Stockholm band Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes gave themselves a name that meant that they’d never be short of attention. But there’s much more to the four-piece than a meme-based moniker. Tilde Hansen, Siri Sjöberg, Elias Mahfoud and Edvin Arleskär make a kind of liquid, flowing dream-pop that has won them a lot of fans, at home and abroad, since they debuted in 2016 with their single Desire. Their debut EP, Four Waters, has just landed, so we met them to talk about it.
Back to the very start, how did you guys form the band? It started on Twitter right?
Tilde: Siri and I had played in a band before, since we were 14. Then the rest of the members moved away, and we hadn’t played in a band for about a year. I posted a tweet asking if anyone knew wanted to start a band. Elias and I were social media acquaintances, and he replied ‘Yeah, I want to start a band!’. He knew Edvin, and that’s how it started. We met for the first time, the four of us, at Popaganda festival in 2015.
Edvin: Then two weeks after we had our first rehearsal.
How did the name happen?
Elias: How did it not happen? When we started the band, I had the idea that we should make a collaborative playlist on Spotify, so we could share what inspired us. And every playlist needs to have a name, and Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes was the first thing I thought of. Totally normal. Then we got booked for our first gig, and we didn’t have a name, so we said jokingly ‘Let’s go with Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes, just for this show, until we come up with something better’. And here we are two years later!
It’s kinda been an advantage to you guys? You’ve gotten a lot of attention because of the name.
Edvin: It’s Googleable.
Tilde: There’s good and bad. Some people think we just have a funny band name, and maybe don’t even listen to the music. But now it’s come to a place where people appreciate us for our music, instead of our funny band name. I hope!
You had the whole t-shirt scandal.
Edvin: Someone called Mike James tweeted ‘Shout out to Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes, your music is total garbage, but God Dammit I’d buy a t-shirt and pretend I like it’. I thought it was almost a parody of that idea of a band with a cool name, but not-so-good music, whose t-shirt people wear ironically.
Elias: We try to embrace any hate comments, in a positive manner. So we said, with our record label, that we should print that tweet on a shirt and send it to them. Then we decided to print a few more and try to sell them. We had a limited run and got some sold.
Tilde: We’re friends now [with Mike], we follow each other on Instagram and Twitter. We took a picture of us wearing the tweet shirt and sent it to him.
Elias: He actually liked the latest single, Dreaming Of You. He wrote to me on Twitter.
Edvin: It’s a very funny PR thing we got from it, people even wrote clickbait articles about it.
Okay, EP’s out now. It’s called Four Waters, song titles include Dive and Swim Deep. Where has all the water imagery come from?
Tilde: I don’t know. We thought about the songs, and thought they had a watery kind of feel. But it’s really a coincidence. But our sound is maybe floating, breezy, wavy sound. Maybe that’s why it comes through.
Elias: We have several songs about water in general, even some that we don’t play anymore. But I like to make references to water, there’s something about the ocean that’s mysterious.
Tilde: It can be still, stormy, cold, warm, dark, clear.
Elias: You can see your own reflection in the water. And we can see ourselves in the music, in the subjects of things like anxiety, broken relationships and the sense of not being good enough. We see ourselves in these songs, and that’s why water is such a good metaphor, because it’s so reflective. And there are a lot of things between the surface that are only partially reflected in the surface.
You also said that the EP is about questioning your purpose, and that comes about especially in songs like Always. Would you say thematically it’s a ‘figuring yourself out’ EP?
Tilde: I think all the lyrics are about some kind of frustration about knowing who you are and what you should do.
Siri: What’s happening in life.
Tilde: Yeah, trying to understand certain feelings. The lyrics are quite desperate sometimes…
Siri: But we’re not that desperate!
Elias: There’s a sense of hope in the songs. You go through shit emotionally several times in your life, but there’s some ray of hope that keeps you motivated. You can see that in our poppy elements.
Tilde: In the two and a half years we’ve known each other, all of us have gone through a lot of stuff. Maybe the next EP will be a very happy one. Or who knows, even more sad.
