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The Cardigans: An interview with Magnus Lagerberg

The Cardigans

Long Gone Before Daylight (Koch)
An (email) interview with bassist Magnus Lagerberg
By Tim Den
photos by Nathan Blaney

Like many others, I certainly didn't expect this. Sure, The Cardigans have been known to change their sound as often as their hair styles, but after the cold techno-ish sounds of Gran Turismo, the last thing I expected was a return-to-roots pop record like Long Gone Before Daylight. And I certainly couldn't have imagined its gorgeousness.

The band on Long Gone Before Daylight are not the rag-tag bunch found on Life, or the bouncing, young darlings of First Band on the Moon. The Cardigans have been around for over 10 years, and they sound every bit as rich and seasoned as age would deal the most fortunate of us. Gentle, articulate guitar pluckings caress vocalist Nina Persson's sultry, world-weary voice... like Aimee Mann's plaintive narratives, with as many potent turns-of-phrase in even better songs.

Ah, the songs... From the moment opener "Communication" dips its finger into the aural pond, the ripples grow and grow. Steadily, patiently, calculatedly. Each song wrings your heart like a wet rag, brushing against your skin like an autumn breeze, puncturing your defenses with anecdotes that only those who've lived through life and love can tell. They break you down, pick you up, make you think about your own experiences and lost loves, all the while turning you into a mush beneath their exquisite songcraft. Remember the scene in Magnolia where all the characters are singing "it's not going to stop"? Remember how powerful that melody felt? Long Gone Before Daylight makes you feel like that over and over again.

A vulnerable, moving, and truly incredible - not to mention surprising - achievement, Long Gone Before Daylight has already procured a spot in my best of 2004 list.

After Righteous Boy, I was surprised you didn't contribute more to Long Gone Before Daylight.
Well, I felt totally at ease just playing the bass and not being a creative part in the studio. Before, Nina and I fought over the lyric-writing, since The Cardigans was our only way to get "published." Now I felt I'd said all I wanted through my solo album. And it was quite nice to force things out. The songs on my record were mostly about a certain ex-girlfriend, and I wanted to keep the others out of that vendetta.

There's quite a stylistic change between Gran Turismo and Long Gone Before Daylight.
I think Nina's solo record, A Camp, was the biggest influence. We were all happy and envious of her work on that record. And it's okay for people our age to embrace Neil Young and The Band... ;-)

The other guys did a version of "Das Model" by Kraftwerk back in 2000, and I would've felt terrible if we'd followed that path. It was all electronic and cold, taking the Gran Turismo sound even further. I feel great that we returned to the roots and started to save some beard! We were also eager to make a live-in-the-studio album, which Gran Turismo was not.

Why did you not contribute more during most of The Cardigans' career?
Peter was the musical force in the band since '94 or so, and I tried to write some songs back then, but they always ended up kinda lame. When I did my own record, I knew that my songs were... less skilled. But they gained strength from the words that I and only I had written. Therefore, I accepted them as mine and am proud of them. It's tricky to write music cuz everything's been done, and sometimes you feel that all good melodies have been used over and over again. I guess I'll go a little more avant garde on my next record, use samples from here and there, Spanish voiceovers, freaky stuff to make it more surreal. Possibly cuz my first album was so very straight-forward, telling-it-like-it-is kinda thing.

What are your goals/aspirations/motivations for The Cardigans this many years down the line?
We have more fun now than we've ever had, really. Everyone's grown up a little. Wiser and less vain. That goes especially for me (and Peter and Nina). We now want to do more fine albums with great grown-up music. We've reached a nice level where we have nice lives on and off work. Since some guys in the band have produced babies with their girlfriends, we'll have a human workload in the future as well.

What were you personally trying to accomplish during The Cardigans' "break"?
First of all, it was a matter of coping with the panic attacks. That took a good year or so, going through a lot of personal things, working in Tambourine Studios where we've been making all our records. They took me in for therapeutic work, and then after a year or so, I started to make songs on my own. I'd never sung before, and hadn't written a song in six years. I guess I had to take such a blow to get started. I even named my song publishing company "making money thanks to ex's..."
I was not thinking of getting back to the band at that time. We were all so worn out. Then, in '01, we started to talk and work again, and it felt good after some warming up. Those meetings would've been a nice study for a class of psychotherapy students! :-)

How did the Righteous Boy album come to be released in the U.S. through Future Farmer?
Life moves in mysterious ways sometimes. When I did the record, it was purely for myself, and even though I wanted it to get released, I never thought of the consequences. That it would be reviewed in magazines, etc. "A U.S. release? Get out of here!" But now, I can tell the others what it's like to release an album in the USA in the new millenium!
I don't know how they got to know about my record, eBay perhaps?

Will there be a new Righteous Boy album soon?
I'm actually working on some new songs at the moment. They're much rougher. Then I'll see if Stockholm Records or Future Farmer want to release it. The problem now is that I feel a little too well, so I have nothing to moan about lyrically. I have to find me a mean lady who'll treat me like shit and then dump me! Nina told a female journalist from the U.S. that I thought that women were evil. She responded by wanting to come over here and check me out! They aren't evil, they just make me get the panics. This is only when it comes to love affairs; I have plenty of lady friends and I'm fine among them!

Do you foresee any touring as Righteous Boy?
I just did some gigs here in Malmo, but it'd be too scary to travel and sing my songs in front of strangers. And too expensive as well, since we were an eight-piece band at the time. I'd better stay home and play for my friends. They're nice enough to cheer for me when the song is over!

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