By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Marching Band.
As of this writing, Marching Band could very well be Sweden’s best kept indie-pop secret. The duo has been doing their thing for nearly ten years and they’re slowly entering the consciousness of those looking to be elevated by their pop intake. You’ve probably heard them in your bouts of media consumption, from shows such as How I Met Your Mother to films such as Zombieland and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but never knew each was the product of a tender college romance.
Though the band isn’t completely based in the free and democratic Sweden anymore, with Sunbring having recently moved to Germany, they still proudly rep the blue and white flag. BTR was able to catch up with the two as they were celebrating the National Day of Sweden, talking about the very real reality of free college tuition, the career standard set by ABBA, and just how accessible their music is for the big screen.
Speaking to both of the members at once, they trade off who is willing to tell the origin story of the band, like a married couple telling friends how they met in that “No you hang up!” kind of way. What we’re finally able to gather is that “almost ten years ago now, actually” the two met at university in Linkoping where they bonded over “mutual interests in similar music and influences such as Pedro the Lion and Sufjan Stevens.” This, in addition to a desire for starting a band “for real.”
Sunbring calls Marching Band a “recording project from day one,” putting out three EPs in the beginning followed by a tour in South Africa. They realized they had something upon finding out the two had a mutual acquaintance who Jacob had played in high school bands with, now their live guitarist.
The ignorant American consensus of Sweden is that everything is a B+ happy-go-socially-democratic brand of good, all the time. In a way we like to think of ourselves as the underdogs, constantly struggling, while Europe gives its citizens “handouts”… which really turn out to be basic human rights.
To Marching Band, the sentiment turns out to be half-right, in varying degrees of truth.
“I think it’s pretty easy to live in Sweden. You get a lot served on your plate. To go to college, for example, that’s free in Sweden so you can be quite relaxed and still get by. In America you have to be on your toes which I guess creates a certain type of person maybe, I don’t know if it’s good. It’s got its pros and cons on both ends there,” says Sunbring.
State-sanctioned advantages such as free college tuition seems like it would have a different impact on its musicians being an option for everybody and not just the privileged. America seems to create the extremes of either vast amounts of privilege in musicians going to expensive schools to forge a career or those who forgo college entirely and travel the DIY route. As other critics have noted, successful American musicians are either dirt poor and have no other plan, or filthy rich with too much time on their hands.
To which Sunbring responds that most successful Swedish bands come from a more middle class background who went to university, much like themselves. He says that going to college becomes a “cultural privilege” that is determined earlier when parents put their children into music school, which he says “probably helps.”
The boys in Marching Band attempt to dissuade people from submitting to stereotypes, such as the “struggling artist.” Free college might on paper give Swedes an easier go at succeeding but Lind says that the “music business is impossible to penetrate. Anyone who tries to be a musician or an artist is struggling before they break.”
Basically, the struggle is real for anyone who wants to play music anywhere, but it’s nice knowing that we’re all in this together across the world. However, Lind admits that it is easier to dedicate some time to writing music when you’re not in crippling debt after having gone to college.
Okay we get it, guys.
While the band has all of the necessary elements needed to break out such as a marketable sound and a good college education, they still find that it’s not easy to succeed in Sweden. ABBA is the most famous name to come from the country, and in the underground circles, Refused, but ABBA in the band’s eyes is really just a “success story,” says Sunbring. No one but “foreign journalists” brings them up, even though their imprint is still very much felt in their home country. Lind speaks of the struggles they face trying to get noticed in their home country, as well as the places where they have broken out:
“When it comes to pop it’s hard to leave your city, to get a gig in a different city is hard. It’s so saturated; it’s the demand that’s the problem, not the supply. The audience isn’t that big. It’s funny the way our career has happened. We went to South Africa and were signed by an American label so we recorded our first record in America. We kind of started in LA with the hype and then we came back to Sweden because it was cool that we made some impact in America. Right now it feels like our biggest is in Japan. That’s where we were the latest and the crowds there were really great. We’ve never felt so appreciated as a band as we did on this tour in Japan.”
He points to reasons that he sees as “speculation” such as the fact that Japanese audiences go “all in” with subcultures “including indie-pop. If you’re into indie-pop in Japan, you’re really into it.”
Marching Band gives new meaning to “big in Japan” with their newest release So Much Imagine. While they may feel they don’t connect to Swedish audiences with quite as much enthusiasm as they’d like, they’re still being recognized by music supervisors for American films and shows. Their credits include Scrubs, Jersey Shore, and the aforementioned Zombieland. There’s certainly something that these behind-the-scenes film guys see in Marching Band’s music, something that fits.
Sunbring says of the band’s chemistry, “It’s quite a positive sound, most of the songs. It creates a positive vibe and it’s lush, I think that’s a word that people like to describe our music with. Harmonies… There’s a moment like that in every TV show in every episode.”
Be it in Japan or on your favorite show, Marching Band is rolling through, upfront or in the background.
Let Marching Band score the soundtrack of your life by clicking here.
Check out Marching Band’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.