INVSN’s new album, The Beautiful Stories is a creative construction between five musically seasoned Swedes, notably the duo of frontman Dennis Lyxzén (Refused and (International) Noise Conspiracy) and longtime collaborator Sara Almgren ((International) Noise Conspiracy). Other members of the band contribute solid musical attributes. The propulsive percussion and the literal synesthesia produced from additional vocals and experimental keyboards are done so by members Anders Stenberg, Andre Sandström and Christina Karlsson.
The electronica meets punk aspect of The Beautiful Stories is welcomed in the West. Giving listeners a New Order feel, INVSN has toured with notable bands that exercise their right to include electronics in their range of sounds. On bills with bands like Echo and the Bunnyman has helped affirm their aspirations to explore electronica, while touring with bands like Minus the Bear and Against Me! help contribute to their post-punk credentials. The Beautiful Stories continues the on the “avant-garde path” forged by these folks, highlighting political strife and struggles of the everyday person.
INVSN has always had a political message, but few other songwriters have the ability to add additional dimensions of existential struggle and soul-searching like Dennis Lyxzén. In our time, when many moral and deeply humanistic values are being challenged by right-wing movements all over the world, INVSN is a necessary outcry from a counter-culture that has far from given up.
In our new interview, Lyxzén discusses the making of The Beautiful Stories, INVSN’s political message, the importance of women in music, and more!
With the new album, The Beautiful Stories, it has an electronica meets punk sound to it. What drew you to want to have that kind of sound on this record?
I think that it was just a natural progression on the sounds that we were working with on the last record. Also, the fact that Kicki is now a full-time member of the band and since the last record we more or less lost two guitar players. On the previous record there was three people playing guitar and now there’s one.
Also, I think that personally it was a reaction to work on the last Refused record that was so heavy on riffs and guitar. I wanted to strip that away and create a record that did not rely on guitar but was more infused with rhythm and percussive elements which was a perfect match since Andre [Sandström], our drummer, writes most of the music.
Who are some bands that you’ve toured with that inspired you to explore those sounds?
Not really, we’ve been lucky enough to tour with Soft Moon and Echo and the Bunnymen but even though they are fantastic bands they didn’t really set the direction for the new music.
Since INVSN’s last album in 2013, and throughout Refused’s reunion, what was it like in bringing this project back to life?
Well, first of all I have to say that INVSN was a thing way before Refused decided to get back into action and is very far from a project. This is a band in the real sense of the word.
I’ve been lucky enough to have two bands working alongside each other. While touring with INVSN in 2013-2014 we were writing and recording the new Refused album and while Refused was touring in 2015-2016 I was busy writing and recording with INVSN. I just need to keep the creative cycles a bit separated to not lose my mind!
How would you compare making this record to creating the most recent Refused album Freedom?
The Refused record was a pretty stressful and long-winding process while the INVSN record was recorded in 10 days with a pretty small budget so very different records to create.
Doing the INVSN record that fast was actually a really nice contrast to the Refused record which took ages to get done and that we spent a shitload of money on!
INVSN has always had a political message. What is the message you’re trying to get across to fans on this album?
I guess it’s more of the same. It’s not like the political focus shifts and changes that much. The ideas that we carry with us are something that’s been a part of our lives for ages now and they are not an image ploy or anything like that. They are the ideas that represents us a human beings.
It is a sad state of affairs when bands and artists just deal with escapism in a world where we more than ever need ideas of a radical nature. We are not politicians or scholars or authors but we have ideas and we think that music is a powerful tool to instill a certain idea of change into people. Culture and art and music needs to have ideas in a world where politics means nothing.
Seeing how unevenly balanced rock music is and after reading about your outspokenness about feminism and equality, how important is it to you to have people working on projects with you or having opening bands with a strong female presence?
Well, I think that it is important to recognize that it is uneven and then try to figure out what we as artist/musicians can do about it. Try to analyze the structures that dictate the way the world looks. I mean, the destruction of the patriarchal system is of course the end goal if we want to have an equal and just world. But to do that we need to see what it means to live in a patriarchal world. We need to talk about the problems that we are facing and we need to be practical about what we can do.
Also, as a man in a rock group I need to know my place and who I am talking to and why. My representation as a man so to speak. That being said, if we as a band can make people aware of these structures either by words or music or by being a band that has a strong female presence or if we can pick support bands that are powerful representations of women then those are all weapons in the struggle to make this world a better place.
What are some things the music industry must do to try and resolve the issues with the patriarchal system?
I think that first of all we need to look at the economical/social and cultural structures to see how they effect our lives and how they perpetuates the roles that we are supposed to play.
The music-industry will always be an incredible cynical industry that will just follow the money. To except them to take responsibility is a bit naive.
With the newest single “This Constant War”, what does it signify to you?
That we are all humans and being a human means that you fuck up and that you make mistakes. It also means that we can get second chances and that we can and should learn from our mistakes. It also means that as long as we are alive we will have the ability to change, both ourselves and the world that we live in. It is a very hopeful songs in a bleak world.
Living in a small town in north Sweden must produce a sense of disconnect for you in terms of being actively involved in the industry. Do you think having that sense of alienation plays to your strengths?
I would say both yes and no. Yes, cause it makes us create outside of expectations and outside of the ass-licking and bullshit that the industry is. It makes us much more of free-agents in a world of sheep. And no cause being on the margins of this world and industry is not always the best approach to get people to know about your music. But I would say that so far the upsides of living in isolation outweighs the downsides.