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Miscellaneous - Interview with Tommy Gunnarsson and Marie Sorenson

  by John Clarkson

published: 11 / 6 / 2002

Miscellaneous - Interview with Tommy Gunnarsson and Marie Sorenson


Pennyblackmusic writer Tommy Gunnarsson recently formed his own indiepop label, Heavenly Pop Hits, with his girlfriend Marie Sorenson. With their first compilation "Hit Music Only' just out, they talk about the problems and benefits of forming a label

As well as writing for Pennyblackmusic, our Swedish writer, Tommy Gunnarsson, has, with his girlfriend Marie Sorenson, recently started running his own indiepop label, Heavenly Pop Hits. Tommy and Marie first established Heavenly Pop Hits last year, after stumbling across a previously unrecorded one man band, the Fantasy Lights, from the Philippines on the internet, and deciding that they wanted to release a 7" EP of its frontman Patrick Gwyn Durmiendo's songs. At the time, however, Tommy and Marie had little money and came to the conclusion that, rather than risking putting out a record by an unknown band at a considerable financial loss, it would be best to release first of all a compilation CD of some of their favourite groups, which would help to pay for the 7" they really wanted to release, and hopefully drum up some extra support for the Fantasy Lights in the process. Their compilation,which is entitled 'Hit Music Only' was released in an edition of 500 copies and came out in early June. It features 21 both known and unknown indiepop acts and has an international focus. As well as the Fantasy Lights, it also features acts from the UK (Ant, Avacado Baby, ballboy and Fragile) ; the USA (Dear Nora , Dennis Driscoll, the Parcels, the School Uniforms and Winter Vacation); Norway (Remington Super 60): Australia(Sodasteam) and Sweden (Dorotea, Eisenhower, Free Loan Investments, the Future, Handsome Train, the Happy Birthdays, Hormones in Abundance, Lucy Electric and Nixon). In their first interview about Heavenly Pop Hits, Tommy and Marie spoke to Pennyblackmusic about the compilation ; some of the problems and also the undoubted perks that that come with releasing a first record, and their plans for their label's future PB : Why did you decide to call your label Heavenly Pop Hits ? MS: When we first came up with the idea to form a record label we didn't have a name that felt natural and obvious right away. We had some suggestions but none of them were good enough. Then one day we went through some singles and came across The Chills' 'Heavenly Pop Hit' and we both thought that would be a great name for our label. Besides being a terrific song, it also described our sole intention. We wanted our releases to be heavenly pop hits. PB : How many copies of 'Hit Music Only' have been made? MS: We made 500 copies. It felt like a reasonable amount for the first release. In the future when we release 7" singles instead, we'll probably make smaller quantities. PB : ’Hit Music Only’ is very international in its perspective, and features bands, not only from Sweden, but also from the US, the UK, Norway and even Australia and the Philippines. Some of the bands such as Ant, ballboy, Sodastream and Remington Super 60 are quite well known in indiepop circles, but others are more obscure. How did you first come across them ? Was it largely through the internet ? TG: Often we bought a single or album with a band that we were interested in, and if they matched up to our expectations we contacted them and asked them if they wanted to participate. That contact was made via e-mail, which really is God's gift to people who want to make compilations. As for the lesser known Swedish acts, we know most of the people playing in these bands, so we asked to hear their democassettes or CDR's and picked a song that we both felt would suit the compilation. MS: One or two of the bands actually came to us, asking if they could to take part. They gave us their demos and if we liked them they were in. PB : The rest of the world hears a lot about Swedish rock and punk and bands such as the Hives, Soundtrack of Our Lives and the Hellacopters. Is there a thriving Swedish indiepop scene as well ? Is one of your aims in putting out the CD to promote Swedish indiepop a little further ? TG: The Swedish indiepop scene is very much alive and actually feeling better now that it has been for ages. There are great bands all over Sweden nowadays, and some of them are just waiting to be discovered by one of the many small indie labels, like ourselves. For the last few years there have even been festivals dedicated purely to indiepop, which is great! And even though it's not our major goal to promote it to the world, we would be very happy if some of the new Swedish bands featured on the compilation would get some attention somewhere in the world. PB : What criteria were you looking for when adding acts to the CD ? Did you just have to like them ? MS: Basically, yes. We only want to release music we can imagine buying ourselves. It doesn't matter if the bands might sell a lot of records or not. That's not the most important thing to us. PB : When approaching acts to appear on the CD, how did you manage to persuade them to take part ? Did you have to promise them or give them anything in return ? Did you have any problems with licensing? TG : It wasn't very hard to talk them into it. Often it only required one e-mail, asking them, and that was it! It wouldn't feel very good if bands hesitated or had to be asked ten times before agreeing. The only thing we promised them was some copies of the finished product. Some of the bands wanted one copy for each member of the band, and some wanted more. When first making contact with a band, we told them that we would not be possible to give them any money. And they were OK with that, which was nice. We didn't have any licensing problems either, as most of the bands featured on the CD release their own records and don't have a record deal. If they did, it was no problem to get permission