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Mando Diao - It's pop music that stands much taller than anything else


Story: Jack Foley

SWEDISH rockers, Mando Diao, may be yet to conquer these British Isles, but they're not short on confidence.

Fronted by the prolific songwriting partnership of Gustaf Norén and
Björn Dixgård, they ooze self-belief, the kind of charisma that sees them look over their audience’s heads as though their sights are always set further and higher.

"If a couple go to a Mando show the girl wants Björn and the guy starts a fight with me," Gustaf laughs. "No. The girls want to be with us and the guys want to be us…"

It’s these magnetic personalities, alongside their explosive live shows, their unholy ear for killer melodies and – as Elle USA confirmed – 'cute' good looks that has thrown Mando Diao into the spotlight across the
world.

In Japan, debut album, Bring ‘Em In, went gold, and in the US the media went weak at the knees – LA Weekly declared them to be 'the very definition of cool' – while across Europe and, of course, Scandinavia, they play to sold out houses full of far from retiring fans.

With Hurricane Bar, they arrive fully formed, unstoppable, urgent and more ambitious than ever.

Explains Gustaf: "We recorded almost all of Bring ‘Em In in the basement of our home in Borlänge.

"Nobody knew how to do it. We just modelled the sound on ‘60s Mod bands, and made the drums way too loud.

"It made for a cool and rough sound, and there was an incredible energy that just couldn’t be recreated in any studio."

For the follow up, however, they hired Richard Rainey, best known for his work with U2, and clearly a huge departure from those initial recordings.

"It would have been so geeky if we’d tried to do Bring ‘Em In one more time," explains Gustaf.

Rainey was intrigued by demos he had heard and travelled to see the band at a packed Berlin show where they bonded over life’s more important issues: The Beatles and The Office.

With Rainey on board, the band travelled to Bath to record, armed with almost 60 new songs.

As Gustaf admits: "As soon as we’ve had a weekend or a couple of days off between tours we’ve recorded three or four new songs, partly because we don’t have a life outside Mando, and partly because we have to get all our ideas out."

When it came to picking the songs for Hurricane Bar, they realised that one thing in particular united the best of them, and that was their accessibility.

"We wanted absolute top notch songs," explains Björn, "and when we picked the songs it was always the pop stuff that won. Because that’s what we do best."

"Pop is where we come from," continues Gustaf. "It’s our roots. Everything we listen to is pop. Even if it’s been reggae, soul or rock, it’s always the poppiest songs we liked.

"It’s pop music that just cuts through all the trends. Get up and do that number and you’re king. It’s the same thing with The Beatles’ She Loves You, Oasis’ Some Might Say and The Stone Roses’ I Wanna Be Adored.

"It's pop music that stands much taller than anything else."

The result is an album that is quite simply rammed full of melody.

The Dixgård / Norén writing team clearly has a knack for painfully infectious tunes and unashamedly anthemic choruses that recall the finest tunesmiths, acclaimed or obscure: Lennon and McCartney, Gallagher and Gallagher, Pollard and Sprout.

Whether writing infectious rockers such as Down In The Past and God Knows, or more intimate affairs like Added Family and Ringing Bells (interestingly enough the two songs that drew Rainey to the band most strongly), it's the familiarity of the melodies that is so seductive.

The band make no bones about nodding to their forbearers, and on occasions bow down before their heroes as they pay homage.

But that’s what is so refreshing about their approach - they have somehow cracked the secret formula of winning pop, and if that involves a little thievery from their idols, so be it.

If Hurricane Bar has two central themes, they are pop music and the universal desire to escape the band’s hometown, Borlänge (the explicit inspiration for the song, Clean Town).

"The album title itself comes from 'a rock club that the whole music scene was centred around in the mid ‘90s when Britpop ruled," Gustaf elaborates.

"There were a lot of tough guys there, criminal types, they liked Britpop."

"Everybody was there," Björn goes on. "Everybody wanted in, and us too, even though we were too young, really.

"But they threw us in as a support act now and then. That’s when we found out what it’s all about."

In fact, one particular experience cutting their teeth there inspired Next To Be Lowered.

As Gustaf tells it: "I’ve never been so nervous in my life as I was when we were about to play. I couldn’t do it.

"Because the last thing you wanted was to look like a jerk. That’s why we played everything with so much energy that people were in shock over the sheer force.

"We managed to blow one metal band after another off stage. It was all energy."

And if Mando Diao were able to do that as long ago as 1997, when they first formed, you can only imagine how they are now, following years of touring all across the world.

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