The Hives’ guide to Stockholm’s secret musical scenes
Pelle Almqvist is the lead singer of the Swedish band. Here, in line with the opening of Soho House Stockholm, he reveals his favourite ways to discover new music in the city
Thursday 15 December 2022 By Teo van den Broeke
Arguably Sweden’s biggest musical export since ABBA and Robyn, The Hives took the noughties by storm with their unique garage rock sound. The band performed at the Soho House Stockholm launch party, in partnership with Marshall. And in anticipation of the event, we spoke to lead singer Pelle Almqvist to learn all about the underground (and overground) musical scenes that define the city’s sonic profile.
Where did you see your first live music gig in Stockholm? Who was playing and why was it memorable?
‘I’ve been going to Stockholm since I was a kid, but the first show I decided to attend myself was a three-band surf music concert in 1996. It was at a venue named Studion and I was still young. It made a lasting impression on me. The first band walked on to a darkened stage lit only by the glowing butts of their cigarettes. I really remember the sound of a loud Fender guitar with too much reverb. That sound still tickles all the right spots for me.’
How does Stockholm’s musical scene compare to other cities?
‘It compares pretty well, except for the influx of newly bourgeois bridge and tunnel people moving in and complaining that there are bars with loud music, and then actually managing to get them closed down. Musically, Stockholm has always been amazing. As long as I’ve lived here, there have always been great bands and artists across most genres.’
Where are the best places for live music in Stockholm and why?
‘Most of the artist or bands I like probably play at Debaser, but the venue itself is just OK. Cirkus is a beautiful venue and so is Berns. I like them fancy like that.’
Which are the best record shops in Stockholm and why?
‘There is a line of great ones at the end of St Eriksgatan, which mostly sell second-hand vinyls. I guess that’s what I buy mostly. New music finds me in digital form. I must also mention Pet Sounds on Södermalm for sheer tenacity and for still rocking. It is eternal.’
For someone visiting Stockholm for the first time, which live music venue would you say they must visit?
‘For me, the city’s brilliance is 90% artist and 10% venue. My advice would be to find out what music you want to see first. Broadly speaking, for rock or indie, try Debaser. For jazz, check out Fasching. For classical, try Berwaldhallen. Also, see what’s going on at Slaktkyrkan and Fållan.’
Are there any underground music scene spots in Stockholm that deserve a shout out?
‘Yeah. There is a boat called Vielle Montagne that has amazing punk shows in the hull. It’s organised by one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve met. It is exactly the kind of place I would like to find in a city I visit.’
What’s your favourite ever gig you’ve played in Stockholm and why?
‘I think the last one we played was my favourite. It was a free show for 18,000 people on the water triangulated by the Royal Swedish Opera, the Royal Palace and the Grand Hôtel. As I said, I like them fancy like that. Oh, and we were great too.’
Does the city inspire your music? If so, how?
‘I suppose it does, as most of my interactions with other humans take place in Stockholm – and no input, no output, you know? I do think we could have made this music anywhere, though. We proved that by making music in a small town in the middle of the woods for about 15 years.’
What defines the Swedish musical style? Is there an overarching thematic connection?
‘Well, if I take us out of the equation – since we are unique – I’d say there definitely is. There’s a big focus on clear, minor key melody over lyrics, and there’s always a sensible pop song structure no matter what the genre is.’
Who are your favourite Stockholm-based musical artists and why?
‘The Viagra Boys are great. It’s been a while since I heard a rock band that good and exciting. I also love Familjen, since I always have the best time at his shows. Club Killers, The Hellacopters, Bob Hund… I’m probably forgetting someone important. Do you ever get that feeling?’
For more information about Soho House Stockholm, click here