With just two releases in their nine active years - and none in the past four - one could be forgiven for suggesting Miike Snow’s press team would need to work overtime, weekends and Bank Holidays to drum up interest in forthcoming third album ‘iii’.
Fortunately for the fine folks at Atlantic Records, the band’s distinctive brand of electronic indie pop has given rise to a cultish fanbase that have remained eager and loyal during the recent hiatus. Hitting home runs with lead singles ‘Heart Is Full’ and ‘Genghis Khan’ hasn’t hurt either, while latest offering ‘Feel the Weight’ looks sure to make it three from three.
The years have been kind to the talented trio - consisting of singer/songwriter Andrew Wyatt and production duo Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (aka Bloodshy and Avant) - and the sparsity of their discography appears to have worked in their favour, allowing them the time and space to reach new creative heights. The quality of the band’s new material stems from a healthier recording process, re-energized and free from the pressure of having to follow up their much-loved eponymous debut.
“Getting back into the studio felt fun again,” says the warm and engaging Wyatt, as we find refuge in a tranquil section of Warner Music’s bustling West London office.
“The second album you feel like you’re doing it because everyone’s waiting for the second album. One of the beautiful things about the second album not being as successful as the first is that no one was really pressuring us to make a third album. It was on us and we decided to do it and continued to do it because it felt fun again.”
“When you’re three guys who are capable of doing things on your own, the band thing is a choice. We were all making a living on music without each other so there has to be a reason for you to come together and that was that it felt fun and interesting.”
The group members can list several impressive pop credits - Wyatt with Bruno Mars’ ‘Grenade’ and Bloodshy and Avant with Britney Spears’ “Toxic” to name but two exploits- so it’s little surprise the results can be spectacular when their collective attention is turned towards Miike Snow. Given the trio’s individual songwriting chops, an ego clash of some sort would be an understandable by-product of a full-length recording, yet that appears to be a hazard skillfully avoided.
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“We’re not very good communicators and we’re very nervous about conflict so we’ve never really had any big battles about the music,” explains Wyatt. “We understand when the other person has to have their way and we pick our battles. It’s truly collaborative as opposed to something like a Kanye record where there’s a ton of people working on it but at the end of the day it’s his choice. With Miike Snow it’s more complicated because everybody gets an equal vote so there’s definitely compromises made from each individual’s point of view. It means you have to step outside of it and offer it up to people without saying this is exactly what I wanted to make - and hopefully it works.”
Wyatt’s contribution is heard most clearly in the hip-hop and R&B elements of ‘iii’, a nod to the sounds of his young adulthood in eighties Manhattan, while the record, as a whole, marks a departure from the jumpy synths that characterized much of the first two Miike Snow albums.
“If I think about it there’s a lot more organic sounds in this album. Ultimately the first album had a minimalism to it that was similar to electronic music and there were certain key moments where there was electronic music playing a prominent role. We’ve always been pretty much piano, drums and bass but it’s how you do it that makes it sound a little different.”
Rave reviews have greeted the bulk of Miike Snow’s live shows - no mean feat when considering their historical reliance on electronics - but the move towards a more organic sound on their new record seems like the natural progression for a band who place immersive live performance at the core of their ethos.
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“We want to bring some kind of unpredictable element to the live show - I think it’s really important for that experience - the question of ‘are they going to pull it off?’ You never think that about an EDM show. You don’t even need to know the song - you already know that there’ll be a part where there’s no drums and then there’ll be a drop, so there’s no effort on your part. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but I felt like our live shows have had a thing that people didn’t expect before they came.”
“I think a lot of it has to do with drugs. When you understand the contemplative side of drugs a little bit more and not so much the rush and adrenaline side of drugs, you can create those spaces for that type of mindset and I like to do that with Miike Snow - I understand that because I’ve done a lot of drugs at shows. The acid thing has always been a huge influence on me. I did a lot of it and I feel like it changed the way I see time - especially when there’s rhythm involved - it’s very planetary. Any time you can create a kind of cosmic thing for people you’ve got to go for it.”
Cosmic is a fitting word to describe the ambition of Miike Snow’s latest record and after cementing a devoted, core fan base with their previous efforts, what would represent progress following the release of ‘iii’?
“You’d always like it to crossover and hit as many people as it can but I think if we can just keep the fans we’ve got and add another layer on top - that would be lovely. We’ve had some really cool live experiences here - we sold out Brixton Academy with the last record which was a really fun, riotous show so if we can have some similar experiences to that and reach some more ears I’d be happy.”
“It’s really exciting to see if you might hit that funny bone in culture and get these crazy waves of feedback you didn’t expect that sort of change the quality of life for that moment while you’re there. You get to enjoy certain weird experiences you don’t normally get to, that just means you struck a chord with people. That’s what it’s really about - it’s for you, it’s for people who get something out of it even if it’s just a smile from watching a video or whatever - it’s giving people a reason to feel like life is not all shit.”
Go have a listen to ‘Feel The Weight’ - life is not all shit.
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Words: Michael Stevenson
Miike Snow's new album 'iii' will be released on March 4th.