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Dungen (Levitation Interview 2016)

index_picBy John Wittenmyer

Few bands have proven to be as deeply influential, yet remain as relatively obscure as Dungen.  The Swedish psych-rockers are best known for their 2004 masterpiece, ‘Ta Det Lugnt’, which was received to international acclaim and put them on the map as pioneers of the modern psychedelic movement.  Since then, while psych rock and pop began to increasingly dominate the indie music space, Dungen slowly started to fall off the map, despite several superb releases throughout the late 2000’s, culminating in a 5 year hiatus.  Still, throughout the years, they have maintained a loyal and dedicated cult following.

Last year’s release of ‘Allas Sak’ – their first album since 2010 – marks a return to form for Dungen.  It also marks what looks to be the beginning of a new prolific time from songwriter Gustav Esjes and co.  We had the pleasure to interview these gentlemen during their recent stint at Levitation fest in Austin, TX.  We are beyond stoked that these guys are back together, touring the states, and releasing new music.

Q: I wanted to talk about the new album, Allas Sak (“everyone’s bag”), which is the first album since 2010’s Skit It Allt (“fuck it all”).  Quite a different type of title!  How does it feel to be back touring in the United States?


Gustav: It’s great – totally amazing. And surprisingly, we have this loyal following wherever we go.  It’s amazing to be away for 5 years and people turn up.


Q: So it is surprising to you, to see a loyal following after so long away?


G: Definitely, we never take anything for granted, but there’s so much going on.


Q: So has the musical landscape changed a lot in those 5 years?


G: I don’t know, it’s hard to tell.  We have some kind of – wherever we go – we meet the same kind of people, that are into the same things that we are into.  That hasn’t changed.


Reine: I don’t think we have changed that much.


G: (laughts) It’s hard to be objective.


R: Obviously we have, but we’re still the same gang.  I feel so young… I feel like were doing things a bit better now, in a way.


Q: Well the new album is very much in the same vein as the past 4, so to me it echoes what you just said that as a core, you guys are doing the same thing… tell me a little about the new album and how it was recorded?


G: The main difference with this album is that we recorded with a friend of ours (insert name), who has almost become like another member of the band.


Johan: Well, the whole album is recorded live. Even if the music is the same, it’s been a lot different.


G: He’s quite an institution in Sweden.


Mattias: For Swedish people, he’s done some classics in Swedish.  He’s like some sort of Swedish Butch Vig who is just being there doing his own thing that just keeps doing things, sometimes that goes under the radar, some things go huge but he just keeps doing his things.  And he has this amazing studio and amazing skills and gear.





Q: So what have you guys been up to for the past 5 years… just said Skit It Allt (Fuck it all?)?


G: Yeah, we said fuck it all.  No.. I think that time flies, and everyone’s been busy trying to make a living.  That means we have to work a lot and time flies.  We’re only getting younger.


M: We have become fathers.


J: I have a son now.


R: Time really does fly.


M: When you think of it as such, it was the producer who kind of got us back into it, like ‘want to make an album?’


G: We didn’t really make a decision ‘let’s take a break’… it just happened.


Q: So going back to Ta Det Lugnt… which was the break out album for you guys in 2004 — and your surprise at the loyal following that you have since garnered.  What is it about that album that really put you on the map so to speak?


G: I don’t know, it’s hard to be objective, but I think it has always been really isolated, just us doing our thing in our world, in our bubble, doing our thing.  As long as you do that, you’ll meet your listeners eventually.  They’ll find you, or you’ll find them.


R: What I think is that really, that album was supposed to be like the last album. So everything was put into this record in a way.  It’s a very massive, honest, record. It’s very diverse and very demanding but it also deals with a lot of real emotions.  I think that’s the thing that comes across – there’s no boundaries, boundaries.  And the amazing songs and everything.  I still think it’s my favorite album.  4 is also my other favorite.


Q: There’s something beautiful about singing in Swedish and not understanding.  What is it about singing in Swedish:


G: That’s what I’ve learned throughout years, that it doesn’t matter what language you sing in.  It’s beautiful, and it’s universal.  If I should start thinking about it, it would be nuts – yeah, it’s crazy, singing in Swedish in Austin.


M: We listen to music that we don’t understand that we understand also, and we really love it.  The world is so much bigger than English.


Q: How do you feel about bands like Tame Impala citing you as an influence?


G: Totally flattering, amazing.  I think they should like, take some of their money and give it to us.  [Laughing]  We need to fix the rehearsal space.

No… it’s totally great.  We are acquaintences with everyone, Tame Impala and Melody, and its like something, maybe Ta Det Lungt came worldwide and some people found it but there were things happening at the same time. It was more parallel than like we were fighting each other.


R: The fun thing is that we are very different too, which is a good thing.  I don’t think [the new record] is too vastly different – mainly the production.


J: I think we are more jazzy.


M: It’s a great privilege for us.  It’s mutual privilege, for everyone.


Q: Question for Gustav, about the songwriting process.  What inspires you to write a new song?


G: I have a strong desire that I want to do my own music, and write my own songs. I have done that since I was a kid. I am not satisfied with just consuming, I want to contribute and make my own – that’s what I do.  Some periods I don’t write at all, some I write songs and I listen to a lot of music.  Some periods I don’t listen at all to music.


Q: How does the band process work?


G: It’s my songs, but at the same time, it wouldn’t never be this music if they weren’t playing the way they played with me.  They don’t play that way when they play with others.


M: I’ve always thought the three of us are like the three first Dungen fans.  We are all very eager to play Dungen music, and I think we all have the same picture of what that sort of music is.  You write the songs, and if we fail to make it sound like Dungen music, you will tell us it’s not the way you pictured it.  But I think we are all ambitious in this Dungen music that we all think we know what it is.


J: But during the recording process, he [Gustav] will ask me a lot, how would you play it?  But also, we all listen to the same kind of music, so we know the codes.  ‘You know the type of song?’ ‘Yeah, yeah, I know’.  That’s how we work.


M: Also emotions, scenery…


G: Porno flicks. Remember that German anal movie?


R: Yeah lets do that!


Q: En Gom An Aret. What is that song about?


G: Once a Year – for me, the lyrics are very personal.  But that’s the title of the song.  That’s what it means.  Sorry – Swedish people know the lyrics and the words.  I put a lot of effort into lyrics.

J: Into making them impossible to understand [laugh]


M: We don’t understand them.


Q: You all live in Stockholm and are regularly playing in Sweden:


G: Yes, we live there, it’s a big city phenomenon.


R: We created this sort of venue, or happening, where we play in Stockholm every year.  That’s what we’ve been doing in Stockholm.  It ‘s a free concert every summer, outdoor club, which is great, it’s always been great fun.


Q: What does the future hold, can you say that there will be another album?


M: Of yes, of course, we have recorded a new album. We’re not certain when — it might come in the fall or the spring.  And then we are already working on the next studio album after that.


G: We have some other goodies, like 7 inches coming out, and maybe a live album.  The next album that’s coming out is an instrumental album which is music for a silent movie.


R: So maybe 3 albums and some 7 inches that are already in the pipeline.

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