The Cardigans December 4 O2 Academy Glasgow
Swedish five-piece The Cardigans were everywhere 20 years ago. Centrepiece of the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Shakespearean smash Romeo And Juliet, their song Lovefool had flung them from a modestly-successful indie band to a pop act with global reach – a position reaffirmed with the track’s inclusion in late 1990s teen megahits Beverly Hills 90210 and the movie Cruel Intentions.
An Agnetha from ABBA recast for the era of the Spice Girls, singer Nina Persson looked out from millions of TV screens. Nonchalant, quirky, cute, she was the poster girl to her band of nerdy muso boys.
Some reviewers had called the song, released on 1996 album Last Band On The Moon, “bubblegum”.
It was a characterisation they felt alienated by, says Persson, who leads the original, 15-million-selling band again this week at Glasgow’s O2 Academy as part of a tour revisiting 1998 album Gran Turismo in its entirety.
“We were set up to always have this image that we didn’t connect with; to always be about this one song,” Persson says from her home in Malmo. “But with Gran Turismo we changed. We wanted to emphasise the other dimensions of what we did, to show that Lovefool wasn’t all that we were. We stayed truer to ourselves by doing that, I think.”
Featuring hits Hanging Around, Erase/Rewind and My Favourite Game, Gran Turismo was more oblique and self-aware, the band’s previous warmth cooled by electronics and distortion. Commenting at the time, Persson said the record’s title was in tune with its lyrical themes of “being in a tourist in the world” and “trying to find your place”.
“It was not a great time, at least not for myself,” she says today. “I couldn’t handle all the touring, all the work that came with Last Band On The Moon. We went straight from doing all that to working on Gran Turismo.
“I felt lost and confused and worn out. The making of the record felt cathartic, it felt good to express our darker side.”
The Gran Turismo part of of the show will be “full immersion in the late 1990s”, Persson says, before a second set of songs from The Cardigans’ back catalogue.
“It’s going to be a fairly solid experience of Gran Turismo,” she says. “Then, in case you get sick of that for 45 minutes, we’ll do another set more
reflective of that wider experience. We don’t play songs that are super-old any more though; there are some records we can hardly represent – they really aged on us.”
In contrast, Gran Turismo and its two mellower mid-2000s predecessors Long Gone Before Daylight and Super Extra Gravity “still feel current”, says Persson, noting that the last time she played in Scotland she was promoting Colonia, her 2009 solo album.
Rather than working on new music, in recent years Persson has shifted focus to the theatre as creative director of the Citizens’ Band, a political cabaret act which explores ideas around citizenship and democracy. In the run-up to Sweden’s general election in September, their show The Winner Takes All toured across the country.
Though these modern-day gigs are enjoyable, getting together to write a new Cardigans album would “feel like a backward step”, she says.
“We’re all in different places” says Persson. “Peter [Svensson], who writes the music, lives in LA and Stockholm. We’ve talked about it and we’ve decided that we are not going to work on another record with other songwriters, because then we might as well start a new band.
“But I don’t think we will do one either. I’m not swearing on that, though.”
The Swedish singer, musician and songwriter Nina Persson of The Cardigans