Kicking the habits

By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  January 9, 2009

"I think we have done a lot of — well, I don't want to say the same things, but I think that we have taken a lot of our early influences, like '60s girl groups, Buddy Holly, Sonic Youth, and used them a lot. And I don't really know if it's interesting to keep going down that same road. I mean, I'm just as crazy about a band like the Doors as I am about Buddy Holly, even though they're completely different things. And you know, I love a lot of music from the '70s and '80s — influences that normally wouldn't show up in our songs."

Early on, the Raveonettes put self-conscious constraints on their work: their first EP, 2002's Whip It On, is, as it says on the album cover, "recorded in glorious B-flat minor," and their follow-up LP, 2003's Chain Gang of Love (the cover of which features Wagner and Foo done up in '50s Wild One gear), is "recorded in B-flat major"; neither record offers any song that surpasses the 3:15 mark. As with the Dogme 95 movement of filmmaker and fellow Dane Lars von Trier, these limits were imposed to focus the duo's creative energies. "Without constraints, you run the risk of having the whole thing fall apart. It's more of having creative constraints on yourself — and that's what we wanted. We always strived to be something other than an ordinary rock band."

Over time, however, the ordinary caught up with them. "I think that in the beginning we did an incredible amount of touring, and it was very unhealthy. We ended up playing a lot of shows that we didn't really care about, and I think that, you know, people could see that! I guess now we have to rebuild our reputation as a live band. Fortunately, we're totally into touring now, and getting a lot better. I'm enjoying it now, but for a while when we were on tour all we wanted to do was sit at home and write pop, you know?"

Wagner isn't kidding about sitting home writing pop: the band's current bicoastal set-up means that "I'll write songs at home, and when I have songs that I think are good for us, I'll send them to her [Foo] and get her opinion on them, and she'll say what she likes about it and what she doesn't like about it." While he's writing the songs alone in New York, Foo is raising her newborn baby on the West Coast. It's proved to be their greatest challenge. "To make the new album, first off we need to have discussions," Wagner continues. "Discussions help Sharin and me come up with something interesting. I do miss, sometimes, being in the same city, because you can resolve things much faster face to face."

The four EPs they released in 2008 showcase a looser outfit willing to experiment not just with noise but with dancebeat tropes (as on the Sometimes They Drop By EP) as well as trance and synth work (as on the Beauty Dies EP). "Yeah, it's nice — doing the EPs, we felt like we could pretty much do whatever we wanted to do. Like this song called 'Young and Beautiful' [off Beauty Dies], which is very much an '80s song with a keyboard line in it. The good thing about that is that you don't have to have 10 or 12 songs that have to be consistent together. You can write whatever comes to mind, whatever you're in the mood for. I like both things, though: the freedom of the EPs and the challenge of making a proper album."

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