Movits! BBC Radio1 Session
The Swedish swing/hip hop band Movits! are making their way through the music world, aiming for the top of the charts. With the release of their debut album “Äppelknyckarjazz” in late November ’08, they have been out playing the venues of Scandinavia for almost a year. The peak of the tour was reached this summer, when they were invited by Stephen Colbert to perform on his show “the Colbert Report” in New York City, a gig resulting in number one spots on iTunes’ and Amazon’s hip hop charts. Noteable here is that they sing in Swedish, a language quite far from the lingua franca of the US.
They have indeed come far since the days spent back in the family house in Luleå. There, in the most northern part of Sweden, Johan and Anders, brothers and band mates, began developing what would later become Movits!. “In those days we were more into acoustic hip hop and reggae” Anders says. “It was just acoustic guitar, organ and cajun.”. They released an EP under the name Planeten Jorden (Planet Earth) called “Frihetssånger i Retro Adidas” (Freedom songs in Retro Adidas). The brothers don^t seem to have any problems working together as they have fairly marked out roles to play. Johan, the lead singer, is the lyrics author and chorus builder, while Anders, the DJ, is the producer. “We^ve alwyas been on the same track when it comes to music” Johan says. “And it^s an advantage to work with your brother. If things slow down we can always stage a Gallagher-fight, to fan the media”
The duo turned trio when the Rensfeldt-brothers were joined by saxophone player Joakim Nilsson and together they took Frihetssånger i Retroadidas on a summerfestivaltour in 2005. It was at an afterparty to one of these festivals they discovered the swing. “It was like a threeway, simultaneous revelation” Joakim remembers. “We were out dancing in a backyard, when someone put on Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing”, and the three of us were totally blown away”.
After that, their music took a new direction. Inspired by the drums and the horns of the swing era, they started working on the music that would later be known as Äppelknyckarjazz (Applestealingjazz, named after the applestealing trousers worn by Swedish streetkids in the ’30s and ’40s). Using a dozen different musicians they recorded the album, a process that took more than three years. “Coming from an acoustic background, we didn’t want to use samples. I guess it would have been faster, but I don’t think the result would have been as good.” Anders contemplates.
In the midst of all this, the band decided to change their name. “We felt that Planeten Jorden didn’t really represent the new direction our music had taken” Johan explains. The choice fell on Movits, after the Swedish 16th century musician Father Movitz, sung about by the national musical hero Carl Michael Bellman. The name especially highlights the influence of old Swedish songlyrics in Johanss writing. With a new name and new music, Movits! were on their way to produce their first full length album.
If the first single of the record, “Swing för Hyresgästföreningen” went by fairly unnoticed, the second made a bigger impact. With a 13th place on Swedens Tracks-listan and frequent airtime on P3 (channel 3 on Sweden’s national radio) it’s safe to say that “Äppelknyckarjazz” is Movits!’ breakthrough single. It was released in May 2008 and after that things really started to happen.
To date, they have played venues in Scandinavia and USA, been on TV-shows in Sweden and New York, signed contracts on both sides of the Atlantic and won the Manifest-awards for best ryhthm 2008. It safe to say Movits! are on their way up. And if things slow down, there’s always the Gallagher-card to play.