Club 8’s Johan Angergård and Misfit Mod’s Sarah Kelleher have never met, but it’s easy to see how the musicians would hold each other in high regard. The two singer/songwriters have tapped into a likeminded sense of sweet melancholy—manifesting in Misfit Mod’s minimal pop debut Islands and Islands, and dappling Club 8’s eighth album, Above the City.
From their homes on opposite sides of the globe, Angergård and Kelleher joined Interview for a conversation about making more with less, the hidden value of crappy ’90s R&B, and one-hit wonders. We’re also pleased to debut a special, jointly produced track, “Hot Sun.”
JOHAN ANGERGÅRD: I’m so glad you can hear me. I was worried I was going to be left walking the streets of Stockholm due to my bad connection! Now I don’t have to freeze to death during this conversation. So yeah, Sarah. Have you done stuff before Misfit Mod?
SARAH ANN KELLEHER: Little bits and pieces. I’ve always been writing music and stuff. I wrote a collection of songs, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. My friend Mark decided that he wanted to make a record label to release the stuff. Prior to that, I did little bits and bobs, but nothing major.
ANGERGÅRD: It sounds really good. That’s one of the things that I really like. It’s really nicely produced. I don’t know what it sounds like, which is a good thing. It makes me wonder, because sometimes I’m a bit of nerd. I’m not into new technology, but I’m into instruments and stuff. What do you use when you record?
KELLEHER: For the album, I really had a very small amount of gear. I used Logic. I had a condenser for my vocals. I liked the idea of not having too many things to use. Just making the most of what you have.
ANGERGÅRD: That is very nice, actually. I don’t have a lot of stuff either. But the stuff I have, like analogue synthesizers, it takes a lot for me to connect them to the computer. I’m too lazy to use it.
KELLEHER: Your record, I’ve been listening to your latest one, is amazing. I’ve been listening to the production on that. It’s amazing as well. So that’s quite a compliment, coming from you.
ANGERGÅRD: Your album has such a distinct sound. Do you agree that it has a coherent “Misfit Mod” sound? All the songs you can directly hear are the same sound.
KELLEHER: Yeah. I think that was my goal. I was hoping that the music would feel like it had a pointed difference, that it had a specific aesthetic.
ANGERGÅRD: How will you go about the next thing you record then? Will it continue in the same sound? Is it logical to continue to do the same thing?
KELLEHER: That’s a good question. I try really hard to make music that feels really distinct. I try really hard to pick out ideas that feel new. I really do keep that in mind when I’m writing. Hopefully if I stay on track, I will continue to make music that feels quite of its own kind.
ANGERGÅRD: Do you think it will sound like Islands and Islands? Or will it sound different?
KELLEHER: I’m really drawn to a minimal kind of feel in melody. I think the fundamental aspects of my music will stay the same. How about you? What are you guys doing next?
ANGERGÅRD: Actually, I’ve been writing a lot of songs in the last year. But all of the songs are so totally unfinished. You can’t tell where they’re going. No lyrics and no proper production. Maybe some vague idea where they might be heading. But maybe they won’t head in that direction. They’re just melodies, really. I haven’t written one single word! That’s all. So I don’t know where it’ll go. I think I’ll try to finish 10 or 15 songs that I really like. After that, I’ll try to work more like a producer would work with an album, and do all the songs at the same time. I usually do only one song at a time. It could be good to try and do it in a different way—just because I can. I don’t know if it’ll be better or worse. Above the City is very eclectic. We wanted it to be like that. We said, “Let’s do everything we want to do. No matter what it is. It can sound like a different band. We don’t care.” So we just put it together. Usually, when I’ve made an album, the next one turns out different because I usually don’t enjoy doing the same thing twice. At least not twice in a row.
KELLEHER: I do feel like when you’re writing or you’ve written a certain kind of thing, your natural inclination is to go ahead and do the opposite of it.
ANGERGÅRD: That’s usually how I work! But, on the other hand, if we were to work how we did on Above the City, and allow ourselves to be very varied and do whatever we wanted, then we wouldn’t have to make the opposite. The opposite would be the same, really. [laughs]
KELLEHER: It’s cool. I like to listen to an album that feels diverse.
ANGERGÅRD: Yeah. I like both. In a way, it’s easier to get into an album that’s more distinct, with a sound that you can immediately feel that is the sound of the band. It depends on the album, of course. Sometimes it can get boring. You said that you haven’t played live. Are you going to? Do you want to?
KELLEHER: I haven’t toured. I’m hopefully going to be doing that later in the year. Mark, the label manager, he’s kinda pushing for America. I am hoping to go to the U.K. later in the year. So if the tour does go, it will be America and the U.K.
ANGERGÅRD: Do you like playing live?
KELLEHER: I do. But I suppose my natural thing is writing. That’s what I get really super excited about. Mostly. In my heart of hearts, I am a writer as opposed to a performer.
ANGERGÅRD: That definitely goes for me as well. I like traveling. But most live appearances feel like a bad copy of the album.
KELLEHER: It’s harder if you’re a perfectionist because you want everything to be just right. So you run a record label as well. That’s cool.
ANGERGÅRD: Yeah. Labrador has always been a label that has just released Swedish bands, but in the last year the Swedish scene has become increasingly boring. So I’m considering changing the roster and including other bands. I don’t know what I’ll do with it in the future. A few years ago there were more good Swedish bands than I could release on Labrador. Now, there’s not much happening anymore. Most good things happen in the U.S. I think that’s why I assumed you were from the U.S. Oh, this is good! It must be from there. Well, it’s rare that bands are from New Zealand, anyway. I haven’t been listening to bands from New Zealand since the Flying Nun period, really. That was a long time ago.
