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Members include ChristinaBergmark, keyboards, backing vocals; ErikDahlgren (joined band c. 1997), drums; GunnarKarlsson (left band c. 1997), drums; brothers FredrikSchonfeldt, bass guitar, and StefanSchonfeldt, guitar; ParWiksten, lead vocals, guitar. Addresses: Record company--RCA Records, 1540 Broadway, Times Square, New York City, NY 10036 Phone: (212) 930-4000 Fax: (212) 930-4546.
Since their inception, the Wannadies--whose members include lead singer and guitarist Par Wiksten, his keyboardist and backing vocalist girlfriend Christina Bergmark, drummer Erik Dahlgren (who replaced original drummer Gunnar Karlsson around 1997), and brothers Stefan Schonfeldt, a guitarist, and Fredrik Schonfeldt, bass guitarist--have made an unflinching attempt to counteract the world's preconceived notion about Swedish music, a stereotype brought on in the 1970s and 1980s by the success of pop acts like Abba and Roxette. And although today they seem to exist in a parallel universe with fellow countrymen like the Cardigans, a Swedish band that rose to international fame in the 1990s, the Wannadies would rather not see themselves lumped with the mini-phenomenon of Swedish acts making it big. Instead, the Wannadies wish to be judged by their music, not by their nationality. "Music breaks away borders," insisted Bergmark, as quoted by Doug Reece in Billboard. "We're proud to be from Sweden, but that's not really the issue. Our music is the issue."
Indeed, RCA Records executive Dave Novik, who brought the Wannadies to the label after the British affiliate Indolent released Be a Girl in 1995 and Bagsy Me in 1997 in the United Kingdom, agrees that quality, not geography, sparked his interest in the band, as well as other Swedish acts like Thin Lizard Dawn, Robyn, and Le Click. "It's true that people are talking about Swedish bands, but it's all about the fact that a lot of those artists are making credible music," he told Reece. ldquo;There are different R&B-based and pop-based bands, they are singing in English, and there's no sense at all that this is a fluke. These [bands] have a legitimate, unmanufactured, and completely honest lifestyle, which is making the music work." Wiksten, however, offered another explanation as to why so many musicians in Sweden are able to produce such worthwhile music. "One good factor is to be surrounded by boredom," the singer/guitarist jokingly told Rolling Stone, adding that the weather in the northern country doesn't hurt either. "During the winter you go to the place where you're rehearsing, and you stay there."
The Wannadies story begins in the small town of Skelleftea, Sweden, about a 12-hour drive north of Stockholm. Formed in 1987, the group derived their moniker, as in "wanna die," from a catalog of horror movie titles and developed their dark-laced themes into hard-edged, melody-laden pop with an overall jazzy/lounge feel. While waiting for their career as musicians to take off, the members of the Wannadies worked in their hometown as gravediggers during the summer months. However, as Wiksten explained for the band's website at RCA, the job was not as gruesome as one may expect. "It was just like shoveling ditches except in a cemetery. It wasn't very scary since, in the summer, the sun is practically shining around the clock in Sweden."
In 1989, the Wannadies released their first single in Sweden, the minor radio hit "The Beast Cures the Love," and after a rave performance at the Hultsfreds Festival that same year, the group signed their first record contract with the independent, Stockholm-based Soap/MNW label. The following year, the group released their self-titled debut album, which contained the track "My Home Town." Based on life in Skelleftea, the song became their first significant hit in Sweden. A second album, Aquanautic, followed in 1992 and featured another hit song entitled "Cherryman."
By now, the Wannadies were not only attracting attention in Sweden, but across Europe as well for their inventive music and lyrics, which revealed a sort of balancing act between playful pop sensibilities and a sometimes grim sense of sarcasm. "Most of our songs aren't only punky or only poppy--it's almost always mixed," Bergmark said to Reece. "If it's a really sweet song, there's bound to be a part of it that's harder in the lyrics or somewhere else so that it's a little twisted around." Wiksten, too, agreed that the group has a tendency to obscure the usual: "We like things that are vague, because anything that's too obvious becomes quite boring."
British and American Breakthrough
As the Wannadies' fanbase continued to extend beyond the borders of Sweden, the group signed with the BMG subsidiary Indolent, based in the United Kingdom, thereafter spending much of their time shuffling between Skelleftea, Stockholm, and London. In 1995, the band released their first album for Indolent, Be a Girl. Two songs from the record, the ubiquitous-feeling "Might Be Stars," described by Wiksten to New Musical Express writer Keith Cameron as "a party song," and "You and Me Song," became instant hits, with the latter winning a spot on the multi-platinum-selling Romeo + Juliet film soundtrack.
