-- Jennifer Vineyard
Though not as well known as the Swedish-invasion-leading Hives, Division of Laura Lee profess to be just as good — if not better.
"We just believe in what we do," singer/bassist Jonas Gustavsson said matter-of-factly. "If I wasn't 100 percent sure that I'm in one of the best bands in the world, I wouldn't be here."
Luckily for Gustavsson, Division of Laura Lee have at least some of the chops musically to back up his bragging, and the fan feedback to prove it.
"People come up to us all the time," he said, "and it's not just because we're doing a show with the Hives. I've never walked up to a band and said stuff like, 'You guys changed my life,' or, 'Your songs really touch me in a way that no one else has,' so it's amazing that something I've put my soul into, stuff that I've gone through, can be worth something to someone else on the other side of the world. It's crazy, but it's good."
Many fans connect with Division's dark side, especially those parts of their album Black City that reflect the bandmembers' various tragedies. The rage, frustration, desperation and depression expressed are real and heartfelt, but like their influences Joy Division and Fugazi did, DOLL make those feelings palpable and even sexual with just the right rudimentary riffing.
"Music is a universal way to express yourself," Gustavsson said. "It can be anything. It can be like, 'I woke up and feel really bad. Why is that?' Or 'I'm dealing with stuff that happened to me in the past, people who died. Just basic living stuff. Growing up. Getting to live with drugs. Street fighting.' This is the first time that we ever deal with those problems that we had when we were young. It's kind of cliché, you know, everybody's doing the same thing, but to us it felt really good to deal with that. It's my catharsis."
"For Black City, we decided to talk about all the secret stuff, — stuff we don't talk to anybody about," singer/guitarist Per Stålberg said. "I never really talked about when my brother killed himself. There was a lot of dying when I was young. And I'm not the only one. But you never know what's going to be on the next record."
"Maybe for the next record we'll sing about health care, because you know, in Sweden you could get a heart transplant for like 10 bucks, and that rocks," Gustavsson joked. "If anyone could make health care rock, it would be us."
Living in Sweden, where the sun is rarely seen for half the year, also has a darkening effect on Division's music. "It's cold, it's dark, it's depressing," Gustavsson said. "So the music gets cold. There are happy bands in Sweden, but what the darkness did to us, it made us moody."
Despite this, Black City is not a reference to Division's geographical gloom. Gustavsson said the album and its title track are more of an abstract, the state of mind and disconnect created by our increasingly computerized world. "I think we're heading there, where the soul and heart are kind of meaningless," he said. "Everything is just products, computerized, everything is Internet."
Though DOLL don't play dress-up like their coordinated countrymen in the Hives and (International) Noise Conspiracy, the band has tried it.
"We do not look good in ties," Gustavsson said.
"We were all wearing red shirts and black pants, but we dropped that," guitarist David Ojala said.
"It gets boring after a while, you know?" Gustavsson added. "I mean, it's bad enough just to play the same songs every night. And clothes? The first two weeks on tour, you use the same clothes every night. And they start smelling, and then you change, and then you use the same clothes for like five more days. And then you start changing every night because you can't stand it. It's pretty gross."
Perhaps for their next stateside tour, though, they'll make an effort to be less smelly. Division hope to hit the U.S. again in February, and while the tour remains to be routed, they're thinking of recruiting likeminded bands such as Soundtrack of Our Lives, ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead or Interpol.
"It's amazing, how this band has gotten me to all these places," Gustavsson said. "I always had a dream of becoming a rock star ever since I first saw Kiss on TV, but I never really believed it."
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