of Laura Lee
An Interview with lead singer Per Stålberg
by Alexander Laurence
of Laura Lee were formed in 1997 in Sweden. Five years into
the game, Division Of Laure Lee have established themselves
in the underground scene as an amazing live act, with hundreds
of shows behind them. Most of the band grew up near Gothenberg
part of the new hardcore punk scene and art scene.
Their first release in 2001 on Burning Heart Records, was
the three song "Pretty Electric" EP. They supported
labelmates The (international) Noise Conspiracy on their
European tour that year. Then the band recorded their debut
full length album Black City with producer Kalle
Gustavsson of Soundtrack of Our Lives.
Division of Laura Lee are equally influenced by 1980s indie
rock, skater culture, and hardcore punk. I met lead singer
and guitarist, Per Stålberg, in the middle of their
tour with Haven. They were going to continue on two more
weeks with old friends Noise Conspiracy. I saw Dennis and
Lars checking out the live show for themselves. Both bands
were at this year's CMJ festival. This was something for
NYC to get ready for.
Jonas Gustavsson-Bass & Vocals
Per Stålberg-Guitar & Vocals
Sweden is a big country of 30 million people. Five years
ago, many of us knew only The Cardigans, Union Carbide,
and The Refused. Now there are many bands coming over all
Per: It's a very big compared to other European countries.
Union Carbide is from my city. Gothenberg is the second
biggest city in Sweden. It has a million people. It's where
all the rock comes from. It's like the Manchester of Sweden.
It's very working class. It's very tough. We are friends
with Soundtrack of Our Lives.
AL: How did you meet the other members of Division of Laura
Per: We are from 45 minutes up north from Gothenberg. It's
a small city that's more suburban. I am older than the other
guys and I have been playing longer. They were involved
in the same scene. I was in a big band but I became bored.
I wanted to do something new. They asked me to join in 1997.
I was in these rock bands before. In the 1980s, I was in
a punk rock band.
AL: Some bands from Sweden have a certain style that they
always play. Your band tends to have more of a range of
Per: We don't see ourselves as a Swedish band. We know
all the bands but we are not from the same scene as them.
We play music because we love it. We don't have to buy our
attitudes. We don't have to buy our stage clothes because
we have been through the fucking hard shit. We have stuff
to express. We don't have to pretend that we are tough.
I don't say everyone from Sweden pretends, but it's a lot
about fashion. Division of Laura Lee is about using heart
and soul and gettinge shit out, what you have been through.
We are having a good time now. But it wasn't easy being
a teenager where we grew up. In Sweden it is easy to be
in a band. The government helps you because it is a rich
country. You choose between being in a band, going to work,
or doing drugs. I have a lot of friends who chose doing
drugs and they are still doing that unfortunately. Our band
is telling the truth. We singing about stuff that we have
been through or what we feel is important.
AL: So you are more influence by real life than a bunch
of records that you listened to?
Per: Music is a big influence. But the reason we started
this band was that we wanted to do something for real. We
want to do something that actually means something. We know
we are one of the best bands around now because there are
not any bands who want to do something for real. We want
to deliver real honest music that tells the truth. Rock
music should be more dangerous. It has gone soft. You see
all those bands from New York City who have parents who
give them money to wear suits. They can do drugs because
their parents will send them to a drug rehab clinic. It's
so easy for them. Life is not easy. Reality sucks. I like
when rock reflects reality. That's what we are about. I
still respect bands who put on their clothes and put on
a show. But please don't confuse them with us because we
are not about that.
AL: Do you take risks with your music?
Per: Sure. We don't care what anyone else thinks. We never
did. We are about honesty. We actually think we are one
of the best bands in the world so of course we are not going
to keep quiet about it. We stand by that: we are the best.
We think that we are the saviours. We have a vision and
a goal with the band. We haven't reach it yet.
AL: Who writes the songs in the band?
Per: On this record it was just me and Jonas who wrote
all the music. We all jam stuff too. There are four of us.
We have a new guitar player who wasn't on Black City. We
have a new record. I have it in here (points to head). And
it is ten times better. We have played a few songs. If you
liked Black City, you can imagine how good this new one
is going to be. It's in a different vein. It's like all
four of us writing and jumping around in the room. We are
screaming at each other. I want it to feel like when you
are sixteen and you have been drinking all night and on
Sunday you are totally alone. That feeling of anxiety, watching
some bad TV show, no food around, and your parents are not
home, and everything is dark. We started out as an art collective.
AL: You all went to art college?
Per: We had plans to do that. The music went off first
so we couldn't do that. We are an artsy fartsy band. We
still do artwork for other bands. When I am home, I have
to be with my son and my family. I don't have time for anything
else. We want to do a book as Division of Laura Lee. It's
too early. It's not a profile of the band, but a profile
of our ideas and goals. I am not going to tell you what
it is. But you can read the book. It will be like the theory
behind Division of Laura Lee. It will be paintings and writings.
AL: What is the song "Need To Get Some" about?
Do we need to get more sex, drugs, or something to alter
Per: It's definitely not about drugs, but it could be about
sex. Some people have a lack of something at times. If you
are sitting home depressed on a Sunday night. You might
feel that you need something. What is it that I am a missing?
