High-octane vocal samples followed by a firm-footed dance beat propel you into LINES latest track, ‘People’. After a startling introduction, the chorus vocals cry out that “this is for the people we love” – but what of the people behind ‘People’?
The origin of LINES traces back to a love affair with Europe’s techno capital, Berlin. After indulging in the German capital, three Swedes – Erik, Fred and Nisse – returned to their home region of Stockholm as a band under the banner of ‘IIIII’.
The trio are among numerous acts harnessing eighties synth sounds with a modern flair; Massachusetts’ Boy Harsher being another artist occupying a similar niche. Since their “pilgrimage”, the three-piece have undergone changes in the band name and have signed to the large independent label 300.
LINES solidified a musical presence in 2017 with two singles, ’You’ and ‘Weekends’. A club anthem swathed in the dark apparel of a Berghain denizen, ‘You’ proved to be particularly popular. The single has amassed six million streams on Spotify alone.
Alongside their pivotal trip to Berlin, Erik, the band’s producer and synth player, cites Empire Of The Sun was instrumental in bringing LINES together as a band. Referring to Empire Of The Sun’s 2013 album Ice On The Dune, Erik reflects that “the first time I heard it I was kinda like woah. I’d been missing that kinda [sound]. There aren’t a lot of those bands around anymore.”
Turning to Fred, he adds that LINES was the result of disenchantment with rock music. “We were in two different bands and were both playing rock n’ roll”, Erik explains, “but we were both listening to electronic music. So I think we were both longing to do something else.”
With a strong reception from their 2017 singles, LINES continued their synth-pop campaign into 2018. Much of this output would not have been possible without the creative freedom provided to them by their label. Erik praises 300 saying that they “don’t necessarily put on the pressure that everything has to do really well”. He references their most politically motivated track as an example. Featuring Swedish rockers Dolores Haze, ‘We Will Never Rule the World’ was allegedly the result of the two bands plotting to depose the Swedish monarchy; a partnership that was perhaps best forged in music and not in treason.
Alongside the free rein provided by their label, LINES would be a difficult project to realise without the use of file sharing and advances in music technology. As a band that is frequently separated by work commitments, it would be challenging to continue writing music without these platforms. Except for studio time, the band are largely apart and meet only occasionally in the evenings to rehearse. “We love technology” Erik smiles, “we put ideas up in a Dropbox if we’re not in the same place [and] we try to evolve it.” Laughing, Fred adds that “Dropbox is our best friend.”
In addition to the band’s current set of dark dance tracks, the trio appears to be concerned with LINES visual output. Down to a necessity to take a DIY approach, Erik, along with videographer Giannina Panfichi, directed videos for the tracks ‘You’ and ‘Lockdown’. “We could never have done [the music videos] with the budgets we have if we had to pay directors and editors” Erik comments. In both ‘You’ and ‘Lockdown’ the videos feel like separate creative endeavours to the songs. This seems to be something intentional. Fred comments that “[in] the videos we’ve done we make the song first and then attack the song again with new eyes”.
Although LINES continue to gain musical traction and popularity, this is not without becoming aware of changes in Stockholm nightlife. Across Europe, it is well established that nightlife is suffering. In London, the Mayoral office has even created a new ‘Night Czar’ position to help tackle this issue. Due to a combination of government crackdowns and the effects of gentrification, venues and clubs across Europe’s cities are being closed down or have to abide by stricter curfews and laws. Stockholm is no exception.
Fred explains that legislation in Sweden has changed ostensibly in attempt to eliminate drug use across the nation. This is proving to have adverse effects on nightlife in Stockholm. Fred elaborates on how Swedish police often target clubs in Stockholm. “There have been new directives from the government”, he explains, “they need to pin [down and] reach their goals, so it’s easier to take out a load of junksters at the club. It doesn’t matter if you’re high or not – that’s not the point.” Erik laments that “[nightlife in Stockholm] had been blooming and I think for a while they didn’t shut anything down, but there seems to be this new thing where they’ve started to shut down the parties”. Fred reflects that police intervention may actually make things more dangerous. “I think those two things [police intervention and underground music] go a bit hand in hand because people like it when it’s all dangerous and secret and forbidden.”
The band also seem all too aware of how temporary venues can be in political climates such as these. Erik reminisces back to a Stockholm venue where LINES played an early show. “One of the best venues, where we [also] had our first release party, was a teardown contract. You know – eventually, it’s getting torn down. So that whole location basically disappeared. That’s really a shame because [it] was amazing.” The venue was a ‘technobastun’, which directly translates to English as ‘techno sauna’. Despite venues and parties closing down across Stockholm, LINES continue to host nights in the city. “We’re still trying to do our little parties but last time we used an art studio to do it,” Erik says, “but that one is gone as well.”
If it’s not the synth hooks or club kicks that first capture your interest, it will definitely be LINES’ social and political concerns. Between tracks such as ‘We Will Never Rule the World’ and their latest, ‘People’, LINES paint vivid messages regarding anti-consumerism, social solidarity, and mental health awareness. “If we get big,” Fred explains, “and we get a big platform we will definitely use it to try and make some impact for what we believe in.” Erik seems to be particularly frustrated by artists that don’t speak out about injustice when they have a platform to. “Why don’t you fucking speak about social issues?”, Erik exclaims, “I get the feeling that everyone is scared to make enemies. Fuck that!”
LINES are set to release a three track EP of new material in early 2019. Until then you can check out their latest track ‘People’ below.