Cast your mind back to 2002. The Queen Mother passed away, Argentina defaulted on its sovereign debt, and the nation became experts in a hitherto insignificant little bone when David Beckham broke his metatarsal. In the world of music, although the White Stripes' Elephant and the Yeah Yeah Yeah's debut LP were still a year away, the so-called New Rock Revolution was well underway, sweeping all before it and led by five louche New York kids rocking Converse and skinny jeans. Amidst all this, a little known duo from Copenhagen released a scuzzy, brash EP of garage rock recorded entirely in the key of B-Flat Minor and, a year later, followed that with a 30 minute LP in B-Flat Major; not exactly a recipe for critical or commercial acclaim in the ever-fussy indie world. And yet here they are, still going strong, eleven years and six albums later.

"I don't think either of us have ever thought about it to be honest, it's just something that happens," says enigmatic guitarist Sune Rose Wagner when pressed to explain their longevity. We're sitting backstage at Barcelona's City Music Hall prior to soundcheck, another stop on another world tour that started last October and runs until the summer. Dressed head to toe in black, Sune and bandmate Sharin Foo wear the haunted expression of sleep deprivation, victims of a cancelled flight from Rimini that led to a 6 a.m. start and a race against the clock. Slumped on a battered leather couch, they perk up as drummer Jakob Hoyer hands out generously mixed vodkas & orange and jokes around in Danish.

Not many can boast a career like the Raveonettes. The music industry nowadays is a vastly different beast to the one they first encountered at the turn of the century. Back then there was no social media or rabid blogosphere, and with the iPod and piracy still in their infancy, CDs were the dominant media, a reliable source of cash that enabled labels to enter bidding wars and hand over eye-watering advances – they themselves allegedly received £2million – to novice bands tipped for greatness. It also seems obvious that, compared to today's ever increasing churn, artists were given more time and freedom to develop, but Wagner's not so sure.

"I don't think so, actually. We were just lucky in that we had a three-album deal with Columbia, and we got to do them all. I know lots of bands these days sign to a major, don't do well and then get dropped. I think it really depends on the label, and what kind of situation it is." Multi-album deals may well be less common, but it's not just fickle A&R and dwindling sales that do for bands these days. Pressure to survive, to take advantage of each and every opportunity that comes along and long, poorly funded tours make the practical aspects of being in a band extremely trying. More than one group has told me that between tours and recording they barely keep in touch and, when hard times hit, implosion and bitter recrimination are all too common. How have they, especially as a duo, survived?

"Well, it's one of those things that again, we absolutely don't think about at all. We just try to enjoy the time we have together. We don't tour as much as we used to which was something that, back then, definitely created a lot of friction. Now we try to make life on the road as pleasant as possible by going to restaurants and enjoying some time away from the whole music thing." Foo agrees, adding "Part of the secret for us has been getting to know where the limitations are, and when to stay out of each others hair. We've figured out a way to balance work, the band, and actually having a good time on the road. But it's not like we have the definitive answer to it; we still debate a lot of things."

But there's more to their relationship than socialising together even if, according to Foo – "We spent last Christmas together!" – it extends to special occasions. "We decided to take care of our own business so to speak," explains Wagner, "so we have to deal with a lot of business stuff. It's not just all about having fun playing music; most of it is how we conduct our affairs and what we want to do next. We have three different relationships almost; being on stage and doing what we do, our business relationship, and then our personal friendship."

They both look back over the last eleven years with pride, equally as pleased with the rough as the smooth. Never ones to play it safe, at times they've seemed almost wilfully dismissive of commercial success and the audience it could bring them. Second album Pretty in Black – a cleaned up, poppier take on their beloved late-fifties garage rock for which they recruited a bassist, a drummer, and several guest stars – was regarded by many as a move towards the mainstream, but that was swiftly followed by Lust Lust Lust, a slow burning return to their earlier style and whose cover art and accompanying 3D glasses rendered it illegible for the charts.

