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OFFBEAT

Never Mind the Genitals, Here’s Lilla Lovis

With lyrics detailing oral sex and female rape, candy-haired Swedish singer Lilla Lovis leaves few listeners unperturbed, and offers no excuses for it, contributor Katherine Dunn reports.

Never Mind the Genitals, Here's Lilla Lovis
Screenshot: Lilla Lovis

A candy-haired Stockholmer with a bubblegum sound and a very dirty mouth, Lilla Lovis has been gaining a cult following for her singles about…well, most of them are unmentionable here.

Often associated with the könsrock genre – “sex rock” or “genital rock”, which is known for deliberately shocking, graphic lyrics, she has been accused of being both an assault on good taste and a girl just having fun.

Rooted in late-70s punk, könsrock features songs are often dripping with sexually explicit lyrics that touch on topics considered by many to be taboo.

In addition, könsrock melodies and music are generally upbeat, even jovial, making for what can be jarring juxtapositions when paired with lyrics sprinkled with profanity and scatological references.

Perhaps the most well-known könsrock band is Onkel Kånkel and his kånkelbär (‘dingleberries’), considered by many to be the godfather of the genre in Sweden.

First formed in 1979, Onkel Kånkel was best known for songs with crude lyrics that mocked paedophilia, Nazism, and the disabled.

The band courted controversy in 1995 when Social Democrat MP Inge Carlsson petitioned then-justice minister Laila Freivalds to “prohibit offensive music” after being contacted by a teacher who was offended by Onkel Kånkel’s lyrics.

Freivalds rejected the request, however, lamenting that the lyrics were “disgusting and tragic, but allowed” according to Sweden’s free speech laws.

More recently, Sveriges Radio (SR) P3 was reported to the Swedish Broadcasting Commission (Granskningsnämnden för radio och TV) after a prime time August 31st broadcast which included an Onkel Kånkel song thought to encourage paedophilia with texts about having sex with the baby Jesus.

While Lilla Lovis hasn’t yet been reported to authorities, she seems to be well on her way to carrying on the könsrock tradition of singing songs that leave many wincing in disgust.

Last summer, she released her first English-language single “Hard to Get”, a fast-paced electro-pop number where she chirps about a man’s failure to get it up.

Two other recent singles feature lyrics such as “I never spit out my snus before I suck cock” and “It is not rape if it is a girl who rapes”.

And while Lilla Lovis leaves few in an audience unmoved, she makes no excuses for it, The Local learned after catching up with the emerging Swedish star to ask her a few questions and probe what lies behind the bitter-sweet façade.

TL: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are?

LL: “I’m Lilla Lovis. I love children and cake.”

TL: What brought you into music, and the kind of music you’re doing now?

LL: “I don’t remember. Probably something stupid.”

TL: Can you tell us a bit about “könsrock”? You’re sometimes mentioned as a part of this genre, but do you consider yourself as a part of it?

LL: Some people write to me telling me that ‘könsrock’ must be made by men and be about women (and that I’m a fucking whore), and I’m not gonna argue with that. They can go bury themselves alive and take their precious ‘könsrock’ with them so I can piss and spill blood on their graves.

TL: This is your first English single – before now, it’s been all in Swedish, am I right? What’s this song about, and why an English single now?

LL: ‘Hard to get’ was actually first made as a birthday song for a good friend, so it’s kind of a celebration song. When I played it to my record label boss he thought it was the best song I´ve made so far so, well, it felt kinda natural to release it as a single.

TL: Are you planning to play outside of Sweden? If so, where will you go?

LL: I’d like to play on Hawaii. It´d be cool to send postcards to my friends from there.

TL: Do you think having a career in Sweden, and in Stockholm – as opposed to, say, the US – has had an influence on what you do?

LL: It would of course be harder to write and have a career with Swedish lyrics anywhere else. But also since most of my friends live in Stockholm I got lots of support from them when I started doing this which meant, and means a lot. They’re great!

TL: You wear the candy-coloured wigs, and the pretty dresses, and look so sweet. And then you sing these really graphic lyrics. What’s with the contrast?

LL: People always used to call my style of clothing as ‘child prostitute style’, so I guess I just grew into that role, haha. I got very influenced by the Jenna Jameson biography when I read it a couple of years ago.

Her story really touched me and I loved the pictures of her and her clothes when she was young. I did a tattoo with her name after reading that book.

TL: Before a visitor can enter your website, there’s a warning about “objectionable” content from Blogger, which hosts your site. And some of the things you post or sing about aren’t for the weak stomached. Is there anything you won’t sing about?

LL: Not as long as I think it’s interesting or has some other kind of value.

TL: If you weren’t doing music, what do you think you would be doing?

LL: I love hats and I want to learn how to make them!

TL: What’s coming up next for you?

LL: To release the 2 new seven inches and make a cool video for “hard to get”. Then I want to go on vacation.

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MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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