Swedes and the Swedish pop wonder

Oskar Hovell, aka Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

In an interview with Global Texan Chronicles recently, Walter Price asked us what the biggest misconception about Swedish music might be. We thought about it, and concluded that it could be – considering the amount of super successful Swedish pop song writers and producers – that Sweden would be a typical breeding place for musicians, bands and artists. A haven for artsy people. Street musicians everywhere, live music bars and Chelsea Hotels round every corner.

It’s not, I’m afraid. Here’s how: Swedish culture and etiquette is easy to grasp: Just don’t ever bother anybody. That’s it. Don’t bother nobody and you’ll be fine. People will love you.
If you show up at a Swedes doorstep unannounced, the polite thing for the Swede to do is to not invite you in. See, you might not want to and then you may feel like you have to, like you’d hurt his feelings if you don’t. Or worse, you might feel like you are bothering him, forcing him to make coffee and worrying about cookies. So, the best thing for everyone is to not invite you. You should never have just showed up like that, but don’t worry, noone will say that to your face. They’ll tell each other, people will get uncomfortable around you and some cookies will be baked just in case, but you won’t know. Noone will bother you with all that information.

It’s not that we don’t want company, we just don’t want to force ourselves on anyone.
Yes, this sounds really bad. But still, as a guy with many friends and relatives from other cultures, I’m forced to do things I don’t want to all the time. I drink stuff I don’t like, I tell people about my job even though they don’t want to know and I don’t wanna tell them. I have them make me coffee even when nobody else is having it, so they have to make it just for me, which makes me feel very uncomfortable plus the coffee is often no good. Once, I ended up drinking a hole bottle of whiskey with some guys who didn’t really want me there and I missed a great night out with my friends, just because we were all being polite. That’s not the Swedish way. We never bother anybody.

So, let’s say there are pros and cons. I would never recommend traveling to Sweden as a tourist unless you’re hiking in the mountains alone.
On the other hand, the day Iran is free (insh Allah), I don’t know what we’ll do. There are so many relatives of mine (wife’s Irani) that we’d have to visit, we’d never get out of there. We wouldn’t see much of the country’s exterial since we’d be sitting inside drinking thousands of gallons of tea and eating ghorme zabsi. And the next time we can afford to go again, we’ll have to do it all over again. Some of them we’ll be very happy to see after all these years and some of them we don’t know at all. I don’t speak persian, so I will not be having a conversation apart from saying hello, thank you and good bye and getting lots and lots of praise for having learned how to say that, after 10 years of marriage to a Persian woman. (Oskar Hovell, aka Orren)

Anyway, the real downside with Swedish tradition is, as you may have guessed, that music can be seen as something that bothers people. People trying to sleep, trying to have dinner, trying to put their kids to bed or trying to watch TV have managed to bann live music from Stockholm almost entirely. Other cities in Sweden are probably better, but for anyone from abroad, the whole of Sweden will seem very sleepy. Because if one single person, be it in the flat on top of the bar or even in a tent at a festival, wants to sleep, the whole town will go SSHHHH!!

So what of the Swedish pop wonder? How does that happen? Well, boredom, lonelyness and really, really thick walls I guess.


Love, love, love

Oskar Hovell, aka Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Billy Momo did a show yesterday, at a small bar in Nynäshamn, near Stockholm, the day after the terrible attack in Stockholm. We had an odd feeling about it. Every gig is a sort of a party for us, a celebration of a sort. And it didn’t feel quite like the time for celebration. Still, letting an act like that stop people from gathering and having a good time together seemed out of the question.

So we went and we thought we’d do the best with what we got. It seemed quite possible that few people would even show, concidering everything. But we also knew we would probably have people coming in that would have traveled for hours to get there, which is not only a great responsibility but also, it gives us a lot of inspiration. And thinking about that, there’s a lot of love there, isn’t it?

I’ve talked about it before, how much we admire our fans and fans in general. The way they take our music to heart, the way they seem to stop to nothing in order to support us and the way they keep looking for new exciting acts to support. Now, Marvin Gaye is not the only dude who’s said it: only love can conquer hate. It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. Somebody went ahead and killed four innocent people for very vague reasons to say the least. Shit like that tends to fill your head with dark thoughts. It is what it’s designed for, I guess. Anger that should be directed to one guilty man often widening it’s aim somehow, pointing out all kinds of people that often need everything but more hate and accusations. In the long run, some of those people might even turn into the enemy that our anger tried so hard to make them. And that’s when we’re in really deep shit.

Billy Momo, Live in Nynäshamn – April 8.

Now, Billy Momo didn’t save the world yesterday. It was actually more me being saved. The reception we got from that audience was overwhealming. It blew all dark thoughts right out of me. See, the problem is, even though you know Marvin and all the others were right, it’s so hard not to give in. That devil inside you can’t be beaten down without an emotional reminder.

Today, I went to a manifestation for love in central Stockholm. Tens of thousands of people gathered just to feel unity, solidarity and love. Because it makes us better people and that makes it a better world. So, the message is the same, fifty years later. All you need is love. (Oskar Hovell, aka ‘Orren’)