Following Action Biker‘s Preaching From the Pews entry last month, God Is in the TV’s Aug Stone speaks to Sarah Nyberg Pergament about Fred Astaire, living in Sweden and folk music from the Canary Islands.
What does the name Action Biker mean to you and your music?
A friend of mine, Anton, was one of the first people who I played my music to. He just decided then and there that my artist name would be Action Biker, because he loved the world of Commodore 64 so much. I just agreed because I thought hardly anyone would hear the music anyway.
Your early singles from 2003 were upbeat, major key synthpop; then 2007’s Hesperian Puisto is much darker, more sparse, and more melancholic. The new songs you performed in Hoxton in July were in a new direction still. Would you like to say anything about your musical progression over the years?
I listen to so many different kinds of music every day, classical to jazz and soul and postpunk and electronic and kraut and Italian popular 60s music and disco… [I’ve] just discovered some folk music from the Canary Islands. It would have been strange if it didn’t […] imprint somehow. I don’t want to do the same songs over and over. I tend to get a bit more dreamy somehow. But I still like to [write] a catchy [song] now and then.
In “Farrah” you mention London. You’ve been here quite a few times. Hesperian Puisto is a park in Helsinki near where you used to live. You’ve lived in both Gothenburg and Stockholm and you’ve spent time in France as well. How have these places influenced your life and your music? What are your favourite cities? Is there anywhere you’d like to perform or visit that you haven’t yet?
I guess seeing new places brings out new emotions and ideas. It’s always good to move around a bit. The sounds lies pretty much within myself, but a new place can at least trigger me to create a new song. I love Paris, I love New York and London too. I [was] raised in Gothenburg, a city by the Swedish west coast. I’ve noticed in recent years that I need to live near open water. That’s the only reason for why I can’t live in Paris. These days I live in Stockholm and I feel very much at home here. I’d like to be more in the woods though! And I’d like to go to Lodz in Poland, where my grandmother came from.
Who are your favourite artists? Favourite books? Favourite films?
I can’t possibly add all of them in here. Today I listen […] to John Cale, Virna Lindt and Liquid Liquid. I love old musical movies with Fred Astaire [see her cover of Fred Astaire’s “By Myself” below] [with] good dancing in them. I love to watch dance and to dance myself. Favorite films… I watch more TV these days, I download old TV shows like “I Claudius”. I [have] read Barthes “A Lover’s Discourse”. I spend time with my cat, her name is Cilla Black, but I just call her Cilla. She’s my favourite animal.
I’ve always said that there’s something about a really great pop song that’s akin to the feeling you have after you’ve first kissed someone you’ve really fancied for a long time. What do you think is inherent in all great pop music? Any similar comparisons?
You are very romantic. I’d say it’s like eating a very smelly and delicious French cheese with a little marmelade on the side!
What’s the Swedish music scene like at the moment? I’ve always really loved Swedish pop sensibilities and when I was there I was very impressed at how enthusiastic everyone is about music.
I think the enthusiasm for pop music is bigger in London these days. I’m […] pretty fed up with hearing the same songs over and over and over. People are very trendy over here. Music feels more and more like a fashion statement. A lot of people listen to what certain music critics like. We had an enormous twee scene a few years ago, and in some sense we still have a good indie scene, but I like to vary a bit, hearing different kinds of music, discovering it on my own.
What was it like working with Kevin Wright in The Dreamers? I’m a huge él Records fan, I’ve always loved the él sense of style as well as the music. Are you also an él fan? How did the collaboration come about?
I was a huge fan of another él band: The Monochrome Set. I sang in Bids backing band, The Unreal Scarlets Well, that later continued as Kissing Mirrors. But I discovered Kevin and his Mr Wright Records through Anton (the guy who named me Action Biker). Then Kevin and I performed at the same pop festival in southern Sweden in 2005 and we discovered that we thought quite alike about music and we both had a passion for film and film music. We wrote each other for a few months and then he came over to Stockholm, we talked some more, and then started to send each other files over the internet. It became a record. And Toby who produced Monochrome Sets first singles produced our record and also wrote one song for us. If I’d known that as a 17-year old….
Who else have you made music with? Anyone you’d particularly like to work with in the future?
Since 2005 I have a duo with Tomas Bodén from Differnet called Flow Flux Clan. We make more concrete dance music. I recorded vocals for a track called “Longest Ever Dream” by Sound of Arrows last summer. Jose Gonzàles and I have talked about recording a track soon. I look forward to that!
You played new songs at the July gig. What does the future hold for Action Biker?
I want to complete my second album! But there is also a very different project that I’m going to do. It will be finished until next autumn. I get back to you about that!
Last question – say you’ve stolen a space shuttle and are flying it directly into the sun, for whatever reason. What would the soundtrack be?
I can’t see through the fact that I’m flying a space shuttle into the sun. But ok. Let’s say I’d probably feel very much alive those last minutes. And I’d joyably swoosh any vehicle carelessly to Elza Soarez “De Amor Ou Paz”, It’s a happy song about her being glad she has loved even though it caused her pain. Quite a nice way to go.
Sarah singing the Fred Astaire cover “By Myself”, “Love For Sure” and “A Fight”: