The Hives

With their all-encompassing blend of Detroit garage rock, late ’70s punk and edgy new wave, there is one thing banned during a live performance by The Hives: complacency.

“We always expect people to go crazy,” guitarist Nicholaus Arson told POLLSTAR. “That’s what we’re aiming for every night. When we go crazy, all the other people go crazy.

“Sometimes they get angry, sometimes they get excited. But there is always a reaction. … We’re quite a big-headed band.”

When POLLSTAR caught up with the self-managed Swedish band, they had just blown through California to kick off their first proper headlining tour of the States, including a two- night stand at Hollywood’s famous Roxy nightclub.

Although it seems like the promotional machine has been working overtime for this jaunt, until last year, U.S. touring plans were met with a lukewarm response.

“It didn’t seem like anyone in the States wanted us to come over,” Arson explained. “I think we had fans in the U.S. but we had a hard time getting a booking agent in America and I don’t think the record company (Epitaph) was really trying to bring us over either. So we had to nag.”

Then, at the tail end of 2001, when something like a garage band revival began sweeping America on the heels of hype magnets The Strokes and The White Stripes, Sweden’s (International) Noise Conspiracy invited The Hives to join them for a U.S. tour.

On that outing, The Hives got more buzz than an interstate truck driver and plans were laid for the spring club outing. After the tour was booked, Epitaph entered a partnership deal with Warner Bros. Records to promote, market and distribute The Hives. One of the first actions taken was to re-release the band’s 2000 LP, Veni Vidi Vicious, through the Sire imprint, which was resurrected just for them.

“The idea was that The Hives are such big fans of The Ramones and quite a few other bands on Sire,” Warner marketing director Xavier Ramos said, “and (label execs) Jeff Ayeroff and Tom Whalley agreed that if there was ever a band to present the Sire label to in 2002, it would be The Hives. … And it fits them perfectly.

“Seymour Stein was absolutely thrilled. He said something to the effect that in a heartbeat, he would have signed them … and he can’t think of a better band that belongs on Sire.”

In the weeks leading up to the well-hyped, nearly sold-out tour, lucrative offers began coming in for The Hives to upgrade their shows to larger venues and, in some cases, to play with other bands instead of openers Mooney Suzuki and The Reigning Sound, two bands they handpicked.

“One thing about The Hives is they always stay true to their word,” Ramos said. “I know they were offered an enormous amount of money to leave the Roxy in L.A. (to play a larger venue). But they refused to do that and said, ‘We promised to play at the Roxy and we want to stay with these bands.'”

The Hives

When Whalley and Warner began looking at the tour itinerary, they realized all of the dates were in small venues with a $10 ticket price. According to Ramos, Whalley made the decision to keep the number of label ticket-buys at sub-normal levels to allow the fans a chance to catch the explosive set.

“It was great because Tom said, ‘This tour and this band are built for the fans. … I don’t want 200 industry people filling up the places each night.'”

There has reportedly been some talk in the rumor mill that the switch from Epitaph (which they landed on when that company bought a controlling share of Sweden’s Burning Heart Records) to Warner has caused some acrimony on the part of the band.

Nothing could be further from truth, Ramos explained. Because the jump from an indie to a major can be jarring for a band used to making its own decisions, Warner has made sure “they have full creative control and approval, and they know everything ahead of time so they’re not caught off guard or forced into a situation where they need to make a decision that they don’t want to make.”

Plus, being on a major can provide the band with opportunities it wouldn’t otherwise have, like playing a recent MTV2 $2 concert with Warner footing the bill for a cross-country plane flight and first-rate production on the show

expenses that could have bankrupted a smaller label.

Arson said the hype has increased the sheer number of people coming to the shows, but hasn’t affected the way they approach their performances.

“We pretty much do the same thing whether we’re playing for five people or 5,000 people,” he said.

That level of energy has earned The Hives fans all over the world, including their label.

“Every time I see these guys, it’s a thrill,” Ramos said. “And I know you’re thinking, ‘Well, you work for the label.’ But honestly, if I didn’t work here, I’d be telling everybody the same thing. Head over and get a ticket. Do whatever you can to get in there; crawl through windows, crawl through the attic. Just get in there.”

Arson said that after the band has finished its Stateside tour, which wraps at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C., June 15th, The Hives will head home to begin work on a new album. The band is booked in Sweden by Luger and worldwide exclusively by Motor, who partners with Do It to book The Hives in the States.