Questionnaire: Sune Rose Wagner
Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes. Photo by Søren Solkær Starbird
Once the dark horses of 2002’s class of nostalgic noisemakers, in 2008 Danish musical partners Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes upped the ante and enjoyed their most felicitous year to date. As a band they have evolved their enigmatic sound and their look—equal parts brothers Everly & Reid, B-Movie Americana and Danish avant-garde—and cultivated a unique niche in pop’s underbelly. Their music continues to thrive on irony, contrast, and tension: their current brooding density is the druggy counterpart to the febrile whirlwind energy and hairpin turns of earlier works. On Lust Lust Lust, the Raveonettes sing of doomed beauty queens and teenage tragedy. That album, a career highlight, inaugurated the band’s highly prolific year. A staggering four EPs later, Wishing You a Rave Christmas arrives just in time to commemorate the season with 20 minutes of stately, noise-drenched yuletide melancholia.
Sune Rose Wagner speaks to us just as he releases his surprise eponymous debut solo album-a winsome pop record filled with surf-tinged ditties. The Raveonettes revisit New York’s Webster Hall on January 16.
Colleen Nika: Years ago, you released “The Christmas Song.” Now you’ve recorded a 4-song EP full of Christmas-themed songs. Do the Raveonettes feel a connection to pop music’s yuletide legacy?
Sune Rose Wagner: The new Christmas EP is an extension of the three previous EPs we released this year. I always enjoyed Christmas and especially by Nat King Cole, The Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys and Bing Crosby, to name a few. I think we have a certain nostalgia in our music which translates really well into Christmas epics.
CN: The sweeping, Spector-esque wall-of-sound introduced by 60s girl groups is an influence on the Raveonettes.
SRW: I think the entire Spector Christmas album [A Christmas Gift for You…] is pretty genius. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” which we covered on our latest EP, is probably one of my favorites. Blue Christmas by Elvis is a classic too. So is Jingle Bell Rock by Brenda Lee.
CN: With Lust, Lust, Lust, four EPs, and a solo album, 2008 has been a prolific year for you. Were all the EP songs brand new, or were some from the archives?
SRW: All of the songs were new except “Christmas Ghosts,” which was written for Ronnie Spector when she thought about recording a Christmas album a few years ago, although unfortunately she never did. Writing songs is what I do: I love it and I can’t help it. I think it’s a wonderful thing that in this day and age it’s possible to record and release so much music in one year and actually have a cool label like VICE behind it all. It’s like The Ramones in 1977 when they released two of their best albums in one year, Leave Home and Rocket To Russia.
CN: What made you decide to sing your solo material in your native Danish? Does it feel more intimate or organic?
SRW: The album was written and recorded in a few weeks in Copenhagen and all the songs are about my time in Copenhagen during a brief stint in the summer of 2008, so singing in Danish felt like the right thing to do. It was very scary at first but it felt good and real. Not sure if I want to do it again.
CN: You are friends with designer and fellow Dane Camilla Staerk, and your band and your music are embraced by the fashion community. Is style, or creating a distinct visual identity, important to the Raveonettes?
SRW: We love Camilla and would play at her parties any day of the week. It’s something we never discussed but I think that people liked the iconic images of the blonde femme fatale and the mysterious dark haired man next to her. I have no idea where people get this nonsense from [laughs].