Kent Interview

By stu

Excellent Online caught up with Harri from Kent towards the beginning of their U.S. tour with The Cardigans.

Interview by Stuart Forrest Reid

SFR: How receptive have the crowds been so far?
Harri: It's been good. Obviously, it's The Cardigans that make the people go to the places, but it's been a very good response so far. Sometimes you can see that people really are listening, they don't just go for beers and stuff.

SFR: Is it hard to get used to being an unknown band again after your success in Sweden?
Harri: Well, of course it's hard, but that's one of the main reasons we decided to make an English album. Because we needed more challenges, new audiences. And we knew that we'd have to start from the very beginning again, and it's worth it, in every way. We did this album in Swedish and English because we wanted to go to places like Chicago.

SFR: Does everyone in the band speak English?
Harri: Yeah, that's how it is in Sweden.

SFR: Is all the music on the two versions the same, with just different vocals over it?
Harri: Yeah, it is.

SFR: With translating the lyrics, was the intent to have literal translations or more to have the same spirit and atmosphere on the songs?
Harri: More spirit and atmosphere, I mean, when you get to the core of songs, that's what it's about, atmosphere and feelings.

SFR: My impression from this album is that your songs are much more about moods and atmosphere, rather than "story" songs or songs that focus heavily on the lyric. Is that accurate?
Harri: I don't know. It's so hard with these explanation things, when you try to explain something and you really don't want to do that. You have to give people the chance to have their own thoughts about the songs. Take a song like "Heroes" by David Bowie, I'm pretty sure it means something else to you than it means to me, and I don't want David Bowie to go out and tell what the song is about, because he will destroy my reading of the song. You just want to keep it in your head as to what you think it is and it's up to people to make up their minds as to what they think the songs are all about.

SFR: Do you get the sense that some of the people in the crowd already know your songs or have been familiar with you?
Harri: Sometimes you can see that, but then again there's quite a lot of Swedish people, Finnish people, and Scandinavian people overall in America, so it's probably those ones that are singing along with the songs.

SFR: Now you have previously been to America for CMJ, right?
Harri: Yeah, at that time, we did three shows, and we were in New York, just on Manhattan, for ten days. We had six days off, that was really just being in Manhattan, but I don't think Manhattan is America actually. It's like the real world versus Disneyland or something.

SFR: The CMJ shows are notoriously hard to play; lots of people who aren't even particularly interested...
Harri: No, they stopped when we played, they stopped talking, they stopped drinking, and that's a good sign for us.

SFR: At home you're probably the most popular band in the country. Is it funny to be opening again for The Cardigans when you're used to being the headliners?
Harri: No, I don't know how to put it, but it's... fair enough. They've sold a couple of million records and we haven't. It's not strange in any way because we know them and we know their crew, so it's no problem.

SFR: You've been friends with them for a long time. Have you ever recorded together?
Harri: The songwriter in The Cardigans, Peter, he did an album with our songwriter and singer Joakim. They did an album together, in Swedish called "Pause". It was inbetween when we stopped working on the previous album and they stopped working on their previous album. It's laid back, a bit Red House Painters stylish, Nick Drake kind of vibe.

SFR: Can you tell us anything about Magnus [from The Cardigans] not being on the tour, and whether he's coming back?
Harri: I've just heard that he's a bit exhausted. I don't know more about it.

SFR: Do you have any particular goals for this tour?
Harri: Well, we're old enough to know that we can't conquer the world in two weeks, but we do want to build a platform to start from during the next album.

SFR: Will this probably be the only tour you play in America for this album?
Harri: There's some plans to come back in April, just some vague plans.

SFR: So what are you listening to on the tour bus?
Harri: Actually, I've been listening to Mixmaster Mike, I really like that DJ thing. I think DJ Shadow is one of the greatest, at the moment, but also I've been listening to Highway 61 Revisited, that kind of thing.

SFR: Some of our list members wanted to know if there was any talk of making your previous albums available in the United States.
Harri: Not at this point, because they're in Swedish and people just won't listen to you if you sing in a foreign language.

SFR: What is the Swedish music scene like, because here in America, our expose to Swedish music is erm... ABBA, The Cardigans...
Harri: ...Ace of Base, Roxette.

SFR: Are you comfortable with the way Sweden is perceived?
Harri: Yeah, pretty much. Most of the time when you read about Sweden in English papers or books, you always read that there's clean water, fresh air, and that nature is so beautiful and clean. And that's good... but it's not a paradise.

SFR: Do you think that Kent projects something different about Sweden?
Harri: Absolutely, there are no other bands like Kent doing that good [Pause] I think everything is Nirvana's fault, actually.

SFR: What is being played on the radio in Sweden?
Harri: Bands that have their own identity, The Verve, Radiohead of course, Blur. But we're a bit like them, you know. I mean people are trying to do what we are doing, but they are failing! [laughs]