After kick-starting their career with two star-making albums, the Raveonettes slipped off most tastemakers' radars after issuing 2005's largely unheralded, and altogether underrated, Pretty in Black. Easily their most accessible album, it, like those before it, never crossed over, and most people haven't heard from the band since. But the retro-fixated romantics haven't exactly been idle since that record's release. Turns out, too many of us just stopped paying attention.
"If we would have had commercial success, we definitely would have had it with Pretty in Black," says guitarist/vocalist Sune Rose Wagner. "We might've sold a few albums, but nothing really came of that. We even toured with Depeche Mode and played for 50,000 people every night, both in the United States and Europe, on that album. And a lot of people don't even know how to pronounce our name."
So though the Raveonettes (sound it out, people) may feel resigned to a career of quiet excellence, the bi-coastal duo—Wagner lives in New York, bassist/vocalist Sharin Foo in Los Angeles—continue on, and have their as-yet-untitled fourth album nearly finished. Mixing is set to commence when their current tour, for which they've rehearsed eight new songs, ends in mid-June. And based upon the tracks made available so far—demos have populated the band's MySpace page throughout the spring—the disc seems primed to continue the wall-of-sound sensibilities of the Raveonettes' early work while revisiting Pretty in Black's strident pop sensibilities. And while that suggests a return to most of the Raveonettes' signature moves, its lyrical aspirations—motivated by everything from Wagner's love of literature (French poet Arthur Rimbaud, especially) to his ongoing battles with anxiety and insomnia—are more ambitious than ever. As he explains it, that's been the intention for album four since the outset.
"I wanted to write an album with the seven deadly sins in mind," he reveals. "But I just picked up on one of them, I guess. So it's mostly about lust, because that was really close to me at the time. It's more of a personal record, so I think people will relate."
While Wagner's teasing inspires considerable intrigue, so too does the question of whether the forthcoming album will arrive via Columbia or some other avenue. Having fulfilled their original three-album commitment to the label, the duo must now wait to see if the label exercises a contractual option that would extend their relationship. And though Wagner insists he's satisfied with the treatment the Raveonettes have received from Columbia—citing the label's compliance with his desire for creative control, in particular—his thoughts on self-releasing an album in today's evolving commercial climate are certainly suggestive.
"Once you leave your music in the hands of other people, sometimes it takes the joy away," intimates Wagner. "This tour, we load in all the gear ourselves, we set up onstage, we pack the gear, we sell our own merchandise, and we do everything. That way, the day is more fun and the payoff is bigger because we've done everything ourselves. We needed to go back to the do-it-yourself attitude."