to use a song. PB : Is the album made up entirely of exclusives, or have some of the tracks appeared elsewhere ? TG : Most of the tracks are actually exclusives, either previously unreleased in any format or previously unreleased on CD. The only songs that are not exclusive in any way are the songs by ballboy, the School Uniforms and the Parcels. Sodastream's song, 'Waiting Gift', was previously released on a compilation released locally in their hometown in Australia five years ago, so we think of that as an exclusive as well. PB : You've released 'Hit Music Only' as way of earning some money to put out a 7" single by the Fantasy Lights ? What do you like so much about the Fantasy Lights and Patrick Gwyn Durmiendo's songs ? TG: Yes, our first goal is to finance a 7" release by the Fantasy Lights, but if we are lucky, we will hopefully get enough money to maybe release two 7" singles at the same time. We first discovered Patrick when he sent us an MP3 of a song he had made over the ICQ network. This was more than two years ago, and we immediately fell for his soft, twee voice and his very naive popsongs. Also, the lyrics, which are written in quite bad English, add to this naive charm. Then he sent us some more songs and they were even better! Finally, we got a CDR of ten songs, all of them fantastic. He records all his songs directly into his computer, and on those first MP3's that we received, he had probably recorded it on his porch, as you could hear children play in the background. He is charming! And we are sure the 7" EP will be charming as well, even though he has re-recorded all those songs on the CDR. PB : How have you divided up the workload between you? Have you done everything together, or have you each concentrated on different tasks? MS : We never really discussed this at all. It just came naturally. We did what we wanted and what we had the skills for. Tommy is better with people so he took care of the contact with most of the bands and I settled with wrapping up the CDs and shipping them off. When it came down to big decisions though, like which bands should be on the comp and what the graphics would look like, we did it together. PB : Was it harder or easier than you expected to put together the CD ? Do you have any advice for anyone planning anything similar ? TG: Actually, it was both easier and harder. It was much easier than we expected to get bands to participate. But then it was hard to get the bands to send us their songs, and some of the bands that initially agreed had to decline after a while, as they didn't have enough time or, as the case was with one band, split up. But our advice for anyone wanting to make a compilation like this is to have patience and to keep in touch with the bands regularly and see how things are proceeding. And don't invite bands to take part that you don't like 100%! If you have only heard one song and it's a great one, that doesn't mean that the song they are going to send you are just as great. It'snot easy to tell a band that their song isn't good enough. MS: Maybe the most important thing to keep in mind is that these things take time. Our original and very naive plan was to release the compilation this time last year. Guess that didn't work out. Also there is the money issue. Even though we made endless calculations we came up short in the end. We hadn't thought of the cost of shipping the CD's around the globe. Fortunately we had some extra money and got ourselves out of that drawback. PB : What do you have planned next for Heavenly Pop Hits ? MS: As soon as we get some of our money back we're planning to release 7" singles with a couple of the bands that are on the comp. Right now we really want to make something with Hormones In Abundance before someone else snatches the kid from our clutches. PB : Who are Hormones in Abundance ? TG: Hormones In Abundance is a pseudonym for Patrik Lindgren, a 17-year-old boy from Kalmar, a small town in the south-east of Sweden. We discovered him in very much the sameway as with the Fantasy Lights. He sent us an MP3 via e-mail and asked us if we liked it. The songs was 'Rubinoos T-shirt,' his contribution to the compilation. We loved it, and wanted to hear more from him. This spring, we got a 5-track CDR with his best demo recordings, and they are absolutely marvellous. Sadly, he has decided to stop making songs as Hormones In Abundance, but he said that he wanted to release some of the songs before calling it a day, so we are now planning to release a 4- or 5-track EP later this year. PB : What else do you have planned for the label ? TG: We also want to release the Fantasy Lights single, of course, and maybe something by Handsome Train, if they are still available to us at that time. PB : Who are Handsome Train ? TG: Handsome Train are a four-piece hailing from the same town as us, Halmstad, another small Swedish town, this time on the west-coast. The singer/keyboardist, John, and bass player, Mårten, both went to school with Marie, so she knew them before they played in Handsome Train. From the very start, it was just a duo with John and Mårten, sounding a bit like a male-version of the Softies. But then they added a drum-machine and two more members, their girlfriends, Linnea and Sara. So, now they are a full band, and they have played live here in Halmstad two times so far, with a third performance lined up in July. Actually, the German label Firestation Tower have shown some interest in them, so maybe they will be Halmstad's next pop export after Roxette. They really deserve to be bigger than them too. PB : Do you have anything else planned for the label ? TG : Later this year we will also release a compilation CD that compiles all the hard-to-find singles, EP's and compilation tracks by Swedish band Nixon. But that won't happen until this autumn or winter. PB : Thank you

Label Articles:-
Heavenly Pop Hits (3)

Picture Gallery:-
Miscellaneous - Interview with Tommy Gunnarsson and Marie Sorenson

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