Were the songs on the EP all written quite recently? Because you released Closer and Dreaming Of You earlier this year, but they didn’t make the cut.
Siri: No, we decided to have these four songs on the EP before we released Closer and Dreaming Of You. Because we thought that these four songs matched. We wanted them on the EP, so we released the other two separately.
Elias: Two of the oldest songs are Swim Deep, which Tilde wrote when she was 16, and Dive, which was the first collaborative idea we had together.
Tilde: I think Dive is one of our first songs, Always is quite new and What Goes Around is somewhere in the middle. We released Closer and Dreaming Of You because they didn’t make the EP, but we wanted to get them out.
How do you write your songs? Because you’ve got this kind of loose., liquid pop style, really fluid pop music.
Tilde: We’ve heard 80s or dream-pop a lot. My favourite description is dream-pop.
Edvin: Mainly because of the pedals, the reverb and the bass.
Elias: That’s why they think 80s, they immediately think of the cure.
Edvin: Also they’re older than us, so I guess they relate it back to that time.
Elias: It’s a collaborative effort. Sometimes someone comes up with an idea, or someone can have a finished product like Swim Deep.
Tilde: I had the lyrics and the form, the body of the song, but everyone contributed to the sound. It’s not like I said ‘Elias play this’, or ‘Edvin play this’. We write our own parts, and whoever’s singing writes their own lyrics and so on.
You swap the vocals around quite a lot, do the lyrics come from everyone?
Siri: Yeah, everyone writes their own lyrics
Tilde: If Siri has a verse she writes the lyrics, and if Elias has a verse he writes the lyrics and so on.
Elias: We’re not limited to that though. Say in the case of Swim Deep, Tilde wrote the lyrics but Siri sings it, and other songs we have written in the past have also been a collaborative effort in that way.
Edvin: We usually start by jamming around a sketch, with lyrics and chords and stuff, and then we come up with an arrangement that we think sounds like us.
Elias: Lately, we’ve been switching it up too, because we don’t wanna be a predictable band, where people can go ‘here comes the drum fill!”. We want to change it up, and we’re doing that right now with the newer songs.
Tilde: We try things out and if we like it we do it.
Back on the Buscemi theme, are you worried about getting sued by him for use of his image?
Tilde: I’ve been a bit worried!
Siri: We hope he has a sense of humour about it. I think he’s a nice person, he’s not going to be bothered by some kids from Sweden doing this. He doesn’t seem to be on social media so much, so I don’t think he’s noticed.
Elias: I think we’re protected by a law in the US called ‘Parody Law’. If he expresses dismay in the name thought, we’ll consider changing it. But by US parody law, we’re pretty much safe.
Edvin: We can always switch to SBDE, like MGMT.
Tilde: We hope he’ll be flattered. We like him a lot, genuinely like him. It’s a tribute. We’re not mocking him, we actually think he has dreamy eyes. Interesting eyes, he’s full of dreams, you can see it in his eyes.
Elias: I think the best dream I ever had was when he gave us his blessing.
Did you actually have a dream about that?
Elias: I was on a train, and at the end of the corridor I see a young Steve Buscemi in a leather jacket and white t-shirt. I went up to him and said ‘my band is named after you, is that alright?’. And he gave me a thumbs up and said ‘Yeah, cool’. So we’re living on that. No can prove that it wasn’t a case of astral projection. I’ve actually met so many people who don’t know who he is actually.
Siri: We just want people to know who he is.
Tilde: We only want to make him famous.
Elias: Like Kanye West made Paul McCartney famous.
Tilde: My grandpa is 95 now, and I showed him our new single last week, cos he’s never been on the internet or anything. So I showed him Swim Deep. And he said ‘so what is the name of your group’, and I said ‘Steve Buscemi’s Dreamy Eyes’. He didn’t know who that was, so I showed him a picture, and he said ‘what does he play?’. He thought Steve Buscemi was in our band and we named it after him. I would like that, if he actually was a member.
Elias: That’s the dream.
Four Waters is out now on Rama Lama Records
Photo: Alexander Tillheden