous. You get little mistakes in there, but there’s something very charming about that too.”

The live show this time around follows the lead of the CD. Where their previous tours featured a more traditional five-piece line-up, The Raveonettes are now traveling as a pared-down trio. “The set up is basically me and Sune playing and singing and a drummer playing a really minimal upright kit with a floor tom and a snare. We have all the electronic sounds on a hard drive. It’s really not that different from the recordings—especially this album, because it’s been so minimal from the beginning.” She continued, “When we started doing shows like this, both me and Sune were like ‘Wow! Why haven’t we tried this before?’ It captures our sound so well. This live setup to me is the essence of The Raveonettes. The guitar and the vocals are in front and very featured. Its very primal and hard and cold and intense and big”

It seems as if the search for balance is not only paying off for The Raveonettes personally, but will also be a thrill for attendees of their sold-out concert at the Bowery Ballroom on March 26. “A couple of years ago, I felt like we lost it. There was no excitement left, so we had to find that again. Now, we’re inspired, and we’re motivated, and we play good shows…which we haven’t always done! We have experienced that it’s important to stay focused and not get too involved in the industry and rock-and-roll lifestyle. That’s just not what it’s about. We are coming back to the music, really.”