Halfway through the making of Jens Lekman’s 2007 opus, Night Falls Over Kortedala, the now 28-year-old singer/songwriter vowed, “As soon as I’ve finished this record, I will get the hell out of here.” The “here” in question: Lekman’s hometown of Kortedala, located just outside of Gtenborg in western Sweden and the main inspiration behind most of Night‘s 12-song track list. Now two years later, Lekman happily resides in Melbourne, Australia, surrounded by surfers, tourists, and a vibe he calls “boring, in a good way.” Prompted by the depressing feel of home-and the impact it was having on both his life and his music-Lekman hightailed it to Down Under in late 2007 following a string of tour dates to promote the album, his last release to date. This Friday night, Lekman and his new backing band will stop over at Velvet Jones in support of, well, Lekman’s self-described aversion to winter.
“I think I’ve been chasing summer a little bit. Summer is ending down here in Australia and I don’t want it to end, so I’m following up the West Coast-in the Northern hemisphere,” he confided recently via phone. “I’m working on some new stuff though. : I mean, it was three years ago that my last record came out and I’m writing and recording all the time, I think. I just need to finish stuff, that’s my problem.”
Even without a new album to promote, Lekman will likely draw quite the crowd. His sultry voice (often likened to The Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt’s) could make the phonebook sound poetic, and his catalogue to date-which includes two full-lengths and more than 10 EPs-is about as highly regarded as they come. Made up of baroque pop arrangements, deeply personal first-hand tales, and obscure samples aplenty, Night acts as both a near-perfect glimpse into Jens Lekman’s world and a far cry from the life he’s currently leading. Where the old Lekman lived in a nocturnal land filled with muggers, anti-Semitism, and a fair share of media scrutiny, the new Lekman is worried only about soaking up the sunshine-and maybe losing his visa.
“I might have to go work at a fruit farm,” he explained nonchalantly. “That’s the requirement; [the Australian government] has this slave labor thing where they ask you to compensate them by working three months at a fruit farm out in the middle of nowhere. : I can forward you the link. It’s actually kind of famous among backpackers and stuff. It’s their way of cashing in on all the people who want to see their country. : But I would [do it]. I could see some stories happening at a fruit farm. I need to put myself in some situation that I wouldn’t see myself in normally-I need to be a yes man.”
In addition, Lekman’s new outlook on life has been keeping him plenty busy musically. Throughout April and March, he played a string of deejaying gigs around Melbourne alongside bandmate Viktor Sjberg-including one specific night when he admits to looping Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” for nearly 20 minutes. “I needed to go to the bathroom because I’d been deejaying for four hours,” he conceded, “but it’s such a great song that it really worked. When I came back, people’s eyes were like ping-pong balls. They looked like they were crazy or something.”
Sjberg, who often handles sample duty during Lekman’s shows, will also be joining the singer on his West Coast tour, as part of a small band the duo put together “primarily based on looks.” “We’ve been working a lot on coordinated dress codes and stuff like that,” Lekman laughed. “We definitely picked some really good-looking people.” In addition, Lekman will hit the road with a motley crew of characters that he’s befriended since Night dropped-including comedienne and opening act Tig Notaro.
“I’ve toured with a comedian before; Todd Barry,” Lekman explained of the choice. “I invited him to tour with me in Sweden two years ago and it was really such a great lineup to have a comedian starting and then I’m playing and then Viktor is deejaying afterward. It was this perfect first laughs, then singing, and then dancing. It’s so much better than having band, band, band, you know? Todd introduced me to Tig at South by Southwest last year, and I saw her show and I absolutely loved it.”
With a newfound joy for dancing, laughing, sunshine, and fruit picking, it’s hard to imagine Lekman as the same guy behind songs like “The Opposite of Hallelujah” (“You don’t know ’cause it just passes right through you/You don’t know what I’m going through”) and “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar” (“I see myself on my deathbed, saying, ‘I wish I would have loved less'”). What that means for future Lekman albums, we’ll have to wait and see. But until we can get our hands on Night’s follow-up, we should relish the fact that Lekman is not only chasing the sun, but he’s following it right into our own backyard.
Jens Lekman and Tig Notaro will play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) this Friday, May 29, at 9 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit clubmercy.com for details.