Interview: Vargen – Mindy Morning

 Vargen (translates as “The Wolf” in Swedish) is the stage and recording name for acclaimed Bob Dylan interpreter and singer-songwriter Reine Johansson. Mindy Morning, released June 17, is the first track from his forthcoming debut album of original work.

Hi Vargen, how are you today?

I’m great, thanks! I’m in the middle of shooting the video for ‘Mindy Morning’ and it feels like it’s gonna be awesome.  

For those that haven’t heard of you yet, how would you best describe your sound and who have been your biggest influences so far?

Vargen has released two albums with translations and covers of Bob Dylan’s songs, so yeah, obviously his songwriting has been a major influence. Lyrically, I’m drawn to the dark storytelling that Tom Waits and Nick Cave master and I’d say the vocal styles of George Harrison and David Bowie has influenced me as a singer. If you add some Rolling Stones and The Doors to all that you might get an idea of Vargen’s sound. It’s basically americana and rock with an indie twist.

You are also based from Sweden. Can you tell us how the music scene there has inspired your sound at all?

I’d say I’m not very influenced by the current music scene at all, even though I really love some Swedish acts like bob hund, Thåström and Frida Hyvönen. My songwriting has been more influenced by old Swedish folk icons like Evert Taube and Cornelis Vreeswijk.

Do you remember what the first song was that made you want to start a career in music?

I remember both ‘Life on Mars?’ by David Bowie and Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ made a great impact on me as a teenager. I still hold ‘Life on Mars?’ as one of the best songs ever recorded. Strange but great lyric and the arrangement just takes you away on this spectacular, almost spiritual, journey. “Whole Lotta Love” is just a great riff, but the way Zeppelin treats it in the studio is mind-blowing. Man landed on the moon about the same time the track came out. I can’t think of a better soundtrack to that journey.

You have just released your new single ‘Mindy Morning’. Can you tell us how that track came about? Is there a story behind it?

It was originally written on acoustic guitar. The melody and the words “Mindy Morning” came quite instantly. It has a melancholic and bittersweet touch to it, and it made me think of this person I met ages ago, this muse from the past, who introduced me to musical theatre, acting, the whole performance thing. For a while, I was a singing fire-eater and did stunts like live-piercing my body with pins while delivering the blues, haha. I added some qualities to this femme fatale “Mindy” person and suddenly the appearance of 60’s French actress Francoise Dorleac in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac came to mind.  Somehow it all seemed to fit together. I even ended up painting a scene from that film for the cover artwork.

And was there a particular style you were looking for when you wrote it?

I wanted to achieve a nostalgic feeling, like a memory of a long-gone summer drenched in technicolor. I think Dag Hallberg’s minimoog melody together with Per Bengtsson’s guitar licks à la 70’s Fleetwood Mac/Dire Straits are spot on to that vision.

You have recently released an EP, but can we expect another or even an album from you in the near future?

You can expect an album of nine songs next spring, released on both vinyl and CD. I plan to release a second single in October.

The pandemic has obviously affected everyone’s plans, but what have you got in store for the rest of the year?

After the studio sessions are over, we’re going to do a mini-concert in the studio called “It’s a Wrap!” with both new songs and a couple of oldies. The concert will be filmed and streamed on Vargen’s social media. So, some of the new songs can be heard in advance of the album release. We’ll announce the concert date in about a month, at the same time as the “Mindy Morning” video premiere.

And finally, what is the one thing you hope to achieve as an artist?

Artistic fulfillment.

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