KELLEHER: Yeah! Well there are some cool bands. There’s a band called Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It’s quite a mouthful to say, actually. They’re a really good band. But I think they’re based in America. [laughs]
ANGERGÅRD: I think I assumed they’re from the U.S. too. Besides you and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, are there other bands in New Zealand? Is it one big happy family over there?
KELLEHER: New Zealand is really small. Even if you live in different cities or whatever, you kinda get to know everyone. At least you know of each other. If you’re touring, you meet up with people. It’s quite interesting. It’s like a little community. I’m still a little bit out of the loop since I’ve been away. But coming back, it’s been good to slip back in. Everyone’s really supportive and cool.
ANGERGÅRD: What do you listen to? What’s your favorite stuff?
KELLEHER: I like the Cocteau Twins. There’s a Swedish band I’ve been listening to quite a bit recently, Niki & The Dove. I really like them. They’re super fun. And Poliça. I also like Fleetwood Mac, and older guys like Neil Young.
ANGERGÅRD: No other band sounds like you. So you’re not really stealing from your influences!
KELLEHER: No! [laughs] I listen to a lot of R&B as well. My downtempo melody love may come a little bit from R&B.
ANGERGÅRD: Proper R&B or the new trendy R&B?
KELLEHER: [laughs] The crappy R&B from the ’90s. Not much new stuff. What are you into?
ANGERGÅRD: I can only say what I’ve been listening to the last month or so. I’ve had a period of listening to ’90s music that you shouldn’t listen to. Dr. Alban from Sweden, he had a song called “No Coke.” I like it a lot. Also a band called London Beat. They have a song called, “I’ve Been Thinking About You” which is really good. That kind of thing. Good stuff. Well, bands that made one good song.
KELLEHER: Yeah, there were so many one-hit wonders back in the day. Would you want to be a one-hit wonder, or never release music at all?
ANGERGÅRD: Definitely a one-hit wonder.
KELLEHER: I think I would have to go for, oh, I don’t know. If you haven’t released anything you could have written a lot of stuff. If I could encapsulate everything in the one hit, I would totally go for that.
ANGERGÅRD: Better one song released or no songs at all, I think. On the other hand, you see people who have had one hit, and I guess a lot of them turn out to be pretty sad characters. It wouldn’t be too nice to be a guy who had one hit 20 years ago and was still talking about it. “Do you remember that? I wrote that in ’95!” Kinda depressing.
KELLEHER: If you’re a one-hit wonder and people are doing your song in karaoke, is that a compliment?
ANGERGÅRD: It would be great! You always want people to sing karaoke to your songs.
KELLEHER: Yeah, karaoke is awesome.
ANGERGÅRD: Does nostalgia play a role in Misfit Mod?
KELLEHER: I think does, but I haven’t really thought about it directly. In some of my songs, I do try to evoke that feeling of nostalgia. But also, even if I don’t sound a lot like bands that I listen to when I was younger, I’m definitely influenced by nostalgia from the ’90s. So yeah, I think it has a big part to play in my music.
ANGERGÅRD: I think it’s probably a bit the same with Club 8. It doesn’t play an active role. I don’t sit down and try to sound like something I would listen to when I was a kid. But when I read reviews and people are talking about the album, sometimes people mention other bands that I listened to as a kid. So it probably does influence the music. I also think that general nostalgia over life plays quite a big part sometimes. The passing of time and so on.
KELLEHER: It’s cool, because some bands like Fleetwood Mac, sometimes you listen to one of their tracks and you feel like you’re in a certain space or a certain time. I quite like the challenge of trying to create that feeling myself. It’s quite late in Sweden, isn’t it?
ANGERGÅRD: It’s summer, so it’ll be light, 24/7. It’s winter in New Zealand, so it’s the other way around, right?
KELLEHER: Yeah, it’s winter. It’s also the future.
ANGERGÅRD: That’s why you’re always ahead of your time. [laughs] Very futuristic. I’ve been told New Zealand is exactly like Sweden. I don’t know because I haven’t been there.
KELLEHER: I think Stockholm is. I can see how people would make comparisons. There’s quite a lot of similarities. It feels like you’re really close to nature. It feels like it’s all the water and things like that.
ANGERGÅRD: Did you get a feel for the people here? Are people the same?
KELLEHER: In a way. Everyone is really friendly and nice.
ANGERGÅRD: Oh really?
KELLEHER: Well, that’s what I found.
ANGERGÅRD: [laughs] I didn’t think people in Sweden were that friendly, actually.
KELLEHER: Well, I was only there for a couple of days. So it’s hard to make judgment calls. I had a really nice time. I went over to some of the islands just outside of the city. We took a boat out there. Some of my friends had a sauna.
ANGERGÅRD: Sounds like the kind of things I like to experience.
KELLEHER: Well, you’ll have to come visit New Zealand sometime!
ANGERGÅRD: I’d like to go there, but I think it’s one of those countries that I will never go and see. It’s exactly on the other side of the planet. It’s so difficult to get there.
KELLEHER: Yeah, you can’t just go to New Zealand on a holiday.
ANGERGÅRD: 90% of the places I go to is because I go there with Club 8 and play there. I think no one in New Zealand listens to us at all. We will never be invited there.
KELLEHER: Well, I’m listening!
ANGERGÅRD: Well, now we have one. Five hundred more, and we have a show.
KELLEHER: [laughs] Yeah!