Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Denmark's the Raveonettes record all their songs in one key, limit themselves to three chords, and impose a strict time limit on each song of less than 180 seconds. The end result is a campy monster mash that falls somewhere between the Cramps and the films of Ed Wood.
It's safe to say the Raveonettes don't mind restrictions. While singer/guitarist Sune Rose Wagner wants to create nothing more than "'60s rock-out songs," the co-ed duo approaches its deceptively simple rock with a meticulous recording process that borders on conceptual art.
"We apply all these rules because we don't like to spend time in the studio," Wagner says. "We don't even allow overdubs. This way everything has a spontaneous energy to it. We just want to limit our time in the studio so everything stays cool and fresh."
"Whip it On," the fashionable duo's debut EP, released last year on Denmark's Crunchy Frog label, received rave reviews, and a November gig at New York's one-time punk haven CBGB caught the ear of Columbia Records chairman/CEO Don Ienner. The label quickly purchased the rights to the EP, and in less than 16 months, Wagner and musical partner Sharin Foo went from a pair of unknowns in Northern Europe to Columbia's bid for the next big thing.
"It was really important for us to have our first gig outside of Denmark at CBGB's," Wagner says. "We wanted to pay tribute to all the bands that played there, and we thought our music would fit in with the history of the club. As soon as we played CBGB's, a bunch of American labels became interested in us, so we bought the rights back from Crunchy so we could be free to pick whatever label we wanted."
Wagner is quick to point out that the Raveonettes were never after indie cred, and is unashamed to admit that he and Foo went to New York with the specific intent of flying home with a major label in tow.
"Living in Denmark was an incredibly boring existence," Wagner says. "People weren't interested in our music, and there was no scene. We want to go places with this music, and we realized that in order to do it on the scale that we want, we need a major label. It's hard when you come from Denmark, so we went to New York with a finished product, and explained to Crunchy that we had bigger plans for this band. We chose Columbia because they were the first major label to really come on in a big way."
The Raveonettes have already recorded a full-length album, produced by Sire Records co-founder Richard Gottehrer, but as "Whip It On" keeps picking up steam, Columbia is letting the full-length sit on the shelf. Thanks to some recent support dates with college radio favorite Interpol, and an ongoing MTV2-sponsored tour with the Mooney Suzuki, Columbia intends to promote "Whip It On" through the summer. A spokesperson says the full-length may not be released until September, which is fine with Wagner, who says he is in no hurry.
"This whole thing is happening really fast," Wagner says. "As far as we're concerned, 'Whip It On' is still new to us. We had actually planned on releasing a follow-up EP in the same style as 'Whip It On,' but then that got so popular that we never got around to releasing it. Everything we recorded for that will be on our first full-length."
For the upcoming album, reportedly titled "Chain Gang of Love," the Ravenoettes switch keys, moving away from the darker pull of B-flat minor, which drives "Whip It On" through its rockabilly romp of comic book imagery, to the brighter B-flat major. "The album is much more melodic," Wagner says. "It has a bigger sound to it, and there's a fourth chord here and there, but that happened purely by accident."
Wagner is aware that Columbia's interest is largely due to the success of the Strokes, White Stripes, and the Vines, but he isn't he concerned about following a trend. In fact, he welcomes the challenge of standing out from a crowd.
"In Britain, we have sold-out everyday, and it's good for people to hear good music for a change" he says. "We're not just some garage band off the street. Our music is much more timeless and long lasting than anything associated with a trend. People will pick up on that. We're something special."
Excerpted from the March 29, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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