It seems all is well in The Raveonettes' world. "Things are great," Sune Rose Wagner tells me via Skype. "I'm just working. It's nice to be back home in LA for a while - I like it here." After a summer spent finalising the details of their seventh album, surprise released last month, and playing a few festival dates in their native Denmark, Wagner and bandmate Sharin Foo are enjoying some home comforts before an autumn tour that will see them play on both sides of the Atlantic in the run up to Christmas.

While Observator was far from a bad album, response to it was somewhat muted - not least from Wagner himself, who recently claimed that it "wasn't very accomplished". Pe'ahi on the other hand is very much a return to form, and their most open, emotional record to date. Critical reception has so far been overwhelming positive, something that Wagner is appreciative of. "We worked very hard on this album, so it's nice to see that people feel it's a very accomplished record." It is indeed, and scotches any notion that the Raveonettes are yesterday's band.


When we spoke earlier last year, you told me that you were done with albums and had no interest in making another one. What changed?

The thing that changed was that all of a sudden, we had a lot of time on our hands; I guess because we decided not to tour as much as we used to. We never really used to have that much time, and then I had six months where I didn't really do anything. So I thought: "I'll just do what I always do", which is write songs. And it became pretty apparent pretty quickly that I was being inspired by that time, and it was easy for me to write songs that were all really good. And so all of a sudden I was like: "Fuck! Maybe we have to put out an album now, because there's just too many good songs." That's what happened.

When you were sitting writing, and all this material was coming out, was there one definitive point where you thought: "OK, I have enough for an album, that's what we're gonna do"? And was this before last Christmas, or earlier this year?

It was before Christmas. We were working on maybe 30 or 40 different songs, and they were all really, really good. So we realised we had to do an album, but instead of working on all these songs, we decided to pick just ten that we liked, to see if we [Sharin and I] could agree on which ten. And for the first time ever in the history of the band, we sat down for five minutes and looked at the list - Sharin picked her ten, I picked mine, and we had actually picked the same ones! So it was very easy.

Was surprise releasing it your way of subverting the industry norms, and trying to do things your own way, on your own terms?

Both really. Sharin and I don't really have that much input when it comes to the business side of releasing and all that stuff - we have very qualified people who work for us and handle those things. Obviously, we approve everything, and that's fine, but the biggest thing for me was the fact that to have an album come out and then start doing interviews and getting the reviews and so on sounded very exciting. The old business model of having a three month lead up period to the release, and within those months you have to do an excessive amount of press, music videos, singles and what not...by the time the album actually comes out, you're already kinda tired of it - or at least talking about it. I was quite excited on the day Pe'ahi was released, at least as excited as the fans, like: "Wow, the album is out today, it feels brand new to me, and it feels brand new to people on the streets. We're at an equal level right now." That was why I really enjoyed it.

Were you worried that surprise releasing it might lead to less people finding out about it, or it slipping under the radar so to speak?

No, because the good thing about it right now is that people keep discovering it. I think sometimes in the old days - well, I say the old days, but it's actually still that way for 95% of all bands - the big release day comes, what everybody has been waiting for and working hard towards, and then the record goes into the top 20, everybody's excited, and then next week it drops to Top 50, and then the week after it's off everybody's radar. So in a way, it's not a good thing - what's exciting [about this way] is the only way is up, new people are discovering it, new reviews are coming out, we still have to make some videos, we still have to keep people engaged and release things, there are various chart positions all over the world, and things are only moving in the right direction. It is a different way of doing it, but it feels more exciting - I really like it like this.

You moved to LA two years ago, Pe'ahi is named after a famous Hawaiian surf spot, and I can really hear the influence of the sun, the beach, and summer in the music. Was that a deliberate thing, or did the influence just naturally seep in?

It was both. It was very deliberate for sure; I've always been inspired by Los Angeles and we've done many songs throughout out career that were either written here or inspired by the city; I mean, I started the band in LA in 1999, and I wrote most of the songs for our first EP, Whip It On, in Hollywood at a friends house. Songs like 'Heartbreak Stroll' from Chain Gang of Love, and 'Ode to LA' from Pretty In Black are LA songs, so it's always been a very inspiring environment. But it's been nice to actually live here, and feel at home here, and take the time to write an album here. It couldn't have been written anywhere else; it was the right time, and the right city, for this record; that's just how it is.

The contrast with that is that lyrically, Pe'ahi is quite dark - it's almost like a break up record. Why did you shift from sad love songs and romance to talking about loss and the end of relationships?

