Fans can be forgiven if they thought the Swedish garage rockers The Hives had faded away. In truth, the band’s five-year absence was spent making their 5th studio album Lex Hives that was just released in the U.S. and immediately caught the ears of critics throughout the world including those at Rolling Stone magazine. The album’s first single “Go Right Ahead,” is full of “bold riffs, blunt hooks, [and] snappy beats” wrote a critic for the Stone reflecting the general critical consensus of the entire album.
But the recorded music is only part of the story for the Swedish band. Always known as a take-no-prisoners unit, the group left critics and fans breathless with their high-energy shows at the recent Coachella festival. No small feat when you consider Coachella held the exact sameevent —down to the same set lists from the same bands at the same times— – on two consecutive weekends. “[Pelle] Almqvist is still one of rock’s most engaging front men—bringing to mind a young Mick Jagger with the way he struts around the stage with his hands on his hips before suddenly leaping in the air with a scissor kick,” wrote a critic for the Los Angeles Times after the festival.
Just before The Hives kicked off the band’s U.S. tour with a sold-out show in Washington, D.C. on June 19, the high-flying front man Almqvist took time to talk to OurStage about Coachella, Lex Hives, and more.
OS: We heard you killed both weekends at Coachella. How was it for you?
PA: Coachella was fun. It was unorthodox to say the least. I’m really glad Coachella booked us when we didn’t have a record done. We knew that if you put us in front of a crowd, it would work. It was great.
OS: Did you have any concerns about replicating your show?
PA: No, it wasn’t weird for us. My feeling was sort of, “Isn’t it weird for fans going into the second weekend if they know about the Tupac hologram? If you know it will be there, isn’t that weird?” To me, that would have been kind of a bummer but hey, it went well. It was pretty great both weekends.
OS: Did it have a different vibe for you?
PA: It felt different to us. I thought it was great as an artist because you get to see what you missed the first weekend. I went to see the bands I really wanted to see the first weekend but couldn’t get to see.
OS: You guys are from Sweden and I heard it was sweltering there! It had to be difficult to put on such an energetic performance.
PA: Yes, it was, especially when you’re wearing a top hat and tails! It was very hot but we’re very cool guys. We have played in extreme heat before. That’s part of the fun, wearing completely wrong outfits [for the weather].
OS: Yet your show was super high energy. Again, you got all kinds of rave reviews. What is it that kept you going so strong—as you said in top hat and tails—two consecutive weekends?
PA: We hate the feeling that we did a bad show. If we feel we did a bad show, then we hate each other for 24 hours! I think that’s what it really is. It is the absolute terror of being bad. There are very few things I love more than playing to people. It is the closest I can get to a religious experience, an out of body experience. When I’m on stage, my body does things and it just kind of works. It feels like something I don’t control.
OS: Let’s talk about your new album Lex Hives. How did that album come together?
PA: It’s a very democratic process. We are all very much involved in it. It’s a longer process than you might think when you hear the album. It takes a lot of trimming weeding, trying it out. When the writing is done, we actually record it very quickly. So it’s a long, arduous process and then a quick four-minute song.
OS: What are recording sessions like for you?
PA: It is pretty much all live. Really it’s the performance of the entire band. So many of our favorite albums have been done that way, that’s what we like to do.
OS: Who are some of those bands?
PA: There are a bunch [that weren’t that popular] and some pretty iconic bands that are our heroes like AC/DC, The Cramps, The Rolling Stones.
OS: Was there a certain feeling, a certain vibe you wanted out of this album?
PA: We really wanted to make an album that you could listen to all the way through and you would listen to again and again. That’s why it was so important that we put the best songs out there. Basically we had 150 song ideas and there would be a riff or idea about how to do it. We do the whittling down in the early stages and then record the finished version. The ones you hear on the record [are the songs that had] the best flow. We only want to put out the best.
Find out more about The Hives on the band’s website.