Such obtuseness even extended to their lyrics. With some of their best tracks peppered with observations such as "My girl is a little animal / she always wants to fuck" and "The first love you can't escape / the second love feels like rape" it's safe to say that heavy rotation on radio or MTV wasn't particularly high on their list of priorities. It was all just part of their fierce independence, and they revel in their status as outsiders; not for nothing did some early artwork depict them as leather-clad musical outlaws, draped over motorcycles and conjuring the brooding menace of the original Wild One, Johnny Strabler. (one track on their debut was even titled 'The Truth About Johnny').

But regret is not something they dwell on, and Wagner remains philosophical about the choices they made. "I wish we'd gotten into the business side of things earlier, for sure, and I also should've taken playing live a bit more seriously but it's hard to say, because you're a kid almost, and it's your dream. You just want to go for it – but by going for it, I think you also miss some opportunities. I don't really regret anything to be honest; it's been such fantastic career. There have definitely been some slip-ups, but all in all I just look back with a big smile and say 'Hey, it is what it is'."

Foo attributes such boldness not only to youthful exuberance, but who they are as people and how they approach life in general. "I feel like we've never been scared of trying things out, and we haven't been concerned about making mistakes, or failing, or looking back and regretting things. Because sometimes I do, you know? But it's also because you change as a person, and that's why we take pride in the fact that we've never been afraid to just put our stuff out there, on display. There's lots of bands nowadays that are really intimidated by this, like 'Now we really have to make an album, and it's a big deal!' It is a big deal, but it's also just music, and it's a work in progress; you develop, you change, you'd make a very different album today compared to six months or a year ago. So I think in that sense we've always just dived into it, surfaced, and thought 'OK, that was that moment in time. Onto the next one'."

As much as self-belief has sustained them, no band can survive for long without the material to back it up, something the Raveonettes have always had in abundance. From 'Remember' to 'Love in a Trashcan' to 'Black Satin' to 'Recharge & Revolt', no one does gothic dreamy haze and driving melodic fuzz like these two. Latest offering Observator is no exception; recorded in just seven days, it's a swathe of bleak, sad songs about dark days in New York that conjure rock'n'roll ghosts and champion the crazy and the lonesome. It may fit neatly into their oeuvre, but it's not entirely without subtle shifts and progression; 'Obsession' is their first track built around piano, and while the lyrics remain as downbeat as ever – unrequited love being something of a favourite topic – there's nothing quite as risqué as before.

It's also, if Wagner is to be believed, their last ever album. Having told Drowned in Sound last August that "I have quite a few ideas and structures ready for a new album, and once they start coming together I'll release it as early as possible," towards the turn of the year he performed a volte-face and claimed he was done with the format. Is this true? "I'm sick of writing entire albums, because I just don't see a point to it any more," he tells me, but fans need not fear; it isn't the end, merely a reappraisal of how they want to approach their art in the future.

"I think the concept of making albums is not what people want these days. We're basically going back in time to when people used to buy single songs, the way we grew up listening to stuff. It's a really good thing, and something that bands should look into. We need to figure out a way to do it in an interesting fashion, but it's not worth spending a lot of time and money on albums when people only buy three or four songs – and bands pretty much always know which four they'll be – from them anyway. It's all a little jaded, and doesn't fit the times we live in. This is a song era, and it should be all about the songs."

They're not the first to bemoan reliance on the traditional album cycle, an apparently constricting system that Foo won't miss. "Whatever the state of the music industry or the audience, I feel like we, as a band, have become a little bit tired of the grind. It's like 'Now what?' It could be an inspiration for us to break that cycle and try something else, another way of creating music which isn't this idea of an 'album'. I'd actually like to go back to the old days, like the Brill building [Tin Pan Alley], when you just wrote a song, recorded it, and released it in a few weeks. There's an excitement about that."

