The Hives - Biography
In the early 2000s, Sweden was perhaps the hippest breeding ground in the world for promising young bands and all of them were touted as garage rock. This so-called garage rock revival was spearheaded in the US by Detroit’s The White Stripes as well as a few New York bands before a large crop of Swedish acts, including The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Division of Laura Lee, blew the doors wide open. By the time Australia pitched in and gave the US The Vines, the whole fad had pretty much lost steam. The longevity of neo-garage rock was more comparable to the Latin explosion of 1999 than to grunge rock for the new millennium. However, if one band out of that entire bunch of Swedish groups can still be called relevant, it is The Hives. With their finely tuned fashion sense, funny and purposeful hubris, and razor-sharp singles such as “Die, All Right!,” The Hives seemed primed for real, Rolling Stones-style fame. Six or seven years after that whole garage rock revival thing faded, The Hives have maintained their status as a consistent, compelling, larger-than-life rock band.
The Hives got together as teenagers in 1993, forming in their hometown of Fagersta, Sweden. The five-piece consisted of guitarist Nicholaus Arson, drummer Chris Dangerous, bassist Dr. Matt Destruction, guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem, and vocalist Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. Two years of gigging gave way to signing with Heartcore, a subsidiary label of Burning Heart Records. The group released their debut EP, Oh Lord! When? How? (1996 Heartcore) on the label in 1996. The next year, the band switched to Burning Heart itself for the release of their first full-length, which was titled Barely Legal (1997 Burning Heart) because the majority of the band members had only recently turned 18 (the title is also reported to be a former stage name of Nicholaus Arson). While they would not break in the United States for another few years, The Hives decided to take on the country with a tour later that year.
In 1998, the band was back with a new EP, A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T (1998 Burning Heart), named after and highlighted by a stand-out track from Barely Legal. Two quiet years followed for the band due to complications within its management. The album that the band recorded in 1999 and released in Sweden the following year wouldn’t make its way to the States until 2002. In the meantime, Creation Records founder Alan McGee signed The Hives to his new label, Poptones, in 2001. Poptones released Your New Favourite Band (2001 Poptones), a compilation featuring tracks from the band’s first two albums and EP, in the UK and US
The fame that The Hives had always felt destined for became a reality as they released their second LP, Veni Vidi Vicious (2002 Epitaph/Burning Heart), in the United States and UK. Already widely popular in their home country, The Hives blazed through the rest of the world, appearing regularly in NME and capitalizing on a sudden stateside garage rock explosion. The previous summer, The White Stripes released their third album, White Blood Cells (2001 Sympathy for the Record Industry), achieving mainstream popularity with the so-simple-it’s-genius “Fell in Love with a Girl.” America’s youth became enamored with this sound that was being marketed to them as “garage.” Then came a rush of Swedish bands that possessed the same thrashing pop sensibilities and raw power as the Stripes. For a while, Sweden provided Americans with the same fascination that Seattle provided the UK in the early 90s; it was a faraway land that we knew nothing about except that its music sounded pretty awesome. Following that analogy, the Burning Heart label was nearly a modern-day Sub Pop. The trend did not last, but while most of these Swedish bands fell off the radar all too quickly, The Hives’ popularity seemed pretty legit.
“Hate to Say I Told You So,” the album’s proudest single, became a number six Billboard Modern Rock Track as Veni Vidi Vicious clawed its way to number 63 on the Billboard 200. The band’s gimmicks (including dressing only in white suits and shoes) were credited to the magical A&R work of the probably-nonexistent Randy Fitzsimmons. The Hives had no time for misplaced modesty and fans seemed to enjoy being treated as lesser beings than the band they had paid to see. In late August, the band played “Main Offender” at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, where they were nominated for the MTV2 Award along with another neo-garage band, The Strokes. Both lost to Dashboard Confessional.
After a relatively quiet 2003, The Hives reemerged in 2004 with Tyrannosaurus Hives (2004 Interscope). The new disc finished on the Billboard charts at number 33, bolstered by the hit single “Walk Idiot Walk.” In October, they released a second single from the album, “Two Timing Touch and Broken Bones,” but with less success. The band toured tirelessly in support of the album, finishing up in October of 2005 to enjoy a well-earned break. The group spoke to NME later in the year about wanting to record album number four in a different place with different people. They planned to have the new album out by autumn of 2006. By the summer of 2007, The Hives still hadn’t released a new album and admitted the difficulty of recording in as many as eight studios (mostly in Oxford, Mississippi) with a lengthy list of producers and engineers that included Pharrell Williams.
Finally, in September of 2007, the new single “Tick Tick Boom” was unveiled and one month later, Universal released the long-delayed The Black and White Album (2007 Universal). One month after that, it was issued in the US, where it peaked in the charts at number 65. Early in 2008, the band released the LP’s second single, “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” Again, they were unable to top their new album’s first single. After a tour of the UK, the band ventured over to the States for a couple of months. In late November, they released “A Christmas Duel,” a single recorded with Cyndi Lauper. By April of 2009, The Hives had done all the touring they felt necessary for The Black and White Album and took a break to work on new material. In 2012 the band released Lex Hives.