A Swedish Invasion

Swedish post-punk quintet Makthaverskan hopes to break through with U.S. pressing of its sophomore release, “II.”

Swedish pop band Makthaverskan. COURTESY, MAKTHAVERSKAN
Swedish pop band Makthaverskan. COURTESY, MAKTHAVERSKAN

Gothenburg, Sweden’s Makthaverskan formed in defiance of a Swedish music scene that valued partying over depth and style over substance.

“We like The Knife, that’s one of the good ones,” said Gustav Andersson, one of the group’s guitarists. “There’s a lot of good Swedish dance music, but there’s a lot more bad music. It’s like what people listen to when they go shopping for pants. And everyone is trying to be a big, famous DJ.”

“It’s getting better,” added Andreas Wettmark, the drummer of the band. “I think there’s a scene popping up around what our record label, Luxury Records, is doing. There’s a lot of good bands coming out now. We originally started the band because we didn’t like what was happening.”

Instead of reveling in the bass-thumping electronic music that Sweden is known for, the guys and gals in Makthaverskan found themselves attracted to ‘80s new wave, a genre popularized by luminaries such as The Cure and New Order.

Balancing Joy Division-esque post-punk sensibilities with frontwoman Maja Milner’s barbed croons about men and the various ways they’ve wronged her, the Matkthaverskan sweet spot lies somewhere between dreamy guitar licks and angst-ridden lyrics.

But the contrast of sound versus word was never one that was intentional.

“We all grew up with new wave/post-punk music,” Wettmark said.  “We didn’t intend to do it like that, it’s just sort of what happened. [Andersson] would write the guitar parts and [Milner] would write the lyrics, and it just sort of came together like that.”

The groups first release, “I,” was a collection of early material and demos. The release garnered a good amount of attention, but the band’s momentum was stifled as various members shuffled around Europe. Four years later, the post-punkers returned with “II,” and it’s thus far proving to be Gothenburg’s best-kept secret. With the exception of a passing mention from Pitchfork and a litany of raving reviews on various amateur music blogs, the release has gotten little in the way of American attention .

On the other hand, the group is enjoying a tremendous amount of success, both critically and commercially, in Gothenburg.

“The shows we’re playing now, the crowds are always into it and – and they’re very drunk and it’s a lot of fun,” Wettmark said.

Although the drunken festivities that are all-inclusive at a Makthaverskan gig have yet to expand beyond Sweden, efforts are being made to rectify this.

Run for Cover Records, which in a press release referred to “II” as one of its favorite albums of 2013, is giving the record a full U.S. pressing, set for an April 19 release. Soon after forging the relationship with the band via a Facebook message, the Boston-based record label committed to churning out 1,000 copies of Makthaverskan’s post-punk, heartbroken manifesto on wax.

The five-piece talked about the prospect of traveling to the U.S. and performing to new crowds with tremendous excitement, although no plans to do so have been set in stone yet.

Makthaverskan, in addition to being a Swedish word that is utterly unpronounceable, roughly translates to “powerful woman” in English – a name that is fitting for a lady that belts out vocals with the ferocity of Milner. However, the members of the band insist that it was chosen merely because they believed it was a cool word.

“I’m a feminist, and everyone else in the band is a feminist,” Milner said. “But at the same time, it’s just music. We don’t want to fit into any one political thing, because at the end of the day it’s just music.”

The undeniable presence of Milner is a staple of the quintet. Milner rarely minces words, as demonstrated on “No Mercy,” when she brazenly unfurls “II”’s most dramatic quip: “F— you for f—— me when I was 17.”

The native Swede believes that the line hits particularly hard in English.

“The lyrics to the songs are really simple for the most part,” Milner said. “If we said [something in Swedish] it wouldn’t make sense. English is a lot more direct, so it fits for the music a lot better.”

David Zisser can be reached at zisserd@temple.edu.

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