Kristoffer Ragnstam
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Kristoffer Ragnstam

Band Rock Singer/Songwriter

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Nov
17
Kristoffer Ragnstam @ Fire Station

Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA

Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA

Nov
16
Kristoffer Ragnstam @ World Cafe Live

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Nov
14
Kristoffer Ragnstam @ Tap Bar/Knitting Factory

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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Music

Press


There is a lot of crossover between the likeable guitar-based pop of respectable American artists and music that can be described with similar adjectives being created in the urban centers of Sweden. It's similar to how frequently British and American culture overlaps: the celebrated differences serve to underscore the widespread similarities and emphasize the common idea on which both cultures are based. As Israelis and Palestinians quibble over borders before going to their individual homes to eat identical meals of falafel and hummus, so can Americans attend increasingly popular shows by Scandinavian artists and recognize a common language of catchy hooks, finger-drumming rhythms, and lyrics that leave indie-rock aficionados singing under their breaths as they leave the venue.
Kristoffer Ragnstam is one of the latest Swedes whose music is taking its first tentative steps into the American realm. Hailing from the Gothenburg area, Ragnstam's first musical ventures were as a drummer and, later, a self-taught drumsmith. Ragnstam seemed to have recognition of his talent for songwriting thrust upon him without his full consent or understanding (in the form of a Swedish record deal culminating in the release of his "Panic ride" CD in 2003 and work in Germany and Tokyo as a sound engineer and composer of film soundtracks).
Ragnstam was in New York recently to finish mastering his upcoming American debut album "Sweet bills", which will be released this summer by Bluhammock. With "Sweet bills" wrapped up, Ragnstam initiated his freshly-assembled backing band with a preview showcase of five songs from the album, followed by a stripped-down acoustic performance at the Living Room the next night.
Ragnstam had put together a handful of Americans (drums, bass, guitar) and a Swedish associate (Emil Carlsson, keyboard) for the showcase, and warnings about the new band's greenness circulated in the crowd. Ragnstam was affable onstage, if a bit nervous (in a bashful way) and endeared himself to the audience with his stage banter and crooked smile. The artist-audience relationship was strengthened further when the music began and Ragnstam's tensions evaporated. The aforementioned similarities between American and Scandinavian rock music unfortunately aren't restricted to the delightful aspects; both have their fair share of bands whose songs are frequently very similar to each other--albums that seem to consist of two or three songs played over and over at varying speeds are sadly far too common. Ragnstam, gratifyingly, never fell into this trap. His selections showed musical innovation and, song after song, remained interesting without ever verging out of the realm of enjoyable pop and into the dominion of ponderous experimentalism.
Ragnstam's biographies play up his lack of chops and the fresh-out-of-the-box newness of his band further hinted that issues of mastery might arise, but the performance he gave suggested that Ragnstam's stated shortcomings in the instrumental arts were probably the result of excessive modesty. In other words, the band sounded great and, while Ragnstam farmed out some of the more complicated guitar lines to his bandmate, he tackled plenty of them on his own and acquitted himself nicely.
The song "Man overboard" (featured on Ragnstam's myspace page) was a centerpiece of the showcase, and Ragnstam presented it joyfully with tense skipping movements on the beat as he sang the memorable chorus. "Man overboard", like much of Ragnstam's music, does verge into the slightly odd lyrical structures that come from a non-native English speaker writing English lyrics, but it's not nearly as disconcertingly as many of his countrymen. Indeed, Ragnstam's lyrics were frequently engaging and flowed smoothly, fitting to the respective musical pieces quite well--better than the lyrical stylings of many clumsy native English-speaking bands. This may be the result of Ragnstam's avowed interest in hip-hop, a musical style that requires great attention to the use of language.
Ragnstam's period of indulgence in hip-hop might also account for the notable bass lines that appear in his songs. Frequently providing the driving force of the song, the bass was a welcome feature especially in the showcase's encore, a sixth song that the band seemed a bit hesitant to play at first, but which turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening. Straying from simple guitar songs, Ragnstam appropriated elements of dance music to bolster the show's energy and ended on a high note.
With "Sweet bills" on the horizon, an engaging live show, and a friendly demeanor, Ragnstam is in a position to contribute positively to the American musical landscape, and to do so in a manner that's interesting and original. - It'sATrap.Com


Kristoffer Ragnstam is an adventurous Swede, a producer and musician whose album Sweet Bill will be released on Bluhammock Records in September. Ragnstam hails from Gothenburg and rumor has it he got signed based on a demo he made with a dictaphone and a one string guitar. The music on his forthcoming album mines much more robust territory. Think an electic blend of Beck, Finley Quay, Roxy Music, Supergrass, but none of these references does it any justice. You just need to listen for yourself to decide. - SomeVelvetBlog.com


What is it with Scandinavia producing such amazing groundbreaking artists? Annie. Jose Gonzalez. Sondre Lerche. Royksopp. Kings of Convenience. um, Abba.

