While high-profile pop bands from Sweden were busily grabbing press attention, their countryman Kristoffer Ragnstam was working under the radar screen, making music that refused to fit the Scandinavian stereotype.
On his U.S. debut, Sweet Bills, Kristoffer bundles the results into one of the most idiosyncratic packages heard since the advent of Beck. Each track veers unpredictably to the next: The wall-of-sound pop of Lonely Lane, broadcast by roaring guitars and thundering drums, gives way to the simmering funk of Doctor, Give the World a Smile. Mellow horns and backward guitar samples on Sweet Bills explode into a complex groove that nudges surreal lyrics My girl wants to be an astronaut/My boss wants to be a talent scout through Born as a Lion. You can also sense a chronology to Sweet Bills. Echoes of sixties garage rock permeate Never Get Used to You, an eighties electronic dance hook slices through Man Overboard, and on Kayla the music is timeless and the message playfully twisted: Ive been waiting for you to call the last seven years, Kristoffer intones. You see, honey, weve got a problem
As Kristoffer sees it, this overlay of irony and multiple musical influences captures who he is, personally as well as artistically. Im honest with my music, he explains. No one pushed me. I got to where I am on my own.
Kristoffer could barely play when he and a few friends put their first band together. They couldnt play either, which is why the name they chose for themselves, Blind, might not have been as suitable as, lets say, Deaf. Just imagine five guys who never even held instruments, trying to do our own songs, he remembers. We had no success at all. But it was good for my self-confidence. And its also important that we never played covers. In fact, all Ive done from the beginning, on my own projects, was to play my own music.
Kristoffer and his band performed some of this material during their first trip to the States, in late 2005. Their sets at the Knitting Factory, the Living Room, and other venues stirred interest in New York, from audiences as well as label people. One of the latter brought him onboard at bluhammock music, without even having to trot anyone from Abba out as incentive.
Sweet Bills is, Kristoffer insists, a project he can introduce without hesitation into the unsuspecting American market. Its very intimate naked, even. Im not trying to be smart or anything. Im just doing what comes naturally. Sweet Bills is one hundred percent me.
One hundred percent Kristoffer: As the world will soon discover, music doesnt get any hotter than that.