Swedish rock band Sahara Hotnights initially came together in the early ’90s because four young girls shared a common interest: alleviating the boredom of their small town lives. Consisting of Maria Andersson on lead vocals and guitar, along with Jennie Asplund (backing vocals, guitar), Johanna Asplund (backing vocals, bass) and Josephine Forsman (drums), the group blended elements of garage rock, power pop and punk and, after only a few short years of playing together, won a Battle of the Bands that earned them the opportunity to record their own demo album. Often described as a mix of Blondie, The Ramones and Nirvana, Sahara Hotnights released their debut EP, Suits Anyone Fine, in 1997 to critical acclaim and, after signing with Speech Records, released their first full-length album, C’Mon Let’s Pretend, in 1999, for which they garnered a pair of Swedish Grammy nominations.
In April of 2000, Sahara Hotnights released their Drive Dead Slow EP and followed it up in 2001 with Jennie Bomb, their second full-length album. Their song “Alright Alright (Here’s My Fist Where’s the Fight?)” was featured in several films, including Cheaper By the Dozen and Jackass: The Movie, and with the popularity of Swedish rock on a swift upward trajectory, Sahara Hotnights received international attention and accolades.
In 2011, the band released the eponymously-titled Sahara Hotnights, their most intricate, original and multifaceted offering to date, as Andersson’s razor-sharp vocals effortlessly intertwine with thunderous melodies. To learn more, visit Sahara Hotnights online at www.saharahotnights.com.
From your perspective, what are the advantages of forming a band at such a young age and maintaining the same lineup over the years?
Maria: I think that is the one reason why we have stayed together all this time, you don’t quit your family just like that. Like most bands, we have had our ups and downs, but the fact that our friendship somehow was always more important than the music, perhaps made it easier for us to handle success and failure. However, it is kind of hard to say what the advantages are since I have not experienced any other kind of set up. In some ways, I think it is better to be adults when forming a band, to choose it and not just end up doing something. It makes you lack perspective.
What were the band’s early practices like? At what point did you realize that the four of you had a distinct musical chemistry?
Maria: I do not think we had musical chemistry to begin with, we practiced until there was one. During our first rehearsals, it was more about everyone playing together and the feeling of power while doing it. I do not think we realized that we were a strong unit until we played our first shows. The chemistry between people is much about mutual confidence. We got that from being on stage together.
Who are your biggest creative influences?
Maria: I am often drawn to paintings, books and music that has a certain melancholy feel to it. It’s hard to point out what it is exactly. It can be Marguerite Duras’s sense of writing, songs by John Cale or Francoise Hardy, or a dreamy landscape of Caspar David Friedrich.
How did small town life shape you and influence the music of Sahara Hotnights?
Maria: It was not that easy to discover new music since we had no record store, and there were no clubs where people performed music. Since it was not brought to us, we had to look for it ourselves, and I believe that is a creative process in itself. The feeling of being isolated made us feel creatively free. We had nothing to compare with and no one to compete with – music was this magical thing that was going on somewhere else, someplace we did not know of yet. We just had to find out how to get there.
What is your songwriting process?
Maria: I work a lot with ideas that are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million inside and outside sources. Making music with disconnected sentences and melodies borrowed from books and songs at some unremembered time. I record memos on my iPhone and I scribble a lot. So first, there is the collecting part of the process, then I usually sit down with an acoustic guitar and put the song together. To me, songwriting is about transforming a feeling, and once you have materialized it, you want it to be like you had pictured it in mind. Therefore I’m not that good at writing with other people. I welcome inputs on structure and arrangement though. I think Josephine, who also writes songs for the band, works a little like that too.
When you’re writing or recording a song, can you tell immediately which ones are going to be hits? Along those same lines, have you ever recorded a song that you thought would be huge but failed to get much attention from audiences?
Maria: No, I am terrible at that, I could never guess what is going to be a hit. I tend to have hang-ups on songs that I’m feeling strongly about lyrically; unfortunately, great words or a clever composition doesn’t always make a hit song.
That has happened, yes, I sometime overrate simplicity and melody as an easy way to get the audiences attention. You can not guide them though, whatever they feel is right.
How does a Sahara Hotnights tour these days differ from one in 1999?
Maria: The shows back then was more explosive and energetic, I believe we are a bit more distinct and dynamic nowadays. Somehow more powerful but less sweaty! We did our last tour in 2011 after releasing our latest album. We all decided we should take a break after that to get time to work with other projects.
If you had never started a band, what do you think you’d be doing today?
Maria: I might have become a librarian like my dad. Or opened a restaurant in Stockholm that served breakfast all day long. I love having breakfast for dinner!
What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Maria: I saw Boyhood yesterday; I liked that one very much, especially the scene about the Beatles Black Album! I also loved Michael Hanekes Amour, it is a beautiful yet brutal story on love and loneliness in old age.
If you could change one thing about the world or society, what would it be?
Maria: I would change the balance of economic power by taking the money from the richest 1% and double the wealth of the other 99% people in the world.
What’s next for you and for Sahara Hotnights?
Maria: We all work with separate things at the moment. Josephine has moved to L.A., Johanna is touring with another band, Jennie is hanging out with her new labrador puppy and I am in the middle of recording right now. I spent the last year writing for a solo record that will be out sometime in 2015. We have said we might begin to work on a new SH record when Josephine comes back from the U.S. We will see what happens!