‘Art Has Big Shoes To Fill’: Talking To INVSN’s Dennis Lyxzén

INVSN will be playing the Bovine in Toronto on Wednesday, September 13. Tickets are FREE!

If you were into punk in the 1990s, you’ll remember Refused. If you were into punk at the turn of the millennium, you’ll also remember The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Singer Dennis Lyxzén is the common element in both of those exceptional bands. Not content to rest on his laurels, he’s now part of another Swedish punk collective called INVSN. 

INVSN pronounced “Invasion”) also includes (T(I)NC’s Sara Almgren and several other well-known Swedish musicians like Anders Stenberg, Christina Karlsson, and Andre Sandström.

The band’s second album, The Beautiful Stories, was released on June 9 and it’s become one of my favorites of this year. In my review on Vague Visages I said, “INVSN may not make the music that flawed people deserve, but it’s definitely the music that we all need

The band is currently touring North America to support The Beautiful Stories, and I caught up with Lyxzén in advance of their stop in Toronto on Wednesday.

Biff Bam Pop: INVSN has played in Toronto before: in what ways are Toronto audiences are different from audiences in cities Ike New York or Los Angeles? Is there a different vibe with Canadian crowds overall? Do they seem more or less receptive to the band in a live setting?

Dennis Lyxzén: Yes, we did a show opening up for Minus the Bear a couple of years ago. Well, as far as just playing the shows there isn’t that much of a difference between a Canadian crowd and a New York crowd.

However, to a Canadian crowd I don’t have to explain what socialism is every time and that is pretty nice.

I would also say that any metropolitan city can be a bit harder to play then smaller cities. People are usually a bit jaded and a bit to cool for their own good!

What is it like working in a band with four other people? I’ve read that your drummer (Andre Sandström) writes most of the music. How does the process work? How is this different from other bands you’ve all been in?

It’s good. Never been into the idea of the solo project. Still believe that anything that you can do by yourself you will do even better when you have people around you that you trust. I’ve known the other people in INVSN for ages and I fully trust them. We share a very similar vision of what we are and what we want to create so it’s easy.

Andre creates a lot of the basic song structures that the rest of us add our own flavor to. It’s a good process ‘cause it usually means that we can all focus on the aspects of the music that suits us the best.

Every band is different and has different dynamics. One of the things that really sets INVSN apart is that we started as a very unpretentious outfit with the sole ambition to play music with the best of friends and it evolved into what we are today. Still best friends, but way more ambitious and pretentious then we would have ever thought!

There is so much political context in your music, something that has been described as essential to the band’s existence. What do you hope listeners take away from your lyrics and the ideas behind them? Are there any books or authors you would recommend people seek out in order to have a more complete understanding of the ideas that you put forward in your songs?

Well, it’s definitely a huge aspect of the band. Without our ideas and the people that we are it would of course be a totally different band. However, it’s never been like we set out to be this political band; it’s just the people that we are and the ideas that we have that come through in the music and our lyrics.

It is never up to the artist to decide what people will get out of the music and ideas. That is the beauty of art; that it is open like that. We would like people to feel inspired, though, in any way they see fit. If we can present music or art or idea or politics that somehow affect them, then we’ve done what we can.

I think that there are too many books to even start listing them. I would suggest that if you are interested in any of our ideas, either come up and talk to us when we come to town or educate yourself. That’s what we did.

Punk rock gave us the motivation and the tools to educate ourselves, in matters that mean something to us.

It’s refreshing to read interviews with you when you talk about being honest and not trying to kiss anyone’s ass, and how the music industry is often so geared towards sales and popularity and not honesty and authenticity. How much of a challenge is it to record music, promote records, tour, perform, and the like when so much of the industry is set up to praise and reward bands for playing it safe and/or adhering to a certain image, look, or sound? How do you deal with that dichotomy?

There are many aspects of the game that are, in truth, horrendous: The use and abuse of artist by labels, the rigid structure of popular culture and the constant need to measure success in number and sales and not in artistic accomplishment.

The thing is that if you want to create and if you have ideas, there are certain aspects of the game that you have to deal with, like doing interviews and being on labels (not completely necessary of course, but if you wanna keep your focus on the creative aspects it does help).

I’ve never created music to become popular or make money or to get laid. It’s always been about ideas and a way to deal with my own demons and my own insane restlessness. Of course it is nice when people like the art that you create and the ideas that you put forward, but the reward is in just being able to do this.

And I decided early on that I was not really that great with the world and music has become the only way where I can sort of function as a human.

So therefore you work hard and take it seriously.

RELATED: Check out INVSN’s cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Love” on Consequence of Sound.

The lyrics on the songs on The Beautiful Stories are certainly inspirational, and in a lot of ways, a direct call to action to resist the current right-wing political climate. Do you have any advice for those who are feeling disheartened about the way that people are being marginalized and disenfranchised? How do you find the strength/energy to continue to fight against the damaging structures of capitalism, racism, sexism, and other oppressive systems and movements?

Yes they are!

In a world where politics is just a numbers game and the universities are just a breeding ground for multi-national corporations, art has big shoes to fill.

I think that music and poetry and books and so on and so forth have to be the new bearers of ideas. At times the odds feel overwhelming but then you have to ask yourself what are the options?! To surrender to a egotistical and cruel world?! That’s never been an option for me.

Also, what we do can and should work as an inspiration for more concrete political work. Even though we have ideas and a pretty good analysis of the situation we all need to figure this out together. And sometimes when we play shows we know that most people agree with us, but at the end of the day it might be nice to know that you are not alone trying to make this world a better place!

Check out INVSN at the Bovine on Wednesday, September 13. They’re touring North America through the end of September. You can purchase The Beautiful Stories from Dine Alone Records.

Tour Dates:
9-11-17 Allston, MA @ Great Scott
9-13-17 Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
9-14-17 Detroit, MI @ El Club
9-15-17 Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
9-16-17 Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway Theater
9-18-17 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9-20-17 Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
9-21-17 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
9-22-17 Echo Park, CA @ The Echo
9-23-17 Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory – Constellation Room
9-24-17 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
9-26-17 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
9-26-17 San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar
9-27-27 Seattle, WA @ Barboza
9-28-17 Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt

Photo credit: Selma Grönlund

Leave a Reply