It was very natural for where I was; my father drank himself to death on Christmas Eve last year, and I was in the middle of writing and recording an album when my mom called to tell me the sad news. And so obviously, for the next three or four months I was immersed in a very different universe where you have to deal with the loss of a parent, the loss of a father, while also rethinking your life and thinking about death, love, beauty, and everything in between in a very different way than I normally would have. Cos there was a lot of resentment, and unresolved issues, that will never be dealt with now that he's gone, a lot of abandonment issues too, and a lot of negative things that I grew up with that I somehow - unfortunately, and unwillingly - inherited into my personality from him. So I was trying to take stand against that, and be very honest and open about it; some of it is very hateful, and some of it is very resentful, and I didn't even think about it - it was very natural, and that was just the way it was supposed to be. That's all I can say really.

Was it therapeutic to put your thoughts down on paper, and getting them out in your art? Lots of artists I've interviewed say that it can be cathartic to unburden yourself of these pent up feelings.

To be honest with you, I don't know, and I do get that question from time to time whenever we make an album that seems to deal with more personal issues. I'm not sure, but I do think that at least talking about it, or putting it down on a piece of paper, is somehow therapeutic; there is a reason why people go to see a psychiatrist, or keep a diary, or write. For some reason, I guess it is therapeutic, but to go from being that, to actually living it out in real life, is quite different, and only time can tell. At this point, I don't know - I just know it was very necessary for me to write the stuff that I did. And it wasn't forced; it was just very...easy, actually.

It still sounds unmistakable like The Raveonettes, but you've added lots more little details to this one; the strings on 'Wake Me Up', the harp on 'Sisters', the abrupt changes in rhythm and tempo. It feels like you've extended your sonic palette somewhat - what prompted this experimentation, and was it something you felt you needed to do?

Well, the last thing I wanted to do - and this goes back to the question of having said that we don't want to make anymore albums, was make an album that would just be another album; I had no interest in that. And by that, I mean we have made albums in the past that've had very good songs on them, but there have been songs that were put there because it was an album, and we needed songs, but they maybe weren't our best. So unless I could come up with ten songs that were all brilliant, and equally as strong, there was no reason for us to make another record. And the only way I thought I could do that was to make the songs stand out - from each other, and from everything else we've done - and make them really interesting for the listener, surprise them, and make very dynamic changes. We tried to include some very unusual rhythmic changes, all within the confines of a song, and kinda abolish the normal, strong song structures, and to create something different; no rules, no nothing, just go from this part into this part, even if they don't seem to fit together, because somehow they will, and people will get it. Everything was open, and was there to take - that was the beauty of it, and why it was an interesting album to make. Like I said, we worked a lot on it - I worked maybe 12 hours every day, for four months, and that's what I felt I had to do to make that kind of album.

Are you looking forward to taking the new material out on the road? And with all the new details, is it going to be easy to arrange for the two of you to play live?

The answer to that question is yes and no. There's a big "yes", meaning that I'm ecstatic and thrilled to be coming out to see the fans again and play new music for them - and old music as well, of course - but the reason I say "no" is because, by definition and by nature, I'm not a performer; I'm a songwriter and composer, I like to sit at home and be inspired, read books and play the piano and sit by the computer and make beats. That's when I feel the happiest. I sometimes don't like the idea of standing in front of a lot of people, it feels a little intimidating to me and it doesn't feel natural, so in that sense I am by no means a performer - I don't have that in me. I realise it's part of the job and has to be done, and it usually is fun, but do I feel 100% comfortable? No, I don't.

I read in one of your other interviews that you're hoping that all of the songs will be singles at some point...

You know, that can be interpreted in various ways; a single can be something that you push really hard because you believe it can be a big hit, or it can just be a single song from an album of many songs, and I was more talking about the latter...

...because I was going to ask if there are plans to do a video for each song, as if they were actual, stand alone singles.

Well, that's the plan. I did all the lyric videos, so I've done ten videos so far - that was the first thing that needed to be done. Then I did the first video [proper], for 'Endless Sleeper'. It didn't turn out the way I had envisioned it, but it turned out good. The reason for that is that we had three major obstacles against us shooting it: first, it's illegal to shoot on the beaches in California without a permit; secondly, it's obviously illegal to be nude on the beaches in California; and third, you're obviously not allowed to have real weapons such as knives and stuff on the beaches. So, it was a pretty hairy shoot, and it was done very fast in order to get out of there. The police did actually show up, twenty seconds after we closed our car door; it was a prowler with his lights on, and he was looking for us. Someone had called it in, and there were people walking past as we were shooting.