In 1997, the Wannadies returned with a second album for Indolent entitled Bagsy Me, which raked in favorable reviews and new fans as well. That same year, RCA, Indolent's affiliate, compiled material from both Be a Girl and Bagsy Me for the group's American debut, The Wannadies. "Might Be Stars," the self-depreciating, revved-up, guitar-laden punk anthem that had become such a hit in Great Britain, was released as the group's first American single. "It's making fun of other bands, and at the same time it's a kick in our face, because we have one foot in that, too," Wiksten said of the song, as quoted by Reece. "The song could be a tribute to all these bands that want to make it, but it's a bit of a windup as well. The one side of the business I don't care too much for is the trying bit. When a band's main goal is to become stars, and you really get a sense of that, they're not on my shelf anymore; I like the doers."
"Our aim is not to become stars," the singer/guitarist added. "Our primary goal is totally centric. I just want to get kicks out of writing good songs and making records that sound good. Then, plan two is just to spread it around the world." After touring to support Bagsy Me and their American debut, including a handful of dates in American cities, Wiksten, Bergmark, and Fredrik Schonfeldt decided to leave the constrictions of small-town life in Skelleftea, quitting Sweden altogether in favor of settling in London.
More than "Swedish"
Meanwhile, the Wannadies were starting to feel frustrated with trying to extricate themselves completely from their former Swedish label, as well as with the way RCA wanted to market the band. Although the label had promised not to promote the Wannadies based on the fact that they came from Sweden, RCA nonetheless began resorting to such a technique, one that had worked well for another Swedish act called Take That. "They were walking into radio stations saying, `They're great! And they're Swedish !'" Wiksten recalled to Cameron. "Suddenly we were doing interviews with Just Seventeen and strange stuff like that. They just didn't understand us."
As a result, the Wannadies went laid low for a year, during which time RCA underwent corporate restructuring and have since become more sympathetic to the group's desires. "We're not in this because we want to sit in board meetings, or because we want to have a solicitor here and a manager there and then some MD there," the band's frontman explained to Cameron. "We're in this because we like meeting people, talking, playing music, drinking beer and traveling. Music being the wheel, and we just run around it."
Intending to focus on music rather than on promotion, the Wannadies traveled to New York City to record a new album with Ric Ocasek, the former Cars leader who had recently produced Guided By Voices' acclaimed 1999 album Do the Collapse. And the producer surprised the Wannadies with his unreconstructed punk instincts, challenging them to follow in the footsteps of punk legend Iggy Pop. The resulting Yeah, considered the band's "hardest, most compacted, least cuddly Wannadies record yet, tapping an even purer seam of power in keeping with their mission to reclaim the word `pop' from its debasement," wrote Cameron, won immediate acclaim upon its British release in early 2000. Standout, chart-bound songs included "No Holiday," "Can't See Me Now," and "Don't Like You (What the Hell Are We Supposed to Do)."
by Laura Hightower
The Wannadies's Career
Formed in Skelleftea, Sweden, in 1987; released self-titled debut album in Sweden, 1995; signed with Indolent, released Be a Girl, 1995; debuted in America on RCA with The Wannadies, an album combining Be a Girl and 1997's Bagsy Me, 1997; released Yeah, 2000.
- Selected discography
- The Wannadies (Sweden), Soap/MNW, 1990.
- Aquanautic (Sweden), Soap/MNW, 1992.
- Be a Girl (U.K.), Indolent, 1995.
- Bagsy Me (U.K.), Indolent, 1997.
- The Wannadies (debut U.S. release; includes Be a Girl and Bagsy Me ), RCA, 1997.
- Yeah (Japan; includes bonus tracks), BMG International, 2000.
- Yeah (U.K.), RCA, 2000.
- Billboard, December 14, 1996; September 13, 1997.
- Daily Telegraph, March 4, 2000.
- Independent, May 10, 1996, p. 11.
- New Musical Express, March 4, 2000, p. 20.
- Rolling Stone, August 21, 1997.
- Bugjuice.com: Wannadies, http://www.bugjuice.com/wannadies/intro.html (June 8, 2000).
- Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (June 8, 2000).
- The Wannadies, http://www.algonet.se/~fregus/wan/awan8.htm (June 8, 2000).
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