Merrymakers InterviewThis is the original interview we did with The Merrymakers back on July 21, 2007. For a larger and updated version see their August 3, 2009 interview at J-Pop World: The Merrymakers Interview.
On July 21, 2007 Anders Hellgren and David Myhr of the Merrymakers were kind enough to grant Andrew (your webmaster) an interview.
Anders and David are a Swedish based musical duo who have written and produced several songs for Puffy including The Story and Boom Boom Beat. Their major releases include No Sleep 'til famous and Bubblegun. They have also recorded music for Dorian Gray and Yuko Yamaguchi.
Who would you consider to be your major musical influences while growing up in Sweden?
David: We both are like every other musician and songwriter influenced by lots and lots of different music. But if we're talking major influences while growing up I think that for me there's no way getting around the Beatles. They were always my number one reference. If I had to choose my ten favorite years in pop and rock history I would say it's between 1965 and 1975. It includes lots of other great music. In the end we're both suckers for good melodies no matter if it's a Keane song from their new album, a classic ABBA song or if it's a song from let's say Graham Nash solo album from 1970.
Anders: For me the first thing I discovered in music was a Swedish punk/pop band called Noise (yes, it's spelt with an "s"), and after that probably ABBA. Those were the days when I was maybe 8-12 yrs old. I had my room set up with cushions like drums and was banging away while listening with headphones. After that I was hooked to Howard Jones and Depeche Mode, that sort of thing thru my teens. And Depeche (Martin Gore) is still one of my biggest influences when it comes to songwriting.
Do you feel your musical interests have changed over the years? What music do you listen to nowadays?
David: I guess it's like for everybody, that you don't listen to the exact same music year after year. But I think that there's very little music that we used to like that we despise today. It's just that it's a period that passed. What I mean is that already as 13 year olds our taste was quite developed. For instance I thought Life on Mars with David Bowie was one of the greatest songs ever and I still do. Nowadays we listen to a bigger variation of music than ever, old and new, because of the iPod era. But to name a few current examples we listen to Keane, The Feeling, Roger Manning, Foo Fighters and Shawn Colvin.
Anders: I find that many of the band/artists I listened to when I was younger have stood the test of time quite well (though not all!). I was always the kind of guy that listened more to what the music sounded like, instead of checking to see if the band had the right type of big hair due. And I guess that pays off in time, if you want something that'll last. Today, I find that I have many women in my record collection (which by the way is a big-ass iTunes library ;-). Having two kids is a sure thing for learning to LOVE silence, so the first thing I do at home is not to turn on music, but I am an avid iPod-listener. I carry it with me wherever I go and I listen as often as I get a chance.
How did you hook up with Andy Sturmer and how has he impacted your careers?
David & Anders: We were early out with a web page when the internet was "the new thing" and Andy got in touch with us through e-mail after having found our web page. When we sent him our first album (No Sleep 'til Famous/The Merrymakers) and the demos for what was going to become our second album Bubblegun, he suggested we should be working together. It came as a gift from above (and a shock!) for us because he was a really big hero for us. We had been listening to Jellyfish so much for five years and suddenly he was in the studio with us producing and co-writing. It was a thrill.
It meant a lot for our career as well because Andy had the right contacts in Japan because of Jellyfish and he led us to our publisher June Shinozaki who has stayed loyal to us throughout the years. Without her The Merrymakers might not have been released in Japan and without her we wouldn't have been writing for Puffy etc. We are very grateful for the Andy connection...
You play in the ABBA tribute band Super Trouper. How did this come about?
David: It started off as a project for a party at the School of Music in Stockholm where Anders and his girlfriend used to study. But the band has stayed together for ten years and we are eight good friends who get a reason to go out and play in different parts of Sweden and sometimes abroad. And it's a source of income for us being part-time freelancing musicians. An ABBA show is the ultimate entertainment at big international company conventions and dinners. So it's a lot of fun. I need to wear my Benny wig at least twice a month to feel there's a nice balance in life. ;-)
If you were to recommend three of your songs to new listeners which would you pick and why?
David & Anders: Well a good start is the ones we put up on our MySpace which are Saltwater Drinks, April's Fool, Under the Light of the Moon and Monkey in the Middle. Although that's four... Why? Because we think they're all strong melodies and describe quite well what the Merrymakers are about. April's Fool is co-written with Andy Sturmer and produced by him as well so that might be of extra interest for Jellyfish fans...
