For the past thirteen years, Swedish band Division of Laura Lee have been making great albums and touring a brand of punk rock that is uniquely their own. I spoke to drummer Håkan Johansson about the beginnings of Division of Laura Lee, Carcrash Records and the future of D.O.L.L.
By Angie Hurlock
Named after ‘70’s soul singer Laura Lee and armed with a sound influenced by Fugazi; Division of Laura Lee began in September of 1997. “Me and Jonas [Gustafsson, D.O.L.L] were in a three piece called Uncle. We had a rehearsal that day but Mattias couldn’t join in for some reason. Henrik who wanted to start a new band was in the studio, so we started jamming. Per [Stålberg D.O.L.L] joined the next day and a week later we had our first show in our friend Daniel’s apartment. Two weeks later we recorded our first seven inch”.
The “97-99” album, a compilation of early material release in 2005 has a sound that differs starkly to the later albums and truly captures their influences including, Nirvana, Fugazi and Swervedriver. “The acts, combined with the four of us and our diverse backgrounds make the foundation of our sound. To this we add flavour and colour and blend in some nice lyrics”. It was not until 2002 that D.O.L.L’s debut album ‘Black City’ was released with singles, ‘Need To Get Some” and “Black City” making their name instantly known. Following this they released “Das Not Compute” in 2004 before releasing “Violence Is Timeless” in 2008.
For the “Violence Is Timeless” album, Division of Laura Lee invited guest directors to create video clips for each of the twelve songs on the album. The idea for this grew from a desire to do something different. “We first talked about releasing a new song a week. We soon found out it had been done numerous times before. We wanted to do something bigger and better. That’s when we came up with the idea of releasing a video for every song on the new album [Violence Is Timeless]. We started asking friends if they wanted to make a video for a song of their choice on the new album and soon video’s came pouring in! We released one video every Monday leading up to the release date of the C.D. It was beautiful”.
Håkan was able to confirm the rumour that Division of Laura Lee are back in the studio and working on their fourth album. “The truth is we’re writing and recording new songs for an album. We have no deadline scheduled but we are anxious to get going.” The direction for these new songs sees Division of Laura Lee delving further into their musical skills. “We are heading towards melodic rock versus nervous post punk. We are also flirting with the rhythm patterns of acts like Nine Inch Nails, electronic beats transcribed to acoustic drums”.
After more than ten years and three albums to their name, Division of Laura Lee’s recording process and time in the studio tends to run smooth and methodically. “We make three or four songs and put them on tape. After a few of those sessions we know what direction the album is taking and we can either redirect it or go with the flow. Since we don’t like singing, we always do the vocal parts last minute”.
Håkan also runs Carcrash records which has released the likes of C.Aarmé and The (International) Noise Conspiracy, but the label began as a way for Håkan to release his own music. “The first release was in 1996 by Jonas and my band Uncle. We also did a seven inch with Per’s band at the time, Outstand. I wanted to get our music heard and I had the possibility to do it. I soon realised that there was so many great bands that got stuck in their rehearsal rooms. So I did my best to give them the possibility to release a record. Then it kind of snowballed from there. I wish I had more time to work with the label, but seeing how the market has changed and how easy it is to release music today, I made the decision a few years back that Carcrash will only work as a portal to the digital distribution channels”.
Division of Laura Lee have been on a hiatus from touring for a while now but are looking forward to getting back on the road. “One of the main reasons we became a band was because we wanted to tour. We miss it a lot. There is still a tonne of places we haven’t visited yet.” Over the years D.O.L.L have played with a diverse array of great bands including Turbonegro, however it’s The Catheters that were Håkan’s favourite to play with. “They’re [The Catheters] one of the best bands I have seen live. It was always a challenge to go on stage after them. We are still great friends after doing as many as three tours together. Sadly they are not a band anymore. But you can find two albums that were released on Sub Pop in the early 2000’s”.
For now, Division of Laura Lee are continuing to record new tracks and play shows in their native Sweden. “Between shows we’ll just keep working on the new songs and other projects such as photography, design, studio production and plain hard work”. Australia has never been fortunate enough to experience Division of Laura Lee live, but it is something that Håkan hopes to rectify. “We will get there. We have failed in the past, but we won’t give up easily”.