by MIKE CHAIKEN
Typically, when a recording artist references a historical figure, there is a certain romanticism to it.
Think, Elton John singing “Candle in the Wind” for Marilyn Monroe, or Don McLean’s “Vincent” about Vincent Van Gogh, or even Taylor Swift singing “Tim McGraw.”
But there aren’t too many artists who would reference a tyrannical despot in a pop song.
But Miike Snow does just that with the group’s infectious, “Genghis Khan.”
Mind you, the song really isn’t about the Mongol leader who laid waste to Europe. The name “Genghis Khan” is more of a play on words in a song about jealousy.
“I get a little bit Genghis Khan/ I don’t want you to get it on/ With nobody else but me,” the lyrics go.
The video of the song, which was the second single off the Swedish group’s album, “iii,” was a clever twist on the classic spy movie genre. Rather than the secret agent falling in love with a beautiful woman, the super stud spy falls in love with the evil—and male—genius who is about to destroy him (and who has become equally smitten in the process).
Miike Snow performs at College Street Music Hall in New Haven on Sept. 29.
Miike Snow’s Pontus Winnberg, calling from Stockholm, said, “I really liked the tone of the (the video).”
“I think it was a fun take on the topic.”
As for the gender bending aspect of the video, Pontus said he liked that dimension because the video presents the inevitability of the gay relationship between the secret agent and the villain as a given.
“I believe in equality,” said Pontus. “It’s sad that you have to even mention it (the gender bending twist).”
“Genghis Khan” is a “love story like any other love story,” said Pontus.
Miike Snow liked the results for “Genghis Khan” so much that the group reconnected with director Ninian Doff for its latest single, “My Trigger.” Pontus said the group enjoyed how Doff presented himself and wanted to work with him again.
Heading into the studio to record Miike Snow’s third effort, Pontus said the group had no set idea in terms of what it wanted to accomplish after its first two albums.
“We’re not that thought out,” said Pontus, who is joined in the group by fellow Swede Christan Karlsson and American songwriter Andrew Wyatt.
“We go with the vibe,” said Pontus, “We had some ideas (heading into the studio) but it wasn’t all hammered out.” Most of the songwriting is handled in the studio, he explained.
“Usually it’s a very democratic process,” said Pontus of the songwriting procedures of Miike Snow. “We tend to like the same things… Someone will have a seed, a little idea,” said Pontus, and from there, they hash out the completed effort from there.
Pontus said Miike Snow is not a band that does a lot of songwriting while on the road. But there are musical sketches that do arise. “We need to be doing a bit of something all the time,” said Pontus.
On this current tour, Pontus said Miike Snow is offering up two different sides to the group since it is adding more musicians for the performances. There is a portion of the show that puts the focus on a band-centric performance. And there is a part of the show that mines a Kraftwerk, electronic version of Miike Snow, he said.
Pontus said he really likes performing before American crowds.
“Pop culture stems from you guys,” said Pontus. Plus, he said, there seems to be a performance venue in every city in the U.S.
“That’s not the case in Europe,” said Pontus, “it’s more separated there.”
When the current tour ends on Oct. 9 in Austin, Texas, Pontus said Miike Snow will return to the studio in Sweden to begin working on a follow up to “iii,” which was released last year.
Some basic ideas were hashed out on the road, said Pontus. But whether those ideas will grow to full blown songs in the studio is yet to be seen.
Miike Snow performs at College Street Music Hall, 238 College St., New Haven on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. For tickets, which are $30 to $32, go to CollegeStreetMusicHall.com. For more information about Miike Snow, go to MiikeSnow.com