Musical Millencolia

7 June 2012 | 7:16 am | Simon Rundin

To celebrate a whopping 20 years as a band, Millencolin have been very busy. The band’s guitarist and songwriter Mathias Färm tells Simon Rundin about the Swedish pop-punk band’s past, present and future.

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After twenty years doing the same job, most would take long service leave. Not Mathias Färm. Having just released their compilation album The Melancholy Connection, the band has jumped straight back into planning their own festival in Sweden to celebrate their anniversary. When interviewed, Färm was about to rehearse for it. ”We're rehearsing sixty songs. That's a lot of songs,” he says. “Twenty years worth. We have two dates so we're headlining both nights, so we decided to play a lot of songs and not play the same song twice. We have [around] 150 songs to choose from.”

While it's a big undertaking for any band, Färm believes it's worth it – it's a big milestone. “It's just a way of celebrating twenty years as a band. We thought maybe we should just invite our old friends in different bands and have a big party. It's kind of scary to put on a big festival like this – there are a lot of things that have to be done,    but it's also a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it – it's going to be a very fun two days.”

While Färm had dreamed of becoming a professional musician, he never thought it was going to happen. “It's funny, when I was in school you could actually write a letter to yourself what you were supposed to in ten years, and I got it ten years after and it said that I was going to be a rock star,” Färm exclaims. “Me and [vocalist and bassist] Nikola Sarcevic had been friends since we were seven years old. We skateboarded together and all the other skaters had their own bands, so we started one. The music we listened to we heard on skateboard films. I didn't know the names of the bands – I used to put the tape recorder up against the TV set to record. Then I started to buy Epitaph albums like Bad Religion and all that stuff, and that got us into the music and we started to make our own music.”

Even after Millencolin started writing and performing, Färm wasn't confident the band would go anywhere. “I thought we would last a week or so because we didn't have a plan at all. We just liked to play music – everything went so fast for us. Then we started to sing in English and then it was twenty years later, so time flies. We didn't really think about this at all.”

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Australia has played a big part in Millencolin's history – it was one of the first places the band toured outside of Scandinavia. “We might have been to Germany once before but it was the first long travel we did,” Färm recounts. “It was amazing. I remember the first time we went there – the weather was nice and our whole group of people went to the beach. I lied there for five hours without any sunblock. I had blisters over my whole body! It was fucking mayhem. The locals looked at us like, 'What the fuck are they doing?' We wanted to get a nice tan.”

While Millencolin has had many releases in their twenty-year career, Pennybridge Pioneers – an album they played in its entirety the last time they toured Australia – is the closest to Färm's heart. “All the recordings have their place in time, so it's very hard to pick a favourite,” Färm explains. ”You usually pick favourite songs, and Pennybridge had No Cigar, and Penguins And Polarbears was a really great song, but all of the albums have really good songs. They all have something that I really like, but I like that album. It has a special place in my heart because it was made in the US and it was a big thing for us to go there and do it. [But] I like them all. They all have something special. When you just finish a new recording, you always think it's the best work you've ever done. You have to be like that – it would be pretty sad if it wasn't.”

Because of this, it is fitting that a documentary of the making of Pennybridge Pioneers is included with The Melancholy Connection. “We almost broke up the band before [recording] the album,” he says. “We had a long break. It was a breakthrough album for us; it was why we decided to do [the tour]. It'd been ten years since the album came out. A rock club had closed down and they wanted us to play the last night so we played a secret show. And we said to ourselves, 'We have to do something different', so we played the whole Pennybridge album from start to finish. People seemed to like it so we decided to book more shows outside of Sweden. It ended up being a one-year tour. We went all around the world – it was very fun.”

The band was preparing for their festival the day The Melancholy Connection was released. The album, which is a follow-up to 1998's similarly named The Melancholy Collection, is a compilation of a majority of their b-sides from the past decade. Färm said a lot of the songs were prime contenders for the original albums. “When we record a new album we like to have maybe twelve to fourteen songs on the album,” he explains. “We always try to record two or three extra songs. When we're recording we haven't really chosen what songs to put on the album. Then you have to narrow it down to about fourteen. There are always two songs that aren't going to make it.”

Band discussions over which songs would make it onto the albums, and which ones wouldn't, got heated at times. “We've had big arguments,” he said. “Maybe I like a song and Nikola doesn't like it, but Erik likes it, but Larzon doesn't. Sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's very hard. Now when I hear [The Melancholy Connection], when I hear some songs I think, 'How could we not have this on the original album?' It's crazy… It's a good sign, in a way, because then we have good songs all the way through.”

So what does the future hold for Millencolin? “We recorded five new songs [for The Melancholy Connection], but we thought it was enough to have two new songs on a thing like this, because five would be too much,” Färm tells. “Two is a good number, we'll keep the other songs and maybe re-record them or keep them as they are and work from that to make a whole new album. We're going to do these two festivals, then we have one big festival show in Italy, in Milano, and then we're going to start to record this fall to make another album. Hopefully we'll be back down under early next year with a new album.”