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Sahara Hotnights ‘Kiss and Tell’

Success wasn’t overnight for Swedish rockers
/ Source: The Associated Press

Forgoing the Swedish legacy of ABBA’s pop anthems, Sahara Hotnights’ blend of punk-inspired guitar riffs and frenetic rhythms manifest the rawer version of rock being produced in this Scandinavian country.

Success hasn’t come overnight, though. Instead, it’s been a measured climb for the band, which formed in 1994, from the first singles released on a local label to international success. The group’s debut EP “Anyone Fine” was followed by a couple of singles.

Based on the strength of those recordings, music giant BMG picked up the band and in 1999 released the Hotnights’ debut LP “C’Mon Let’s Pretend,” a rough but ready blend of fast guitars and bass that sounded like an updated version of the Runaways with a healthy dose of in-your-face pop hooks.

The LP sold more than 55,000 copies, going gold in their native Sweden.

Success also came during the new Swedish musical renaissance, when bands such as the Hives started gaining international fame and the Cardigans re-exerted their influence — all of which challenged the perception of Swedish music as nothing more than bright pop jangles a la ABBA or the A-Teens.

All of this has filtered down to the Sahara Hotnights.

Coming to AmericaBy 2003, the quartet — guitarist-vocalist Maria Andersson, bassist Johanna Asplund, guitarist Jennie Asplund and drummer Josephine Forsman — from Robertsfors in northern Sweden had logged months of touring across Europe and playing the major festivals, including Roskilde, and released the critically lauded “Jennie Bomb,” which also went gold in Sweden.

They also visited the United States, playing at CBGBs, the seminal music club along the Bowery in New York — the club where the Ramones, Television, the Voidoids and Talking Heads, among others, created American punk.

The Swedish government picked up the tab to send the band, along with other groups, to play the venue.

“That was our paid ticket to America,” bassist Asplund told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

“Yeah, we got upgraded on the plane, too,” added Andersson.

Asplund said the tour exposed new Swedish bands to a wider audience, but added it was mostly Swedish journalists abroad who attended, not the American music media.

“What’s the point of going to the States to play when the Swedish media has more reporters there from Sweden than America?” she asked.

The sojourn paid off, with Rolling Stone last year naming them one of its “10 great new bands” and mainstream music media in Britain and the United States fawning over the band’s 1970s-inspired punk sounds that evoke the Ramones, Blondie and the Clash.

Thanks in part to that adulation, the band recently completed a second U.S. tour to promote its new album “Kiss & Tell.”

Andersson said Sahara Hotnights is eager to bring their music to a wider audience, but she stressed the band is more concerned about falling into the trap of those groups that try to please everybody.

“You can hear that they try too hard to please people with the sound and we’ve never been into that,” she said.