Inorganic Produce

Former pop Svengalis set out to make music on their own terms

April 26, 2012
Pontus Winnberg, Andrew Wyatt and Christian Karlsson were already music-industry vets before creating Miike Snow.

The guys in Miike Snow have created a monster. And they bring it on tour.

The tight-knit trio — two Swedes and an American — makes music that slyly skirts the edges of dance, electronica and pop. On the road, though, they need an assist.

Like a robot sidekick from an old sci-fi series, the fourth member of Miike Snow is a 9-by-9-foot wall of keyboards, synths, strobes and lasers that serves as the band’s primary instrument and as a light show.

“We wanted to be able to keep the show more open, so we developed this huge synth,” says Pontus Winnberg, bragging that the device incorporates equipment once owned by ’70s disco whiz Giorgio Moroder.

This fourth member can be very demanding. It’s too large to transport in one piece, so they must take it apart after each show, pack up the 15 pieces, and then reassemble it at the next venue.

“It’s the biggest diva in the band,” says Winnberg, but it’s worth it because the contraption gives them the ability to play all the elements of their songs live without backing tracks. “It’s allowed us to play on our own terms.”

Playing on their own terms is crucial to the collective identity of Miike Snow, whose members are veterans of the music industry. American Andrew Wyatt did time in New York indie band the A.M., while Winnberg and Christian Karlsson worked together as Bloodshy & Avant, producing hit singles for Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Madonna.

“We spent many years in that world, in an era when everyone was asking producers to do something new,” says Winnberg. “Labels wanted to hear something they had never heard before. Now, from what I’ve heard, it’s quite the opposite.”

Miike Snow lets the trio continue the search for new sounds. Their second album, “Happy to You,” released in March, may be the most ambitious pop record of the year: Not only does it feature cameos by Swedish stars Lykke Li and Gustav Ejstes (of the band Dungen), the Swedish military drum corps adds drama and rhythm to “Bavarian #1 (Say You Will).”

“That’s probably the most fun we have — finding something that no one has heard before,” says Winnberg. “We think of Miike Snow as completely without boundaries.”

Backstory

Before forming Miike Snow with Andrew Wyatt, Pontus Winnberg and Christian Karlsson notched numerous hits as the production team Bloodshy & Avant. Some of their biggest include:

Britney Spears, “Toxic”: The duo combined a bold beat, staccato acoustic strums and a sample from a Bollywood soundtrack to create the best single on Spears’ 2003 album “In the Zone.”

Jennifer Lopez, “Brave”: The two wrote and produced the title track from J. Lo’s 2007 album, which percolates on a deceptively simple beat.

Kylie Minogue, “Speakerphone”: Built on a bed of harp strums and scratchy beats, this 2008 club anthem predates Lady Gaga’s similar “Telephone.”

INGRID: Winnberg and Karlsson’s latest venture is a collective that features a who’s who of Sweden’s bustling pop scene, including Lykke Li, Peter Bjorn & John and Kleerup.

930 Club, 815 V St. NW; with Penguin Prison; Sat., 8 p.m., sold out; 202-265-0930. (U Street)
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