Many thanks to David Myhr for the interview and also I appreciate his patience very much. It’s been such a long wait till this website was up again and I could publish this FANTASTIC interview about one of the most obscure 7″s of Swedish indiepop (or powerpop?!). Many may have heard The Merrymakers, but just before they started releasing records, they were called Ant-Mansson and put out a great 7″! David was kind enough to talk about his band and more!
++ Hi David! Thanks for willing to do this interview. How are you doing? Any news on The Merrymakers side?
Thanks Roque! It’s an honor and we’re also quite surprised that anyone outside of our small town in the north of Sweden has heard about Ant-Mansson(!).
++ Now let’s go back to 1989, or is it 1988? Not many know that before The Merrymakers there was a band called Ant-Mansson, was this your first band ever? What inspired you to start it?
My first band was a rock’n’roll/blues cover band actually. We called ourselves 2nd Hand B Band and we played covers by ZZ Top, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, and stuff like that. When Peter Arffman (ex Karlsson) and I started to write our own pop songs heavily inspired by Lennon-McCartney we started our own little duo called Ant-Mansson in 1988. It was like a home recording experiment on a four channel cassette portastudio. We tried smoking cigarettes, drank wine, made interviews with ourselves on VHS video and we toyed around with the idea of being composers of great art. Of course we weren’t. We were quite lousy to be honest, but it was great fun! No limits. A song could be made with lyrics and everything in an hour. No second thoughts… Those early demos are the real bootlegs. But I can assure you they won’t be released. They are in safe deposit on a cassette at home somewhere…
++ Who were the members and how did you knew each other? Was it easy to find members for the band?
Originally, as I said above, we were a duo but we soon formed a group with our first choice of drummer, which was Kenneth Berg who had played with us in 2nd Hand B Band, and also even before that with Peter in another group as 11-12 years old, called Måfå. Kenneth brought in a football player, a really nice guy, called Patrik Fernberg on bass. Not only was he nice but he was also a proud owner of a Hofner violin-shaped bass (just like a certain Paul McCartney…). So he was in. Later we brought in a class-mate of Peter called Patrik Bergman on keyboard.
++ What about the name Ant-Mansson, where does it come from? Does it have any meaning?
We picked the name Ant-Mansson which was our version of Lennon-McCartney. It was just that Myhr-Karlsson sounded to Swedish for us and we wanted an “international touch” and decided to make a direct translation from Swedish. Ant is the meaning of the Swedish word “myra” which was kind of close to my surname Myhr and “man” was the meaning of “karl” in Karlsson which used to be Peter’s surname back then. So it came to be Ant-Mansson. A bit forced to say the least. We never really liked the name. And even worse when it was pronounced by people in our home town Piteå. It became a joke in the end.
++ You only released a 7″, which included 2 songs, “I Know” and “Get Me”, care to tell me a bit about these two songs?
Both was originally and mainly penned by Peter at least as far as I remember. He was quite good at writing three chord catchy pop songs already then. He had a sense for hooks and simplicity. And also wrote lyrics that at least sounded like somewhat decent lyrics. I guess he let me sing one of them as a sign of democracy and I added my harmonies and my musical arrangement ideas to it. And of course the three other members did their part of making it a full arrangement. The only thing apart from this that I can remember about the songs is that we played them at various rock contests which was like a way to get heard back then. We got quite far but no to the big final.
++ How were the recording sessions for the record? What do you remember from it?
It was recorded in a small local studio in Piteå called Nybergs Studio and it was quite an adventure to enter a recording studio back then. Stefan Forsell was the man behind the desk and he was kind of a local legend in the music scene over there. I remember he brought a cell phone to the studio which was unseen before that. It was like a whole bag and must have weighed about 10 kg.
++ Who released this record? Is it true that only 600 copies were made? It’s so hard to find!
I think we paid for everything ourselves and released them on our own without any kind of backing from any label. I’m sure that we only made 600 copies. And we probably just sold like 150. So somewhere in my basement I’m sure I would find hundreds of them if I looked hard. Anyone interested in buying a copy can just send and e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org – but at your own risk!
++ Were these the only two songs that you ever released? Maybe there was some compilation appearance or something? Maybe demo tapes?
