Exclusive: Inside the Studio with The Raveonettes

Since breaking on to the scene in 2001 at Denmark’s SPOT Festival, the Raveonettes have hooked fans with a haunting sound that blends modern sensibilities with vintage garage rock. Rolling Stone editor David Fricke is the fairy godmother in their indie rock Cinderella story: A stunning review of their festival debut brought record deals and now, three albums later, Sune Rose Wagner [guitar, instruments, vocals] and Sharin Foo [bass, guitar and vocals] are prepping for their upcoming October release, In and Out of Control. We hopped on the phone with Wagner, who was fresh from the studio in Copenhagen, about the band’s latest efforts.

Flavorpill: Why go back to Copenhagen to record?

Sune Rose Wagner: There is an old friend here, a Danish guy named Thomas Troelsen. He has a studio here.

FP: Is there an advantage to going home, to be near friends or less distractions?

SRW: I don’t think it’s an advantage. I really didn’t want to come back to Copenhagen. I would much rather record in New York or L.A. or Paris or London. But his studio is here, so we didn’t have a choice.

FP: How’s the writing going?

SRW: It’s good. We are recording and it’s coming along. We have a strict deadline. It’s definitely the record we’ve spent the most time on. It’s going to be quite interesting. It’s the most varied album with a lot of elements on it. It’s quite exciting. I’m liking it. We don’t have any songs yet, but what we do have so far is magnificent.

FP: Any different instrumentation or production?

SRW: The biggest difference is we went into the studio with finished songs and without any demos. We started from scratch. We have no idea what it’s going to sound like, no idea what the instrumentation is going to be. Just taking it day by day to see what we feel like. And letting it grow. We don’t even know the songs. I couldn’t even sing one for you. It’s quite a different way of doing things.

FP: Do you like living in New York?

SRW: Yes, I’ve been living there for five years. I love it. I like the fact that you can be anonymous and places are open late all the time. You can go to the bookstore on a Sunday if you want to. You can’t do that in Denmark. Everything is available. I kind of like that. I like the people in New York. People say it’s a very hip town and very busy, but I relax. I just love to walk the streets and watch people. Go to dinners. I always have a great, relaxing time there.

FP: Legend is the band’s name is from Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” combined with the Ronettes?

SRW: Yes. I grew up listening to the music of the ’50s and ’60s when I was a kid. Those are some of my early influences, especially ’50s rock and roll. The music had a certain attitude in it — very melodic and very pop and very romantic and very nostalgic at the same time. I thought the name was good. And the whole “Rave On” expression is pretty cool. It’s very modern. There is a lot of energy in that music. I thought it was a good mixture. It’s pretty wild and punk-like.

FP: There a lot of great bands like that coming out of Scandinavia. Is it a movement? Kind of retro?

SRW: I don’t think of the Raveonettes as retro. I think retro bands only release records on vinyl and use vintage gear. We are the complete opposite. We use computers, samples, and drum machines. We use everything technology has to offer these days.

FP: Let’s talk about your writing. It’s pop and punk, but very smart and sophisticated.

SRW: I was always attracted to music that had some contrast. I’m not really crazy about sweet, quiet songs with sweet lyrics. Unless they were done pre-1964, back then I think were really beautiful. “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” is still one of my favorite songs. But I think in our music, I like to have those two opposites. I like to have the dark mood because that’s what life is. Life is also fun; it can be fun and exciting. Some people are happy to be alive, and some people think life is suffering and misery. They are searching to see why we exist. When you blend those two things together, you get something that appeals to a lot of people.

FP: What do you think about the difference between the work you do in the studio and what you do live?

SRW: Well, the studio is a creative process where we mold and blend certain feelings or moods. When we play live, it’s more of an energetic explosion. It’s showbiz! It’s entertainment. Even though we are very shy Danish people we see ourselves as fierce entertainers. We strive to replicate what we have done on an album, just in our own special way.

FP: How much thought to you put into the look on stage? The outfits, the clothes, the makeup?

SRW: Not much. It differs a little it if you do a TV show — maybe you are aware millions of viewers are watching. I don’t think about it too much. I usually just wear on stage what I put on that morning. I’m not much for changing. I’m just ME on stage. But I’m also a guy. If I was a girl, I’d probably put on a really cool dress. I’d totally go for it. I’d make myself up to look like a beauty queen every night.

FP: There is the obvious comparison to Lou Reed and Nico…

SRW: I don’t know. I don’t mind. I’d love to be compared to Lou Reed. He’s a genius. As far as Nico goes, she had a unique voice and she was a beautiful German girl, but her life was a little more tragic than Sharin’s is.

FP: Some of your songs are very visual, like little movies. Do you bring a lot of visual influence from film?

SRW: Yes! I’ve always been more interested in movies than music. I think it’s more exciting to see a movie than listen to an album. People always tell us our music is very cinematic and I absolutely agree with them. I work from pictures in my mind, little dreamscapes. I always see images when I write. I don’t see words, I see images, and then I just jot down what I see. 

FP: Who are your favorite film directors?

SRW: It’s different with styles. I would have to say Alfred Hitchcock. I just think that some of his movies are so good, I can watch them over and over again. Rear Window, Vertigo, and Psycho are my favorites — those are in my top ten forever. If you go in the opposite direction, I would say Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors, too. I adore his movies and watch them on a regular basis. I love a good story, like you find in some of the David Lynch films. And Tim Burton. Those movies are little dream worlds with characters on the outside of society. They are beautiful.

The Raveonettes will be playing the Siren Festival this weekend in New York, and Lollapalooza in early August.