Critically acclaimed Swedish indie pop band Hater is on their first European headliner tour and faces a seventeen date long tour across four weeks in January and February 2018. Messed!Up meet up with Lukas, Caroline, Adam and Måns an hour before Hater’s opening night in a rainy Hamburg to have a talk about melancholic pop, the unexpected breakthrough during 2017 and signing a deal with cult label Fire Records in the UK.
2017 is the year when Hater turned their local indie pop fanbase into international fandom after signing a deal with cult label Fire Records. The release of debut album ”You Tried” garnered much positive response from music critics, and in the beginning of December the release of the EP ”Red Blinders” just confirmed the claim of being one of Sweden’s most interesting newcomers on the indie pop scene.
After a quick evening dinner Hater brings us to their sleeping quarters one minute walk from tonight’s venue, Goldener Salon. Four cheerful, somewhat nervous, and enthusiastic band members talks over each other to answer the questions.
Starting Hater and being signed by cult label Fire Records
Welcome to Hamburg and the opening night of your tour!
2017 was an amazing year for Hater involving releases of your debut album and an EP later during the year, getting signed by Fire Records and a great time slot at the Roskilde Festival. How would you summarize last year?
It’s really hard to understand that all of these things happened during one year. It feels like ages just to get from January to December. I [Caroline] reflected on it at the end of the year and it rather felt like two years had passed, at least much more than a year when you think of what happened. When these things happen time just flies by.
Many of the major happenings during the year just lasted for a short while which is the reason why it also feels that there have been long periods where we didn’t knew what to do. Everything just happened very quickly!
Going back a few years, how did Hater start? I know you had the project Kust together but how did it turn into Hater?
Kust split up and we wanted to play pop and other genres which we couldn’t find a natural place for in Kust. Some of us were already on the way to drop off anyway; there was not enough motivation to keep on going with Kust. Since we still had our studio and wanted to keep doing music we just restarted again with new music. At the same time we saw Caroline sing in a choir and just said ”What the fuck just happened? That’s it!”. Well, we jammed together for fun in the studio and it sounded great already from the beginning. It was a good feeling to find yourself at the point when we felt honest to ourselves by doing pop songs instead.
But how did you get the ball rolling, for instance to get in touch with Fire Records?
Fire bough our debut album at SWSX and said ”This is awesome, we have to sign this band, it’s the next big thing”, and then they sent us a mail which none of us noticed. Well, it’s possible that I [Måns] may have read the mail but didn’t know anything about Fire Records and just didn’t put musch attention to it. I looked them up on Facebook quickly to decide whether they were big enough but didn’t see their popularity in terms of likes. We didn’t do anything for that reason.
However, when we found out about Fire’s cult status and their interest in Hater everyone just went crazy. We just had to change from PNKSLM to Fire! Later, we made contact through Facebook.
How has it affected Hater to be signed by Fire Records rather than staying at PNKSLM?
We got a booking agency in the deal as well and that has of course a huge impact on the possibilities to play live, such as being able to go on this tour. We haven’t done any preparations for the tour, Fire organize everything. Of course they have more resources since they are a bigger label. It’s more people working on Fire, nothing strange by that.
And Fire wants you to release a new album?
Yes, and we will record it in April. It’s already set in time and where to record it – in Sweden just like the first album.
Although you are compared to quite many well-known bands you’ve found your own way in the media landscape and have quite often received great reviews. What makes Hater unique? What “new” can you offer? If I would’ve been rude I would say “It’s nothing new, just retro-pop from the nineties” that you’ll find on hundreds of albums of the nineties.
We haven’t really reflected on the fact that it has been made over and over again. Of course we have listened to similar music made in the nineties as inspiration, but we weren’t even born when those albums were released for 25 years ago. For us it doesn’t feel as we’re repeating “old school” melancholic pop. I [Lukas] rather think that people like the simplicity of the music we create, it’s the opposite to everything that is overproduced today. We just try to make good songs and those songs turn up in a period where very few melancholic pop bands exist, at least in Sweden.
You’re just filling a vacuum in the Swedish pop genre?
Yes, but it’s nothing that we’ve done by purpose. It just happened when we released our debut album.
The sound: We’re not a melancholic band
Songs with a melancholic theme can be the best place to turn when the black dog comes around. Depression’s a subject that crops up in music of all kinds and from all eras, and Hater are often associated with a sound of jangling, twinklingly melancholic indie-pop, a sound that had its peak at the end of the nineties.
However, the band members of Hater are not really keen on being titled “melancholic pop”. Rather they would describe their music as joyful and hopeful.
