Millencolin are one of the most consistent punk rock bands going. No contest. Now 24 years into their career, the members have been in the band for the majority of their lives. In May, the Swedish four-piece visit us again for a run of shows around the country. We had a quick chat with guitarist Mathias Färm to mark the occasion.
Just a heads up Mathias, if I repeat myself or space out it’s because I’m quite sick at the moment.
No worries. Is it the flu or something?
I think it’s food poisoning. Been pretty rough lately.
Ah man, that sucks. I played the last two dates of our most recent European tour with a 40-degree temperature. It was pretty rough, but it had to be done. The show had to go on, you know?
Damn dude that is rough, but good on ya. So with the new EP, was that recorded during the same session or around the same time frame as the album, and why not include those songs on the record? Because I would’ve been down for a 15-track album?
Yeah, they were recorded at the same time, but the vocals for the Swedish version of True Brew [we recorded] just the other month. But with the record, we thought that maybe we couldn’t put 15, 16 songs on an album. [We thought] that maybe it was a bit much. I think they are all good songs, but these two songs didn’t end up making it, and I do wonder now why they didn’t, but I think it comes down to their vibe that happens when we recorded them.
I personally think they would have worked perfectly on the record. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I really like the Swedish versions of your songs, mainly the Swedish ‘Battery Check’. Have you ever considered doing a full release like that? You’d only have to re-record the vocals after all, as I’m sure you still have the masters and multi-tracks of each song.
Yeah, we’ve been thinking about it, but Sweden’s such a small country so I don’t know if it would be worth it. It’d be fun definitely but maybe in the future, you know? And yeah, we have all of the songs mixed instrumentally, but it would be a couple of weeks work, but I know it’d be fun.
Oh, understandable man. I’m curious, do you start off with English vocals/lyrics for recording or do you start it off in Swedish?
Ah no, we always start in English. You know it’s weird in a way, but for us, English is something you learn since third grade over here. So it’s natural for us. With new songs, we have this…made up lyric thing to go over the songs at first. Because you don’t ever want to write the lyrics and go record the vocals, then record the rest of the song.
In the lyrics to ‘True Brew’, Nikola [bass, vocals] says he went back to college, and I’m wondering if a) that’s actually true and b) if you other three have done similar things in terms of education or work outside of the band?
I actually don’t know what he studied [laughs], I probably really should know. But I haven’t gone back to school since high school, as I’ve been producing and recording for work outside of the band. One day, I might go back to school, but I don’t like it too much.
I’ve always heard that you and Nikola quit school to keep the band going, way back in the origins of Millencolin. Is that correct?
Well, not really. He and I started playing music really late, like 16 or so, and we didn’t quit school to do this, it just ended by itself. We just never went to college right after that as you only go to high school for three years here.
Cool, thanks for the info. With the video for ‘True Brew’, you filmed it over in Fortaleza, Brazil yes?
Yeah, that’s it man.
Well first off, it looks like a beautiful city, but why that city in particular? I take it because you were on tour at the time?
Yeah, we were on tour. Some of it is actually filmed over in Rio as well. We had some time off in Fortaleza and decided to shoot there. We actually had a skating friend of ours who lives there tell us that it was too dangerous to film there. As you know, there are a lot of criminals around, but we got up at our hotel right near the beach there and thought we’d just shoot really early in the morning. As there was no one around.
I love Brazil, but sometimes it can be pretty sketchy, and you have to watch your back, you know?
For sure man, and in one of the early shots in that video, the camera pans past the police officers and they just look at you rather ominously.
Yeah man, [laughs]. We had to ask them for permission to do that, ’cause you just can’t do that over there.
Oh, I bet. The video reminded a lot of the ‘Penguins & Polar Bears’ clip, just the super powers and playing on top of the video.
I can see that man.
With that old video, you didn’t even have the permit to film too.
Yeah, and a lot of that was shot over in Hollywood. People are just crazy over there in Hollywood; we got busted by the cops once, and lots of people wanted money off us just for shooting near or outside of their store. That part of the city is just very…commercial, I suppose.
And that really doesn’t fit with the band’s vibe either. Now, the album’s first single, ‘Sense & Sensibility’, deals with the rampant racism in your neck of the woods and no doubt you’ve seen and/or heard the issues about race and ethnicity in Australia too?
Oh yes, and I just think it’s such a pity that so many people are close-minded. In Sweden, some people are in a bad situation, they’re not having a good life and so they blame immigrants for their situation. And it’s so easy for them to say that. What’s happening in places like Syria is just such a mess and those people really need help, and we should help them. They just want to go home after all.
If something happened in Sweden, and I had to leave, I would want to come back to my home; to where I belong. I think we should all do our part, and that song is really about those close-minded people who only see their situation. Plus, some people are just very scared of other cultures.
Yes, some people are just inherently xenophobic. And as you said, the refugees and immigrants; they don’t want to leave, but they have to because if they stay they will be killed or be forced into lives and jobs that our sub-par and terrible.
That’s exactly right man.
Moving on from that grim topic… I definitely think that ‘True Brew’ is one of Millencolin’s better records, but would it annoy you at all if I said that ‘Pennybridge Pioneers’ is my favourite? Because it is [laughs].
[Laughs] no, of course not. That album came in a time that was really right, and it is our biggest album. It was also a new side to our band, especially compared to Four Monkeys, and I’m very proud of it – just as I am proud of the new record. It’s really up to everyone out there to like what they like, but it’s okay with me.
Well, it seems to resonate with people still as you just sold out the Melbourne show…
It’s amazing, you know? This is the first club tour in Australia in seven years, and for us it feels like one year but time flies. I’m just so amazed that people still care and that we can go all the way over to Australia and play good shows like this. I’m very grateful.
Especially considering you’ve been a band for like, 23 years now.
24 actually. It’s funny; I’ve been in this band longer than I haven’t been in it. Back in 92′ I was 17 years old. My WHOLE adult life I’ve been doing. It’s crazy…
That’s crazy dude. Well, here’s to 24 more years Mathias, and with that, we’ll leave it there my man.
Thanks a lot man, we’ll see you in April and May.
‘True Brew’ and the ‘True Brew EP’ are both out now via Epitaph.
Catch Millencolin on tour this April/May.