Johan Angergård always stays busy, what with running Swedish label Labrador Records (which is celebrating its 20th birthday this year), and making music in such acts as Acid House Kings, Club 8, and Pallers. He’s got more on his plate than usual, currently, as he’s just released new albums from his ever-morphing solo project The Legends, as well as Djustin, the duo he formed with American musician Rose Suau. Both records have a similar sleek, neon-in-the-rain electro vibe, though both are distinctly their own thing. You can stream both The Legends’ Nightshift and Djustin’s Voyagers below.
With the release of these two new albums, and Labrador records celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, I traded a few emails with Johan, and his Djustin partner Saua, about the similarities and differences between the Djustin and Legends albums, the secret to running a label for two decades and more. Read below.
The Legends and Djustin records have a similar feel. When you were writing the music, did you know that a track would be a Legends song rather than a Djustin song, or could some of them have gone either way?
JOHAN: I’m usually very focused at one project at the time, but this period was actually pretty mixed. I actually didn’t realize I was making a Legends album until a month or two before I finished ”Nightshift”. I discovered by accident that I had done twenty songs or so in half a year that I thought were really great and decided to finish some of them. I believe I sent some of the vocoder songs to Rose so they could have been Djustin songs. But I guess she didn’t want to sound like a robot, while I feel pretty good sounding like that.
But even so, there’s a distinct difference for me. Djustin is a pop album and The Legends is…I don’t know. Something else. It’s more loosely based around grooves and sounds.
ROSE: Yes, Johan’s right. To me, the Legends album is about feeling a definite attitude, vibe or mindset. It’s the sound of a very particular moment. Since I primarily wrote the lyrics for the Djustin songs, I’d go a bit further by describing us as “existential pop”, or even “Sophisti-pop”, if I can coin that phrase. It’s really not meant for passive listening. If you go a little deeper, you’ll find much of it is written as observation on the zeitgeist. So, while the vocoder demo tracks were very cool, in the back of my mind, I think I was unconsciously curating the stories I wanted us to tell with these songs, I wanted the words to come forward in that sense.
Your last few records have been very electronic. Do guitars still hold an interest?
JOHAN: Yes, but not in regular pop music. I listen to a lot of music from the Middle East and Africa where guitars are quite prominent. It’d be interested in doing something un-pop with guitars at some point. Could be next year, could be in 10 years. I’ve no idea what comes next.
Might we get some Legends or Djustin live shows?
JOHAN: I just played my first The Legends show in 8 years last month. It was in Hanoi in Vietnam and I was surprised to find out I loved playing live. I hope to do a lot more. At least if it’s somewhere fun. I hate the idea of playing live as part of a marketing strategy or something you do as a job. It should be a holiday. I want to play live with Djustin too, but that’s up to Rose I think.
ROSE: I’m definitely up for us playing in Japan or somewhere interesting in the future, and I think it’s for that exact sentiment that Johan mentioned, it should be like a holiday. I’m not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants kind of musician by any means. Because I have a good amount of stage anxiety, the control freak in me only wants to do performances that are well-planned, polished, and deliberate. Also, maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I feel it should be for an audience that actually appreciates our aesthetic. I definitely don’t see any value in trying to retrofit ourselves into a festival circuit or exhausting ourselves doing a random club tour. I would want our contribution to be a little more meaningful than that, on a personal level. That is by no means to diminish the musicians that are doing those sorts of things on their own trajectory. I just know, personally, that’s not our kind of thing.
Labrador Records is 20 years old this year. What the secret to running a label for two decades?
JOHAN: Just the obvious; only release music you love no matter if you think it’ll be successful or not. There’s sooo much easier ways of making money than releasing music so that should never be a reason for signing anyone. I guess this attitude pretty much explains why we never had one single popular band in 20 years but I couldn’t care less. Or actually, I could definitely care a lot less when I think about it. The bands are worth selling millions. They should. And my taste in music should be default. Everyone should listen to the same music I listen to. I guess I just meant that I’m not surprised that my taste in music isn’t default no matter how hard it try to make it the default musical opinion. I grew up listening to bands who sold 300 copies on 7” vinyl.
You play on a good chunk of Labrador’s releases. What are some of your favorites of the many acts you’ve been apart of over the years?
JOHAN: Pallers‘ ”The Sea Of Memories” was great. It’s quite intricate. Eternal Death was totally underrated. I don’t understand why no one liked it. Besides the obvious fact that a lot of people have really crappy taste in music. Club 8‘s ”Pleasure” is probably my favorite Club 8 album and we’ve done a bunch. Club 8’s ”The People’s Record” is the one of all my albums I’m the most proud of lyrically. Especially ”We’re all going to die” is great. And Djustin’s ”Voyagers” and The Legends’ ”Nightshift” are of course my faves at this particular time as they’re from now and and not a part of the past. I tend to prefer now over the past.
What’s next for Labrador Records?
JOHAN: Release the best music in the world or die.