Many music journalists and fans associate you with bands such as Alvvays and, at least in my ears, The Radio Dept. How do you feel about such associations?
I [Caroline] like it! It has been like that from the beginning that people have put us in the same category of music as Alvvays. For some of us Alvvays were completely new but The Radio Dept., which is almost from the same place as us, is something we’ve always have listened to. And Wild Nothing and similar melancholic pop music. In a way I think it’s the press release that created this association since it pointed out Alvvays and then you will be stuck with it.
Isn’t that the thing with Hater, to be melancholic and gloomy? Why are you fascinated by sadness?
Well, then you need to know that it’s quite much happier songs than we’re used to do. At least in my case [Lukas] I’ve also been fascinated by “soon-I-will-die” pop songs. But in our case I think it’s soaked in happiness. It’s more joyful than melancholic since we really try to squeeze in elements of hope in the songs. It’s not that we by purpose make them sad and think ”This is beautiful, this is Hater”. Caroline just delivers these melodies, based on melancholy but with much hope in them.
The question is of course if you are melancholic characters?
Of course! We have a drawer full off antidepressants. In a way it’s an “on and off” game in which we use music to express our feelings – it’s a good way to do it. We become one with the music and try to make something about the darkness that comes with such symbiosis. In that way it’s great to have the opportunity to be creative about it compared to those depressed people with ordinary jobs that can’t find a way to express their darkness. We just put it into our songs, that’s how we deal with it.
You have quite many former projects in your common history, such as Mallorca Scars who made a great debut album a few years ago. How much do your former bands influence the sound of Hater?
The upcoming album has two songs made by Adam for a long time ago in another context but we have re-created and used the Hater sound. Adam writes quite many songs in his bedroom and some of those songs didn’t fit in musically in his other projects and we have used them in Hater instead.
Does it mean that you use other projects to express more joyful feelings, just like you use Hater for melancholic purposes?
Not really but at least I [Adam] need a rock band feeling too. Maybe it’s more cheery melodies, somewhat ”easy going” with bits and pieces of nice synthesizer strings. When we try to remake Adam songs in Hater we have to reduce their happiness. But never categorize Hater as “depression pop” because of what we say, it’s really not!
If you consider how the business of music is organized much work need to be done yourself in a DIY fashion. How much time do you spend in social media, planning shows and tours, to rehearse etc.?
Well, we can easily say that we put much time and effort into rehearsing in the studio, really much time. And of course we need to send mails and messages every day. It actually takes quite much of your focus to do this stuff. Many things need to be organized. The last few months we have done nothing else than working on the new album. Of course it takes time but at the same time it’s the best part of the process.
But do you live with the dream of working with music full-time in the future?
Of course we do! We are going to do it! Today, the music is already self-sufficient in terms of money and we are allowed to do these things such as touring and recording songs without any costs. That’s not bad! There’s no feeling as good as seeing your songs on an album, and you can tell your friends “We made this”. To get the opportunity to create something is really great.
First headliner tour
It’s your first headliner tour, five plus twelve shows and all-in-all seventeen concert locations with one album and two EP’s on the repertoire. How does it feel to carry the headliner responsibility for the first time?
It’s quite nervous and really great at the same time. We wanted to do this for a long time and really needed to get out of our bedrooms and meet our fans. The point is that we really don’t know what to expect, how many will turn up you know, and that is exciting in itself. We have low expectations although we heard that Berlin is soldout, and that’s a great feeling when you’re on your own tour for the first time.
How did you get the idea to do your own tour?
We have always wanted to tour more and our label hooked us up with a booking agency in Berlin, we didn’t had an agent before and couldn’t get shows that easy. Our former label, PNKSLM, got us some bookings and helped us out quite much such as getting us on the line-up of the Roskilde Festival which was a huge thing for us. The difference with our new label Fire Records though is that we got really good booking agents making it possible for us to tour.
You are on a club tour but have already made much bigger shows, both at the Roskilde Festival and SWSX. Isn’t it hard to motivate yourself to do a club tour when you’ve got used to bigger venues?
It feels really great going around in a bus and perform night after night. We’re really excited about it! In a way the show at the Roskilde Festival was over before we started. The expectations before the show were huge and then you just play half an hour and it’s over, “That’s it”, you know. Although it was an awesome experience you always want to do a show for an hour at least.
Finally, what do you expect of your German fans tonight?
Actually, we don’t have any expectations. Wait, we want them to buy CD’s!
The interview is over and the photo session starts with half an hour left to the show, a show that promises much more for the future. The enthusiasm on stage and the fact that Hater on stage is completely different from listening to their music on record are reassuring, and I would find it remarkable if they haven’t doubled their fanbase after the tour.