Comprised of founding duo Jocke Åhlund and Frans Johansson along with Frans Johansson and Martin Ehrencrona, the Stockholm Sweden-based indie rock act Les Big Byrd features a collection of their hometown’s most accomplished indie musicians. Åhlund co-founded cult hardcore outfit/genre-benders Teddybears with his brother Klas in 1991, and went on to play guitar in Caesars and form another duo, Smile, with Peter, Björn and John’s Björn Yttling. He also managed to find the time to write for and produce Giorgio Moroder and renowned Swedish pop artist Robyn. Johansson, meanwhile, had played bass in Swedish Grammy Award-winners Fireside since the early nineties and worked as a touring bassist with The Soundtrack of Our Lives. As the story goes, by 2011 Åhlund and Johansson had become increasingly disillusioned with their primary gigs and they began to collaborate with each other, frequently bouncing musical ideas off one another; the band’s founding duo quickly recruited two fellow grizzled scene vets, keyboardist Martin ‘Konie’ Ehrencrona and Caesars drummer Nino Keller to finalize the band’s lineup.
The band’s debut release, 2014’s Back to Bagarmossen EP was an atmospheric, guitar driven effort that found the quartet receiving attention from Swedish national TV. As the Stockholm-based indie quartet’s profile was growing nationally, they ran into The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe at a local record store, and after hitting it off with him, the band headed to Newcombe’s Berlin-based studio to jam with him — and the end result was a handful of tracks which eventually appeared on their critically applauded Åhlund-produced full-length debut, They Worshipped Cats, an album that was a decided left turn into trippy space rock.
In the winter of 2015, 18 months after They Worshipped Cats‘ release, Åhlund was looking forward to working on new material; however, unlike their debut, he was determined to bring in an outside producer to allow him to focus just on the songwriting and playing. With much of their material drawing heavily from psych rock and drone, while retaining a pop sensibility, the band recruited Spacemen 3‘s Pete Kember to produce the album as the band loved his work on MGMT‘s 2010 sophomore album Congratulations. Unfortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly, the initial sessions with Kember quickly went awry; Kember clashed with Newcombe, who also headed to Sweden to work on some ideas for the record with the band — and Åhlund eventually found himself taking up the production role, he didn’t want and wasn’t seeking.
Burned out by the experience, the band shelved the second album for a while. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed to get some distance from it,” Åhlund says in press notes. “It was only after a while that I was able to go back and realise that there was a really good album in there.” The members of Les Big Byrd spent the bulk of last year remaking and re-imaging the material in their own image — with Kember and Newcombe’s contributions being limited. Recorded between two Stockholm studios — Åhlund’s own and Ehrencrona’s Studio Cobra — the band’s long-awaited, forthcoming sophomore album Iran Iraq IKEA derives its title from a slogan that Åhlund’s saw printed on a tie while in Berlin years earlier and wanted to use for years; in fact, Åhlund felt that it suited the album, “because it gave it all some kind of subtly poetic intrigue.” However, the album’s politics — if you really want to call it that — are rooted within the personal, As Åhlund says in press notes, “It’s about classic topics like love and failure. And about being older and feeling like you’ve pissed your life away, It’s about regrets and wishing you’d done things another way,”
The band’s Åhlund takes up production duties again, but with the admission that maybe it was something he never really wanted to give up — and sonically speaking, the band reportedly have reinvented themselves and their sound but while retaining elements of the sound and approach that first won them national and international attention. “I still love my krautrock, and space rock, and experimental, improvisational stuff” says Åhlund. “But I also have a strong love for psychedelic sixties pop music, and I love reverb-drenched guitar with a lot of tremolo on it. All of those things make it on to Iran Iraq IKEA, but the lines are blurred – there’s a lot of electronics, and you can’t always tell where each individual sound is coming from. Hopefully it’s suggestive, a little bit uncertain and unpredictable, at least that’s what I wanted.”
“Geräusche,” Iran Iraq IKEA‘s third and latest single, is the album’s opening track and interestingly enough, the song’s title is the German word for “noise” — although ironically, the expansive and atmospheric, krautrock-like track is centered around a motorik groove, shimmering and arpeggiated keys, angular guitar lines, mathematically precise beats and dreamy sense of harmony that in some way brings Evil Heat-era Primal Scream and Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” but with a lysergic vibe.