Sibling rivalries in rock ‘n’ roll are a time-honored tradition, ranging back to The Everly Brothers, carrying on with the love/hate relationship of Ray and Dave Davies in The Kinks and on through the Gallagher brothers in Oasis and countless others.
Familial friction has often been the spark that has resulted in musical magic. And while their relationship may be like Donny and Marie Osmond’s, compared to the above-mentioned, brothers Pelle Almqvist and Nicholaus Arson of Swedish garage rock revivalists The Hives credit the band’s ongoing momentum to their sibling-fueled “creative differences.”
“We get along as people fine, when we’re hanging out with our families, but we never agree musically. On anything,” said Almqvist last week in a phone interview from the road. The Hives are spending the summer on tour in support of their fifth album Lex Hives.
“I’m pretty sure that’s how we made something good with our music. It can work out for bands who agree on everything, but it can also mean that you’re not trying hard enough. Nicholaus and I fight all the time, but it’s on a professional level – we fight about songs. The last time we hit each other was when we were 20 or so. Now it’s just verbal abuse,” the 36-year-old vocalist added with a laugh.
Whatever the catalyst, it seems to be working for the band, which after two decades together continues to mix a trendy black-and-white dress code with an unwavering hard-rock sound based on equal parts The Stooges, AC /DC and The Ramones, and an often unpredictable live show.
Almqvist is nicknamed “Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist” and competes with his guitarist brother for audience attention with sometimes outlandish onstage antics and banter.
Rather than being contrived or offering what is expected of a front man, Almqvist said that his demeanor and enthusiasm derive from a sincere place.
“I love it, it’s one of the most awesome feelings in the world when people are screaming and I’m strutting my stuff. If it’s not fun to be onstage, then what are you doing there? Become an accountant or something,” he said.
“It’s something that comes very naturally to me and it acts like positive reinforcement.
When you do something well, and people respond to it, you keep on doing it. I don’t really go out there planning to look happy – I am happy!” While retro contemporaries like The White Stripes and The Strokes have splintered and diversified, The Hives have remained a buzzsaw-and-hooks sonic constant since their 2000 sophomore album Veni Vidi Vicious propelled them to stardom and international acclaim. With appearances at Lollapalooza South America (in tuxedo tails) and upcoming summer showcases at the Reading and Leeds festivals in the UK, their predictable meat-and-potatoes, guitar-heavy sound appears to be remaining in style. According to a bemused Almqvist, the band has been criticized from both ends of the spectrum for rehashing the same sounds over again and for changing their style with each album.
“I think that in order to maintain an identity, you need to have some sort of consistency,” he said. “A lot of bands that attempt to tackle every kind of music – one song reggae, then punk then rockabilly, end up losing their collective power.”
“It’s weird because some reviews say that every record is completely different from the other, and others say we keep putting out the same thing, so I don’t know what to believe. I think we change our music enough so that it doesn’t bore me. It’s more interesting to tweak something a little than to change it completely. I guess there’s that constant struggle of being torn between being David Bowie who changes all the time and AC/DC where nothing ever changes.”
Local fans of The Hives attending their show on June 17 at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa along with the Pixies (as part of the two-day RockandRoller Festival) will be getting the band they know and love. And The Hives will be getting something new, an appearance in a new country, one of the elements that Almqvist said is keeping things fresh for them.
“We’ve made a point over the last year of going to new places and we’re really excited to be coming to Israel,” he said, inquiring about what there is to do in Tel Aviv. With The Hives having outlasted the life span of most bands, Almqvist added that there’s no sense of urgency to make any changes as long as people still want to see them and enjoy their music.
“It can go one of two ways in rock & roll. You’re either The Sex Pistols where you make one great record then split up and risk the danger of having to reform and embarrass yourselves, or you’re looking at The Rolling Stones where you just keep going forever.”
“At this stage, I don’t see the point of not having the band in my life. We might take a break or two, but we still really enjoy doing it. The cool thing about being in a band for a long time is that nobody gets mad if you want to take a couple months for another project. When you’re 21 and wanted to do that, it was a threat to the band – now it’s healthy for the band.”