I’m among thirty-odd Angelenos at The One-Eyed Gypsy—a lone bit of culture on the Eastern edge of a downtown Los Angeles section primarily populated by empty warehouses, cold city administration buildings and the odd pink neon tinged strip club—who are lucky enough to catch The Deer Tracks. Crammed onto the small stage, the self-described Northern Light Electronica duo has spent the past eight weeks on a crisscrossing van tour of the United, a welcome but exhausting reprieve from their snowy home of Sweden. While it’s a four-piece most nights, the only two constants in the group are lead singer Elin Lindfors—who looks like the dollish Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner and sounds like Bjork—and David Lehnberg, who’s got the effeminate goth of Trent Reznor and an awesome weirdness as he rarely wears shoes onstage and says little prayers while sitting cross-legged and tapping his fingertips against his thumb between songs.
The forty-five minute set is a big show with cavernous sound and the transfixed crowd doesn’t seem to believe what they are seeing, here in this weird little venue where you can get a shot with a can of beer for seven bucks and then go play skeeball. It’s not even entirely clear that The Deer Tracks realize they already belong in front of a crowd of thousands—they are too entwined in their own transformative performance on stage, their music quite literally dictating their motor skills. Over the past two years the band has released what they call The Archer Trilogy, an album in three different parts that Lindfors and Lehnberg wrote one over a summer in a cabin in the Scandinavian wilderness with no phone and one (barely) working computer. The result three-part debut is one of the more captivating listening experiences I have had in a while, which almost compares to seeing them actually perform with their keyboards, tamborines, and glowing mic stands.
I caught up with Lindfors and Lehnberg after their set and chatted with them in their tour van, which smelled as if it had been shuttling a hopeful and shockingly talented band around for the past month and a half.
Where have you been over the past month and a half?
David Lehnberg: Everywhere. From Portland to New York to Fargo to Des Moines. We’ve really seen the country.
When did you guys first start playing together?
DL: I saw Elin at a show in our hometown. I was just going to a random show and I saw her singing with her other band and I was like, “Fuckin’ A. I need that girl to sing with me and hear some of my music!” I just asked her and she was interested. I had my own studio, and we got together and wrote a song, just for fun. We didn’t even think anyone was going to like it, or that anyone was even going to hear it, really. We were both in other bands at the time. We played the song for a few friends and then we put it on MySpace and it went insane. We were getting calls from the biggest festivals in Sweden the next day, asking us if we could play. And we said sure—except we only had one song! Then we had to make a band out of it.
Elin Lindfors: They wanted us to play at this big festival in two weeks. So we stayed in the studio and worked for a few days straight and somehow pulled it off.
How many songs would you say you have now?
DL: We record all the time—pretty much constantly—but then we’ll go back and pick and choose the really good tracks. We never write a song and then record it; we write them and then record. We have bits and parts everywhere, so we’re always mixing and matching pieces together. I can’t even say how many songs we have because we don’t even know—if we were to die in a crash or something, you’d have an awesome fucking series of bootlegs!
Don’t say that. You’re driving to San Francisco tomorrow.
EL: We’ve already been pretty close to being in a car accident or two on this tour. It’s a miracle we’re still alive, I think.
DL: Yeah, our driver keeps falling asleep.
Be careful. When I listen to your music, there’s an unstructured aspect to your songs, yet I still feel inclined to sing along. Is that your intention?
DL: We don’t really think about it that much, to be honest. It’s kind of like a patchwork. Some sounds here and there, this fits with that, this goes here; it’s like a big puzzle. I dunno—I think it’s just the way we write music.
EL: Honestly, we’re never really done with a song. We just kind of go on forever and keep working and working, usually until our record label calls or emails and demands we finish. But we still work on it live, because our songs change over time.
DL: Songs are organic and evolve and grow. It’s never the same performance over and over again.
Is there an influence from the long Swedish winters in your music?
EL: There is. There’s nothing to do, really. In our town there is a lot of snow. There are times where most of the roads were blocked—one winter people couldn’t even really get out of their houses. You had to stay there for a week in your house and just wait and you’d have to find a way to spend your time.
What do you do now that you have released a trilogy? Isn’t that supposed to be something you do mid-way through incredibly successful careers?
DL: I don’t think we knew what we were getting into when we said we were going to do a trilogy of albums. We’ve been thinking about this and working on it every day for the past two years. I think we’re excited to put it behind us.
EL: We’ve been pushing the boundaries a lot. But we’ve become better because of it.
DL: Yeah, I feel like we’ve really tested a lot with these records. I feel like we’re comfortable doing just about anything in the future.