Jens Lekman


Jens Lekman, live in Emmaboda, 2004

In the summer of 2004 the swedish songwriter Jens Lekman wrote on his website:

« Aug 15th
Thank you so much everyone who came to my show at Emmaboda, you were all crazy (in a good way). I hope no one got hurt when that fence caved in after the show. Things got a little chaotic there at the end and I'm sorry Icouldn't stay and talk to everyone but it was just a little overwhelming... »

I had the chance to see him that night. I had the chance to meet him but I was too drunk to remember.
Now I was feeling I had to write him:

«...the last thing I remeber of that night is your poignant Pet Shop Boys cover (do you know you've been the only one to have a second encore in all the festival?). All around us there were a lot of beautiful and crazy young girls and boys (Jesus, they could have been our children!) smiling and dancing, singing along with you all the time. I finished my whiskey and then goodnight. Your concert has been definitely the highlight of the summer. [...] I can't believe I talked to you and have no memory. In that fool situation did I mention to you that Laura and me write for the italian issue of Losing Today? Was I vaguely credible? Well, I suppose I wasn't... By the way, if you would ever give me a second chance, we would be honoured to make an interview with you. And I promise the next time I'll come to see you in concert (hopefully in Italy!) I'll be sober and not boring».

He kindly replied:

«Ha ha! I do remember talking to a bunch of italians who were eh... mildly intoxicated. But i was definitley not bored. You people seemed really nice and I really hope I can come down to Bologna or wherever...
Anyway, I'm sure up for an interview!
all love,

And so, here is the interview we made. An edited version appeared on the Losing Today magazine a month later. Jens Lekman came to Bologna, Italia, the next spring. It was a touching night.



Jens Lekman on the cover of Losing Today magazine #3

The beauty of misunderstandings

You can find yourself everywhere linked to the Smiths and Morrissey, Magnetic Fields and Belle & Sebastian... What do you think about it? I even found Beck´s name somewhere and that sounds interesting. You use a lot of samples, as he used to do. Do you think there is some affinity, beyond the fact that you are both obscenely adorable?

I'm not really into any of those artists but I do understand when people compare me to them. I don't like the way Beck uses samples in his hip ironic way. It's like he's mocking those artists he's sampled. I didn't realize the potential of samples until I heard The Avalanches. Maple leaves is really a Since i left you-rip off.

You apply the sample technique (which commonly belongs to the hip hop or electronic) to a "classical" songwriting, or at least to the indie field. Can you tell us something about your use of the samples? And why the American edition of the "Maple leaves" ep doesn´t contain "Pocketful of money"? Did you ever meet Calvin Johnson?

I started off singing to orchestrated themes from movies like Carrie or Edward Scissorhands. I just took the melody and put words to it. I guess it was more my wish to use strings and symphonic elements rather than an actual interest in samples that lead me to it. When you're seventeen you're supposed to play in rockbands and be happy with the guitar-bass-drums setting. But I listened to stuff like Scott Walker at that age, and felt very frustrated to not be able to fulfill my musical vision.

t that time I also never took any notice in what I sampled. It's like you're supposed to only sample old easy listening records that no one's ever heard, but I never made any difference between Herb Alpert and The Left Banke. I stole from the rich and the poor... I sampled Beat Happening's Gravedigger blues 'cause I thought it really fit into my song Pocketful of money. We left it off the american ep to not start off by irritating Beat Happening fans.

Jens Lekman live in Emmaboda, 2004

In your songs there is a mess of references to catholic stuffs and solemn celebrations. Did you have a catholic education that left you just fascinated by Sunday morning in church, candles, weddings buffets, Christmas parties etc... or is it something deeper (or higher, as you prefer)?
I think that describing this scenes let you to add into your music more handclapping and melancholy bells. And that´s very nice.

I was prohibited to attend church by my parents who thought it would mess up my brain. So I developed some kind of religion on my own in which the few religious objects or ornaments I knew of would flourish in abundance.
In my religion every church would have a million candles burning constantly and a boys choir singing hallelujha as you entered it. Then Ideveloped a relationship with a god who said my parents would die if I didn't beat myself to sleep every night and that messed up my brain a lot.

In the song "You are the light" you talk about dedicating someone a song on the radio. May we suppose that radio plays an important role in your life, or do you remember about it only when you are in custody?
We are very interested about that since we work in a little radio and, you know, receiving phone calls from prison should be a great deal.

