What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
AMANDA: From young, I’ve just always liked to sing. Though I get nervous before, it’s the thing that I do that seems natural. I wasn’t one for some parts of school or the formal achievements in life, so that’s what I do. I sing.
With Detective Larsson, one of the inspirations is storytelling. Being based at the top end of the Rhondda Valley here, in the old mining village of Blaenrhondda, we are part of a heritage that is beautiful, warm, full of character and mysterious. Walking around the mountains here looking down upon the streets, the old club and the empty spaces that once held a factory and a cowboy town, our sentiments will themselves into songs.
NEIL: We run a clubnight that gives us a sense of the Pop life, as Prince says. It’s a compulsion for us. Detective Larsson comes from the same drive to put something together and make something happen, and to give us an outlet. Apart from this, I’ve never been in a musical project before and couldn’t play a note before lockdown. All I can do is talk about Amanda. She speaks of the valley, but is also from a small town in Sweden called Skövde, close to the Vänern and Vättern lakes. She carries with her the open landscape, the mysteries and melodies of the Swedish language and Swedish Pop music, especially of outsider Swedish Pop culture. She was a child performer, with all the conflicts that entails. She has that drive to create and perform, and a searing, near supernatural empathy with the underdog and outsider. Whether in the local pub on the karaoke or on the underground circuit, it makes no difference. There is a sense of the gospel or of an exorcising. Her own experiences and instincts come through in what she sings, and she channels stories like Dolly Parton.
AMANDA: I suppose another inspiration for Detective Larsson when we can play live is to take the beat into the pubs and the clubs here in the valley. We’d like to play our music in the same places as we play the jukebox. To share songs and stories.
NEIL: We’d like to re-wire the roots of Pop culture in that sense, if that doesn’t sound like too much of a crackpot band interview thing to say after our first release. There’s genuine loneliness here in the valley. We all know what it is to be achingly lonely in a small town, to be conflicted as a kid, or to experience the indifference of privilege. The odds have got worse for people over the years, but the legends of the outsiders are still strong here. There is genuine community. The feeling of the beat is strong. So are the memories of the glory days of watching Top of the Pops, discovering new things, going out local to concerts, discos and dances, being Goths and dreamers, being whoever. There’s a pub or social club on every corner that hasn’t had the soul sucked out of it by someone who’s been on a marketing course. These places are still alive, there are no cliquey circles of bands talking in the language of their degrees, curating their social scenes and incredulous, media-ready lapdog personalities, so it’s great. We can’t wait to have a pint and a packet of crisps in every one when it’s safe. Legs under the table.
Saying that, there’s no guarantee that we’ll not be shown the door when we play at one, or thrown the tumbleweed.
AMANDA: Or payed off. Neil’s grandfather was chairman of Blaenrhondda Social Club up the street [pictured below] going back a few years ago. He said that a young Tom Jones once got payed off in the middle of a show down the road at the old Labour Club. It was a tough gig back then!
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
AMANDA: ‘21’ is our debut release. The lead track ’21 (Dreamt of Freedom)’ is, I think, about youth and tragedy. Or that’s one interpretation. When you’re young you see the world differently and realise that that’s not really how it is. The tragedy of youth, the vanity of ambition. It is also partly inspired by a local tragic tale set in the mountains, a song of longing in loss. The summer heat and haziness dictated the dreamy, flashback nature of the vocals, and Miguel Navarro’s tight instrumental arrangement allowed us to express it as raw, as focused and as jangly as we wanted. He gave us a rollercoaster to sit on.
NEIL: The two covers that come with it are of songs that we love, and which also make sense in terms of the sentiments of the storytelling and imagery. The Dean Martin song with its line “purple lights in the canyon”, which always kicks in in my head at least on sundown walks past the empty space where the old saloon bar used to be, down through Caroline.
AMANDA: And the Marianne Faithfull song because of its lonely shimmer, as if there’s an ancient world at hand that can be felt but not touched.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
AMANDA: The things that happen. Moods and circumstance. Memories. The things that happen when you sing. The things that make you sing. Our main musical influences would I suppose be among the bands that strike the biggest chords with the kinds of atmospheres we like, given our own sentiments.
NEIL: We don’t listen to music in an analytical sense, but I’m thinking The Shangri-Las, Mercury Rev, Lucinda Williams, Roy Orbison, Veronica Falls. Also the honesty and propulsiveness of the Buzzcocks and The Undertones. It differs between us slightly, and Miguel who wrote the instrumental for ‘21 (Dreamt of Freedom)’ is heavily into Suede.
