Imagine a band from Sweden that plays a mix of ’60s garage rock and underground ’70s punk. Good. Now, imagine that band has members from five different respected bands, wails political lyrics and gives free concerts. Meet reality – the International Noise Conspiracy (INC), featuring badasses Dennis LyxzŽn (vocals and tambourine) originally from Refused, Lars Stromberg (guitar and vocals) of Separation, Sara Almgren (organ, guitar, and tambourine) of Doughnuts and SaidIWas, Ludvig Dahlberg (drums) of SaidIWas, and Inge Johansson (bass) of Female Anchor of Sade.
These mismatched activists originally came together in hopes of creating music in ways too innovative for the mainstream industry. So what genre does INC fall into?
“We pretty much just consider ourselves punk rock, but everyone has classified us differently,” Stromberg said.
INC is by no means what is commonly thought of as punk. Listeners use words like “passionate,” and “motivated,” and they integrate new wave elements as well as soul, mod and indie. Although they admit they are by no means black groove singers, the element of radical motivation for revolution adds a different semblance of soul to their music along with the raw feel of garage style rock. The component of experimentation derives from post-hardcore. All of these factors come together to form INC’s deviant sound.
The band originated as a collective in 1998; they recorded five seven-inch singles and released an album called The First Conspiracy. After that pressing, the band toured to spread the underground word. First going through Scandinavia, they also performed a show in China during the anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, commemorating the deaths that took place in Tiananmen Square ten years earlier. The concert was in no way condoned by the Chinese government. The band risked being arrested and deported, but their desire to spread their ideas and music was greater than the fear of any Chinese jail. It was a courageous move for a punk band, engaging in social disobedience while within a totalitarian state.
Another example of INC’s radical nature was their refusal to play at the Scandinavian capitalist Ÿber-gathering Hultsfred Festival; they were the only Swedish band to turn down the invite. Instead they played their own show in Gothenburg entirely free of charge. The show supported a concurrent rally in Gothenburg against the EU top meeting between Swedish Prime Minister Gšran Persson and George W. Bush. INC incorporated much of the political tension of the riots into their first full-length.
INC has released two LPs, entitled Survival Sickness, and A New Morning, Changing Weather as a joint effort between Burning Heart and Epitaph Records. The First Conspiracy, their first effort as a band, was released on Hong Kong’s Ling Lao records. They have also been featured on numerous compilations, including Punk-O-Rama with other Epitaph bands such as the Division of Laura Lee, Pennywise and Rancid. Each album has shown growth. Early lyrics that were featured on The First Conspiracy were much more radical and hardcore-influenced whereas more recent agendas are directed towards specific motivations for renunciation of capitalism and globalism through a revolution.
The performance in China encouraged other shows throughout Europe. Upon the 2000 release of their sophomore album, Survival Sickness, the band got more airplay and recognition than expected. Both Europe and the United States showed interest in their garagey political punk. However, with the exposure, INC also got labeled as a cute Swedish band that dressed alike and sang trite lyrics.
Once critics heard about the stunt at Gothenburg and actually listened to the album, the reviews started getting better. The liner notes quote such people as Simone de Beauvoir and Karl Marx, and explains the band’s perspective on current governmental and political situations. Furthermore, their indictments of global capitalism and references to True Sounds of Liberty’s lyric, “Property is theft,” separate them from mere danceable pop.
Since the release of Survival Sickness the band has grown more cohesive, and put out an even more volatile album of activist encouragement called A New Morning, Changing Weather. The Dylan-inspired Weathermen movement, foreboding “stormy weathers,” provided the name.
“[Bob Dylan is] just a great artist and the inspiration comes from the feeling of hope and a new movement of resistance,” Stromberg said. “It’s also a homage to the past.”
A New Morning, Changing Weather is the most ambitious of all their releases, with singles like “Capitalism Stole My Virginity,” spotlighting revolution. However, the group also has the more lighthearted goal of giving people music that they can dance to and enjoy.
“The album has been received well,” Stromberg said. “I don’t think we have sold that many copies, but I think the people who did buy it, liked it.”
The band has collected a dedicated group of followers thanks to a radical left-wing stance. The band also puts on a high-quality, energetic show. The catchy beat and passionate lyrics create an amazing live atmosphere; fans claim performance is one of the band’s fortes. LyxzŽn and Stromberg collaborate on vocals, mixing wailing with melody to create a distinct sound. While punk has drifted towards screaming and shouting styles of singing, INC refers back to the roots of punk.
Although they have played with punk-fundamentalist bands like the Murder City Devils and Rocket from the Crypt, INC cites no one as specific templates, though they admit to borrowing from the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. Another influence was Fela Kuti a “Nigerian Afrobeat artist from the ’70s who created a revolution against authoritarian figures in modern day society,” according to Stromberg. INC believes that once their sound has gotten out to the public, their message will become more widely rooted. Furthermore, with stunts like Gothenburg and the Chinese tour, they’ve attracted audiences thanks to sheer gutsiness.
INC comes to the Living Room on October 8th, where they will perform alongside five other bands as part of the Plea for Peace tour. The show promises to be high-energy and entertaining, although there are some issues surrounding their drummer’s back.
“The first of week of touring was good, but our drummer had to see the chiropractor who advised him not to play for at least a week,” Stromberg said. The Living Room show falls just a little over that threshold, leaving a slim chance that they won’t cancel the remainder of the tour. International Noise Conspiracy has plans to tear through Australia if all goes well, and write songs for the album that is tentatively set to be released next summer. With new global conflict brewing, the band’s opinions on upheaval and revolution will undoubtedly provide material for many new songs.