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Viagra Boys: “Nobody Cares About Your Fucking Creativity”

It’s only been 18 months since Viagra Boys released their second album, Welfare Jazz, but if there’s one thing these Swedish post-punks believe in, it’s that time waits for no one, and those who wait get left behind in the dust.

The Stockholm band’s new record, Cave World, is an exercise in immediacy and sonic evolution. Gone are the constant references to shrimp (only two on the whole record), while an anticipated third instalment in their ‘Best In Show’ song series is similarly absent. Viagra Boys embrace new territory on Cave World, unveiling what they’ve described as “12 immaculate tracks of post-truth-cow-funk-kraut-wave-enlightenment”, a summary that will take some time to decipher on its own.

The lyrics of vocalist Sebastian Murphy touch on COVID, vaccines, conspiracy theories, and deniers of climate change and evolution. But the band’s bent and ironic approach to their music remains – after all, you couldn’t write songs like ‘Ain’t No Thief’ without your tongue squarely in cheek.

In the lead-up to the release of Cave World, Viagra Boys’ drummer Tor Sjödén spoke to Music Feeds about the group’s rising popularity, their attempts to make sense of a crazy world, and the desire to evolve through music.

Viagra Boys – ‘Ain’t No Thief’

Music Feeds: Given the largely positive response to each record you’ve released, have you felt pressure to try and recreate that success? Or is that something you don’t put much thought into?

Tor Sjödén: I mean, of course you think about that, but the first album – Street Worms – it’s been a long time since I heard it, but it feels really good; a nice record. And I had a little bit of anxiety about putting out Welfare Jazz, I didn’t feel that it came as naturally as the first one. But this one, it was just hard work and we just worked really hard on this one. So there wasn’t that much pressure, at least for me. 

I mean, the music always comes quite naturally because I mean we can’t do anything else other than play music. So we just keep on doing it. Everybody writes songs and everybody comes in with different ideas, so it’s never a problem. It’s just six people trying to get along musically, but it’s been working tremendously so far. 

MF: Have you been surprised by the sort of success you’re seeing? 

TS: Yeah, it’s been amazing. All of us, except Sebastian, have been playing in bands since we were ten, so we’ve always been doing this. But I mean, we’ve been very successful, but we’ve been working really, really hard as well. So it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s important to take a step back and say, “Wow, look at where we are”.

The first tour we did after the pandemic was really amazing, because before that, we played shows for maybe 200, 300 people. And after the pandemic, suddenly every show was 1,000 people. That was like, “Whoa”, for me. But still, it’s kind of a slow process, but it is quite extraordinary that it’s going so well. I mean, people seem to like weird stuff and music that is kind of real in some ways. It’s not polished in every sense, and it seems to work and that’s nice. 

Viagra Boys – ‘Troglodyte’

MF: This new record feels very different to the previous records. It feels like you’ve all made sure there’s no chance of becoming complacent, and that everything stays exciting.

TS: It’s very important for me and for us as a group to never make the same album all over again. You have to evolve. You have to evolve as a human, and you have to evolve as a musician. I mean, if you stagnate and you get stuck, I think life becomes boring and music becomes boring. 

So on this one, we just went for it. And the song ‘Big Boy’ [laughs], it was a very late night in the studios, we’d all had about 500 beers, and we just did the song ‘Big Boy’ for fun. Then our producer was like, “Oh my God, this song is amazing.” It was the first song he started working on. It’s really fun, and I never in my life thought it was like going to end up on the record. So it’s very important for me – and for us – to not get stuck.

MF: That can become a double-edged sword though, can’t it? On one hand, fans want something you’ve done before, but that isn’t necessarily what you want to do, is it? 

TS: It’s always a battle. It feels like 80% of the fans just want to be like, “‘Sports'”, and that’s okay. I mean, this is show business, we’re here to make people happy and I mean, nobody cares about your fucking creativity, of course [laughs]. But for us, maybe we can fool people to start digging the new stuff. 

For me, it’s not a problem. I appreciate the fans. I mean, they like ‘Sports’, and they want Viagra Boys to sound like they always have sounded. And I like that we’re not sounding like we always used to. Maybe one day when I was younger I was like, “Fuck the fans, I’m gonna do whatever I like!” But that’s not how I think about it today. 

Viagra Boys – ‘Punk Rock Loser’

MF: You guys have spoken about right-wing politics in previous songs, and now on this record we have songs that touch on vaccines, evolution, and conspiracy theories. Do you feel as though making this album has helped you make sense of the world any more, or is it still just as confusing and alienating as ever?

TS: It’s as confusing as ever. Seb, he had been writing a lot about computers and apes, and I mean, the world now is some depressing piece of junk. Everybody’s shooting themselves, and there was a mass shooting in Denmark the other day. The planet is dying, the Russian war, and abortion.

But some people don’t understand that we’re ironic. So in some shows, Seb starts rambling about vaccines [and their supposed side effects], he starts sounding like an anti-vaxxer, and people get really confused. And it’s the confusion that is a huge part for me as well. Being confused is a very nice state of mind [laughs]. 

MF: It just feels like the world is getting more confused by the day, really.

TS: And then Viagra Boys drop an album called Cave World and everybody gets more confused, of course. And then they start playing ‘Big Boy’.

Viagra Boys – ‘Big Boy’

MF: Speaking of ‘Big Boy’, that song has Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods on guest vocals. How did that collaboration come about?

TS: We’ve been put together with them for about two, three, four years, and people have talked about us in the same sentence. Y’know, it’s Viagra Boys, Sleaford Mods, Amyl & The Sniffers. Then we met them during some festivals and Seb and Jason have been keeping in touch. And then Jason was on the Amyl & The Sniffers record – or it was the other way round – so it’s just been a big old group combination. But I love Sleaford Mods, I’ve been listening to them for years, and it’s so awesome that Jason ended up on that song. It’s so nice.

MF: Looking ahead, are there any plans to bring the new album to Australia?

TS: Of course. I’m not sure if you saw the first tour we did [in 2019], but the first tour over there was such a success, so of course we’ll be coming back.

Further Reading

Viagra Boys: ‘Cave World’ Review – Swedish Punks Evoke Insanity and Instability

The Hives Frontman Just Put His Hand Up To Replace Brian Johnson In AC/DC

Watch Metallica Cover ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ In Sweden

Patti Smith: 10 Essential Tracks

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