Four years is not exactly a fast turn around for releasing albums. That's how long it took The Radio Dept. between their second (Pet Grief) and third (Clinging To A Scheme), full-length. No one, not even the band, thought it would take six years to put out their fourth LP.

This time around, politics became the main theme, packaged in an electronic flavour titled Running Out Of Love. The Swedish act was once an archetype for wistful lo-fi dream pop. While the lyrics may have become more world-weary conscious, their ethereal essence persists – in a way, Running Out Of Love is a logical follow-up to Clinging To A Scheme and perhaps, inevitable in the current state of the world.

During The Radio Dept.'s North American tour, we spoke to Johan Duncanson and Martin Carlberg (formerly Larsson) before their show at Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR on 17 February 2017. It was a last-minute confirmation, so instead of coming up with questions for a formal interview, we opted for a casual conversation. Of course, the subject of politics was unavoidable.


You've always been interested in the politics and have few songs in response to it. But why did you decide to make it the main theme on this album?

Johan: Basically because of the state of Sweden and the state of the world really. Just that it was hard this time to write about anything else. Not for lack of trying. I really tried to write about – you know - a lot of different things – anything really. But for some reason, all the lyrics came out – that way. Well some of them are not so subtle, and some are hopefully more poetic… but it's still a political theme throughout, I guess. Just couldn't be helped.

I noticed that there are a couple of tracks that sounded like they were older tracks revamped? Like the “untitled” track from Sasquatch festival - you changed the lyrics and the music a bit.

Johan: Yeah, that happens sometimes. We re-write the songs. Try different arrangements… not too many but couple survived like 'Can't Be Guilty' - that's the one you're talking about. And the bass line for 'Committed To The Cause' was an older one.

Wasn't 'This Thing Was Bound To Happen' another one?

Johan: Yeah, actually that's actually really old. Our old demo we made like when we were 19 or 20 – it leaked. And we thought it survived to – well, what do you say? [Johan and Martin consult in Swedish]

Martin: Yeah, it deserves a better fate.

How did it get leaked anyway?

Johan: I don't know. We weren't very good at sending demos to people when we just made our first recordings. That one I think ended up at the Swedish National Radio because they had this demo show where I think we or some friend of ours sent a couple of songs. So it was played there once. I guess the year before we started for real, back in 2000, it was played there. I guess that's how it leaked; I'm not sure.

You've probably been asked about Trump's recent comment regarding Sweden.

Martin: No, we haven't got that.

The Radio Dept

What was your initial reaction when you heard him?

Martin: It wasn't stranger than anything else he says. I guess. The problem is that in Sweden, we have the Democrats that are like the equivalent of Trump and they're kind of big now. And that's what the album is partially about. They talk about Sweden the same way that he does. And they try to force that, get into the news, and try to say Sweden is really bad; it's going in the wrong direction. It's so hard to live in Malmö - where I live. I live in the so-called the “no-go zone” (according to Trump), but it's not true because I live there and I can tell you, it's very peaceful.

Johan: Same as where I live – Stockholm – it's also supposed to be one of the “no-go zone”.

Martin: It's perfectly fine, and we're all happy living there. It's weird that reality has taken on kind of strange – there's no more objective reality anymore.

Is Sweden moving towards the right wing? Since Trump won the election, it seems some European nations are expressing similar sentiment towards more conservative policies and nationalism.

Martin: We had a right wing government for eight years… during the Bush era, they got elected. They took away slowly some of the basic rights that we were used to having… slowly changing like the union. It made it so much harder to be in the union because you have to pay much more… they changed so much: sold out, privatized… yeah, a lot of things. But right now, we have the left - the Social Democratic government. But it's in the minority; it's not a strong government. And the Sweden Democrats are getting bigger and bigger. The government is trying to hold them out – nobody actually wants to deal with them. But now the right wing party, the biggest we have, the conservatives, and they're starting to wanting to work with Sweden Democrats.

I feel in the US, the older generations make up the majority of the right wing. I think eight years from now, we would have voted for Sanders or someone like him. So in Sweden, is it also the older generation that makes up the conservatives?

Johan: I think it's both, the young and old that votes for Sweden Democrats. If I remember correctly, mostly older men. Their voter base is male-dominated of course.

What would you say the biggest issue in Sweden right now?

Johan: Well, it's weird for us… the problems we have are not with the immigrants; they're with the racists and the right-wing people in general but also more and more, the extreme right wing.

Martin: And the slow normalisation of racists comments. It's changing… now it's not that strange to have a Nazi speaking their mind on a television program. Everyone has to say what they think and everyone needs to be listened to, but it's kind of strange to see that. It's a slow process, but it's changing.

