When I arrive at the premises of the Zenner beer garden to meet up with Malin Hofvander and Harald Ingvarsson from Malmö’s Mary Anne’s Polar Rig, the atmosphere around the lovely setting right next to the Spree river couldn’t be more bustled: As if the outbreak of summer isn’t a happening enough on this shimmering Sunday in early June, the label showcase on this day happens to coincide with the Berlin triathlon, which has led to serious traffic jams in the western part of the city, causing a delay of their accompanying indie rock label friends Kindsight and Melby, who will be opening the set this afternoon. Eventually, they will just arrive on time to drown out the cheers of swimming athletes just a few meters next to the stage.
“When I look back on the last few months, I’m like, no wonder I haven’t had time to do a lot of other things. Because it’s been a lot, but it’s fun.” (Harald Ingvarsson)
The sense of controlled chaos that surrounds this afternoon sort of fits the vibe that I am getting off the two creative heads of Mary Anne’s Polar Rig, as we settle for a spot out in the sun to discuss their musical journey that has been leading up to this year’s sophomore Makes You Wonder, which is a fierce and roaring rock’n roll thunderstorm that sees the band at new creative heights. Such is also the credo of the two: “We’ll make music wherever we are. We will not stop making music”, Harald emits at some point and that pretty much sums up the sense of persistence and vigour, by which they define themselves.
“And they say you can be who you wanna be
But i find it hard to be anything but me
Yeah they say you can be who you wanna be
But i tried and it’s hard to be anything but me”
The New Set-Up
Not many young bands survive a split in their early formative years, but in the case of Mary Anne’s Polar Rig, it was a breach between the once four-piece that made Malin and Harald realise about the creative core of the project, as they explain early on in our conversation. “I was 16. I mean, it was like our first real band”, Malin branches out. “When we started out, it just kind of grew from there and then we’ve been doing it for four years before we released our first full length. It took up so much time before we finished it basically. And then all of us, like before releasing the first LP had kind of drifted apart a bit. We lived in different places. And we almost kind of quit the band.”
Needless to say, they didn’t quit the band just after their debut LP Makes You Happy in 2021, but stayed together as a two-piece from then on. “We felt like me and Harald were also in the same place, musically and physically”, Malin goes on, as Harald jumps in to fill the narrative:
“We moved in together and kind of finished the second record. And we decided to keep the band going because it was either like keep this band going in a new setting or like start a new one.”
Makes You Wonder
Now one might not say that the basic DNA of MAPR has taken a total change for the sophomore adventure of Makes You Wonder. The core power fuel of their sound has stayed the same, although if one listens closely, there is more room to breathe here than on their debut. This is something the two also lead me to, as we touch the topic. “The first record was like songs we used to play live as a band, as of like with the four people in it”, Harald points out. “And then we went into the studio and was like, yeah, we know, we know these songs”.
“I also work as a sound technician and we had been spending a lot more time in studios, learning more about studio production. I’ve been recording other bands and I really felt like next time I do a record for my band I want the production part to be more creative. And like to play a bigger role in the composition of the song.” (Malin)
For the second record, there was more slack to begin with, Malin and Harald describe. Not only in the position to fill the empty seats in the band but with a concept in mind that went beyond the raw and impromptu rock’n roll spirit. “We recorded a bunch of demos where I played drums and we arranged a lot of guitar parts and a lot of synth parts and stuff”, Harald elaborates, adding the open space of the studio sessions, where they had time to let their ideas grow: “We rented the studio for like 10 days, which was like all our vacation money… it was kind of like a dreamy thing and unheard of in our world”.
“We didn’t think at all about the live setting when we recorded the album. We just wanted to like, really dive deep into each song and like, let each song be its own song and then like, not care about the album as an album. Although we knew that it would sound like cohesive, like anyways, because it was made by us in this specific time. But every song could like, go in any direction. And we really wanted to like, not compromise with that, like trying to make it cohesive.” (Malin)
Curiosity Of Life
The commitment paid off. And all the while, MAPR managed to find ways to make their music about more than having a good time on stage. Well, they still do, but Makes You Wonder is as much an album about dealing with everyday struggle, as it is a poignant comment on taking it all too serious, as chief lyric mastermind Malin reflects: “I definitely wanted to make the lyrics on this record more fun and cheeky, and maybe they could have a hint of more serious things or thoughts behind them”, she explains. “But I didn’t want it to be too obvious. I wanted it to have more humour, I guess. But then it’s also, of course, I mean, real thoughts about trying to live life and being satisfied with your place in life and dealing with modern society in different ways.”
“‘The album title stems from the curiosity of life, thinking a lot about stuff, pondering… And there is a lot of those unsolved questions in the lyrics of this record. The first one was more like desperate teenage outlet”. (Malin)
Makes You Wonder in the end is a bit of a step towards a more reflective mindset from their firstborn, and leaves lyrical and musical room to walk around their still budding thoughts and musings. It is about “learn[ing] something, probably”, Harald neatly sums up, as Malin adds: “Yeah, we’re coming to terms with reality”. However serene that might sound, they still blast off a firework of sound beyond words and on stage and it is a pleasure to see a band connecting the dots between coming to terms with change and yet stick to their explosive core. The reason for that probably lies in the dedicated philosophy to their art, as Malin neatly exposes, as we near the close of our talk and touch on the business of promoters and the toxic structures of the music business at large:
“We kind of made a deal between us. All of that [career] shit is going to be secondary. Music is number one. And then if anybody wants to work with us and make things happen for us, we won’t turn it down, probably.”
All photos taken by Laura Schmidt for NBHAP.