“Growing up, I was really into ‘70s and ‘80s punk rock, and then drifted into playing other styles, but always really liked that stuff a lot,” says the Seattle musician, Lars Swenson, when talking to Post-Burnout.
In 1998, Lars got his first break as a musician when he joined Seattle’s Sub Pop-signed garage punkers The Catheters as their guitarist. After leaving the band in 2001, Lars played with various acts in the city. Then, this year, it was officially announced that he would be joining the Vancouver new wave act, Autogramm.
“I never played in a band that had keyboards or synths sounds before,” says Lars on joining the project. “So, that would probably be the biggest thing for me, as a guitar player, playing alongside that.”
For the uninitiated, for the past six years, the self-described “synth-driven power pop quartet” Autogramm – as influenced by the likes of Gary Numan, The Cars, Devo, 20/20, and The Go-Go’s – have been successfully emulating the music of that era; sounding less like they’re inspired by that place and time and more like their music is a lost artefact from then.
Lars explains how he joined the band to us: “I played in another band that toured with them quite a bit, so I was good friends with them and liked their band. And then the bass player [CC Voltage] and I have known each other for a long time; the punk band that I played in as a teenager would play with his band, up in Vancouver – I’m originally from Seattle, but knew them from playing up there – and, yeah, just liked and respected those guys a lot, and they were really fun to be around. And I also liked the music, so that was what kind of drew me into the band.”
This Friday, Lars (now playing under the moniker “Lars von Seattle”) will make his official debut on an Autogramm, record, when they release their third studio album, Music That Humans Can Play, on the legendary Canadian punk indie label, Stomp Records. In this author’s humble opinion, Humans is the most fully realised that the band’s goal of creating era-accurate, lost-artefact-feeling ’80s synth pop and new wave has ever been, and contains some of their best-penned tunes.
Recorded in August 2022, we asked Lars how he felt this album differed from the band’s others. “I wasn’t around for the other two [albums], obviously,” he responds. “Like, I toured with them, off those records, but I wasn’t in the band, but I was a fan of the first two records, so I was familiar with them. But this one, I guess, was a post-COVID situation, which I’m sure a lot of bands and folks have experienced or dealt with, working around those constraints.
“A lot of the writing and composition was done remotely, with just sharing and emailing sounds back-and-forth without being in a room together, and doing it that way; which would be what most people are probably used to. And Josh, the drummer, had moved to Chicago shortly…like, I think right before the lockdowns happened, so he was also remote, like myself. So, when we did get together to do the recording…I mean, I guess we went up to Vancouver a couple of times and did some short few days of practice, here and there. So, yeah, it was just a lot more spontaneous and a lot more writing in the studio than I think probably happened on those other records.”
He adds, “I guess we hope [the public] like it. [Laughs] I think, for all of us, we make records and music and play stuff that we like, personally – not to be too self-indulgent – and just thinking, ‘Probably other people like this kind of stuff too, like we think it’s good.’ So, yeah, we have high hopes that people who liked the other records and enjoyed the band and thought it was fun will like this one, too.”
He concludes: “We’re just really excited for the record. I’m looking forward to doing some touring in the States and over in Europe. So, yeah, any folks who are interested and are reading this, like, hope to see you soon and play some music for you.”
Autogramm’s latest record, Music That Humans Can Play, releases this Friday. You can presave a copy from Stomp Records. Be sure to check out the band’s links – including live dates, releases, and social media accounts – here.
Aaron Kavanagh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Post-Burnout. His writing can also be found in the Irish Daily Star, Buzz.ie, New Noise Magazine, XS Noize, DSCVRD and more.