We’ve come a long way in terms of gender equality in the music industry over the last couple of decades. Gone are the days of smoky boardrooms, photocopier gropings and the ‘alright darling’s of yesteryear. But, we still have a long way to go – whilst women are occupying those boardrooms more than ever, and women are moving from the backing microphone stand to the synthesiser, we are still surprised as a society to see women at the forefront of musical exploration. It means that for female performers (whether they like it or not), everything they do is inherently politicised, whether they are perceived as feminist heroes or purveyors of the patriarchy, whore or virgin. One duo who know this all too well is Swedish DIY pop artists Exon Banks (Signe Bankfefors and Meriyam Ericsson), whose reversal of gender norms in the cover of  50 Cent’s ‘Candy Shop‘ saw them gain notoriety as one of the hottest new pop acts to come out of Sweden. I spoke to them about their new EP, gender, and walk in closets for broken hearts:
KM: Tell me about how you started making music together.
EB: We got  to know each other some months earlier during a trip to Berlin with some mutual friends. We grew up in the same town, but it was not until we found each other in the dusty morning at a technoclub we really became friends. We were talking about life, music, and future dreams. When we got back to Sweden we immediately started to make music together. Signe, who had lived in Stockholm for some years, moved back to Norrköping at the same time so we spent a lot of nights making music in her new, unfurnished apartment.

KM: One of your first creations was a cover of 50 Cent’s ‘Candy Shop’. What were you hoping to bring to the track by reworking it?

EB: Maybe that the lyrics are perceived differently depending on whether it’s sung by a man or a woman? We thought it was fun to expand those perspectives a bit. Most people like to have sex because it’s a natural part of being a human, but very often it feels like society or whatever it is makes different ideas about how you are expected to talk about or have sex like a man or a woman, straight or gay etc… Thats a bit boring.

KM: Musically, it’s actually very different  save for that instantly recognisable chorus. How did you go about creating a hazy electronic version of the track?

EB: It was not like we planned to do a cover of Candy Shop, it more just happened.  Meriyam always sings on this song at the late after-hours, or just when she’s in a good mood. So one day while we were cooking, drinking wine, singing, and making music, Meriyam sang candy shop while Signe made this smokey downtempo beat – and there it was!

KM: As well as the sonic differences, there are huge contextual differences between your version and the original. Were you aiming to subvert the misogynistic tone of the original when you started recording?

EB: Yes, when we started to remake the lyrics from a girls perspective we ended up discussing how fucked up it is… how different the meaning of the same words can be depending on if a man or a woman says it.

KM: You recently released a new video to accompany the song, featuring men being fed candy in a pretty suggestive manner – completely turning the idea of ‘the male gaze’ in music videos on its head. How did you come up with the idea?

EB: We started to talk a lot about gender in the music business when we made the song, and that in general it’s so sad, all the sexy girls and cool boys… and that it feels so far away from reality and our world. We just wanted to show something human and real. In the end, everybody likes candy…

KM: It looked like a lot of fun to film. Did you enjoy yourselves on set?

EB: Yes we did! We invited our lovely friends, gave them food, wine and loads of candy. Put up a green screen in the basement of a spooky old house on the countryside of Norrköping, and started to record. We just let the sugar rush be the inspiration, and let the ideas run free as we recorded.

KM: You have a new EP ‘Liquid Love’ out today. Can you tell us more about it?

EB: These three tracks is written in a quite dizzy time in our life. It started with Signe moving into a music-collective after breaking up with an ex-boyfriend. The first month she lived in a small close, in the house called in Swedish “skilsmässogarderoben” (like a walk in closet for broken hearts). After a time when Signe moved out from the closet and into an actual real room it was Meriyams turn to end up there with a bag and a broken heart. And in this chaos we both had a big need of letting feelings go, so making music became our  therapy, we both started to focus on being creative instead of negative shit.

KM: Does the new EP explore similar themes of gender and sexuality?

EB: No not in the same obvious way like with Candy Shop where we wanted to discuss female sexuality, but at the same time politics is always present in all the thing we do. It’s not like we choose it to be, it more just gets that way if you are a woman trying to take a place in a male-dominated world. We produce everything by ourselves, from the music to the visuals and graphics and sometimes when you get to the more nerdy technical parts of what we do you find yourself surrounded by mostly men. But it feels like things are slowly starting to change, with a lot of supercool women on the electronic music scene today both in our home country Sweden and on the international scene. That’s inspiring.

KM: Will we be seeing you at any festivals this summer?

EB: This summer we are going to built up our own studio in a big basement, we actually get the keys next week. So exciting! So we are just going make the space ours (aka renovate and tear up old 70’s floor mats) and then focus on writing a lot of new music and getting nerdy and just shut the world outside out for a while. Hopefully we will be playing more when we are done with that.

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