After decades in the music business, bitpop rockers Teddybears are still producing instant hits, as a quick listen to their latest album, rock on, proves. They talk to The Forumist about their followers, their fight for veganism and what forges their sound
“They are still just dropouts and losers,” says Joakim “Jocke” Åhlund, one- third of Teddybears, when we ask him how their followers have changed since the band helped reactivate the Swedish punk scene in the 1990s. He says it with love and with his tongue firmly in his cheek, though – something he does a lot during the interview. Teddybear Patrik Arve, on the other hand, finds it hard to pinpoint who he thinks really enjoys their music. He’s fairly sure that their fans haven’t changed much at all, until we suggest how they must have developed and diversified just as much over the past 20-odd years as their music has: along with those good old dropouts, devotees can now be counted among the school kids looking for a party.
We meet the two-thirds of the band in Jocke’s studio, an eclectically decorated space, where we find piles of fantastic vinyl records, including Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR and almost the entire Ramones catalogue. For our shoot, they have brought with them items from their own wardrobes, as well as their signature huge bear heads. There’s another palpable presence in the room: Dr. Martens. Multiple styles are strewn all over the studio during the shoot. The rebel nature of the brand makes the footwear an obvious choice for this shoot, and even more so since the introduction of their new line of vegan shoes – Patrik has been a committed vegan for five years now.
At one point, Jocke becomes Spaceman, the persona of Kiss former lead guitarist Ace Frehley. He’s in a silver suit that he found in Austin, Texas, while he was touring with psychedelic rockers Les Big Byrd; it’s the same outfit he wore for the video for Les Big Byrd’s Vi Borde Prata Men Det Är För Sent. “I was strolling through Austin and happened to pass a store selling fancy-dress costumes. I had to have it,” he says. “It’s official Kiss merchandise.”
After posing in a pair of brown dungarees that reveal his many tattoos, Patrik tries on a black cassock with a pair of Dr. Martens Wilde chelsea boots, and then teams a tracksuit with a disco-ball version of the bear head – the perfect accessory for stealing attention. This is a band that is clearly prepared to put up with a lot for their audience’s entertainment, as well as their own: the bear heads are uncomfortable enough to wear when they are not covered in hundreds of tiny pieces of mirrored glass.
Missing from the interview is Jocke’s brother, Klas, who has also worked with artists such as Ellie Goulding, Katy Perry and Ghost BC. All three Teddybears have side projects, which contributes to the magic that happens when they all come together. “There are three guys in this band, and sometimes someone’s personality shines through more,” says Jocke, when we discuss the Rock On track Shades, on which his brother apparently shines through the most. “But you can also hear when it’s a mix of the three of us.”
Patrik’s other ventures include a children’s puppet show for television and five other bands, including the hip-hop/reggae group Swedish Tiger Sound and punk rockers Krösus. Meanwhile, as well as being part of Les Big Byrd, Jocke has produced up-and-coming acts such as Sudakistan. We ask them what a Les Big Byrd song featuring Swedish Tiger Sound and produced by Klas Åhlund would sound like, and the joint response is immediate: “Teddybears.” Each piece of the Teddybear puzzle is visible for anyone; you just have to look closely enough.
Patrik’s frustration and anger with the meat industry is also a big part of his life. “It’s a major problem in every way, that industry,” he says. “I have to do everything in my power to put a stop to it.” As a father of three children, aged 7, 10 and 13, his desire to promote veganism is stronger than ever. “The more people you reach, the more impact you have,” he says, going on to talk about how he would like to play with other vegan artists, such as Dennis Lyxzen of Refused and Mårten “Promoe” Edh of Looptroop Rockers. “I have tried to start something for years,” he says, but spreading the vegan message is proving to be a struggle. He also discusses his idea of taking a vegan hot dog vendor with him on tour – it sounds like a subtler version of Morrissey’s ban on meat at all his shows.
Teddybears are renowned for being outspoken, but they do not consider themselves a political band and their lyrics do not give away any particular leanings – “Though when we are asked something, we speak our mind,” Jocke says. No matter what subject their musical mix takes up, we believe that their audience of “dropouts and losers” will not be disappointed. For all those cult followers, and for the rest of the planet, Rock On is available now, and it might just be followed by a new album sooner than we think.
Rock On is out now on Deg in the Lake HB/Universal
Words by Filip Lindström
Photography by Felix Swensson
Styling by Fiffi Jenkins
All shoes By DR. MARTENS
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Special thanks to Dr. Martens, KATARINA BANGATA 15, STOCKHOLM