Culture //

Where is Miike Snow? I miss them

Reminiscing on the sounds of this intercontinental band.

In my final year of high school, a good friend of mine started driving me to school. In a year where you were inches away from a freedom that seems so close yet so vastly far, the fact your friend had their P’s and could save you an hour’s bus ride was a small venture into so-called adulthood. In the early years of our friendship (pre-Toyota Camry), she would show me new music on our bus rides. She introduced me to  Pandora’s ‘Indie-Pop’ Radio in Year Ten. It was a gateway to leave behind Top-40 radio and explore the sounds of 2000s indie; the Kooks, the Naked and Famous and Phoenix, to name a few.

One morning as she drove me to school, navigating one of the many thousands of roundabouts on the Central Coast with a McDonald’s iced-frappe in hand, my friend played me a song. It was relatively new at the time and from the first listen I was addicted . It was the kind of song that would be a crime to not turn up in the car as its electronic, synth saturated, pop sound needed to be played super loud. Miike Snow, a band I had never heard of before, had managed to make a despotic Mongolian Emperor into the namesake for an upbeat yet slightly dark bop – Genghis Khan was well and truly stuck in my head and I wanted to hear more.

Miike Snow is the amalgamation of a Swedish producing duo; Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, and American songwriter, Andrew Wyatt. They came together in 2007. All successful in their own right, Karlsson and Winnberg had produced hit-after-hit for many popular artists, such as Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Sky Ferreira. More notably, they co-wrote and produced Britney Spears’ Toxic in 2003. The pair sampled and pitched up strings from a Bollywood movie to create arguably one of the most unique pop productions of the 2000s; a fact I only discovered recently thanks to the wonderful world of TikTok. Wyatt himself has written and produced songs for Liam Gallagher, Lady Gaga and Lorde and had a relatively successful music career as a bassist in New York.

When the three finally came together after meeting in a recording studio in Sweden, they milked their shadow for all it had – obscuring their faces for months in 2009 before they performed live in New York for the very first time. The band has always been elusive, hiding behind the hits they wrote or produced for pop royalty, and still to this day many know little about the band’s own music.

Their name, Miike Snow, appears to be a moniker for one man and not a whole band, and their album covers always feature a folkloric, mythical creature called a Jackalope, which is a jackrabbit mixed with antelope horns. I have no idea what it represents but potentially it is symbolic of their blend of musical interests, their style transforming from song to song. I think those quirks encapsulate the point they’re going for — Miike Snow focuses on the music above all else; celebrity status or an intricate brand image means nothing to them.

Often their songs have no clear meaning. They leave the interpretation in the listener’s hands. I’d listen to one of their best songs,God Help This Divorce when studying for the HSC. I was transported away from my economics practice paper into an expansive, bleak soundscape. The song always reminded me of a black and white, old fashioned Western. I could visualise two figures engaged in a standoff, their black felt hats tipped forward to hide their identities. 

It didn’t matter that the song had no bearing on my current life as a seventeen-year-old; being neither married nor divorced. It was the way they were able to create a palpable sense of melancholia interspersed with glimmers of hope that made the song so memorable – nostalgia for something I didn’t even know I understood. 

After a four year break, the band achieved commercial success in 2016 with the release of their album iii. After this, I waited and waited for something new from the band. Miike Snow seemed to have completely disappeared off the radar and this stint between albums is now longer than ever before. There was a period where I tried searching for their older music on Spotify, but it was removed. Whether due to copyright or a personal choice by the musicians I’m not sure, but it definitely added to the mystique of Miike Snow. 

As I researched more for this piece, their disappearance began to make sense. Miike Snow’s tendency to vanish from the scene was due to the band member’s other pursuits, seeming to be of greater importance than the passion project that has become Miike Snow.

Karlsson still works as one half of Galantis, a bubble-gum electronic outfit that penned Runaway (U & I), an annoyingly catchy song that takes me back to awkwardly fist-pumping at school discos. Wyatt continues to produce for an array of music’s big names including Flume, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars – a testament to the respect they’ve fostered from peers in the industry. Miike Snow also established a record label along with other Swedish Indie darlings such as Lykke Li and Peter Bjorn and John (of ‘Young Folks’ fame) in 2011.

I rediscovered Miike Snow in my first year of university. I was sitting outside at Courtyard Café (as a media student it’s a precondition) and the song they were playing caught my attention. It was the perfect song to listen to in the winter sun, chilling with an eerie melody; the piano-based house blend has Wyatt’s voice soaring over the top in Auto-Tune.e. The descriptor sounds strange if you haven’t heard it, however, that’s where the beauty in Miike Snow lies – they can blend a range of musical capacities into something you’ve never heard before, yet it still feels familiar. To dip back into Miike Snow almost felt like the soundtrack to my own movie as cheesy as it sounds. Their music was a constant at a time of much change.

My least favourite memory of listening to the band was on a train home from a friend’s bon voyage party in the Blue Mountains. The Mark Ronson remix of Heart is Full is sultry and solemn. It’s a begging appeal from one lover to another to be considerate of their love. I self-indulgently and non-ashamedy sobbed to the song in the early hours of the morning on the T3 Bankstown line. Partly due to my own impending six-month exchange and the long-distance relationship I was about to enter into (as well as the copious number of Absolut Botanik’s I had consumed that evening), the song seemed to summarise all the mixed emotions I was feeling.

As much as I’d love new music from the band, it’s made difficult by the fact that its members are scattered around the world. From Sweden to Bangkok to Los Angeles, their lives and music are segmented across the continents. Two of the three are now fathers, so it’s clear that Miike Snow’s priorities have changed.  

The importance of family and searching for an earthier ground was encapsulated by Wyatt and Winnberg’s most recent project together with Lykke Li and Bjorn Yttling. The Swedish based supergroup, liv, injected a psychedelic soul into harmonious folk. Their numerous singles released in 2016 and 2017 never eventuated into a full album but had a lot of potential as a new-age Fleetwood Mac. Earlier in March, Miike Snow tweeted that it was still possible for the group of them to perform – which I would absolutely love to see

In a not-so-distant past, Miike Snow’s lives were a blur of festival after festival. COVID-19 brought a further pause for reflection and a political call to action for the band during the US election by way of their Twitter (the only social media they are ever active on). Last November the band also tweeted that they do have a bunch of new music coming out in 2021, “b/c 2020 was kind of a bust… good time to make stuff not necessarily put stuff out”.

With 2021 well and truly here, there has still been no update on the new music. Miike Snow may very well be on the backburner for Karlsson, Winnberg and Wyatt. They have said that “Miike Snow [is] this funny, strange, slightly awkward UFO that we all three get on and take a ride in, and then we get off it and do our own things”. In the meantime, a rediscovery of their work, personal and together is still highly satiating. But I can’t deny that I am looking forward to new Miike Snow songs to punctuate my continuing foray into the unknown world of adulthood.