By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Photo by Carl AbrahamsonTwenty-five years into life on planet Earth and young Gustav Ejstes already has two or three careers behind him, climbing from folkish unknown to (Swedish) major-label-star-type and then back to indie-land and then back again to next-big-hype—about this time, Brian Wilson would have retreated to the sandbox. But Ejstes—who writes, records and produces his albums as Dungen, then fills out the seats in the van with musician friends for live shows—is moving still, recently releasing a new album on Astralwerks after massive undergrunten support. Deserved, too: as a one-man-psych-band-channeler, Ejstes displays admirable diversity of influence and attention to detail. Breakout-ish album Ta Det Lugnt (translates as "take it easy," a re-reaction to Ejstes' consuming frustration with the music business at the time) gathers most of '67-'72 in one big bear hug, with Pink Floyd-ism ("Om Du Vore En Vakhthund") and Smile-ishness (sound-bumper "Tack Ska ni ha") and standard-issue heavy psych (everything on 30 Seconds Before the Calico Wall, or a Jimi Hendrix boot) and glammy pop ("Festival" knocks an intro off "Ziggy Stardust") in natural and seamless succession. One man enters, one monument leaves. Gustav speaks from a tour stop in El Paso.
Is this your first time in the Great American Desert?
It's funny—the drummer has just bought five DVDs with Clint Eastwood, so we've been watching those and cruising through this wonderful landscape. But I'm wondering: Where is the cactus?
What rare American records are you looking for?
I don't collect records like that—I don't follow and I don't know so much about different bands and eras, blah blah blah. I like when people give me a suggestion for what I should listen to.
Have you heard Emitt Rhodes?
He was a 20-ish kid from Hawthorne who wrote and recorded and produced an album of his own in his parents' garage, and it was so good that when it came out, people thought it was the Beatles releasing songs under a new fake name.
So I thought of the comparison.
. . .
So is it hard to write and record and produce a record all by yourself at age 24?
I like it, I think it's fun.
Do you ever need someone else to tell if a song has come out well?
You mean to be objective? To be objective is very, very hard. When I do something totally by myself, then I know it's good because I have the idea and I can tell when it gets how I want it. But often I invite other musicians, so suddenly you have more ears and more thoughts. And that helps.
Do your parents think it's charming that you're writing the sort of 40-year-old music they might have grown up on?
They just listen to it as music—they aren't sticklers on the kind of music. It's just music—those fuzz guitars, they just sound like they do. It's strange that not so many guitar players use them today. It's a very nice sound.
You toldPitchfork that, "Music is for making people happy, lyrics tell them who they are." What did you mean by that?
Have I said that?
Maybe someone was drunk.
Yeah, I don't know. The lyrics are in Swedish, and people in America, they don't understand. But with most people I meet, they tell me they don't care about it. They almost like it more because it's in Swedish. In relation to the whole of it, it's just one ingredient. What I mean is that I am interested in lyrics in songs about important stuff that means something to myself. But I am not that clever lyrics writer, like for example Bob Dylan or poets—I am not that.
Iread an interview with a Japanese band where they said they sing in English because that's the natural original language of rock & roll. What do you think about that?
Yeah, what should I say about that? For me, it's music and I want it to be honest for me, at least. So I don't know, rock & roll, blah blah blah. I do it in Swedish because it's natural to me.
Are you famous in Sweden?
We're definitely not big in Sweden. But people are aware of us—they've heard the name.
So who is the most famous band in Sweden?
I don't know, actually—I don't know the most famous band in Sweden.