This week’s Throwback Thursday is a fun interview with The Teenage Idols singer, Halvard.
Mary Boukouvalas is serenaded in style by The Teenage Idols vocalist Halvard, amongst simple rock ‘n’ roll and quotable Withnail and I.
The Teenage Idols are described as a young Swedish garage punk rock band; for fans of The Hives, The Cramps, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Strokes & The White Stripes.
Mary Boukouvalas found there was a lot more to The Teenage Idols than trendy comparisons with cool groups and the recent resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll hype.
With all the recent hype about Sweden and rock ‘n’ roll bands one might assume that The Teenage Idols are just cashing in on what other bands strived hard to pave the way for lesser acts to follow. Yet this band was around slogging it out on the gig circuits with bands such as The Hives. Now, finally, on their own merits, the punk/garage quartet, with guitarist Marcus, bassist Caroline, drummer Tomas and singer Halvard, are about to take the world by storm.
The Teenage Idols is a band who love music, love rock n roll, and are not afraid to delve into varied musical pasts to hear and be inspired by music that is, as The Teenage Idols lead singer Halvard describes it: “simple rock ‘n’ roll – simple music with a primal rock ‘n’ roll beat. And with our music, we don’t cram as many riffs as possible into one song. We prefer to keep it simple and focus on repetitive riffs and uncomplicated arrangements instead.”
Though Halvard has never been musically trained, his voice rose and fell with precise pitch, clarity in tone and flair in deliverance when he broke out into song a few times during the interview. It was just a real pity that this wasn’t a radio interview for all to hear.
The first tune Halvard sang was his band’s namesake – a song by Ricky Nelson.
Some people call me a teenage idol,
They smile and say they envy me,
I guess they have no way of knowing,
Just how lonesome I can be.
I get no rest when I’m feeling weary …
Another song Halvard sang was one to make many Aussie boys proud – an early Hard Ons singles, Girl in the Sweater.
… Whoa whoa whoa whoa oh oh oh oh … here comes that girl in the sweater …
A born natural, Halvard never thought about singing till he met their guitar player when he first moved to Stockholm and was convinced to try out. The rest is history.
Halvard states that when the band first began in the late 1990s: “All we wanted to play was Louie Louie — Three chords and a back groove … and if we can inspire someone who comes to our shows then that’s great … if they go away saying – well if they can do it so can we – then that’s great.”
The Teenage Idols didn’t even have a name at their very first gig. Halvard recalls: “We were just happy to pound it out, and at our first concert we didn’t have a name and we said you don’t have to bill us as anything. And they wanted a name and we couldn’t come up with anything and it was just a song I was listening to at that moment – Teenage Idol by Ricky Nelson.
“We thought it was a good name cause when you crawl on stage for the very first time, a lot of people are going to slag you off and we thought we’ll give them some water on their mill (give them what they need/give them what they want) – if you call yourself The Teenage Idols for your first concert they’re really going to slag you and we thought that was the better thing to do – cause if you call yourself The Crap –nobody gives a damn –it’s nothing – but if you give yourself a name like The Teenage Idols and they hate you, then it’s always more stylish.”
Halvard loves playing live, loves jamming and loves talking about music. To Halvard talking about music is everything. So, our designated 20 minute interview slot went over the hour mark. Halvard has a great knowledge of bands and wide range of inspirations. Though coming from different musical backgrounds, what gels the band together is their love of simple rock ‘n’ roll.
“We probably have a more common standing now on our influences,” Halvard explains. “But when we started the band, everyone was coming from completely different influences. We didn’t have anything in common at all – except for an urge to play simple rock n roll music. Really back to the meat and potatoes – three chords and a primal beat.
“From the beginning, Caroline was from a heavier rock background, and she used to be a guitar player in a grunge band. Tomas, our drummer, came from a background of British noise –listening to My bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain. As for me, I was coming from a background of more 50s stuff. Elvis, rockabilly cats, garage rock from the 60s. And a lot of soul. And then all of us love the punk rock of the 70s, like The Cramps; the energy of it. As for Australian bands I love the Beasts of Bourbon, early Saints and the Hard Ons. And even though you can’t hear it in our music, we are influenced by Jazz -not musically, but by their way of thinking. If a song doesn’t have a chorus or a refrain, then just skip it. A song shouldn’t be about an intro, a verse, a bridge, a refrain, then at the end take the refrain one more time. We’re quite influenced by those who are just interested in making music and don’t think so much about it but just feel it. Without trying to make it all about a preconceived idea. Don’t worry about the rules.”
“No one writes the music or lyrics,” Halvard continues. “It’s all jammed together. The way we write songs is like a polish process — sometimes it comes in fifteen minutes and sometimes a few hours because everyone has to have their say – we’re very democratic like that.”
“First and foremost we’re a band,” Harvard explains when asked about the future direction of The Teenage Idols. “We’re four very different individuals and we all draw inspirations from different kinds of things so it’s very difficult to say; we work as a band so I can’t say how collectively we will move in the future.
“As for me, I would like to keep the base the same – rock n roll – for me it hasn’t changed since the 50’s, I haven’t seen any differences between Elvis and whatever lately. All the really really good bands through time that I have like have had that primal beat and a lot of energy, a lot of soul, a lot of blood in the music and still keeping all of the music simple, catch a riff, and I really want to keep that – that’s why I love rock n roll.
“But on the other hand, I don’t know because there is so much new music these days and especially with our new guitarist Marcus. Since he has gotten into the band –he’s been giving me a lot of new music that I hadn’t listened to before. Like he’s into Zappa and I’m s bit scared of Zappa –to tell you the truth, he scares the hell out of me, because there is so much shut up and play guitar stuff, there’s a lot of guitar solos.
“That’s something that Marcus has a bit of trouble adjusting to cause he’s the more competent of us musically and since he’s come into the band, we’re like how’s this going to work out, he’s a really good guitar player and now he can’t even get a solo. But he’s adjusting to the band well.”
As for comparisons with other bands, Halvard didn’t mind any of the associations to the likes of The Cramps, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Strokes, etc. He liked all the band mentioned but did not feel that The Teenage Idols were directly influenced by these bands, rather he felt they had common influences.
However, he admitted that he preferred to listen to AC/DC – and he wasn’t even attempting to be sycophantic! He had heard a few Australian compilations, such as The Not So Lucky Country and Hard to Beat from friends.
“I get this vibe,” Halvard stated, “that Australia has really got this rock ‘n’ roll circuit down, I have always had this feeling that there’s been a lot of Australian rock bands, and even more punk bands.”
Hopefully, The Teenage Idols will be touring Australia soon to see some of great rock ‘n’ roll for themselves.
The Teenage Idols self-titled album is now out on Collision Records.
And I would not be surprised if any of their new songs have quotes from Halvard’s favourite film, Withnail and I.
“Every road trip has a quote from Withnail,” Halvard reveals, “like: Hey Tomas, what are you doing? I’m making time … or: We are multi-millionaries. We’ll buy this place and fire you immediately.”
After visiting Australia, The Teenage Idols may well quote that they had cake and fine wine –and visited the suburb Camberwell, named after a carrot.
By Mary Boukouvalas
First published in Beat Magazine, 2003.
The Teenage Idols on iTunes.