The Hives remain true to garage-punk form
It’s no secret that the music industry has changed drastically in the last 10 years—mainly in the significant drop in album sales. As an essential band in the early-2000s garage-rock revival, the Hives know this pretty well. In fact, frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist realizes he and his four bandmates rose to international fame at just the right moment before the industry shifted so drastically.
“It [music] is an even worse career path than it was 10 years ago,” the 34-year-old Swedish-born Almqvist says.
He suggests the industry has become oversaturated with bands, likening it to automobile traffic: in theory, if we all have a car we should be able to get around, but when there are too many of us we get jammed up and everyone remains at a standstill.
“It’s like the old Andy Warhol idea that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, and I realize that it’s not 15 minutes, but that everyone will be famous to 15 people. It’s harder to achieve megastardom in today’s world.”
The Swedish garage-rock outfit was lucky enough to reach punk-rock stardom long before things went to shit. In 2000, their album Veni Vidi Vicious brought the Hives to the mainstream with hits “Hate to Say I Told You So” and “Main Offender”, which propelled their career to international heights and landed them a place in the Interscope family. Known for their dapper black-and-white suits and aggressive stage show, the Hives took their place at the forefront of a rawk revival that also gave us the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the White Stripes, and the Strokes.
“We’ve always subscribed to the notion that the first rule of style means you always have to be a little uncomfortable,” Almqvist says with a laugh. “When we started we thought of it as a rebellious thing, because in the ’80s and ’90s it was really considered uncool to care about what you wore.”
Almqvist was wild on-stage. He became known for his banter and jarring moves. He commanded the crowd in a charming yet demanding manner. Their fans loved it and rock magazines like SPIN penned lists of Almqvist’s best live quotes.
Tyrannsaurus Hives (2004) came next, then The Black and White Album (2007). That was followed by extensive touring, until the band’s members suffered what they loosely described as typical internal issues and took a long break.
They eventually wrote the forthcoming Lex Hives and decided to release it on their own label, Disque Hives. Lex Hives stays true to the band’s sound: straight-up anthem-style garage punk, jarring and full of chanting. It’s a cleaner effort than past releases, with songs like “Wait a Minute” and “Go Right Ahead” verging on Devo-esque. Touring has followed, placing them, again, on a major circuit of festivals and clubs all over the world.
“It took us a long time to come back, so a lot of it [Lex Hives] is about revenge,” Almqvist says, adding with an infectious laugh, “My time has come again. I will come back and show you assholes.”
“In so many ways it could have all gone completely down the toilet,” he continues, talking about the Hives’ nearly two-decades-long career. “And I’m just happy it hasn’t so far. I try not to think of it as something that has happened. I feel like it is something that is still happening.”
The Hives play the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday (September 6).