(Photo credit: Renan Peron)
“Last week when we played in France, some old lady took her tits out and I started sucking on them.”
Pretty standard stuff in the day of a Viagra Boy. Sebastian Murphy, vocalist in much talked about Stockholm outfit Viagra Boys is talking us through his October. He laughs recalling the event in France.
“Yeah it was a party, you know.”
Spontaneous outings of the naked form are becoming a regular occurrence at Viagra Boys shows, though it’s been like this since the beginning, as Sebastian tells us.
“In the beginning there was a lot of weird shit. Somebody tried to crawl behind the drums naked, some girl’s taking their clothes off… I think it’s kind of like – it brings out the worst in people.” He laughs. “Or the best.”
Arriving at The Eagle Inn in Salford before doors, I catch Sebastian upstairs, inspecting a bottle of red from the rider with a keen eye. When asked how he’s doing, he suggests he’s been “marinated’ from all the touring leading up to tonight. Later, stood on stage shirtless, with every inch of his torso covered in tattoo’s, he talks of vodka breakfasts and Taco Bell dinners, suggesting that this country will be the death of him.
(Photo Credit: Ollie Nordh)
As the band blast through pulverising, punk work-outs, Sebastian is up front, shadow boxing, ducking and diving, giving his inner Karate Elvis a workout. On receiving a can of Carlsberg from the rider, he works himself into a frenzy at its percentage and, ultimately, existence. In an American drawl, owing to a Swedish mother and American father, he asks the audience “What is this? Why did they create it?”
Hours before, he’s joined by bassist Benke Nitad as we share shivers outside in the cold Salford air. It’s not just France that’s been in on the act, as the pair note that Brighton – specifically The Pipeline – turned into a party as the 40 or so in attendance behaved like the band were performing to a crowd of hundreds, turning the venue upside down. Partying runs throughout the Viagra Boys timeline, with a rented karaoke machine in a hair salon back home marking their beginning.
“I sang a Mariah Carey song…” Says Sebastian. “But we had already spoken before then. We used to hang out at bars and talk about punk. We always talked about maybe starting a punk band and then we decided that night that we were gonna do it.”
“Then we just did it.” Says Benke. “Called some friends over (Thor and Benjamin, who play drums and guitar) and made a couple of songs, booked some recording time and recorded those four songs. Everything just went from there.”
Those four songs would become debut EP ‘Consistency Of Energy’, four grim tales of being black-out wasted, erectile dysfunction, bodily fluids and dodgy narcotics (“You need a refill every hour/You’re getting nosebleeds in the shower”). But before all that came the name – something to ruin your internet search history. The story goes that before deciding on Viagra Boys, there was an unspeakable, politically incorrect name of which no one outside the core band seems to know. Benke and Sebastian laugh at the mention of their original moniker.
“We have a friend, a dear friend of ours, I think it was a joke more or less.” Admits Benke.
“We were talking about Speed and Viagra at the bar and we were thinking about different names. We had practiced a little bit and we needed a name, then he came up with that. That’s fine.” Says Sebastian with a laugh. “We’ll go with that.”
Three track EP ‘Call Of The Wild’ followed in 2017, but it was the arrival of ‘Sports’ earlier this year that had people really taking notice of Viagra Boys. Ludicrously catchy, Murphy’s Americana vocals are piss-funny and – as is the case with any hit single – easy to remember.
“I think that track is maybe easily accessible, just ‘cus it’s three notes the whole song.” Comments Sebastian with a laugh. “The lyrics are pretty easy to follow also.”
Benke bursts out laughing at this, as Sebastian grins and continues.
“I think a lot of people can relate as well, whether they’re sports fans or not.”
We joke of the track becoming a sports anthem, potentially replacing the national anthem at a laboriously lengthy baseball game or similar (“That’d be great!” – Sebastian). Though as brilliant and humorous as the lyrics are, the band are notably high on their evolving sound.
“I think we took a step forward music wise as well from the earlier things.” Considers Benke. “It’s a different kind of music, more of everything.”
‘Sports’ and follow up single ‘Just Like You’ would eventually find their way onto ‘Street Worms’ – their debut album – brimming with morbid subjects, from repressed sexual desires to mortality and, of course, sports. Drawing comparisons to Dead Kennedys, The Fall and Butthole Surfers amongst others (we called them a more digestible Pissed Jeans), their debut full-length ticked a number of boxes.
Whilst online reviews try to pigeonhole the band, Benke and Sebastian find the ‘punk’ tag can be more associated with who they are as much as how they sound.
“It’s probably more attitude than the music, I guess.” Says Benke.
This attitude and lifestyle can occasionally drift into other aspects of Viagra Boys, notably the studio process, where – on occasion – Sebastian turns up empty handed.
“I think that’s how good music is made, when you don’t overthink it I guess and just kinda go for it. But I don’t know.” Shrugs Sebastian. “I don’t really know. I don’t think it helps.” He chuckles.
“It’s usually better to be a little bit prepared…” Adds Benke. “Lyrics don’t have to be finished before, but you’ve got to have an idea of what it’s gonna be. Otherwise it’s kind of tough. Usually he comes up with nothing…”
(Photo credit: Ollie Nordh)
“We just go there, get it done in a couple of days. Then you think about it for a while after that.” Says Sebastian. “We’re not the type of band that’s in a studio for 24 hours re-doing shit or anything like that. We definitely just go up there, record it, and if it’s not good, you record something else. Try not to linger too long in any one idea. Try not to overthink things.”
“The best thing is to be prepared, so then you can think about stuff before you head into the studio…” Adds Benke. “Pelle (Gunnerfeldt) and Daniel (Fagerström) – we’re kind of similar persons – so it clicks and works really well with both of them.”
Street Worms’ nine tracks leave the listener feeling unwashed. As Sebastian would say – It’s a party. Going off band name alone, it’s not hard to believe that its members have some grotty stories to tell. Life experience. With substance abuse, research chemicals and being unable to get stiff making up lyrics within their oeuvre, it’s no surprise to hear they’ve shared some heavy experiences.
“We’ve gone through different periods in our lives.” Says Sebastian. “I think when we started out it was a bit too much, but I can’t speak for the whole band, because not the whole band is in the same spectrum of abuse. Most of the time, half the band will go to the hotel early and pass out, then maybe a couple of others will stay up all night – chasing the… something.” He laughs. “I think we wanna do this for a long time, so we don’t wanna get burnt out either. But you can’t help who you are sometimes…”
“Couple of years ago, we did a little bit too much…” Says Benke, with Sebastian keen to add this was a little bit too much of everything.
“You can’t write music, you can’t do anything. You just talk about shit and nothing happens. Then you have to think about what you’re doing.” Laughs Benke.
“If you’re gonna make good music, you can’t be taking drugs every day.” Says Sebastian. “You’ve gotta be a bit clear minded to know what’s going on, in a way.”
Whilst the jury remains out on whether Viagra Boys future looks hazy or clear – you can’t help who you are sometimes, as noted by Sebastian – one thing is for sure. They want to crack on with this full time and keep chasing the next hit.
“We’re just gonna make more music.” Nods Sebastian. “We wanna continue doing what we’re doing. I don’t know what that’s gonna be like or where we’re gonna be.”
“Hopefully we start in a couple of weeks, writing new music.” Adds Benke. “Then it’s touring. I guess that’s what you wanna do if you’re gonna do this.”
After all, they’ve got to make more music if they want to return to Europe and meet more older French women.
“That’s what we live for.” Grins Sebastian.
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