This is the story of a Swedish band that employed a wolf named Ylva.
Ylva, of course, is the inanimate star of the band’s album-length video sampler of third album Flora, which, aside from being viewable at the end of this article, is also a great introduction to this exciting trio. Lead by Fredrik Hultin, the group has taken a very DIY approach to just about everything it does, whether recording all its albums in a garden-turned-recording studio or doing ungodly amounts of stop-animation for its self-produced music videos. All of these aspects, however, fail to mention that the group’s ghostly, haunting spin on indie rock is still the main draw. Sad cowbells open into canyons of sound, rock guitars sputter and start at dynamic intervals—all done while the group keeps a firm eye on what a solid melody is, which is why the band is only now starting to emerge as a Stateside player.
As part of the group’s world domination plans, Hultin himself sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, and his illuminating replies provide great insight on how to pass along advice, what the Swedish winter does to your blood, and the joys of singing to your morning coffee . . .
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Tampopo, a Japanese film on the sensual art of cooking ramen [noodle soup]. It’s apparently very complicated and takes a lot of heart and soul. I wept a little towards the end when they finally got the soup right and everybody went on to live happily ever after.
2. The fictional character most like you?
I’ve been told that I bear some resemblance to Satan. And why not? I have a few goat-like features, quite sharp teeth, and my eyes present a faint glow in the dark. It’s just the way I look though, when it comes to personality I think of myself as a cocktail consisting of 1/3 Tarzan and 2/3 Kermit the Frog.
3. The greatest album, ever?
The hardest question, ever. My pick will be Circulatory System and their self-titled first album. It was released in 2001 but sounds a bit like 1966 played in an ‘80s Hitachi boombox with weak batteries. Pure psychedelic beauty!
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars for nostalgic reasons. I had a Darth Vader mask when I was little that I got from buying ten or so packages of ice cream. I used to run around the house with a flashlight laser saber trying to get his trademark breathing right. My dad went crazy and thought I was developing asthma. Oh, happy days!
5. Your ideal brain food?
I have a small garden where I try to grow edible plants. The results vary quite a bit but the activity itself is pretty inspiring and mind-relaxing. Apart from that I’m a sucker for apocalyptic (and post-apocalyptic) fiction.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Now and then people come up to us after shows and tell us how they’ve traveled very long distances to come see us and how our music inspires them to do stuff. I feel proud when I hear that we make music that set people and their brains in motion.
7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?
I have a recurring dream of a cat and a dog singing a lullaby. Their voices are soft and their harmonies flawless. It sounds a bit weird but I’d really like to teach animals to sing. I’d be all over the Internet with that trick.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Brian Eno is a huge source of inspiration. He’s a music philosopher, a painter in music, and a true visionary. I don’t think you can underestimate his importance to modern popular music.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
I’m gonna go with one of the classic novels here. I’m extremely jealous at people who have the ability to write great books. Anybody who’s ever tried to put a decent piece of writing together knows that it’s damn hard. My choice is The Red Room by Strindberg. I’ve read it so many times that some of the characters have become like friends to me. It’s the type of story where everything seems to have a life of its own. Buildings, clocks, wind, weather, and trees all join hands and take part in the narration.
10. Your hidden talents . . . ?
I’m quite insensitive to physical pain and could probably, with a little bit of training, join a circus as a fire eater or something like that.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Oscar Wilde gave me this one: “The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.” It’s also a fact that most people are wrong about everything.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
The best thing I borrowed was an old gas station from the ‘50s situated on an island off the Swedish east coast. The owners had modified it into a home but kept all the original details intact. There were four of us, it was early autumn and all the summer tourists had gone home. The whole island had a spooky deserted feel, like if the Cold War had turned hot and left no one but us.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?
In a hot sauna naked. In Sweden in winter time you combine this with ice wake swimming. The icy dip makes the blood in your circulatory system freak out and want to leave your body. You rush back into the sauna, pour some water on the hot rocks, relax, and let the steam hit you. You’re sure to have an out-of-body experience every time.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
The last Neanderthal. The conversation would probably leave something to be desired, but to watch him or her go loose on a smoked eel salad or egg yolk ravioli would make up for it big time. I actually think the Neanderthals would have made a better world dominator. They’re an underrated species that history’s been tough on. Homo sapiens on the other hand, are a vicious bunch.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Jerusalem, year 0. Just to see what really went on.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
The sauna experience mentioned above is the best stress management there is. I’ve tried various natural and chemical substances but nothing comes near it.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?
Coffee for sure. I think of my morning cup before falling asleep, dream of it at night, call it cute names, sing songs to it. It’s a love affair.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I can never decide whether I prefer the city or the country. I guess I like both just as much. Spending spring time in the Central American rain forest, autumn in NYC, winter in Lapland, and summer in rural Japan would make a perfect year for me.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Nothing really, he just seems incredibly boring. We live in different worlds and he wouldn’t understand anything I’d say. We have one thing in common though, and this bugs me a little. His name is also Fredrik.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Just starting the process of writing new material for future releases. It’s an interesting creative phase were you try to let go and free your mind as much as possible to see what’s inside you that needs to come out. Hopefully it’s something pretty, but you never know.