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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.