Sahara Hotnights Biography
They’re the quartet Rolling Stone named one of “10 Great New Bands” and praised for slamming out “Seventies-style rock that combines the pop rush of the Ramones with the pissed-off sneer of the MC5.” They’re the group Spin called “foxy” and “super-badass,” and cheered for coming on like “Sleater-Kinney busting the Runaways out of juvie and peeling off in a 1974 Camaro Z28.” They’re the four young Scandinavian women that Blender applauded for taking “a blowtorch to the image of the icy, submissive Swedish pop girl (think Abba, Ace of Base, Cardigans).”
We’re talking, of course, about vocalist/guitarist Maria Andersson, drummer Josephine Forsman, guitarist Jennie Asplund and her bass-playing sister Johanna Asplund—a.k.a. Sahara Hotnights. Two years ago, the foursome crossed over to this side of the Atlantic and exploded on impact with Jennie Bomb, an incendiary album that provoked both action and reaction. They toured heavily in support, whipping audiences into a frenzy with a set that was raw, sweaty and absolutely electrifying. Night after night, the Saharas played to packed-house crowds filled with screaming girls that wanted to be them and awestruck boys that wanted to marry them (and sometimes vice versa).
“The reaction was amazing,” says drummer Josephine Forsman. “Friends back home told us that it’s really difficult for a new group to tour and make it in America, so we were prepared for the worst. But people seemed really eager to see us. We’re looking forward to coming back for more.” The girls spent close to two years touring the planet and tearing up stages alongside bands like The Hives, Soundrack of Our Lives, The Donnas, the Datsuns and The Mooney Suzuki. When the grueling tour ended, they returned home to Sweden, road-tightened, revitalized, and eager to redefine their focus.
“During the tour, we listened to a lot of Pretenders, Big Star, Cheap Trick, The Go-Go’s, the Cars and Television and it inspired us when it came time to make the new record,” says Forsman, who together with vocalist Maria Andersson, writes the majority of the band’s material. “We decided we wanted a bigger, poppier sound, hoping to record an album that makes you want to dance.”
They nailed their target with Kiss & Tell, a big, bouncy album throbbing with heavy music that moves. Produced by Pelle Gunnerfeldt (The Hives, Spain) and mixed by Rob Schnapf (Foo Fighters, Moby), the album finds the Saharas swinging and swaying with seductive flair without sacrificing punk thrust or raw urgency.
“It’s the first record we’ve ever made where you can hear everything,” says Forsman. “I think the most noticeable difference between our previous records and this one is Maria’s vocals. She’s got a great voice, and for once she isn’t buried under an ocean of distortion and crash cymbals. It makes a big difference in the album’s overall sound.”
Behind a pretty soprano and a punk sneer, Andersson leads the band through a perfectly paced record of quirky rave-ups (lead single “Hot Night Crash,” “Walk On The Wire”) and lacerating power-pop (“Empty Heart,” “Who Do You Dance For?”).
About the latter, Forsman says, “Jennie (Asplund, the band’s lead guitarist) and I had a great time doing the backing vocals. Pelle kept saying, ‘You’re doing great—just pretend that you’re wearing pink and playing in an ‘80s pop band.’”
Among Kiss & Tell’s many highlights is the mile-wide hook of “Stupid Tricks,” the gutter rock riffage of “Nerves” and the sweet-voiced “Keep Calling My Baby.” Listened to in a single setting, the album has the timeless feel of a ‘70s summer rock record, with the kind of hummable melodies, combustible riffs and grooving rhythms that’ll keep listeners coming back for more.
Recorded in Gröndahl Studios in Stockholm, Kiss & Tell is Sahara Hotnights’ third album and first for RCA Records. The band’s origin can be traced back to 1993, when the four pre-teen girls formed a kickass punk band in the pin dot of Robertsfors (population 2500) in the northern part of Sweden. In 1997, they released debut EP Suits Anyone Fine to local acclaim, and followed two years later with their pop-punk debut, C’mon Let’s Pretend. In addition to selling more than 55,000 copies in Sweden alone (gold is 40,000), the disc garnered widespread critical praise and two Swedish Grammy nominations. The band supported the album by touring all over Scandinavia, doing 120 shows in one year before heading back to the studio to make sophomore disc Jennie Bomb.
Shortly before the album’s release, Sahara Hotnights toured Europe for the first time on a bill supporting the Donnas, doing 42 gigs in 10 countries. Endless tours and festival shows came next and in 2002, the band played their first three gigs in the States (CBGB’s, SXSW and The Roxy). Worldwide buzz ensued.
Are they feeling the pressure to one-up a successful album and tour?
“You can’t worry about that stuff,” says Andersson. “If you do, you might as well be doing something else. We just wanted to make a record that was better than the last one. So we did.”