Swedish Hives Poised For U.S. Breakthrough

Feature excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

They came, they saw, and now they're starting to conquer the U.S. market: Swedish rock band the Hives are poised for a major breakthrough, nearly two years after the release of their current album, "Veni Vidi Vicious" (Burning Heart/Epitaph/Sire/Warner Bros.). Industry observers say the band's recent turn in fortunes can be credited to a new U.S. distribution deal, increased radio airplay, and steady touring.

"This [success] is the result of everything building up," Hives lead singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist says. "We've been touring so much, and signing with a new record company has made a big difference."

"Veni Vidi Vicious was released in 2000 on Epitaph in the U.S. Earlier this year, Epitaph partnered with Warner Bros. to release Hives albums, and "Veni Vidi Vicious" was re-released May 7. After debuting at No. 45 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart in the May 4 issue, Veni Vidi Vicious topped the chart June 1. The album peaked last week at No. 77 on The Billboard 200, and slipped to No.80 this week, although the title retains its bullet. The Hives' chart success is notable because Swedish rock acts have traditionally found it hard to break into the U.S. market. Among other territories, the band is already a hit in Sweden, the U.K., and Germany.

The Hives were formed in 1993 in Fagersta, Sweden. The five-piece band-Almqvist, Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction, Chris Dangerous, and Nicholaus Arson-was signed by Swedish record company executive Peter Ahlqvist to his Burning Heart label.

The Hives released two EPs (1996's "Oh Lord! When? How?" and 1998's "I-D-I-O-T") and one album (1997's "Barely Legal") before "Veni Vidi Vicious." The media has proclaimed the Hives part of a new garage-rock/punk-influenced movement that includes the White Stripes, the Strokes, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Fueling U.S. sales for Veni Vidi Vicious is airplay for single "Hate to Say I Told You So," which is No. 18 and climbing on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. The video for the song has been getting steady airplay on MTV2, which this month featured the Hives on the network's "$2 Bill Presents" concert series. The Hives also made recent appearances on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and "Last Call With Carson Daly."

In the midst of a lengthy tour that will keep the band on the road for most of the year, Almqvist says there hasn't been much time to write songs for a new album, noting that it will probably be written when the band gets off the road. The Hives' next U.S. single will be "Main Offender."

Almqvist says the self-managed band makes decisions by voting: "If we make a mistake, it'll be our own mistake, with no one else to blame."

Excerpted from the June 22, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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