Every The Hives album in their own words
The Hives frontman Pelle Almqvist looks back over his band's career, album by album
Back in the early noughties, a bunch of rowdy Swedes tore through the UK proclaiming themselves to be Your New Favourite Band. Their name was The Hives. Forming as teenagers in the small town of Fagersta, the frantic garage rock troubadors have released five full-length records that span the spectrum of what is considered garage rock, deviating from what The Hives originally set out as.
“I wouldn’t say we’re doing exactly the same thing now, but fuck yeah I’m happy to still be here," vocalist Pelle Almqvist tells TeamRock. "If we all get to be adults and still be doing what we did when we were 18, it sounds like a pretty sweet deal, doesn’t it?"
As The Hives prepare themselves for British Summer Time at Hyde Park in London this weekend, we had a long chat with Pelle about the history of The Hives, album by album.
"This was right when we finished school, about 17/18. We wrote all those songs in school and went into the studio a couple of days after summer break started. It’s pretty rad. It sounds like carpet bombing with a puppy screaming over the top of it, which is what teenage rock ‘n’ roll should sound like – ridiculously fast, overblown, and making no sense. That’s my idea for rock ‘n’ roll.
“It was always serious. I love music too much to not take it seriously. We all knew what we wanted stuff to sound like but we didn’t have the skills to make it sound that way. Making it sound fun and easy is a lot of work if you want it to be good. We didn’t consider it as something that would make us money but that was even more reason to take it seriously because it was purely for art and its own sake. We figured we had time before we'd become adults where we could make whatever we want and not have to compromise with anybody."
Veni Vidi Vicious
“We were joking that Hate To Say I Told You So and Die, All Right were the hits on the album because they were slower than all the other stuff. We were an underground punk-rock band, a hit in our world was 500 people having our record and 400 of them we didn’t know. We expected it to do that but not to be so massive. When we put it out contemporary music made no sense to us, it was only a year or two later when The Strokes and The White Stripes got popular that it seemed like we had a place in the popular world. We kind of knew we could make the hits in the UK in a way by calling the album Your New Favourite Band because it seemed like such a perfectly UK thing to do – and it worked! It was a clever bit of writing and awesome rock ‘n’ roll that made us popular.
“The UK is such a great place to get popular because it bleeds over into all these other places. At the time, getting popular in the UK could happen overnight which didn’t really happen anywhere else – in the US you’ve got to tour for four years before anyone even hears you. It was fun to have that happen. Becoming famous overnight was like old-school Frank Sinatra, New York New York, it was awesome! You go on television and everyone sees you.”
“We’ve always left a four year gap between records and that’s down to extensive touring. When Veni Vidi Vicious became popular it had already been out for a year and a half, and then we had re-do the whole world tour but four-times as big. We were done with that record when it broke through but we thought ‘Fuck it, this might not happen again,’ and toured it again. Then Tyrannosaurus Hives took a year to make. And y’know, a young band gets popular, record companies start fighting over them, there’s legal hassle and all this bullshit, but at the same time trying to make a record. I just remember being really paranoid while making it, I was weirded out that we were making our first album that people were going to hear, and we knew that.
“There were a lot of people who had ideas of what we were going to do and who we were, and to their credit the label we ended up on left us alone a little bit. But they signed a band that was popular and didn’t really know that they were going to be popular, so they let us do what we do. It was weird that people were invested in us and we didn’t know them, which led to varying degrees of paranoia in the band.
“Compared to some of the other bands around at the time, we coped with success better. Part of that was because we’d been an unsuccessful band for a couple of years before we became a successful one. Because some of the other bands' first thing was really successful, when you start to think that’s normal that’s a dangerous place to be in. I guess for us it was more of a cynical realisation that all of a sudden the world turned and made us popular, but we didn’t really change, we were just doing the same thing we were doing. The fact that we’d known each other since we were children also meant that it was harder to get a big head because there were always people around you who had seen you as a naked six-year-old. It’s hard to become too much of a rockstar within the group!”
The Black And White Album
“This was more of a collaborative thing. We worked with Pharrell Williams on two songs and we wrote those with him, we made music together. All the other stuff was the same but we were trying to let ourselves be produced, and what usually happened was that the people that produced it stuck another chorus at the end ha ha! There were more conventional ideas than what we had done in the past – not in terms of how the songs were, but arrangement. Some of the songs were longer on The Black And White Album and it has a more broad spectrum of sound, and that was a conscious thing. We wanted it to be like ‘What if The Hives did a big budget thing? What would that be like?’ It might be my favourite Hives record, it’s got a lot of awesome songs on it.
“We looked at it like the last days of Rome because the record industry was going into the shitter and we got a lot of money from the record industry, so we figured it was kind of our duty to make a big budget rock record and spend some money on it. We could make a cheap record and keep all the money, but where’s the fun in that? It was a challenge to ourselves. We have to play these kind of mind-games with ourselves to feel creatively challenged."
“It took a lot of doing to get this done and that’s partly because we were in charge of it ourselves. It made things slower not having anyone on our backs, but the plug was out of the tub for the record industry so they had a lot less money, and we always licence our record to record companies but the economy wasn’t really there any more. We knew that we were going to make a record and have whoever wanted to release it release it because that’s what we wanted to do. We were in a time where we wanted to feel closer as a band and work more together again after getting produced. We had a lot of people and producers working on the record before, so what happens if we just do it ourselves? Fuck it, let’s build a studio, build a microphone, build a guitar amp, you know? That’s why it took such a long time ha ha!
“I really like all of our records, I don’t know if I’d call this album better, but my take on it is that the peaks and valleys are higher on The Black And White Album but the Lex Hives album is more consistent, every song is 4+ whereas there are more 3s and 5s on The Black And White Album, which I’m a fan of, I like my records more uneven."
The Hives play British Summer Time festival with Green Day, Rancid, Gogol Bordello and more on July 1 at Hyde Park in London. Tickets are available now.