When musicians or bands hit their stride and their popularity starts to grow, most would continue to fine tune their sound and continue down the path they started. For Malmö, Sweden’s Moonbabies, they took a completely different path.
Formed in 1997 by husband-and-wife duo Carina Johansson Frick and Ola Frick, the two started off as a dream-pop, shoegaze band. The sound would evolve slowly, leaning more towards brooding indie-folk and indie-rock. This transition culminated in their critically acclaimed, sophomore album, The Orange Billboard, which the duo says was inspired by Wilco’s iconic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot but also echoes of early Death Cab for Cutie. But the duo took off in 2006 following the release of “War on Sound”, which became an indie hit in Sweden and was also used on Grey’s Anatomy, propelling Carina and Ola to unrealized heights.
The success, however, created new expectations and pressures on the twosome, who felt the need to start creating songs fit for radio play. As Ola recalls,
“Right up to that point (following the release of “War on Sound”) we were in control. Everything about Moonbabies had been one happy arrow pointing upwards and we were having fun doing it. We really loved Moonbabies. But for our third album, we felt pressure to deliver songs that were commercially viable. Right there, we also started to drift away from our own creative vision while damning ourselves for not staying completely true to our past playfulness.”
Carina and Ola, as such, opted to take some time off to rediscover themselves and find new inspirations. They weren’t going to compromise their integrity. To do that, the couple lived to Berlin for two years and immersed themselves into the city’s music scene, which is best known for its dozens of underground clubs and for being arguably the heart of the dance and electronic music scene. They were rejuvenated and returned back to Sweden to record their new album, but something was missing.
Then in 2013 following the birth of their son, Carina and Ola returned to the studio and found their rhythm. After a long and challenging seven years, Moonbabies has been reborn. Today, they release Wizards on the Beach, a terrific, ten-song compilation of music that not only is influenced by their time in Berlin but in many ways is a snapshot of the duo’s entire career.
There are dance and electronic tracks, such as the opening song “Pink Heart Mother”, which sounds like something right out of Daft Punk’s discography, and the buzzy “Ocean to Kill”. There are numbers that recall their early lush and dreamy notes as heard on “Eli in the Woods”, “24”, the gorgeous “Summerlong”, and the wonderfully anthemic “Chorus”.
The album also has the team achieve the playfulness they were missing in the past, namely on “Playground Dropouts“, which hopefully isn’t about their son (read more below). In addition, there are more melodic, mellower numbers that wouldn’t be out of place on The Orange Billboard, particularly the title track, “Bird Lay Frue”, and “Raindrops”.
Hear Wizards on the Beach in its entirety below and (re-)discover Moonbabies. Following the audio below is a track-by-track breakdown by the couple. This listing was originally shared on Pure Volume, but we’ve been given permission to re-post it in order for you to get more information on not just the songs but more insights on the duo’s seven-year hiatus.
PINK HEART MOTHER
After moving to Berlin, the whole electronic scene and going clubbing opened our senses and ears. And suddenly we found our bodies were constantly in a danceable state. We had been changed forever. We took some of that and combined it with our melodic sense and went back to our first albums in terms of experimentation and playfulness. Basically left all the dos and don’ts of EDM behind, which is possibly the reason it turned out interesting and unique sounding. The backside to all this was that it turned into a hellish trial and error- a struggle to figure out how to produce something like this. It was very much out of our old comfort zone. ”Pink Heart Mother” and most of the other songs had to undergo an almost insane amount of remixing, rearranging, and re-recording process. Subliminally the song is a positive mantra of sorts: “Keep on with struggle, you are a fighter, someday you will be at peace, reach your goals”.
WIZARDS ON THE BEACH
We’ve had this song kicking around for a few years, and it was the last song to be finished for record. Lyrically, it’s about a medicine man that Ola visited as a last resort during a period fighting some tough physical pain in the middle of the recording process. ”Your beam in my head / You’re being in my head ”, This healing wizard seemed righteous at first, but turned out to be a complete quack who only made bad things worse. That being said, we do love alternative medicine and yoga. And despite it all, somehow the experience turned into a very special song and title track of a very special album.
