Swedish pop band Stars in Coma made its US debut in late May of 2014 at the NYC PopFest. Though a WTF contributor caught the excellent show in Brooklyn, we weren’t able to connect with the band until they had returned to Sweden, but bandleader André Brorsson found time to answer some questions via electronic mail.
WTF: Did Stars in Coma enjoy its first visit to the US? How long were you here, and what cities and places did you see? What were your favorite places and experiences?
AB: Yes, we certainly did! I, for one, have mythologized the US since I visited Hawaii in 2004, so it was good to come back after 10 years. Of course, Hawaii and New York are a lot different, but there are similarities too, such as the grocery stores and the candy. We stayed in NY for about a week and did a lot of touristing. We visited Coney Island, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, the usual stuff. The first day was really Seinfeld-inspired, as me and my friend are really into that sitcom. We rented a small flat in Chinatown, which was interesting. In a way it’s a lot like Malmö (our home town in Sweden) only way, way bigger. But Malmö has this kind of miniature Asiatown, which is quite uncommon in Sweden.
WTF: How did your appearance at NYC PopFest 2014 come to be?
AB: I’ve been emailing with Maz, who arranges NYC PopFest, for some years but for various reasons we couldn’t play the festival until this year. I’m really glad we were able to bring the whole band to the US.
WTF: Your set (Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, 30 May 2014) was fantastic. You and the whole band had great energy and a level of ease, confidence, and enthusiasm that helped the whole crowd enjoy the songs immensely. Does Stars in Coma have a particular philosophy about performing live? Do you all enjoy it as much as you seem to?
AB: Thank you! Yes, we want our show to be groovy and colorful, and we want the audience to have a good time. It’s kind of a reaction to all those shy indie-pop bands. Some of us also put some effort into what we’re wearing on stage. I’m quite introverted myself, but on the stage I find myself to be extroverted, provided the feeling is right. This was really easy to achieve at the NYC Popfest, because the crowd was really into it. When the atmosphere is right, like it was at Cameo, there is nothing that beats playing live.
WTF: Tell me about the personnel in the band. How long have you been playing with each member?
AB: We’ve been going through a lot staff changes over the years, but the current lineup has existed since last Fall. I really enjoyed playing with these people, and they are all very talented musicians. Nicole and Daniel, who both play keys, also play flute and saxophone, but unfortunately we weren’t able to bring those instruments so we had to do a more synth-y set.
WTF: When it comes to songwriting, what roles do the other members of Stars in Coma have? Do you present the band with complete ideas, or do you all work out the details of the songs together?
AB: Stars in Coma started out as a studio project, but it has evolved to a communal thing over the years, at least when it comes to playing live. Basically, the songs are finished when we start rehearsing them, and then they slightly change in the live setting. I have some plans to start being more collaborative with the band though. My girlfriend Nicole, who plays keys and flute in the band, is valuable when it comes to listening to rough mixes and also laying down backing vocals and flutes when needed.
WTF: Talk about the excellent new record, The Confessional Sun. Did you approach the writing and recording any differently than your other recordings? Did you have a particular vision or goal for this record?
AB: The Confessional Sun was very hard to make, because the songs are mostly about my father, who passed away in 2012. I’ve had a rough couple of years following his death, both on a personal level but also trying to complete an album dealing with such a tragic topic. But in a way, I felt that the NY show was a catharsis of sorts, and that I came full circle with my grief. I finally could put the last couple of years behind me, in a way. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like it’s the end of an era, and the start of something new.
WTF: What are your musical influences?
AB: They are all over the place. A lot of pop from the 60s and 70s. Soft rock, afro-pop and funk, obviously. I’m also into some of the US indie pop bands like Of Montreal, Real Estate and Ariel Pink. I don’t really like Swedish pop, which perhaps is a sign of self-hate. [Laugh.]
WTF: How does the reaction to your music in Sweden vary from what you saw here in the US? In what ways, if any, do you think that your music is particularly Swedish or Scandinavian?
AB: From my point of view, it varies greatly. In Sweden, I have the feeling no one really cares about what we do. It may not be true, and on a theorical level I know I’m wrong, but I feel that we’re basically left out of the music scene in Sweden. I think it’s about Sweden being such a small country, so we can only “deal” with so many hypes at one time. But there’s also something else, something in our culture, which is harder to describe.
We’ve been around for some time now, and the scene we were possibly associated with in like 2006-07 doesn’t really exist anymore. There is really no pop scene in Malmö, for instance. But if you play punk, you instantly have an audience, at least from my point of view. People that liked us back in 2007 have perhaps moved on. But we’re gaining new fans from all over the world, especially in the US, which is really nice.
But after the show at the NYC Popfest, I had like 10-15 guys coming up telling me how great the show was. It’s usually the same in Germany and Italy, where we’ve play a bunch of times. But that never happens in Sweden. Of course, there is an exotic aspect to it; it’s more fun to watch a foreign band for the first time than some local band playing their umpteenth show. Obviously that is true for US bands coming to Sweden as well. On some level I feel more connected to the scene in your country that I will ever do here in Sweden, even though I have no experience being in a struggling US band.
WTF: What is the origin of the name Stars in Coma?
AB: It just came to me one day. I’ve been wondering what it means myself.
WTF: Thanks for answering these silly questions and for bringing your wonderful music to the US! Please come back soon!
AB: Thanks! We hope we can!