Wagner agrees. "We've also discussed the frustration of, once an album's finished, having to wait three months before it comes out because you have to set up promotion, distribution, and all that stuff. It's such a tiresome thing to do, and you can never make the perfect summer album, or write the perfect winter song, because it will never coincide with anything. So our idea is 'We're feeling it right now' and to go ahead and do it, then it's released. That's always been a beautiful way of looking at music, and I think it'll be more fun."

The death of the album, or long form recording has, much like guitar music, been oft proclaimed but never witnessed. Perhaps there are too many vested interests for it to truly become obsolete, or just not enough original alternatives. As for the future, Wagner is unsure exactly what they'll do, but his rebellious streak is clearly relishing the chance to shake up conventional wisdom. "We can release seven songs in a week if we want, or release one song in six months; it doesn't really matter. The most important thing would be, whenever we feel like we have a song that's absolutely amazing and beautiful, then there it is. Or if we have four songs that go great together, we can release an EP. There are so many ways to do it, the possibilities are endless."

So is the album really being read its last rights? "There'll always be people into albums and what they stand for, and there'll always be people who'll buy vinyl and listen from start to finish," he maintains. "That's a beautiful thing as well. But I can only speak from personal experience, and the way I have it these days, which is I never listen to albums. And I have no interest in making 12 songs that fit together any more; I'm just not feeling it." Foo concurs; for them, it's just another solution to weariness and disillusionment as they head into their second decade.

"I think a lot of bands really enjoy the idea of working in depth with a cohesive piece, and getting into the atmosphere of an album. I also feel like things could change; maybe we'll say something different in five years time. This is just the state of the Raveonettes at the moment, so we'll see what happens. Albums will always exist in some shape or form; maybe not in traditional physical formats, but vinyl will survive for sure and the concept of making something with songs that go together, in a sequence, where you as a band can take people on a journey – that will always exist."

Later, as they take to the stage, it becomes clear that Wagner and Foo have indeed taken many on that journey; the sold-out crowd contains the young and the not so young, all eagerly singing along to a career spanning set. There's an odd dichotomy between their status as one of indie's first, über-cool European duos, whose distinctive image did as much as anything to propel them into the limelight, and the genuine, wholesome nature of their art. For these are tales penned from the edge of binges and despair, but grounded in reality. Up there, in the light, they promote a sense of togetherness and a weathering of the storm; survivors to the end, still standing, still striving.

It's best summed up by the rendition of one of their best loved tracks – and a personal favourite – the typically nihilistic 'Love Can Destroy Everything'. Slowed down to almost a standstill and heavy as sludge, its surf guitar riff is as thick as an oil spill, all distorted and swelling. Enveloping and comforting, yet brutally harsh, their candy sweet harmony is wrapped around lines about dying in your lover's arms and tearing dreams apart; the raw pain of a thousand teenage heartaches and tough breaks, summed up in nineteen lines and a little under three minutes. It's a reminder that the world can be a dark, complicated place, and we should give thanks the Raveonettes are still here to hold our hands.


Nihilism wrapped up in a ballad? By the time the wall of one-chord white noise kicks in, you were left in no doubt that here were rock's new noir kings. We take you through eleven of the best Ravonettes tracks.


'Attack of the Ghost Riders'

As a statement of intent, the first track from their debut EP did a pretty good job of nailing their colours to the mast; pounding drums and an ominous, two-note riff perfectly frame a squall of feedback and Wagner's eerily detached "Lipstick on my face / Thunder in the sky". By the time the wall of one-chord white noise kicks in, you were left in no doubt that here were rock's new noir kings. "It goes a little something like this" indeed.


'Remember'

Proving there was more than one string to their bow – they did change key, after all – 'Remember' traded in the dark theatrics for bubblegum harmonies and 50's pop posturing. Underpinned by chiming guitars and softly cooed vocals, it conjures exactly the sort of romantic summer haze that C86 revivalists like Dum Dum Girls have since used to such great affect and showcased their ear for melody and harmony.


