Tonight, Monday, Apill 11, at 9:45 p.m PT/12:45 a.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live stream Miike Snow’s concert from the Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon. Click HERE to watch!
The Swedish-American trio known as Miike Snow isn’t your average pop group. Not only do they come from different countries, but they had different musical pedigrees before they formed the band in 2007, and they continue to mash up different musical elements on their recently released third album, iii.
Under the name of Bloodshy & Avant, Swedes Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg wrote material for such artists as Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Britney Spears, including Britney’s Grammy-winning, chart-topping “Toxic.” Conversely American Andrew Wyatt once fronted the A.M., a T. Rex-influenced combo that featured former members of the late Jeff Buckley’s band. If that seems like a bunch of disparate influences coming together, it is – and that’s exactly what Miike Snow thrives on.
The most extreme example of that is found iii’s the bonus track on iii. The track is called “Heart Is Full,” which is interesting enough in its regular studio version, as it combines Miike Snow’s modern electropop with a sample of Marlena Shaw’s version of the Burt Bacharach-penned “Waiting for Charlie to Come Home.” But the bonus-track remix adds hip-hop duo Run the Jewels for a mind-bending meltdown of different worlds colliding into adventurous pop bliss.
In a phone interview the day before the band kicked off the latest leg of its North American tour in support of iii, Wyatt says it was the quest to bring together such wide-ranging influences that initially united him with Karlsson and Winnberg. “I just wanted to do something that was a little more heterogenic and combine different aspects of different kinds of music,” he explains. “I think that’s what we’ve seen the last the 10 years. The most impactful music – at least culturally speaking, not commercially speaking – incorporates elements from disparate places in order to create something new.”
In the case of “Heart Is Full,” one of Karlsson’s other collaborators suggested sampling the Shaw track. “To me, it felt like it works,” Wyatt says. “That’s why we went with it. It’s something I don’t think I’ve heard before, which is that type of a song over that type of a beat.”
It was the band’s manager who pulled in Run the Jewels. “It turns out that a lot of hip-hop guys like the first Miike Snow record,” Wyatt says. “A lot of well-known rappers like that record as sort of a chillout record.” As for Run the Jewels specifically, Wyatt adds, “We knew they liked our record and we think they’re great, so we asked them if they’d be interested in doing it and they said yes. And not only did they say yes, but they actually did it in 72 hours, which is unheard of in the hip-hop world, usually because they’re so busy.” There was also talk of getting Young Thug on the track, “but he just got so popular,” Wyatt says. “There was one day in New York when it almost happened and then he had to fly to Orlando for something, and that was that.”
The album also features pop singer Charli XCX, who guests on the track "For U,” but even without guest stars, Miike Snow more than hold their own. Their album’s current single, “Genghis Khan,” recently cracked the top 10 of the Alternative Songs chart. The track’s companion video clip, directed by Ninian Doff (who previously directed clips for the Chemical Brothers and Graham Coxon), is as striking as the song. In the clip, which spoofs a mid-‘60s sci-fi spy flick, we see a villain who is living a double-life as a family man struggling with his sexuality. Finally, after an extreme dance-off, he settles down with the object of his desire – the James Bond-like spy he was going to torture. As the clip ends, the spy’s former female lover has assumed the role of the villain.
The clip seems to make a bold statement, as its protagonist adopts a gay lifestyle. “Obviously, you want to take opportunities where you can,” Wyatt says, “I don’t think it was our priority to make it about gay rights. We had commissioned this guy. I really liked the treatment, and after seeing some of the other stuff he’d done, I was convinced he was going to make a tasteful video, and then of course he surpassed all my expectations,” he adds. “I’ve heard so many people say that it’s their favorite video of the millennium,” he says with a laugh. “That’s quite a statement. I’m aware. We’re at a time right now where everyone is trying to shock everyone so much and stick out in some way and this guy just told a great story with great production design, great acting, amazing dancing. Not only that, it’s the kind of thing when the song and the video work symbiotically quite well. The video made the song better. The song made the video better. It was really one of those very lucky moments.”
Prior to the recording of iii, the members of Miike Snow took a three-year hiatus to work on other projects. During that period, Karlsson wrote and produced tracks for Katy Perry, David Guetta featuring Sia, Hilary Duff, and Sparks, while Wyatt released a solo album and racked up songwriting credits, including Beck’s “Dreams” and several tracks for Bruno Mars.
“It’s interesting; Miike Snow’s freedom has two sides of the sword,” Wyatt says. “One of the imperatives for Miike Snow for all of us is that we just kind of make whatever we want. And because of that, making the music is very joyful. Sometimes working for other artists is more challenging. Sometimes the sense of reward of working with another artist is even greater, because the freedom of Miike Snow sometimes leads to a lack of discipline, which when you’re writing for other artists you are sometimes forced to have, and it makes you work harder sometimes, but sometimes the results are great, too.”
Although the members of Miike Snow aren’t featured in their videos or on their albums covers, you will get a chance to see them on the band’s current tour, along with some festival stops, including this week’s Coachella and New York’s Governors Ball in June. For Wyatt, it’s all good.
“We hadn’t played in four years, so we started doing smaller venues first, like 1,500-2,000 cap places” Wyatt says. “I like that size of a show, because you get to mix it up with the audience a little bit more. But I like festivals, too. Depending on the festival, you can get a lot of enthusiastic people at one place. There’s a beautiful energy in that. Sometimes you find yourself playing crowds that are so vast. It’s almost like playing to a geographical formation or something. When you’re playing for 30-to-50,000 people it takes on the characteristic of playing for a lake or something rather than playing for people, but I like playing for lakes.”