We still have free healthcare and education... but the racist problem – that's the main thing.

Johan: Racism is everywhere, it was there before and will always be there, but it won't always be – the prime question nor the prime theme.

The Radio Dept

It took you guys some time to put out this new LP. You also considered a guitar-based album but why did you choose to go electronic?

Johan: I don't know why really. Well we started working on an album, and it was kind of - well, it was frustrating to work with it because at the same time, we we're in a trial with our label. We would get creative sometimes and thought we really succeeded in making something we liked. But at the same time, we always knew that we had to give it away. So that was frustrating, and we decided one day that we didn't want to give that album we were working on away. It wasn't finished or anything. We we're halfway through or a little bit more. But yeah, we decided to start over to make an album really quickly based on dance music. We had this idea of making an album very fast – we thought we'd do six long dance tracks and that was going to be the album. And then we were going to find producers of dance music to help us finish each song – like different producers and maybe do one or two ourselves. That was the idea. But then it actually took two years because we live in different cities and it became ten songs.

Martin: And we ended up liking it.

Johan: More than the other one that we had been working on. There are dance tracks on there, but it's not the theme record that we first thought we would do. Because it was going to be only club music and all string instruments like guitars and basses were forbidden, it was just going to be electronic instruments. That didn't happen, but it's kind of that album anyway. We were just not as fundamental about it as we thought we would be.

This album is the last with Labrador to meet your contractual obligation, and now you are free. Knowing that, why did you take so long?

Johan: I don't know. I think things take time for us. We can be really quick about things. Usually, the songs we end up releasing are made quite fast. Or the core of the songs are made very fast. We really want to be fast about things. The things that take time – well there are different reasons, but one of them is that I have a hard time finishing the lyrics. So I tend to write new songs.

Martin: [laughs] It's that!

Johan: Yeah, that happened a lot with the last album, and it happened this time too. And also we have this whole court thing with Labrador as well, and that took awhile. And we live in different cities. There's a lot of different reasons why things take time when they can happen really fast. I think we're going to pick up the pace. Hopefully.

I saw that Daniel (Tjäder) is here again with you. You also have a lady with you on this tour.

Her name is Maja (Karlsson). She plays a little bit of everything. Guitar and keyboards, and some drums as well.

Did you feel like you need a fourth person to perform materials from the new album?

Johan: We would have liked to be five even, but it's hard. It's expensive to tour so we couldn't afford another one.

What would the fifth person do?

[Martin and Johan shake their heads]

Johan: I don't know. We would have figured it out.

Martin: Tambourine

I will play the tambourine for free!

Martin: A dancer.

The Radio Dept

Now you're starting to sound like Happy Mondays.

You said this tour was long…

Martin: For us, it's the longest we've ever done. It's four weeks.

Johan: We're just not used to touring that much, playing every day for weeks and weeks.

But you don't really like playing live that much do you?

Johan: It's the nervousness and being scared of doing it. But when it goes well, I really like it.

How did it go at Noise Pop festival recently in San Francisco?

Johan: I think that one went well. I've read some review that wasn't very good [laughs], but I read another one that I thought was really good.

You actually read the reviews?

Johan: [smiling] Yeah, sometimes.

Martin: I think I would like to read the review if I wasn't on stage because if you were on stage, there's nothing much you can do about, it's done.

Johan: But there are things you can take to heart and change for the next show.

Martin: But sometimes you can't even do that. It's like, “Ah, I didn't like the songs” or whatever – you can't really change that for the next set. So you're just bummed out. And you just feel bad, and then the whole tour is ruined. So I really try not to read reviews.

Have you guys already thought about your next direction?

Martin: Yes, we always do. But we never know where we going to end up.

Do you constantly bounce ideas back and forth to each other?

Martin: Yes, always.

Johan: I think that's my favourite thing: fantasising about the future… seeing the cover.

Martin: I think once we made… [turns to Johan] do you remember we made a list for seven albums? That would be like the beards we all grew. We'd do folk music only… [we all laugh]. We were joking, but it was seven or eight albums – that would be the one we do that…

Johan: Where we would go to – take drugs…

Martin: It's fun scheming – like always trying to figure something – starting bands.

Do you think you'd still be doing this when you're 50 or 60?

Martin: Probably.

Johan: I hope so. It doesn't have to be this particular band…

Martin: Doing music - it's fun!

The Radio Dept.'s latest album, Running Out of Love, was released last year via Labrador Records. Listen to it below.