As Ant-Mansson I think this was the only thing we released. We made demo tapes and put them on a CD-R once (when one burnable CD costed 40 bucks) but it was only around for internal use. I don’t think it stood the test of time too well so I think we’d better leave it as it is…
++ Your sound during the years has changed quite a bit. How do you feel these two songs have aged?
It’s hard to say. It’s an immature group in their teens doing their best. I guess it might have some charm and there’s nothing wrong with the melodies. The lyrics I have no idea. They sound good to me but I don’t know if they have any meaning. And the performance leave a lot to be desired by todays standards I think. Also the vinyl pressing I remember was quite a disappointment.
++ How about gigging? Did you gig lots? Any particular gig that you remember?
We played a lot of gigs back then. Mainly local gigs in the northern Sweden. Some rock contests and many, many cover gigs at local bars, like “Pentryt” which is a local chinese restaurant/pub/pizzeria where we played dozens and dozens of gig. But then we mainly played covers from the 60’s, like the Hollies, the Rolling Stones, the Byrds, the Kinks, and stuff like that.
++ So The Merrymakers were initially the same members as Ant-Mansson, right? So why did you decide to change the name?
More or less, yes. Patrik Fernberg left the group and Thomas Nyström joined. And then we were the same five member that made up the first line-up of the Merrymakers. We decided to change our name because we were very focused on getting signed to a record deal (which we later did) and wanted a more catchy name. Kenneth said at a name-brainstormning red-wine-party that we had at Thomas house that we ought to look for a name the described what kind of people we were. I looked up the Swedish word “festprisse” (people who like to party/drink a lot) and found “merry-maker”. So we decided to go or “The Merrymakers”. Years later we weren’t too happy with that name either, but that’s another story…. after all most band names are crappy if you analyze them. I mean “The Beatles” – how good is that?
++ How do you remember Sweden in those days? Was there any scene or support to guitar pop bands? Were there any other bands around that you enjoyed?
The society in Sweden has been quite supportive of young musicians and there are music schools you can go to and there were organizations called “studieförbund” (adult educational associations) that helped out young bands quite a lot. It was easy to find a rehearsal space and people in general were supportive. The local paper wrote about us and all in all we couldn’t complain. There was these rock contests that attracted big audiences and were quite well-organized. They were looking for a new “Europe” (they had also won a contest like that earlier in the 80’s). Then the indie-pop scene started with small record labels popping up. For instance we were aware of A West Side Fabrication in Skellefteå (an hour south by car) with bands like the Wannadies, This Perfect day and a lot of other bands but we weren’t as cool (or as good) as them so we didn’t end up there.
++ Whereabouts would you see Ant-Mansson, and later The Merrymakers, hanging out in Stockholm? What were your favourite spots in town?
As Ant-Mansson we were still up in Piteå in the north. As the Merrymakers when we were only three guys left (Peter, Anders Hellgren who had joined by then, and myself) we moved to Stockholm. We hung out at various bars in Stockholm and I guess that Kvarnen and a street called Skånegatan were (and still is) kind of favourite hang outs. Although it was more “hip” in the 90’s than now.
++ I was in Stockholm last year, I really enjoyed it there, det är mycket bra!, and I plan going again soon, hopefully! I was wondering what’s your favourite restaurant in town? You know, something kind of typically Swedish? And also if you have any favourite record store? I was at Nostalgia Palaset and that was really good!
Again, I’d recommend Södermalm and to eat herring and meat balls or pytt-i-panna at places like Kvarnen or Pelikan or if it’s summer you have to visit the outdoor terrace of Mosebacke. For bars I’d recommend Snotty’s, Pet Sounds Bar, or Noel’s at Skånegatan or Debaser at Medborgarplatsen or Slussen.. As for records I think the best is Pet Sounds (again Skånegatan).
++ Oh! One last question, what do you feel closer to you, the term indiepop or powerpop?
++ Thanks so much for the interview, anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for your unexpected interest in Ant-Mansson! And keep your eyes open for my solo debut album which will be out in 2011. You’ll know more in the late fall at my Facebook Fan Page (David Myhr) or at www.myspace.com/davidmyhr
Ant-Mansson – Get Me 1