It was a quiet, idyllic little British village. But that serene setting was about to be disrupted by some beastly rhythms.
“We’ve always recorded our albums with a friend of ours, Guy Denning, who runs a studio in a seventeenth-century granary in a beautiful valley of the Kent countryside,” Warrick Harniess, singer for the rip roaring British alt-rock troop Scandinavia, says of the peaceful hamlet that couldn’t have been more opposed to his band’s rowdy nature. “It used to be a comfortable affair, with three or four of us at any one time popping out between takes for a pint of bitter or a steak and kidney pie. But with the new additions to our line up things got a bit cramped, what with all of us having to sleep under the mixing desk together. I snore so badly, and riled the others so much. But they took it easier on me after I played some Miley Cyrus song at the local pub, and nearly got beaten up.”
Ahead of Scandinavia’s performance tonight at Yuyintang in Shanghai, and their show tomorrow at Temple in Beijing, Harniess tells us about the band’s hilariously brazen history— from the sitcoms and cheesy 80’s flicks that inspire them, to the immaculately dressed Shenzhen businessman who joined them onstage.
Tell us about your latest album Big Noise, and what distinguishes it from your earlier albums like the Good Living and The Gods.
It was the first album recorded with our new line up. Our current bassist, hadn’t played with us before, and this was the first album that the five of us had worked on together. But for us, we’ve always wanted our albums to be a continuation of the same sense of joie de vivre, of taking the bull of life by the horns, of finding enjoyment wherever it presents itself, without taking life too seriously.
What prompted you to call yourselves Scandinavia, and why is it a fitting moniker?
We wanted to find the most pompous band name we could. Europe was taken, so was America, and so was Asia. Africa was a really famous song, so we couldn’t use that either. Scandinavia wasn’t taken so we just went for it. Plus, the Scandies really know how to live well— interior design, open sandwiches, saunas, and so on. The world could learn a lot from those folks, and we want to help spread the gospel of good living across the globe.
Tell us about your love of cranky tennis stars, and how that fixation impacted your choice for the cover of Big Noise.
John McEnroe was one of the biggest rock stars of the eighties. Not because he played rock music, but because he was a total bad ass and wrote his own rules. We’ve written our own rules too— do what feels good, all the time, every time.
What has been your most memorable gig, and why does it stand out in your mind?
We launched our album in February in the UK with a DIY gig that we booked and promoted ourselves. It was a winter sports themed event, timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Russia, and everyone rose to the occasion with great costumes and a truly Alpine attitude. It was like an Apres-ski gathering in the heart of London. Having said that, Shenzhen earlier this week is fresh in our minds, and was such a great gig. The crowd were lovely and made us feel so welcome. We really have to give mad props to that guy who got up on stage in his suit and tie, and forced us to nail cans of beer as we all guitar humped him. What a swell guy— a true original!
What’s next for Scandinavia?
We’ve taken a song on tour with us that hasn’t been recorded yet, and it’s going down really well. It’s called “Leisure Rules,” and it’s named after a license plate on a car in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. We also have another song in the works about Chandler Bing from that TV show “Friends”, played by Matthew Perry. We think that character was probably the most sarcastic character on 90s TV, and he inspired a whole generation of men to brush up on their snide put-downs.
We are also working on a song called ‘Intelligent Hip Hop’. It’s an ode to those great hip hop records of the late 80s and early 90s that soon got bumped by a bunch of derivative buck-sucking tool bags seeking a spot on MTV’s Cribs. Listening back now, that earlier period of hip hop deserves to be recognised as producing some of the best of records in the history of popular music.
Scandinavia will perform tonight in Shanghai at YYT, and tomorrow in Beijing at Temple.
21:00-late // 50RMB // 51 Kaixuan Lu, near Yanan Xi Lu, Changning district [长宁区凯旋 路851号, 近延安西路]
By Kyle Mullin