You've sold many CDs in Japan. Did this surprise you?
David & Anders: Yes and no. Yes because we weren't used to selling records at all in the first place. So it's always fascinating for an artist the first time it happens that someone actually goes to a store and buys your music. It was a long awaited reward that we had been working hard for, for quite a few years. And no we weren't surprised because at the time Swedish music was really popular in Japan and we read about other bands in Sweden that weren't too well known at home that had success there and we thought that we kind of deserved at least some attention. It took a while to find the right contacts but once we did it became a little bit bigger than we had expected.
You've now written and produced several songs for Puffy AmiYumi. How did your relationship with them get started?
David & Anders: Because our connection with Andy and Andy's connection with Puffy we had been told about them when we were in Japan in 1997. And we were also briefly introduced to them before a show we did at some convention (with Andy on drums!). Also we had learned to sing the verse "Chikagoro watashitachi wa ii kanji" or whatever the words are from their song That's the Way It Is. We used to sing it in radio interviews to try to impress the DJ's with our Japanese knowledge ha ha... But the actual working relationship didn't happen until producing songs for other artists and Puffy are really cool and a great pop act.
Where do you typically write and produce music from? Did you work directly with Ami and Yumi?
David & Anders: We are based in our own studio in Stockholm, Sweden (monogramrecords.se) and that's where we write and produce. Well the actual writing might just as well be in the TV sofa or at the piano at home but the hard work - making it sound right - is done at our studio. So far we didn't work directly with Ami and Yumi. Instead we sent over the backing tracks over the internet for them to sing onto at a studio in Tokyo and then they sent sound files back to us that we put into the mix.
Was there any particular inspiration or background story to the songs you've done for Puffy AmiYumi?
David & Anders: The Story (Soushun Monogatari) was originally a Merrymakers song called Tweed that we wrote for our upcoming album. Their manager Kaz liked it when he heard it being played back in our studio so it became a Puffy song instead. But who knows... maybe there will be a Merrymakers version one day as well.
David: Otomemoriaru was a melody that had been lying around on my little micro cassette recorder since many years that I thought might be worth demoing. Anders heard it and reworked the chorus a little bit in the last minute and it turned out really well.
Boom Boom Beat was born out of a request for a commercial. It was at the end of mixing Otomemoriaru which had been going on for weeks and suddenly they needed a song more or less within a day. So Anders sat behind the drums and I picked up a guitar and this riff came up and a few hours later the demo was finished. It was a very spontaneous thing. But as always the real recording and mixing is the hard work and that took a little bit more time to finish. We just saw the video on You Tube for this one we think it looks really cool!
Oedo Nagareboshi IV is a funny simple melody that was first recorded as a studio project for some talented young musicians at the "studio musicians programme" at the School of Music in Pite in the north of Sweden where both me and Anders sometimes work as guest producers. I said to the students (with Puffy in mind) "Imagine this as a pop song for two Japanese girls" and I started to sing this little composition in a furious tempo with a high-pitched voice. They looked at each other thinking "what's wrong with this guy...?" Anyway it went well and me and Anders are delighted to see that it went on to be used for this animated series. It looks really great with the animations!
Do you have plans for any new songs with Puffy AmiYumi?
David & Anders: You know, we have really loved to work with Puffy AmiYumi. It's been great fun and we'd gladly do it again. Of course it's not in our hands but we're definitely hoping for a continuation of the collaboration. We'll continue to try to write good songs and hopefully a few of them will become Puffy songs. If they like them of course ;-)
Do you have any other projects in the works?
David & Anders: We have done two gigs with our own band the Merrymakers this year. One in Spain and one in Sweden. And it's the first time in quite a few years so it's great fun. We are working on the new album as well.
Looking back over your career what memories stand out the most?
David & Anders: Meeting Andy for the first time in his home in Oakland, CA once it was decided that he would be working with us on Bubblegun was a great memory. Another one was everything involved in going to Japan the first time. We were doing in-store showcases and making radio interviews. Not to mention the karaoke evenings. They were great!
For more info on the Merrymakers checkout their official website and MySpace page as well as their biography here at Puffy AmiYumi World.