Interview – Lisa Milberg on The Concretes’ new album WYWH
– by Heather Welsh
The Concretes‘ upcoming Biltmore Cabaret show in Vancouver on March 1 is part of the Swedish band’s 2011 North American tour which ends March 11th in Mexico City.
Lisa Milberg, formerly the band’s drummer, has stepped up to the mic following singer Victoria Bergstrom‘s departure after recording the third Concretes record in 2006. (Bergstrom went on to form Taken By Trees). WYWH (Wish You Were Here) is The Concretes’ fifth album, and the second one featuring Milberg on lead vocals.
Heather Welsh: The new album has a dancier, disco feel to it. What inspired this? What were your influences?
Lisa Milberg: It’s a combination of things. For me I think it just reflects on what I listen to, which is quite a lot of disco and dance. When we play live it’s always fun when you get a good reaction from the crowd and it’s is easier to tell that they are having a good time if they can dance to it.
So it felt like something that we have wanted to explore for a long time but never really got around to. The new drummer Dante, who took over when I started singing, is a very good drummer and he’s great with the dancier sort of stuff so he almost certainly had some influence too. Probably the main reason is that when I started writing songs and lyrics it just kind of happened. I wrote songs and in my head they had a certain pace to them, a certain beat to them.
HW: Your album shares it’s title with a famous Pink Floyd record. Has Pink Floyd ever been an influence on your band? Or is it a coincidence?
LM: It’s not a coincidence per se, it’s not a tribute to them or anything but I do think their song “Wish You Were Here” is amazing, I think it’s wonderful. Other than that they’re not a big influence for me. I just think it’s such a lovely phrase, it’s got a sadness to it, it’s hopeful and longing. It’s sad but it also feels warm like you’re in a summery place on holiday. I find it interesting that just four words can make you think of so many different things.
HW: I find the album artwork very reflective of the mood you create with your music. Is the tree significant in anyway? Are you involved with the art direction?
LM: I did the artwork. I mean I didn’t do the painting but I picked the painting. I decide upon all of our sleeves. Again, I could tell you a bunch of reasons why I selected that piece but at the end of the day it’s just something that feels right in the heart, in the stomach.
The tree is there probably because I’ve always liked organic things. It’s a disco album in a way but it’s not an electronic, stiff, computer-made album, it’s a very band-made album so for that reason it feels right to have something organic rather than something cold on the cover.
It is also a picture of Stockholm, right next to where we recorded the album, it’s near our part of town where we hang out so it felt like a nice tribute to somewhere that means a lot to us.
HW: Were you nervous about stepping up to be the new lead singer?
LM: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s much better now because now I’m just nervous the way most singers are nervous I guess. You know you have bad days and you’re up front so it’s terrifying for that reason but when I did it you I knew I was going to be compared with Victoria and she’s got an amazing voice, I sound nothing like her. I didn’t set out to sound like her but you can’t really escape those comparisons. With the first album it was terrifying for the wrong reasons and now it’s more manageable.
HW: Are you on good terms with Victoria since she left?
LM: When she left not so much, it was just a very upsetting and sad time for everyone I think. One of the reasons she left is that we had stopped having fun together quite a long time ago, we’d been on bad terms for a long time because we just didn’t really get along anymore. We all wish her the best but it was a very good thing that she left, for her and for us.
HW: Can you tell the difference between an American and a Canadian audience?
LM: I think for me it varies from city to city, generally smaller cities have nicer crowds because they’re not as spoilt with getting all the bands passing. And then it’s got to do with the day of the week, it’s affected by so many things. Although when we arrived here today everyone at the venue [Vancouver rock club The Biltmore] was super friendly so now we’re very excited because at some venues they don’t even say “Hi”, they just go about doing their own stuff. But here it felt like they were expecting us and wanted us to be here so that’s nice.
HW: Which artists inspire and influence you? What do you listen to?
LM: Between everyone in the band we listen to so many different things. It might be easier for me to say what I don’t listen to, although that’s not easy either! There are a lot of good bands coming out of America right now, maybe more so than in recent years. I like Real Estate a lot, My Morning Jacket have always been one of my favorite bands, I think Jim James is an incredible singer. I listen to a lot of old music and a lot of reggae and disco and singer/songwriters, you know, everything. We consume a lot of music in the band. I also love a lot of the new R ‘n’ B things as well, like Drake.
HW: What’s next for the band?
LM: In the short perspective, we’re making a long drive to Sacramento tomorrow. We finish this tour in Mexico City in two weeks’ time or so and then I actually don’t know. I assume that we will be playing festivals and things like that but I’m going to stick around in America for two weeks and write new music, I’m looking forward to that a lot.
More photos of The Concretes in Vancouver:
Opening band MillionYoung: