Clocking in at a little under three minutes, Longbois’ latest single, the minimalist “Techno Medicament” is centered around hypnotic repetitions of dense synth arpeggio layers, tweeter and woofer rattling polyrhythmic thump. Sonically, the song strikes me as a sleek and energetic synthesis of Kraftwerk and The Chemical Brothers‘ “Star Guitar.” Interestingly, as Longbois explains the song is influenced by several different electronic music styles and genres including minimalist techno, IDM and house. Ideally, the song was created as a a way to escape one’s troubles after a hard day’s/night’s work.
Founded back in 2017, the duo’s collaboration is a decided change in sonic direction from their previous output as the project finds the Swedish songwriters and producers experimenting with their own unique take on melodic alt-pop, which meshes elements of 70s Americana and Nordic melancholia. Coincidentally, as they started their own attention-grabbing project, the duo received accolades for co-writing Avicii’s “Without You” and “Waiting for Love,” which led to a Swedish Grammy Award win for Composer of the Year. Adding to a growing profile across the international electro pop scene, Al Fakir and Pontare performed their co-written hit “More Than You Know” with Axwell /\ Ingrosso at Coachella — and they played a key role in finishing Avicci’s posthumously released album TIM, contributing on three of the album’s songs.
Last year, I wrote about “Forgot To Be Your Lover,” a carefully crafted pop song that balanced easygoing AM rock, yacht rock breeziness and achingly melancholic nostalgia while sonically the track was centered around atmospheric synths, lush layers of shimmering and twangy, country-styled guitar lines. In some way, the song – to my ears at least – reminded me of Danish JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, but with an ambitious, arena rock feel.
The acclaimed and commercially successful Swedish pop duo’s highly anticipated full-length debut is slated for release at the end of the month. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the duo’s latest single “Someone That Understands Me” continues a run of ambitious, arena rock-like pop. Centered around shimmering acoustic guitar, achingly plaintive vocals, enormous hooks, thunderous drumming and a scorching, Purple Rain-era Prince-like guitar solo from Ludwig Goransson, the song is the contented sigh of a world-weary person, who has stumbled upon one of life’s rare gifts – finding someone like-minded, who truly understands and accepts you for you.
I recently spoke to the duo via email about the new single, which officially drops today, their soon-to-be released album and more. Check out new single and the Q&A below.
WRH: How did you get into music?
Vincent Pontare: My father is a singer, so I got my first guitar from him when I was seven years- old.
Salem Al Fakir: I started to play violin and piano when I was three.
WRH: Who are your influences?
VP and SAF: We love all types of music! We have our roots in hip-hop/reggae/70s/60s but get most of the inspiration for VARGAS & LAGOLA from 70s Americana.
WRH: How would you describe your sound to someone completely unfamiliar with you and your work?
WRH:Can you name a couple of Swedish acts that should be getting love outside of Sweden but haven’t yet? And why should we know about them?
VP and SAF: VARGAS & LAGOLA. We feel that our type music is unrepresented out in the world at the moment.
WRH: The band is comprised of two, highly accomplished and incredibly successful solo songwriters and producers. What brought the two of you together to collaborate? And how has working together changed your creative process?
VP and SAF: We had met before through mutual friends and had the same booking agency and later on we shared the same studio for a month and then one day we said: we should try to write a song together!?
And the rest is history. . .
It’s a blessing to be two and in the same boat! When the other one is out of ideas or need a break the other one jumps in
WRH: Both of you have managed to write material for an impressive list of globally known pop artists. Has that work influenced or changed your creative process?
VP and SAF: I think success affects [sic] your compass for what works or not in a good way, you trust your gut feel[ing] and that’s the most important tool we have.
WRH: Your latest single “Somebody That Understands Me” features a guest spot from Ludwig Goransson. How did that come about?
VP and SAF: You might think we already knew him cause we all are Swedes, but we didn’t’! We just fanboyed him up on Instagram and said, “Would you be up for trying a guitar solo on our upcoming single?” And he said “Yes.”
WRH: Speaking of “Somebody That Understands Me,” the track is one of those big, arena rock-friendly sentimental pop tunes with the sort of hook that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. In some way, the song kind of reminds me of Purple Rain and 1999-era Prince. So who and what influenced the song? Is it influenced by personal experience?
VP and SAF: We both have a soft spot for 90s arena rock, so we wanted to please ourselves for a second. Who doesn’t love a 12-string guitar riff!???
The song is about the beauty in finding like-minded people and a homage to thinking outside of the box in life in general. All types of music or genres we’ve been obsessed of comes from an underdog or rebellious perspective. So we wanted to get a little bit of that feeling into the lyrics and the production
WRH: Your highly anticipated full-length debut is slated for release at the end of the month. What should we expect from the album?
VP and SAF: We want to give our fans a more nuanced palette of our musical landscape, so The Butterfly Effect is a piece in that puzzle.
WRH: What’s next for you?
VP and SAF: Promotion, touring and writing more music.
Founded back in 2017, the duo’s collaboration is a decided change in sonic direction from their previous output as the project finds the Swedish songwriters and producers experimenting with their own unique take on melodic alt-pop, which meshes elements of 70s Americana and Nordic melancholia. Coincidentally, as they started their own attention-grabbing project, the duo received accolades for co-writing Avicii’s “Without You” and “Waiting for Love,” which led to a Swedish Grammy Award win for Composer of the Year. Adding to a growing profile across the international electro pop scene, Al Fakir and Pontare performed their co-written hit “More Than You Know” with Axwell /\ Ingrosso at Coachella — and they played a key role in finishing Avicci’s posthumously released album TIM, which they contributed on three of the album’s songs.
The duo’s latest single “Forgot To Be Your Lover” is a carefully crafted pop song that finds the duo balancing an easy-going AM rock meets yacht rock breeziness with an achingly melancholic nostalgia. Sonically, the track is centered around atmospheric synths and lush layers of shimmering and twangy, country-styled guitar lines — and in some way, the track reminds me of Danish JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, complete with an soaring and infectious hook.
“It’s a story of neglected love, as well as reflection of what love really means if one person drags the other one down in the gutter,” the duo explain in press notes. “We wrote it while searching for a melancholic piece in Vargas & Lagola’s musical puzzle. With it, we created our own space to experiment with and express what’s on our minds.”
Adelaide, Australia-born and Palm Springs, CA-based singer/songwriter Sia has had quite a career, as she can trace her career’s origins to when she was the vocalist in Adelaide-based acid jazz act Crisp in the mid 1990s. After the band’s breakup in 1997, Sia released her debut effort, OnlySee through Flavoured Records and relocated to London, where she provided vocals for British duo Zero 7.
Interestingly, Sia’s first taste of international stardom came in a rather unexpected fashion. She initially wrote “Titanium,” for Alicia Keys but the song wound up being sent to EDM superstar David Guetta, who included Sia’s demo vocals on the song and released it as single in 2011. The song was a massive commercial success as it peaked on the top of record charts across the US, Australia and Europe. But it was “Chandelier,” the breakout hit off her sixth, full-length effort, 1000 Forms of Fear was a commercial and critical success. The single was nominated for four Grammys last year — Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video; and she nabbed several ARIA Awards and MTV Music Awards, which established the Australian-born singer/songwriter as an internationally-recognized star, in the same lines of the artists she had written for during her “retirement.”
Sia’s seventh, full-length album This Is Acting is slated for a January 29, 2016 release, and in an interview with NME, she has mentioned that the forthcoming album is much more pop-orientated than its predecessor. And interestingly enough, the album’s third and latest single “Alive” was co-written by Adele and was intended to be on Adele’s latest album 25. When you hear the song, you can actually hear Adele’s influence on the song — the piano-led introduction and the song’s soaringly anthemic hooks; however, as gorgeous as Adele’s voice is, the song just feels and sounds as though it just had to be Sia’s. Not to say that Adele hasn’t had profound experiences at a young age but lyrically, the song conveys a sense of wisdom, pride and triumph over life’s fucked up circumstances — deprivation (financial and emotional), heartache, despair, loneliness and worse. And when you hear Sia’s voice crack ever so slightly when she sings “I’m still breathing/I’m still breathing/I’m alive,” during the song’s anthemic hook, it feels like a punch right in the ribs or in the solar plexus. Of course similarly to Gloria Gaynor‘s “I Will Survive,” the song possess an infectious “you can and will get through anything/you go-girl” optimism. It’s honestly the sort of song that the women of your life will lustily yell along to while driving to or from the club.
Recently Sia announced a remix package of “Alive” that features remixes and reworks from Maya Jane Coles, AFSHeeN, Boehm, Cahill and fellow Australian, Plastic Plates. In a recent interview with The Fader, the Australian producer was asked how the “Alive” remix came about, and as he explained to the publication, “Sia and I first met in Sydney 2001. Sam Dixon and I shared an apartment in Bondi and Sia crashed at our place. Until 2010, I played drums on Sia’s albums and toured around the world in her band. This is my 3rd remix for Sia, “Cloud” in 2010, “Chandelier” in 2014 and now “Alive.”Given our musical history, reinterpreting Sia’s vocals is effortless and pure joy for me.”
Plastic Plates’ rework turns the torch burning pop song into a slickly produced synth-based club-banger as his production includes stuttering drum programming, cascading synths, wobbling and tumbling low-end, sirens and other assorted bleeps and bloops while retaining the song’s anthemic hooks and Sia’s achingly heartfelt vocals.