Millencolin: Close, But No Cigar
Swedish punk rock heavyweights Millencolin are on their way Down Under for the True Brew tour, kicking off in Perth next month. Guitarist Mathias Färm recently got on the blower with Trophy Eyes frontman John Floreani to chat all things punk rock.
You’re coming back to Australia! You’ve been here so many times you’re practically honorary citizens. What do you tend to do with your time off here these days?
Well, actually when we tour nowadays, we don’t really have any time off. It’s kind of a hectic life. I mean, we travel around the world but we usually start with a day off to adjust to the time difference. But otherwise, I mean, mid-April means you’re in late summer now. The weather in Australia whenever we travel there is nice. It’s winter time in Sweden now and it’s turning into spring so I’m guessing you guys are the other way around. You can have a really nice time off in Australia just hanging out at the beach, y’know? I really like doing that in Australia.
Taking things back to the beginning, the name Millencolin is derived from the skateboarding trick ‘Melancholy’. Do you guys still find the time to get out and skate?
The reason why I’m in a band to begin with is skateboarding. I started skateboarding a long time ago and I really liked the music you could hear on the skateboarding videos. But yeah, I still skate of course, but in a different way. Back in the day I would compete a lot and I was a sponsored skater and I did it at 110 percent. Nowadays I just kind of roll around and take it easy [laughs].
Have you found any favourite skate spots in Australia?
Well, actually our drummer broke his collarbone skateboarding in Melbourne back in 1998 [laughs]. I don’t really know about favourite skate spots, though, but I just like to roll around and see if I can find some good steps and stuff.
“We feel now that we’re a much better band and we have more energy now than we had 15 years ago.”
You haven’t self-produced an album since For Monkeys (1997). Since then you’ve worked with producers such as Brett Gurewitz and Lou Giordano. Is there any reason you decided to go back to self-producing for your latest record, True Brew?
I’ve done a lot of recording and producing stuff myself for labels like Burning Hearts and other labels, and I’ve been working in my own studio since 1996 so I know how to do this. And I just figured that we could do this ourselves. I mean, we’ve worked with really cool people before but a producer is more of a team captain. He takes care of the creative bits but also what to do and when to do it. But I guess I do that from time to time [laughs]. You have to trust yourself and you own judgment and then you’ll be fine.
Millencolin formed back in 1992, and most bands these days can’t seem to break the 10-year milestone. What’s the secret for sticking at it for 24 years?
I don’t know – it’s crazy. I guess it has to do with… well, we’ve been the same members in the band since we started. Me and Nikola (Šarčević, vocals) have known each other since we were six years old. The other guys have been friends for a long time and it all had to do with success. We had a lot of success in our career and everything has been step by step. Early in our career, we took control of what to do and when to do it. It’s easy as a band to get stuck with a label or management that tells you that you have to do this, go there and do that and sometimes that can kill you because maybe you’re doing a little bit too much and not really making time to charge your batteries. We’ve been doing it our way and it was the right way, definitely. We feel now that we’re a much better band and we have more energy now than we had 15 years ago. It’s a good feeling in the group.
Where’s this newfound energy coming from?
We know what we’re doing. The live show is a very important part of the band. When we hit Australia this time it’s actually going to be 20 years since our first time in Australia, and that is a long time. The live show was just a thing we did. We would travel around and do all this crazy stuff, and the show was just a thing that would happen in the evening. Nowadays, the show is the reason why we’re going to Australia. We’re more focused on what we’re doing. I think that makes us a better band, definitely.
A little less party a little more music, right?
Aaah, there’s still partying [laughs]. Just now, after the party you try and sleep in and not really do much during the day.
I imagine it would have been hard for a band pre-social media to break the global market. How did Millencolin become such a household name in punk?
I think it’s harder today than it was back then. With social media there’s so much more out there and it’s very hard as a band to make it these days. We started the band in ’92 and we released the first album in ’94. We went out of Europe so early. Actually the first time we left Europe was to go to Australia back in ’96 and that opened up a whole new world for us. We started to tour North America the same year and we had the opportunity to do South America and the rest of Europe so we established our name very early. That’s probably the key to our success in a way, especially when you’re a band that sings in English. If you’re a band that sings in Swedish you can only do X amount of shows per album, because you can only tour Sweden, y’know? It takes us two years to do what we want to do for one album. I guess we were lucky to find the right label and they were lucky that they found us too. Together we took it all the way.
“When we hit Australia this time it’s actually going to be 20 years since our first time in Australia.”
What was it like playing local shows in Sweden in 1992?
We had a really good scene here. Punk rock has always been kind of strong in Sweden. All the punk rock bands we started with sang in Swedish, but we were among the first that sang in English because we had a lot of influence from the type of music that we listened to in the skateboarding movies and skateboarding videos that we were watching. We were like the new thing in Sweden. But there was a really good scene and a lot of great bands back then, so it was really fun.
Did you find support from your parents, teachers and peers?
We started kind of late. I started to play guitar when I was 16. I wasn’t into music at all – I just liked skateboarding. We just wanted to start a band and we were 16 when we did it. We quit school and we just wanted to play in our band and that’s all we did so we never really had a job. My parents supported me because I think they thought it was something I would do for like three years and get serious after that.
Since then, what’s it like being one of the biggest punk bands in the world?
It’s weird, y’know? But I think it’s important to reflect. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do this and I’m happy that people like what I do. It’s a unique thing and I totally understand that. I guess I’m a humble guy in that sense. Without the fans, you’re nothing as a band, y’know? It’s important, definitely.
Hey, now that we’re pals – can you get me into the Sydney show for free?
Close, but no cigar.
Millencolin / Grenadiers
Tuesday April 26th – Metropolis, Fremantle (18+)
Thursday April 28th – HQ, Adelaide (18+)
Friday April 29th – UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney (AA)
Saturday April 30th – Coolangatta Hotel, Coolangatta (18+)
Sunday May 1st – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+)
Monday May 2nd – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+) *NEW SHOW*
Tuesday May 3rd – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+) SOLD OUT