On September 17, 2005 ? a date which will live in infamy ? the OSC Drill Deck was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the psychedelic rock forces of the country of Sweden. The bombardment lasted only 80 minutes and at the end, we all came to understand the truth. Rock 'n' roll is not dead. It was merely forced into early retirement by synthesizers, beat machines, and glow-sticks. Who are the new musical heroes to rescue the senile, perverted genre from its "adult living community" in Boca? None other than Swedish neo-psychedelic powerhouse Dungen.
Psychedelic music, though mostly gone from today's popular repertoire, emerged in 1964 and dominated until Woodstock in 1969. The screeching guitar amp effects, chilling organ solos, and drug-inspired lyrics were exemplified by popular bands in America such as Jefferson Airplane and Cream, as well as by lesser-known groups such as Bubble Puppy and Ultimate Spinach. The Swedish bands of the period, however, were virtually unknown even in their own country.
The brainchild of today's Swedish psych representation is a young music prodigy, Gustav Ejestes ? a spitting Swedish image of Robert Plant. Dungen (pronounced DOON-yen, Swedish for a "small gathering of trees") was, like its forebears, unknown in its native Scandinavia until the band started receiving good press in America. You'll be hard pressed, however, to find much information about the band beyond the disproportionate praise and adulation for its founder ? a man whose musical genius has reached near-mythic proportions. We decided to sit down with the unsung heroes of Dungen ? guitarist/Kurt Cobain look-alike Reine Fiske and drummer/all-around-nice-guy Fredrik Bjorling ? as they shared insight into their band and the modern music scene.
On the '60s psychedelic from which Dungen draws their influence: "There wasn't much of that kind of music released in Sweden," said Fredrik. "I think everybody listened to [The] Jimi Hendrix Experience." Only with the advent of a handful of compilations released in the past few years have people begun to learn about the history of Swedish rock. Dungen's latest offering, Ta Det Lungnt (Swedish for "Take it Easy") is a refreshing drink of progressive psychedelic beverage that brings us back to a simpler time when, according to Reine, "You have two mikes and a drum and you just sort of..." (Here he imitates rocking out.)
"It's sort of a low-fi thing," he explained. Te Det Lungt stays true to this tradition ? unintentionally ? despite the fact that it was recorded in a modern digital studio. "This is the way we want it to sound. We have the sound we really like," explains Fiske.
You'd think that Dungen's exclusive use of the Swedish language in their songs would serve to discourage English-speaking listeners. On the contrary, though, the band members find that American listeners are often more receptive to their music. "[Americans] don't understand [the foreign lyrics] and it becomes another instrument in relation to the melody," says Fredrik. "They listen with open ears."
Dungen has noticed that Americans are tired of the mainstream music, which in recent years has become predominately more rap- and R&B-based. While the group admires some of the "old school" hip-hop groups, they feel that the genre's current offerings have lost their novelty. "Hip-hop has become the mainstream music," proclaims Frederick. "It's like Britney Spears."
The band members are not sounding the death knoll for all of popular music, however. When asked about their favorite contemporary groups, their tastes were not limited by national borders. They cite American indie-pop all-stars The Shins and the English band The Clientele, as well as their countrymen The Soundtrack of Our Lives and The Works ? the latter, they believe, most closely resemble their sound.
Dungen attests that the musical climate is very different in the Scandinavian socialist paradise. When asked about some of the emerging genres such as emo, they were surprisingly unfamiliar. " In Sweden, there are no [music] scenes," says Reine. "It's very hard to keep with modern music because on the national radio in Sweden, they only play crap music. We don?t have the college radio like you have over here or the alternative radio stations because it's so expensive to get licenses [to broadcast]."
Launched into popularity partly because of Apple's iTunes online music store, Dungen has reaped the advantages of mass exposure and instant listener gratification. They believe illegal file-sharing, however, is unfair to the artists who spend their time and their money making music.
"Try to put a record out yourself," challenged Fredrik. "If it's supposed to be that way you should be able to get everything free. Repair your car, build a house." However, the guys agree that downloading music is a new motive for change in the often oppressive recording industry. "The thing that downloading has done is to maybe punch a hole in the record companies, to make them not so important." They are optimistic of the potential that technology affords unlikely musicians to make good recordings. "I think the music is starting to sound more honest, in a way. There's a lot of people sitting at home with their computer and can record songs and get popular and it's often very beautiful."
And thus we leave Reine and Fredrick at Il Valletto to finish their Italian wedding soup and chicken Caesar salads. The next time we see them, they are reunited with the rest of Dungen and in the company of a couple hundred of their closest friends in the OSC Drill Deck.
An eerie organ introduction starts the show and draws the crowd closer. Gustav clinks on the electric piano. Fredrik strikes the high-hat and smiles from ear to ear ? he knows what's coming. Reine lets loose on his Strat. It begins.
"TA DET LUGNT!" Gustav roars. We nod our heads in agreement.