This was the first track to be completed. The Clockwork Orange theme was the inspiration. It’s fusing everything we love about music, which is an uplifted state of escapism. This is the short three-minute version, as the long version clocked in at around nine minutes (a three-part song, which we plan to release someday). Lyrically It’s a feverish dream, where you are surrounded by people who have passed on, and it’s about the deepest fears of being left by your loved one.
ELI IN THE WOODS
This was written back in 2008, which makes it the first song we wrote for the album. And it has the same demo-recording we recorded in a half-drunken state, used as a ground. On top of that, we just added and added instruments to build up the texture, which becomes more and more intense and culminates in a freakish phased-out bliss. A celebration, a homage to life and nature and everything worth living for. Musically, this song was directly inspired by Brian Eno’s Here Comes the Warm Jets.
BIRD LAY FRUE
Also one of our personal favorites. Written/Recorded in our Berlin apartment, this is (just like the case of “Chorus”) the first mix of the song. After that, we must have made 30 different new versions, working weeks and months on this song. Still THIS ONE is fantastic. Just simple. To us it’s a very, very unique song. Can’t think of anything sounding like this. It has an echo of a traditional Swedish mid-summer song ”Barfotavisan”. The lyrics are about a “what happened to Baby Jane”-type girl/woman who’s trapped in her little scary world.
An intermission of sorts. Beats and samples in-between madness and genius. Love it! Naturally the easiest track to complete, and a great, lighthearted break to the intenseness of some of the other tracks. This album began as a full-on experimentation of songwriting – which is all good – it’s just that we had set our limits beyond what’s healthy for any human being. We must have begun the album over 30 times without feeling we were making progress. We went through hell and back, but also pushed our musical boundaries, and encountered a birth (of our son), a wedding and newfound connections to nature and the spiritual.
”24″ is about the frustrating feeling of being in a place where you are simply stuck and can’t move, unless you finish what you have to finish. But in order to finish, you need to feel good, not horrible. A classic Catch-22, knowing it’s your destiny which needs to be fulfilled in order to finally move on. The only thing is just do it, or leave your dreams for good. So yes, for us it’s 100% autobiographical. The music for the theme and choruses came really easy to us and has this very air and floating sense to it. The song was completed a few years later.
“I’m on my way for a Summertime Wave to come”. Again an homage to better times… This was also one of the hellish, difficult songs to actually finish. A very long time some of its parts were a part of the song “Pink Heart Mother”, but we worked it out to two separate songs. It’s experimental and danceable and ever so quirky.
This song basically wrote itself. One morning, Ola just woke up with the song in his head, immediately recorded everything on the spot, except some of the lyrics that were added later. We wanted to stretch the song with production that hinted of 80s hits (in the vein of “Tango in the Night”) and those sweet memories of childhood. Lyrically it’s another song of self-doubts and confusion and also about the power of long-lasting love.
THE OCEAN KILL
Turned out perfect as the album closer. It’s a danceable, electronic and pretty vivid song. Lyrically it’s pretty poetic, filled with metaphorical stuff ongoing between us while making the album. The love and the frustration ”If I had my way, I’d leave you in the water…” Somehow it made a perfect way of closing the album and closing an era of such an emotional roller coaster.
ON THE ALBUM, WIZARDS ON THE BEACH
After seven years of working on this album, we are extremely proud of the songs and the direction it took. Wizards on the Beach turned from being any artist’s worst nightmare to something that we feel is unique and interesting and experimental, but in its core is all about being honest and pure and doing music that speaks to yourself. I love the dynamics of the album; it’s music that has a deep sense of colors, shades and meaningfulness. I think this is something that is deeply needed in the rushed state of the world.
Ola Frick & Carina Johansson / Moonbabies
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