AMANDA: Francoise Hardy, Broder Daniel, Television Personalities, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline. We really like a new record from Veronica Dajani, and one from Alison Cotton. Both have a strong sense of feeling and unique vocal styles. They are rich in melody and suspense.
NEIL: Bands and singers from different traditions that jangle in the shadows of tragedy and longing.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
AMANDA: We don’t really know how we differ from other bands, or even what genre we belong in really! I suppose the only way we differ from anyone is in our style of composition, in how we play, and in what songs we choose to make and play.
NEIL: We are set up around Amanda’s vocals as a force of nature. We try to make our sentiments jangle and sweep with the edges left on. We would describe our sound as Pop in its rawest sense, on the outside of everything in as much as we don’t understand the process of being on the inside.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Broder Daniel – ‘Broder Daniel Forever’.
Mercury Rev – ‘Deserter’s Songs’
Life Without Buildings – ‘Any Other City’
AMANDA: Broder Daniel are sadly little-known outside Sweden. They’re as much an outsider counter-culture there as a band, jangly, poetic and sublime. You might have heard their song ‘Whirlwind’ popping up in Lukas Moodysson’s film, Fucking Åmål.
Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn)
Fucking Åmål (Lukas Moodysson)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray)
NEIL: Bonnie and Clyde for the way it rattles along in the purest language of Pop. No time for lesser thrills on a desert island. Amanda mentioned Lukas Moodysson’s Fucking Åmål, titled Show Me Love here to get past the censors. This is one of the things I refer to when thinking of the outsider melody and poetry on the margins of Swedish culture. And Johnny Guitar for being a Western ballad turned inside out without any fuss. It’s also perfectly titled.
Andrey Tarkovsky – Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids
Alex Higgins – My Story
Kristina Lugn – Nu sover jag
AMANDA: I was moving from London back to Sweden a few years ago and wanted to take a book of photographs with me. I bought Tarkovsky’s Instant Light on browsing, not knowing who he was and that he was a maker of these beautiful, famous films. I like that it was this way. It is about atmospheres. With the Alex Higgins story, we just like watching old snooker coverage, the storylines, characters, the working class theatre, the conversation, emotion and touch. This has it all in the voice of a proper superstar. Kristina Lugn was brought up in Skövde. She was a writer and performer of outsider-themed poetry with a very dark, down to earth humour and an accepting nature. Nu sover jag is a single poem rather than a book, but hopefully that counts. I’d take it with me and read it over!
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
AMANDA: Performing live. Because it’s between you and the audience, there and then. A step out of time.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
AMANDA: The awkward moments recur, but for pure laughs it has to be when my schoolmates olla’d the teacher’s piano. Olla’ing is when you rub your dick on or in something (if you have one). We always had choir practice on a Monday morning, and they “prepared” the piano on the weekend. There was a sense of ceremony.
NEIL: A similar thing happened at a club hall here, at the same place where Tom Jones once got paid off. Here it’s called “tea-bagging” I think, or that’s the middle class term. A gang of boys that my cousin knows were out at a concert with a few of their mothers. They were messing about, all sitting in a long row with their drinks as is tradition here, and when one went to the toilet one of them of course dipped their old boy in his glass. Or so he thought. Trouble is it turned out it was his friend’s mother’s glass. He’d wetted it in the wrong one. She came back, sat down and drank it. There was a sense of ceremony and dismay.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
AMANDA: With all of our other original songs so far unreleased, this by default will be ‘21 (Dreamt of Freedom)’! It jangles and drones, and is unique for it being our first release at a time where loss, tragedy and a sense of injustice is all around us.
NEIL: We also liked a recent description of the song that mentioned a “frontier balladry”. Perhaps that is a unique part of our sound.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
AMANDA: We are currently writing towards a new EP. Come see us in the valley when it is out. There will be many pubs and clubs to go to on the way to the gig.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Question: Where, or who, is Velarde?
NEIL: Velarde is both a place in Mexico and a poet who, like it was a lot of fun, explored the conflicts between ancient sensuality and modern asceticism.
AMANDA: In ‘21 (Dreamt of Freedom)’ it is an idyllic place to meet, where young hearts run free.
NEIL: Like the lounge in The Stag down the road after a pint of Hancocks.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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