I'm kinda sensitive about letting other people decide what i should listen to but sometimes I check out foreign stations just to catch some conversation i don't understand. What's your frequency? I'll look for it!

The magazine Elle finally elected you as "The 15th Sexiest Man in Sweden" (maybe they´ve never seen you playing live, and therefore ignore that it is the cutest, most charming thing ever): who´s in your opinion the 15th sexiest woman?

Maggie in the Hidden Cameras! The #1 spot is always taken by my dear platonic lover Lisa. She´s a fox.

Are you a dancer, a photographer, a fisherman as well as a songwriter?

I breed budgies.

You seems a little bit skinny to "eat only french fries", so would you like to reveal to Losing Today readers the secrets of your winner diet?

I like cotton candy. And italian food of course. I'm really looking forward to come down and gain a few pounds.

Jens Lekman, ''When I said I wanted to be your dog''

Someone on a Yale webzine wrote that you have "a charming and odd imagery", when you "get the English poetics right".
As well as that guy is definitely a silly american journalist, I think it´s stunning that misunderstandings could give to your lyrics a surplus of odd and charm. For instance: how is exactly kissing with a plastic bag over the head? We tried once and found it very amazing.

Yes, suffocation can be very erotic, there is a medical explanation to that. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Just make sure you're using a plastic bag and not a paper or you'll just end up looking stupid.

Misunderstandings is what I usually write songs about.

ou sing that people in the world have the wrong idea about Sweden. That reminded me some engraving in your ancient wooden churches that are curiously similar to Tibetans´. That seems strange, according to your strong weather, cold winter and different landscape.
I´ve just finished reading Mikael Niemi´s Populärmusik från Vittula, and I´m convinced that Swedish people have a clear and crazy imaginary with a naive exotic flavour and humoristic nonsense. Do you have some book or stuff you´d like to mention at this regards, something that influenced you in this direction?

An excellent movie you have to see about sweden: Äppelkriget ("The war of the apples"). It's about how a bunch of germans are planning to turn the south of Sweden into a half Third Reich / half Disneyland theme park called "Deutschneyland". And then the swedes defeat them with witchcraft and the ghosts of nature.

The picture in which you are dressed like a middle age soldier has suddenly remind me the cover of an old Italian underground band´s album. Do you know any Italian band or singer?

No, I don't and that bothers me. Please send me tapes and cd's! Italian is my favourite language, seriously. Everything sounds sexy in italian.

Jens Lekman, ''You are the light" ep

One could say that you sing sad songs: but the Emmaboda 2003 bootleg circulating on the internet shows an incredibly funny and hilarious atmosphere. And this year the audience was even warmer (I remember everybody with the hands to the sky singing the words of the touching "Higher power"). Do you enjoy or like the sense of community that your songs inspire?

I love it! But it's strange since my songs are very personal. If I would have known when i tried the plastic bag-thing that I,through a song, would inspire a bunch of italians to do the same thing, then i would have laughed for days.

You often sing about falling in love and getting heart broken in the teenage. With your grace and accuracy in writing such stories, one could forget that you are not so far from that age.
Do you remember the moment you realized you could take out something magic just playing your guitar? And then, when you understood that you could get more magic with a cello, a violin, a trumpet and some sample?

Yep, it was a chilly thursday in november 1995. at about 12:34 :-)
No, actually I find it hard to remember a specific point, but I think I have to remind myself over and over or that magic will go away.

Do you usually sing under the shower? What is you favourite shower sing along?

I don't take showers. I'm a pig.

Have you really joined Gothenburg summer 2001, as you sing? It was also the summer of the tragic G8 Summit in Genova, Italy. Are you interested in politics?

I remember Genova. It's strange that they kept placing those meetings in cities since riots broke out wherever they went. I wasn't into politics until I ended up in the middle of that riot in Gothenburg. So many of my friends got beaten up by the police for absolutely no reason at all. But I'm not really that interested in world politics or a radical cop-hater. I'm more into feminism and stuff that's happenign around here. I just try to think with my heart. That song Do you remember the riots? is not political at all, it's a song about love slipping out of your hands. It's true, most of it.

Did you finally find "someone to share your life with" or does it still remain a TV Personalities souvenir?

'm still looking. I still sing that song sometimes...





Enzo Baruffaldi + Laura Govoni
October 2004



Jens Lekman

Losing Today magazine