'Love Can Destroy Everything'

Nihilism wrapped up in a ballad? It takes a lot of guts to lure people in with sweet, tremoloed arpeggio chords before plunging the knife in with lines like "You said you could never die for someone / Who tore all your dreams apart" but then they've never been afraid of throwing convention out the window. Deceptively simple, yet overwhelmingly affecting; heartache and devotion never sounded so good.


'Love In A Trashcan'

Adopting a polished sheen for their second album, they dropped the scuzz and upped the treble without abandoning the delinquent cool that made them seem so irresistible. This, the lead single, was a hypnotically cool tale of sexual desire – what else? – that oozed the Ronettes from every pore. While not quite as dramatic as earlier material, it showed that behind the curtain of distortion lay two canny pop archaeologists capable of infusing the past with their own personality.


'Lust'

Part dream, part nightmare, 'Lust' is a shimmering woozy dream that slowly but surely sucks you in; you know what's coming, but you can't escape. Built from just a few, rumbling elements and topped with Foo's gauzy vocal, this slow jam crackles with sexual tension, continuing their obsession with desire as sin – "I fell out of heaven / To be with you in hell" – and simple, yet menacing guitar lines.


'Dead Sound'

A roller coaster of a song that veers from shoegaze walls of noise to soft, lullaby synths and best played as loud as your speakers can go. The riffs positively erupt from the mix, piercing the maelstrom over an incessant, robotic bass and hinting at inner turmoil and wrestling with demons – this is speeding along the highway with the top down, destination unknown, your secret lover sprawled in the passenger seat.


'With My Eyes Closed'

Third full length Lust Lust Lust saw Foo and Wagner filled with enough confidence to slow down the tempo and ramp up the emotion; just under half the tracks were what might be loosely termed ballads, in style if not always in substance. Ignore those who eulogise 'Aly, Walk With Me' and fast forward to this, the penultimate track. Candy sweet, paper light harmonies flirt with a bustling drum loop making this "Dear John" tale of doomed love one of their most touching tracks.


'Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)'

In and Out of Control was a curious release; on the one hand, it was their poppiest, most confident and accessible collection yet. On the other, it included a few oddities such as 'Boys', a raw confrontational track about gang rape. Ominous, phased synth effects, a chorus backed by headache inducing levels of distortion and feedback, and an almost comically sweet-natured verse – tempered by Foo virtually spitting "Those fuckers stay in your head" – mean this really shouldn't work. And yet it somehow does.


'Blood Red Leis'

For those who can track it down – it's not on Spotify – the Sometimes They Drop By digital-only EP from 2008 is an experimental gem. Featuring a coldly mechanical synth groove over a simple drum machine and one of Foo's most impassive, monotonous deliveries, it was a million miles from their usual fiery retro stylings. Nevertheless, they still came up trumps, pushing themselves way out of their comfort zone and hinting at tantalising future directions.


'Observations'

Proving that those directions were not just a fantasy to be confined to small, obscure releases, last year's Observator starts boldly with this, the first song Wagner built around piano. 'Observations' develops into a dark, foreboding drone, the heavy chords and touch of reverb lending an air of dread and recrimination that even some spry, rockabilly guitar can't drag into the sunshine. It may have been recorded in L.A. at the famous Sunset Sound Studios, but this is more reminiscent of the 2 a.m. drift of a dying party.


'She Owns The Streets'

Wagner has always been adapt at chronicling the downtrodden and outsiders in the world, and there's a pleasant, early 90s vibe to this true tale of a New York resident with a penchant for dancing literally everywhere she goes – bars, the park, even on roads (she features in the video). With hints of New Wave, college indie, and even grunge, it's a far frothier mix than their usual fare but no less compelling. Enigmatic too, a testament to their mastery of guitar pop in all its guises.