Swedish musicians are by no means an unusual phenomenon in the British charts. From Abba to Ace of Base, the Scandinavian nation has a tradition of producing singers and bands with a talent for intuitively tuning into the current musical vogues, adding their own individual flavour and then overtaking many of their contemporaries. Such is the case with Niki & The Dove, a trio formed in Stockholm in 2010. So So Gay caught up with the band shortly after landing fifth place in the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll and on the back of an eventful twelve months.
When we talk to band members Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf, they are about to release single ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ and have just completed a successful four-date UK tour with gigs in Salford, Glasgow and London. This experience reminded them of playing back home in Sweden, says vocalist Dahlström, ‘It was great. British people and Swedish people are similar from the point of view that they are sort of selective people in a good way. They are used to good music so we have to deliver big things on stage to make the audience feel something. [pullquote_left]The UK has pretty good music so we have a lot to live up to.[/pullquote_left] The UK has pretty good music so we have a lot to live up to. That’s what we aim to do.’
Both members of Niki & The Dove experimented with a variety of sounds before settling upon their current vibe, including a spell in a folk-based band, Dora Steins. However, electronica has always been in their blood as Dahlström explains, ’We both have actually always been making electro music. Experimenting with different styles is a phase you need to go through – parallel to that, there was always electro music. Making that kind of music is nothing new to us at all.’
We were curious to know how the band’s name came about, given that neither member is called Niki and neither of them is a bird. ‘It’s symbolic of something we find important’, says the diminutive singer, cryptically; ‘We want to keep that something to ourselves’.
That sense of mystery is clearly a dominant theme for Niki & The Dove. Despite the music released so far having shown a distinct penchant for dance floor-filling beats and heavy bass, their lyrics can seem quite dark. On ‘Gentle Roar’, for example, Dahlström chants in an almost creepy whisper ‘Born on a Friday (Keys on the table) / Oh it’s real danger / Born on a Friday (Make a cross on your doorstep) / Keys on the table (Make a cross on your doorstep)’. The effect is somewhat reminiscent of Transylvanian peasants protecting their homes from a notorious vampiric neighbour. Conversely, the bad maintains that much of their music actually bears a positive message, ‘Gentle Roar’ being a prime example: ‘The lyrics are not intended to be dark – quite the opposite. They’re about fighting your fear, freeing yourself from a fear that someone else put upon you to dominate you. We need to consider the fears we have and why we have them and who made us feel like that. What do they want to achieve by that? It’s a way to dominate people.’
The band are audibly influenced by what goes on around them; this is reflected in the almost visceral sound of their output. However, we were curious as to which other artists inspire them musically: ‘It’s never been about influences – we know that sounds strange,’ replies Dahlström, ‘It’s all about what you can do with sounds, with drums, with keyboards etc. It’s a good question actually – influences have always come from friends and people around us, people with the same kind of interests. [pullquote_right]It’s more about a spark from shared interests to create a fresh sound, a new angle.[/pullquote_right] It’s more about a spark from shared interests to create a fresh sound, a new angle.’
2012 might well prove to be ‘the’ year for this quirky duo but the past year hasn’t been half bad either. Supporting Hurts on a couple of their live dates was something Karlöf particularly appreciated: ‘They are lovely, supportive people. We were all incredibly busy so didn’t get to talk as much as we would have liked but were really grateful for their help’. Then there was the aforementioned announcement that the BBC had placed the band in 5th position on their highly anticipated Sound Of 2012 poll, of which Karlöf says: ‘When we found out, it was like a dream. We were so honoured. It felt unreal for days. It was a huge moment for us. We couldn’t believe it.
In terms of what Niki & The Dove have up their sleeves in the short to medium term, the first thing they mention is the release of their album Instinct, scheduled for 14 May. Yet, it’s transparent that the Scandinavian twosome are happiest when playing live: ’February and March will see some shows in the US. I think that we will tour in May too – in the UK. Hopefully, we’ll play some festivals in the summer. That would be amazing’.
You can follow the band on Twitter: @NikiandtheDove