You can't underestimate the range and influence of American television programming. The French giggle weekly while watching "Friends," Israelis are regularly titillated by "Baywatch" and Swedish rock group Soundtrack of Our Lives even named their new album after VH1's most popular program.
The band chose the title Behind the Music because as they were working on their latest album, they saw a number of parallels between themselves and the TV show.
"In every program every artist has the same f---ing problems," said singer Ebbot Lundberg. "Nothing's so original, and we kind of felt that way when we were working on the album. We were like, 'Right now, we're in a dead end. How are we going to be fresh and new, and what's new even?' So we tried to pick the best stuff that we did and take it a little bit further."
In addition to feeling creatively stifled, the members of Soundtrack were experiencing the type of conflict that makes "Behind the Music" producers wring their hands with delight.
"It was around the turn of the century, and we were totally exhausted and close to splitting up," Lundberg explained. "We were disoriented and not getting along. People suggested we bring in some other producer, and I had been mostly in charge of the production [before that], so it became like totally sh--. But we recharged for the new 21st century and regained our energy."
That's an understatement. Behind the Music, the third full-length album from Soundtrack of Our Lives (their first in America), is spirited and gushing with passion. It's full of kinetic garagey riffs but suffused with classic rock melodies that make the songs catchier than those of many of their Swedish rock peers. Lundberg cites Love, early Rolling Stones, the MC5, the Beatles, the Stooges and Black Flag as influences and said he seeks to create something new and exciting by combining the best of everything that inspired him.
"Basically you long for something that you're missing," he said. "There are not that many good records or bands around, so you have to create your own so you can discover what you're basically missing and what you want to hear. We want to save the world or the music industry from sh-- music, bring back the old sprit and renew rock 'n' roll."
A lofty goal, but Soundtrack of Our Lives just might be up to the task. The first single from Behind the Music, "Sister Surround," is an upbeat and poppy cut with ragged, bluesy guitars and an infectious chorus that belies the song's dark subject matter.
"It's basically about some weird girl that was hanging around our guitarist," Lundberg said. "She was a wretched person, and it's about being locked up in a mental hospital in a way. I don't know what happened to her. She just disappeared. It's a sad story."
Though they've just recently arrived on the U.S. radar, like many of the hot Scandinavian bands, Soundtrack of Our Lives have been around for a while. They formed in 1995 and released two records, Welcome to the Infant Freebase (1997) and Extended Revelation for the Psychic Weaklings of Western Civilization, but their history dates back even further.
Between 1986 and 1993, Lundberg and Björn Olsson were in the experimental garage-rock band Union Carbide Productions, and when that group broke up the two were asked to write music for ski and skateboard movies.
"We wrote songs, but at first we didn't want to form a new group," Lundberg said. "But then we said, 'Yeah, let's do another band together.' I was producing a band called New Universe at the time, so we got their organ player (Martin Hederos) and guitarist (Ian Person) and a couple of other guys and wrote about 40 songs during 1995."
The group's current lineup — Lundberg, Hederos, Person, guitarist Mattias Bärjed, bassist Ake Karl Kalle Gustafsson and drummer Fredrik Sandsten — was finalized only after a certain amount of tension and conflict, and though the six bandmembers sometimes argue, they've found a way to channel all their energy, anger and joy into music.
"It's a fine line you have to draw," Lundberg concluded. "We've been through a lot of stuff, and I think we found the right way to go through all these things. We just want to survive. We don't want to f--- up. We want to build and build and do better and better albums and not ever lose our identity. That's all any band should really hope for."
For more on the Swedish invasion, check out "Swede Devotion: Life After The Hives."