After releasing their critically acclaimed debut album Animal in June, Miike Snow is hitting the road for their first full headlining tour. Although the band, which consists of Swedish duo Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg and American songwriter Andrew Wyatt, has been playing together since 2007, their identities have remained somewhat of a mystery up until now.
But heres a secret: you have heard Karlsson and Winnbergs music. Theyre the masterminds behind Britney Spears Grammy Award-winning song Toxic. And in 2007 they reunited with the pop princess and contributed four songs to her Blackout album. And though theyre straight, Karlsson and Winnberg have a knack for working with the kind of artists (Kylie, Madonna, and J. Lo) that tend to drive gay audiences crazy.
Out caught up with Wyatt after the band played their first stop on the tour in his hometown, New York City. He gave us a little insight into the bands ambiguous song lyrics, its unusual name, and what goes through his mind when he looks out into the audience and sees gay fans.
Out: The name of the band is Miike Snow but no one in the band is named Miike Snow. How did you come up with that name?
Andrew Wyatt: Because we wanted to avoid the whole process of coming up with a name, we picked the name of an assistant engineer of a video we had all worked on out in L.A. We thought he was a nice guy. Then we modified the spelling so he couldn't sue us!
Many music critics have tried to describe Miike Snows sound, but each one seems to do it differently. How would you describe the bands sound?
I look at it as cubist pop music. We take different elements from different genres and just dump them on top of each other, but try to bring them together. It's not like you have to work that hard to listen to it. But it is actually a new juxtaposition of timbres and sentiments.
The title of the album and first single is Animal. Who or what is animal and what does it refer to?
It can mean a lot of different things. It can deal with addiction. It can deal with just the basic instincts -- some of them are wonderful and some of them are very dangerous. You have to work very hard in this society to identify your own.
Burial is a creepy song. The lyrics you wrote are: Now it's the funeral / I become the serial killer of us both. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
It's about when you try to prolong a relationship to keep it going. You should just let it go. You end up just being afraid to move on to something new, so you hold on to something that you keep repeating and it's a death experience. I know I've done that.
What is your formula for writing songs?
Not to have a formula but to be very active. Listening and experimenting.
How did you start playing with Christian and Pontus?
We got together in 2004. We met in a studio where I was playing the last song of my session and they heard it. Then I lingered and heard the first song of Christian's session. We then stayed in touch over iChat. When my band [The A.M.] was in playing Stockholm, I connected with those guys and hung out. We started playing some music together in a very casual way and then in 2006 we started talking about doing a band. Then we actually implemented it in November 2007.
How would you describe Christian and Pontus?
Christian is really intense. He's always, always moving. He doesn't sleep. Hes emotional. Pontus is very mathematical.
The tour is now underway. What can your audiences expect from the show?
It is kind of a crap shoot, really. We don't use anything that is prerecorded. We don't use any computers, so we just have all the instruments doing their thing and a lot of them are very old and sometimes things can go wrong. We are really battling with that the whole night. We play the songs as long or as short as we feel like playing them. Sometimes we'll play Animal in the length that's very similar to whats on the album and sometimes we'll play it for nine or 10 minutes.
Does it depend on the vibe of the crowd?
Yeah, we try to create [in our shows] something between hearing somebody sit down and sing songs on a guitar and a rave. We try to get a rave vibe going on in our shows.
Are you aware that the band actually has a gay following? What do you think about that?
I'm really excited about it! Gay people, generally speaking, have a lot better fashion sense than straight people. Look across the board. The men take better care of themselves. I think it's a better looking audience with more of a gay crowd.
Is there a stop on the tour that you cant wait to play?
We're anxious to get to San Francisco. We had a great time the last time we were there. The crowd was just really cool and really stylish. That's always nice.
Who are some of your inspirations?
Early on a lot of jazz guys, because my dad used to write about jazz. Thelonious Monk was one of my biggest influences when I was a kid. Later on Jon Coltrane and Miles Davis -- the usual Gods of the genre. The Beatles were obviously an important, early influence. As I've gotten older my inspirations have become much more subtle and less well-known. The band Death in June has become really important to me recently.
Whats next for Miike Snow?
I think we'll take some time off because everyone in the band is in a committed relationship, and I think theyve been strained by us being away as much as we've been. We're going to go back and spend a lot time with our significant others. Love is a very important thing in life. Then we'll start recording our new album in February or March.
Up to this point in your life and career, what are you the most proud of?
This album and some of the live performances we've done. Sometimes they are very moving experiences. I just want to keep building on that and try to do better for our next record. We always try to top ourselves. We want to make music that's fascinating to us and to other people.
For the latest on Miike Snow, including tour dates, visit www.myspace.com/miikesnow.