Holograms. Photo: Knotan
After a period of unsure waiting, I sit before my computer screen, logged on to Skype, staring at a box filled with the image of Olof Palme (just an old man in that moment, before my quick Google search) accompanied by another box surrounding my own reflection. I’m connecting with Anton Spetze, co-lead vocalist and guitarist for the Swedish punk group, Holograms, halfway around the world. Palme’s image enlarges to fill my screen and I’m greeted by Spetze’s faceless Swedish accent. He says, “Hello … I wasn’t prepared for the video conversation. So, I’m naked.” Fortunately, I still see only the face of the old man.
Spetze begins to explain how Holograms formed in 2011 and how their roots go back much further when the old man disappears and the image of Spetze, fully clothed (at least the visible torso region), begins to appear, but lingers in a soap opera haze, never focusing. “OK, there I am,” Spetze says. “My camera is broken.” After a few laughs, Spetze explains the band’s origin, beginning at Filip Spetze (synth) who is his younger brother. Spetze continues to describe how he and Anton Strandberg (drums) went to school together from sixth to ninth grade and have been playing in other bands together since. Spetze met Andreas Lagerstrom (vocals/bass) at a venue in Stockholm where their two separate bands would play. Spetze says, “We became friends there and we wanted to start a band together. We both liked song writing. So, that’s how it is.”
The group may have met each other through random circumstances, but Holograms’ sound didn’t entirely happen that way. Spetze says, “We had a plan, kind of. Andreas had inherited—is that a word? Inherited?—the synth we use, the Korg, from his friend who died, and he wanted to use it. We kind of just said that we wanted to play synth-punk and we took it from there.”
On Sept. 3, after a quick turnaround time of just over a year after their debut, self-titled album, Holograms released their second album, Forever, on Captured Tracks. Anyone familiar with Holograms’ self-titled debut album, in all of it’s straightforward Criminal Damage-like punkiness, may be surprised at the thick smoothness of Forever. This move wasn’t accidental. Spetze says, “This time we knew we wanted to make something with a really big sound. That was everything we had in our minds before we set off to record.” The genre hasn’t shifted since the first album and the songs contain the same basic elements, but clearly something’s changed in the time between. “It’s a lot in the mixing,” Spetze says. “We put a lot of time in the mixing compared to the first album.” The mixing shows in specific tones like the synth that hardly cut through in Holograms’ first album, but accents the new tracks with as much distinctness as the full-bodied, reverberated vocals.
Although mixed to create the bigger feel, Holograms vocals have the same sound (somewhere between a punk chant and melodic cry) on their self-titled first release as the new album. While clarifying Spetze’s band duties as vocalist and one of the two songwriters, I ask if he is the lead vocalist. Spetze says, “No, we are two singers, Andreas [Lagerstrom] and me, we both sing on different songs … I don’t think anyone has been able to hear that we actually are two different singers.” Spetze goes on to explain that their indistinguishable voices were accidental. Spetze and Lagerstrom agreed to split the songwriting and singing responsibility when they started Holograms—a practice they still write by. “I sit at home and write and he sits at home and writes, not together,” Spetze says. After Lagerstrom or Spetze write the basics of a new song, they bring it to the band, work out the kinks, and whoever wrote it, sings it.
The foggy backdrop to the close-up, Skyped-video-image of Spetze’s silhouetted head changes continuously as he moves throughout his dwelling during our Skype session. Somehow, the subject of Savage, the Stockholm venue where Holograms and Spetze’s earlier bands first congregated, arises at his every point of rest. Through the slim language barrier, I almost miss Spetze use the word “boat” on each mention of the venue. Spetze clarifies that it is an actual floating boat. He says, “It’s a boat, but it can’t run. It’s a cool venue … you can get seasick, though.” Spetze calls the boat club a garage-rock venue where they book smaller punk bands from America or other parts of the world, but says Stockholm lacks a local punk community despite the club, and that nobody sounds similar to Holograms. “There are a lot of local bands that play [at Savage], but they’re kind of broad in their expression. It’s not a cohesive post-punk scene,” Spetze says.
Holograms recently released dates for a short American tour this coming December with the band TV Ghost. Spetze first met TV Ghost when they played at Stockholm’s boat venue. Last year, after some trouble with their visas, Holograms made their first trip to America and even found time on their long drives to catch some tourist destinations—places like Mount Rushmore and The Badlands. “It’s really fucking exciting to tour,” Spetze says, “it’s the funnest part, except for the music. We really like to travel and, [laughs] broaden our horizons.” Spetze worries that if they don’t receive a grant from the Swedish state, which they’ve applied for, to help with tour costs, Holograms may slide deeper into their financial troubles. Still, they don’t plan to cancel either way.
Since the completion of Forever about six months ago, Holograms have been growing their fan base by playing shows and festivals throughout Europe and have been played on Swedish state radio, an impressive feat for a Swedish band, according to Spetze. Plus, they’ve been writing new (unrehearsed) material. Spetze says, “We’re focusing on the next record. I think we’re probably going to start recording this year—like the end of the year.”
You can check out the list of American tour stops (which doesn’t include Salt Lake City) on Holograms’ Facebook page here and you can stream their new record Forever here.