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: Itís 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 itís always fun when you get a good reaction from the crowd and itís 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 heís 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 itís title with a famous Pink Floyd record. Has Pink Floyd ever been an influence on your band? Or is it a coincidence?
LM: Itís not a coincidence per se, itís not a tribute to them or anything but I do think their song “Wish You Were Here” is amazing, I think itís wonderful. Other than that theyíre not a big influence for me. I just think itís such a lovely phrase, itís got a sadness to it, itís hopeful and longing. Itís sad but it also feels warm like youíre 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 didnít 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 itís just something that feels right in the heart, in the stomach.
The tree is there probably because Iíve always liked organic things. Itís a disco album in a way but itís not an electronic, stiff, computer-made album, itís 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, itís 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. Itís much better now because now Iím just nervous the way most singers are nervous I guess. You know you have bad days and youíre up front so itís terrifying for that reason but when I did it you I knew I was going to be compared with Victoria and sheís got an amazing voice, I sound nothing like her. I didnít set out to sound like her but you canít really escape those comparisons. With the first album it was terrifying for the wrong reasons and now itís 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, weíd been on bad terms for a long time because we just didnít 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 theyíre not as spoilt with getting all the bands passing. And then itís got to do with the day of the week, itís 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 weíre very excited because at some venues they donít even say ďHiĒ, they just go about doing their own stuff. But here it felt like they were expecting us and wanted us to be here so thatís 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 donít listen to, although thatís 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: Whatís next for the band?
LM: In the short perspective, weíre making a long drive to Sacramento tomorrow. We finish this tour in Mexico City in two weeks’ time or so and then I actually donít know. I assume that we will be playing festivals and things like that but Iím going to stick around in America for two weeks and write new music, Iím looking forward to that a lot.
More photos of The Concretes in Vancouver:
Opening band MillionYoung: