Swedish Garage Rockers The Hives Are Back to Save Rock’n’Roll.

Swedish garage rockers The Hives return with a sixth studio album The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons – a firecracker that could easily rival the explosive energy that defined their 1997 debut Barely Legal. Now, after an 11-year wait between albums; the five-piece is proof they’re just getting started…again.

If you’ve ever witnessed The Hives play a live set, you’ll know they don’t short change on high-energy. This is where crowds heave, mosh-pits bounce and lives are changed. There’s a whirling mix of punk ethics meets 60s girl group getting loose to their repertoire. They’re fiercely DIY punk, defiantly rock’n’roll and churn through riffs and high-octane melodies that’s remained part of their DNA ever since they emerged in 1993.

Front man Pelle Almqvist, a.k.a Howlin’ Pelle famously told Rolling Stone USA a few months back:

“We left the throne for a decade. No one sat on it, and so here we are again.”

His brother, Nick Arson says the band he formed with his brother, never took a hiatus.

“We never quit; we kept playing shows and always did,” says Nick Arson, talking to me via Zoom while touring Europe.

“We have always been a touring band and are THAT band who plays until people tell us to stop! We spent three years touring our last record. It’s in our DNA, we’re relentless and then we fatigue and need to kind of step away from one another,” he adds.

The pandemic did halt The Hives in their busy tracks, but also gave them a clear reason to get back in the studio and write a new album. The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons is an ode to what inspired them to make music in the first place – and they’re doing what they can to save rock’n’roll.

“We did try to write new songs after touring, but couldn’t agree on anything,” says Arson.

“It was a bit of a struggle. But we also pretended we didn’t have a creative problem. That was until the pandemic hit and it sort of geared us up again,” he says.

Being in a band with his brother since he was 14, means the pair know one another inside-out. But the closeness isn’t just reserved between the two.

“We all have a brotherly relationship in the band,” he says.

“I guess you could say Pelle and I are the worst when it comes to arguing. But at the end of the day, we all come from the same place; a shared taste for the same music, so your points of reference are the same,” says Arson.

“You know what you think is good and where to take the sound. Pelle definitely knows the parts of a song I will like and vice versa. The telepathic magic isn’t just between us as brothers, it’s something that happens between the whole band,” says Arson.

The Hives captivated the mainstream when on the festival circuit in the early 2000s – an era that saw The White Stripes and The Strokes also hone their craft. But it was also The Hives’ sartorial presence that added to their voodoo-like charm. The band has always been dapperly dressed – wearing black and white suits – a style they’ve dubbed ‘Ivy League bully’ to “an American misunderstanding of English school uniform”.

The band members mostly customise their own – using gaffer tape on tuxedos to spell out their name when they performed at the MTV VMA’s back in 2002, and also worked with fashion house Tiger of Sweden.

“The suits are always new and a version of black and white,” says Arson.

“Tiger from Sweden made our suits for decades. We also worked with a theatre seamstress in Sweden and sometimes we have modified them ourselves. We recently found the cheapest tuxedo off the rack and stuck on glow in the dark patterns – they’re very DIY,” he says.

For a band that has given us hits like Main Offender and Hate To Say I Told You So, their latest hit single Bogus Operandi certainly lives up to the hype.

“We have stuck around so long as a band because we are doing what we love regardless if it’s popular or not,” says Arson.

“I heard Dolly Parton say in an interview that she writes her songs whether she is popular or not. I can relate to that. These are songs that come out of me when I wake, when I am asleep or during a song writing session,” he says.

“When I see sporting stars try to get a 13th gold medal, I often wonder what’s the drive within? Well, it’s the same when it comes to the music. I don’t know where it comes from and you just want more all the time.”

The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons is out now.

 

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