Swedish indie-pop artist Kristoffer Ragnstam’s sophomore album, Wrong Side of the Room, was just released in the US a few weeks ago. I have an insatiable appetite for infectiously catchy and happy songwriting, and Ragnstam doesn’t disappoint. I’m hoping that this album breaks him out into the US.
Ragnstam was kind enough to respond to some questions via e-mail (his responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity).
You’re frequently compared to your countryman Jens Lekman, and you are both known for sweet indie-pop. Do you think there is a ‘Swedish sound,’ or is it just that only certain types of music are picked up for the US market?
I don’t think we’ve got special sound. And why Jens and I play in USA is probably more that we found people who believe in us and constantly give us great tours etc. So more luck than sound.
What factors influence your decision to sing in English?
That’s easy. I grew up with English music and I’ve only been listening to English music. So when I started to do my own stuff English felt best, although it can be strange sometimes to write in a language that’s not my mother tongue. But hopefully the record buyers understand what I’m trying to say.
How do you feel that your artistic process changed (or didn’t) between Sweet Bills and Wrong Side of the Room?
I had a vision together with Joel (co-songwriter) and Chris [Brown, the producer – see below]. We would like it to sound homemade and pure. Thanks to the vision, we did have a very simple process making the Wrong Side—my band and I knew each other much better this time. Plus we had been touring a lot so…
You famously talk about recording ideas for and bits of songs in your cellphone. What comes next?
Maybe in the future we would be able to record a full song at a decent quality. That would be fun. I use it more like a scrapbook.
Can you cite some of your influences? And who among your contemporaries are you a fan of?
I love musicians who play music like there is no tomorrow. People who make me think they do it very much in a solid honest way. I like bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Slayer, The Roots, Kings of Leon, Daniel Lanois etc.
I really enjoy your witty, wry, and self-deprecating lyrics (and it would be great if they were posted to the Internet!). They definitely focus closely on the personal. How do you decide what to sing about? Do you ever think about singing about more ‘serious’ subjects, or are you committed to singing about the personal?
Oh, the lyrics should get posted any minute. My web page is pretty new new and needs some minor changes. But when it comes to lyrics, I do think my weapon is to sing about my normal life. ‘Cause a lot of weird stuff happened there, and it may sound forced to sing about something else. Sometimes it can be very serious to me but end up like a normal thing on the lyricpaper.
Can you talk a bit about what it was like working with engineer Chris Brown (Blur, Radiohead, Supergrass)?
Wow! It’s a dream to work with him. He’s been a part of many of my favorite albums, like RIDE. I love Chris and he’s one of the people in the music biz that I respect the most. Not only thanks to his CV, but probably more ’cause he’s constantly honest and only says what he thinks – no charade or theatre, just 100% Chris Brown, and that’s very inspiring.
Any upcoming plans to tour in the US?
I will tour all over. Europe, Japan, and back to the United States, plus take care of my newborn son.