For nearly twenty years, Stockholm’s Victims have dished out an onslaught of crusty d-beat, hardcore punk, and Motörhead-quality rock ‘n’ roll. With explosive live shows, riffs and hooks for days, and a penchant for upping the ante on each new release, the four-piece of vocalist/bassist Johan Eriksson, guitarist/vocalist Jon Lindqvist, guitarist Gareth Smith, and drummer Andy Henriksson have become a beloved band in underground punk communities around the world and an essential, exciting force in an area of music that is too often stagnant.
Victims’ sixth full-length, Sirens, which comes out today via Tankcrimes, was recorded with Fred Etsby (At The Gates, Refused) and mastered by From Ashes Rise frontman Brad Boatright. The record finds Victims changing things up once again, fusing the metallic leanings it perfected on its 2011 album A Dissident with an aggressive hardcore that overflows with searing solos and full-bodied melodies. Lyrically, the band explores themes of personal choice and responsibility in a world on the brink of disaster, coming through with sliver of light and a rallying cry only when things seem darkest.
Noisey caught up with Andy just after the band arrived home from a string of US West Coast tour dates to talk about Sirens, keeping d-beat fresh, and balancing hope for mankind with total despair.
Noisey: You’ve previously stated that d-beat is a style of music with limitations, yet Victims always seems to push the boundaries, whether it’s exploring more metallic sounds on A Dissident, or these lush melodic threads throughout Sirens, particularly on the second half of the record. For Victims, is d-beat is more of a starting point these days than anything else? What keeps it fresh for you after nearly 20 years as a band?
Andy Henriksson: Have we said that? Goddamn we are clever. But it’s true. Punk and hardcore have limitations. You can't throw in whatever you like in a song, scream as loud as you can, and call it hardcore just because you have tattoos and a Black Flag shirt. It´s not that easy. Too many bands out there that call themselves hardcore are just very bad metal bands. I know that there are people out there that would say almost the same thing about us, and you know what, they might be right. [But] as much it has limitations, the sound can also go in a millions different ways. It´s a fine line.
I remember Björn from Disfear once said that he thought in d-beat when he wrote songs, and I think we do the same. It's the ground we build from, but of course we don´t play 100 percent straight d-beat. There must be some variety to keep it interesting for a whole album. It´s hard to keep it fresh after almost 20 years as a band, but I hope we do. We always try to do something different on every album, both when it comes to designing the album and deciding how it should sound.
It would be comfortable to sing about war, sound like Discharge, and have pictures of blown-up babies on the cover on every record, but it would also be boring. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not us. We try to develop all the time, but without stepping out of the hardcore/punk circle.
Over the years, Victims lyrics have often been political without being overtly connected to any one topic. For you, what is the power of leaving things a little vague for the listener?
We don’t have any answers to the problems, so I guess what we do is write about what we think is wrong and other stuff, and let the listener think for themselves. It’s a sort of wake up call without force-feeding them stuff. We have never stated that we are a political band, but we have also never said that we don’t care and we are an apolitical band. People or bands who said that they are non-political are often the kind that have no problem with right-wing shit, but say that they don’t agree with them. I hate them and they can fuck off.
While I would imagine much your themes come from observations of things happening in your community and throughout Sweden, my American brain couldn’t help but draw parallels with what is happening within our own sociopolitical climate (especially taking “Walls” in a literal sense thanks to Trump...). Having recently completed your first US tour in a few years, did you find audience members to be more interested in the subject matter of your songs than on previous tours?
No, not at all to be honest. They might sing along and know the words, but I think that’s it. Even the several times on this tour that Jon dedicated the song “We’re Fucked” to America if Trump gets elected. It’s the same here in Sweden.
Speaking of touring, Gareth keeps one of the most comprehensive tour journals around, and it’s a fun read too. As a band with a rather colorful tour history, has having a tour log ever gotten you in more hot water after the fact than the events as they happen?
I agree what you said about the blog. I love to read it myself. I just don’t understand how the hell he can remember everything. I’ve actually thought about that, but so far things are good. Maybe we need to have more scandals?
As a whole, Sirens possesses a duality, with despair and bleakness on one side, and positive action and hope for a better future on the other side. What side are you leaning towards these days and why?
Right now I think mankind is beyond fucked up with all the crises that pile up one after another. It’s hard to see a bright future the way it looks right now. Also, what scares the shit out of me is that right-wing parties are getting more and more acceptable all over Europe. Here in Sweden, the Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) is huge, the third biggest party, and they are a bunch of fucking racist, homophobic idiots that have no political agenda other than to stop mass immigration. How people can vote for them and not call them racists and think that they have any kind of solution of anything is beyond my mind. People equal shit.
On the other hand, being the father of two lovely daughters gives me some hope that someday things and people will change for the better, since they are the only light in these dark days.
Victims Tour Dates:
April 16 - Swe/Stockholm, Kafé 44 (release party for Sirens)
May 28 - Swe/Göteborg, Kajskjul 46
June 3 - UK/London, DIY Space
June 4 - UK/Bristol, Temples Fest
June 5 - UK/Nottingham, Chameleon Arts Café
June 17 - FR/Clisson, Hellfest
June 18 - FR/Paris, MAINS D'OEUVRES
July 8 - PL/Gdynia, DIY Fest.
Jamie Ludwig thinks Trump should take Victims’ song dedication to heart. She’s on Twitter.