Why do people have fun and feel good? Why can't I feel that
AL: How did you record this record, Black City?
Per: We did it in two and a half months in one of the best
studios in the world. It was produced by Kalle Gustafsson
who is the bass player of Soundtrack of Our Lives. We worked
with the sound engineer of Noise Conspiracy, Don Alstherberg,
who I grew up with. We had a blast. They were like the fifth
and sixth members. We had all the songs written and we gave
them demos. They gave us ideas about how to do it. We went
into the studio and did some live takes. Others started
out as live takes. We just jumped around and screamed about
what feelings we wanted to have on the tape. It was a small
studio. And we recorded it in the winter when Sweden is
dark and cold.
AL: You band is known for sabotaging other bands.
Per: We have played about five hundred shows. We like to
do stuff to other bands and club owners. We like to be naked
a lot. We are starting this week with Noise Conspiracy.
I promise you that they are going to be pissed. We have
some good ideas about what we are going to do. They are
our best friends. I grew with the drummer.
AL: I notice that you take a lot of tobacco?
Per: Snuss? This is different from American tobacco. It
is Swedish. 70% of all men in Sweden do this. It's nicotine
but is a way stronger. It's like Snuff but it's different
AL: Do you have any of hobbies or do you play sports?
Per: We were all skateboarders from the beginning. We are
all from the punk hardcore scene. Only me and Håkan
who do it anymore. I have been doing it since I was 12.
I play a lot of video games. I like Grand Theft Auto III
and skateboard games. I like to sit around with my son and
do whatever. I used to drive motorcross dirtbikes. Jonas
plays tennis. I play golf as well. I love the feeling of
being a punk out on a course, and people going "What
the fuck is that!" I just started last year so I am
not good. We play frisbee golf on tours sometimes. We like
football too in Sweden.
AL: Do you parents follow your musical career?
Per: I am on TV all the time in Sweden. My mom calls her
friends all the time and talks about me. That's not how
it's always been. Before it was like "When are you
going to get a job?" We are not the biggest band in
Sweden, but we are known and famous. For a rock band we
are well known. Britney Spears is very popular in Sweden.
This year we are one of the top bands. My mom is proud and
she likes when I'm getting money.
AL: What aspect of music excites you the most?
Per: I have been asking myself that question many times.
I love it. I like writing songs. I like being in a band.
I like to produce. I like to be onstage sometimes. I can't
really explain. Since I was ten years old I was in a punk
band. That's a weird thing. I have also been a vegetarian
for fifteen years or more so I don't even consider it. I
don't want to eat anything with a face. At first it was
a political statement, now it's more about ethics: I don't
want to eat lives. All the members are vegetarians except
the guitarist. Road food is always disgusting, but this
country takes the prize. I can't believe how bad it is.
AL: You have been playing a few weeks with Haven. They
are a new band from Manchester who plays softer rock. Do
you blow them off the stage nightly? Are they afraid to
come onstage after you?
Per: It's been like that actually. I am not really proud
of it. We have sold more records than them. Some people
have went home after us which pisses me off because Haven
is a really good band. We like them a lot and they are our
friends. This is our first tour here. They have taken a
lot of influence from us. They even crash their instruments.
We are used to doing that. Haven did that in Denver. They
just went nuts. They played soft pop for a hour and then
destroyed everything. Can you imagine that?
AL: What is an average day like in Gothenberg?
Per: Besides when I hang out with my family. Sometimes
I call some friends from the band Soundtrack of Our Lives.
We might go out to eat. We might go to a club and check
out some bands, play some pool, hang around. There's a famous
place, Clora, where all the bands in Gothenberg hang out.
There's a lot of wannabes. Sweden is very different from
the rest of Europe. It's even different from Denmark. It's
very Americanized. It doesn't look European. Everyone speaks
two languages: Swedish and English. There are no translated
movies. It's all American films and TV. My favorite movie
is probably Grease.
AL: Have you read any books recently?
Per: I have read three books on this tour. I started out
with The Dirt about Motley Crue. It's an awesome book. I
was never a fan or have I ever liked them, but it's a great
book. I laughed so many times. I am read the one about the
LA punk scene: We Made The Neutron Bomb. We grew up liking
Fugazi and Discord Records. The third is some Swedish book
which I haven't got to yet.
AL: What are some of the future live show going to be like?
Per: With Division of Laura Lee you never know. It's like
a fucking bomb. It's unpredictable. At our lowest point
as a band onstage we are still one of the best bands in
the world. I can say that. So you can imagine what we are
like when we are really good. Sometimes we are onstage and
thinking this is the worst show we have ever done, and people
are like "Waaaaa!" They are freaking out. We'll
see what happens each night. We are playing about fifteen
songs. Mostly ffrom the new record, plus a few new ones.
AL: Have any celebrities shown up to gigs on this tour?
Per: It has happened. Edward Norton came up to us at our
show. I think he likes us. I couldn't understand him. He
was backstage at our show. We get a lot of weird characters.
We are very unimpressed. We don't see people as higher or
lower, or better than one another. I am as glad if you are
backstage as him. Unfortunately some of us were too drunk
when he came back so we took a few pictures and jumped around.
We were having a good time. Everyone is welcome to hang
out with us.
Official site: www.divisionoflauralee.com