So it was a real gorilla shoot then?

Oh, hell yeah! We started at five in the morning, just to get a fresh start before too many people started showing up. It's a miracle that we even got it done, and that it turned out fine, so that was all good. But I'm meeting with another director today, to discuss the second video.

Does living in the same city as Sharin change the way that you work together, now that its much easier to jam, or meet up face to face, as opposed to sending files back and forward?

We try to do that as best we can. Sharin doesn't write, so in that sense nothing has changed; I write the music and lyrics. But there's always something that seems more personal, and you get things done a lot quicker, when your in the same room together. Sometimes it's nice to just see people's reaction when you play something to them, and feel their emotions and how they perceive the music as opposed to just getting an email. So I'm very happy that we live just ten minutes from each other, which is perfect, but another very important thing that not a lot of people seem to mention, is that we worked with a very, very good producer for Pe'ahi, which is another reason why it turned out the way it did.

Justin Meldal-Johnsen?

Yeah. And had it not been for him, this album would not have sounded the way it did - there's absolutely no way. Without him as a sparring partner and influence, and someone to cheer you on, it wouldn't have been as good as it was.

So he's almost like the third Raveonette?

100%! He's a brilliant man to work with, and I'm so happy we ended up working together. He also has a very unusual way of working, because most people will take a few weeks or months in a recording studio, the producer will be there, and they'll work, everyday. I can't work like that, because I can't sit there, on the spot, and say: "Give me two minutes, and I'll have a great bridge for this song." It won't be as good as if I just sit by myself, so the way that we did it was, we basically hired him over a period of many months, but we didn't work everyday; he came to my apartment maybe four, five, or six times during that time, and he was here for about four or five hours. We discussed music, we listened to music - not just the album, but music in general - we discussed lyrical themes, art, literature, and we just got to work. Sometimes we were very hands on with the music - you know, this chord goes with this chord, this part should be like this and so on - and sometimes it was a lot more abstract, like going from this mood to that mood. It was just a very different way of working, and incredibly inspiring; he brought out the best in all of us, and I only have praise about his involvement.

When you tour this time, will it be just the two of you, or will you have a drummer again?

Oh, we'll be three. We've been three for a good many years now, and we're still three. We have a Danish drummer, called Adrian Aurelius, who we've had for the past four or five years. If we had all the money in the world, maybe we would expand the band, or do all kinds of crazy things like have a harp player - really make a big show out of it, you know? Unfortunately we don't, so people will have to make do with the three of us.

You should do a one off gig in some really cool venue, Carnegie Hall or somewhere, where you have half an orchestra - strings, horns, all that. Like Metallica did.

You give us the audience, and we'll do it for sure! If Metallica can headline Glastonbury, why can't we?

I saw you mention somewhere else that with all the material you've got left over from the sessions for Pe'ahi, and all the writing you did for this album, that you've got another album called #2 ready to go. Can you tell me anything about that, or when it might come out?

I don't know yet. It's true that there's a lot of great, unfinished songs lying about ready to be nursed back into life, but whether or not this is the direction we want to take, and whether or not we feel comfortable releasing an album that will be somewhat similar to Pe'ahi, I'm not sure. Because normally we don't want to repeat ourselves - we need an album or two apart if we want to do something similar to what we've done before, but at this point everything is kind of open, which again goes back to what we talked about before; the album just came out, it still feels fresh and new, and I don't feel like making new music for The Raveonettes right now...I mean I write, but I write for many other things that are not related to this band. I think I need to go out on the road a little, meet the fans, see people's reaction, get away from it for a while, go out and play out the music, and then come back with fresh ears and fresh ideas, and then start thinking what the next move is. I'm pretty sure we're gonna use some of the songs leftover, cos there's some great stuff lying about, or maybe we could release an album that's a companion to Pe'ahi with more demo-y versions of the songs that didn't make it on. Or something like that, for the fans.

So nothing concrete at the moment?

No, not as yet. We're really just trying to focus on touring, how we're gonna play the songs live, and how we're gonna do everything as regards hiring people, booking tour dates and stuff; there's a lot to do. So that's where the focus is, try to get in touring mode, and deal with that first.

The Raveonettes' new album, PE'AHI, is out now.