Now comes another singer that has been blowing my mind since I got his CD a few weeks ago: Kristoffer Ragnstam. Not only does he fit the bill of hot rocker (well, 'cause he's really good looking), but he produced a CD of some of the most refreshing new music I've heard in a long time. His story is an interesting one:

When Kristoffer decided he wanted to make music, he didn't know how to play any instruments so he taught himself to play drums. And why did he learn music? To get chicks. He not only learned to play drums, he studied how they were built so he could add his own enhancements and eventually started building drum kits in the basement.

Eventually he got into sampling and using sequencers after being introduced to hip-hop by a couple of Americans. And thank god he did because it's been a fantastic influence on his music. At first listen, it was hard to peg any comparisons. But after checking him out more, it was even harder. This is one of the first CDs to play with mixing rocky rhythms with drums and other funky sounds since Beck put out Odelay.

Ragnstam's playful music is long overdue. It's time for a good party album and this is it. There's no messing around here trying to impress anybody. He seems to be making music for himself because he likes doing it, not necessarily to sell millions of records on the strength of one single. And that's due to the fact that almost the entire album is lovable.

From the melancholy intro that seamlessly bumps up against "Breakfast By the Matress," a gleeful opening track that sets the pace for the rest of the album's no-holds-barred, relationship-fueled 13 tracks. Is Rangstam trying to win us over with his punky drumming and flirtatious, breathy vocals? Or kick start the party with the electro-tinged '80s rhythms? Perhaps he wants his listeners to groove to the soulful, walk-through-the-park hooks of "Lonely Lane," a song right out of the '70s love era. Every track on the album stands out on its own merit and the path from start to finish is a rollercoaster of good times with surprises at every turn. The biggest surprise is just how good this CD is.

This debut, which was set to hit the U.S. in September is now pushed back (foolishly) to February. Ragnstam is currently scheduled to tour the States in November, at which time he'll have recorded a short EP of newer material (newer compared to everything else people here have heard?!). It looks like Europeans and the Japanese are going to treasure him first since he's playing shows in both places before coming here. While you wait to get your fill, have a fix and listen to his music.

You won't be disappointed. Trust. - SomethingGlorious.com


Pop music with a difference...and that difference is...imagination. Kristoffer Ragnstam's tunes sound something like a cross between Ben Folds, Joe Jackson, and Andy Pratt...but not really. In any event, his music falls into the same basic category of positive, upbeat pop. This CD arrived without a press release...so all we know is what we hear. Judging from the sound of the tunes on Sweet Bills we would immediately guess that we will all be hearing a lot more about Ragnstam in the very near future. Instead of concocting throwaway pop or underground artsy slop, Kristoffer writes classic catchy pop tunes that could just as easily appeal to underground fans as well as the masses (most musicians usually fall into one category or the other...but rarely both). What is perhaps most appealing about these songs is the fact that there is just a hint of soul...which adds a nice human feel to the proceedings. Cool tracks include "Breakfast by the Mattress," "Lonely Lane," "Too Close to the Curb," and "Kayla." Highly entertaining. (Rating: 5+) - BabySue.com


While high-profile pop bands from Sweden were busily grabbing press attention, their countryman Kristoffer Ragnstam was working under the radar screen, making music that refused to fit the Scandinavian stereotype.

His sound was different – too different to ignore. Musicians took note, not only in his country but in Germany and Japan. The media responded too, going overboard with effusions that, at the request of this somewhat self-effacing artist, we won’t repeat here.

It’s strange, when you think about it, because Kristoffer didn’t play that many gigs. In fact, he didn’t even play any instruments, other than drums, and yet managed to cut a solo demo that won him his first record deal. Soft-spoken, with a wry sense of humor, he thrived primarily in recording studios, where he apprenticed to staff engineers on sessions and then applied their lessons to his own projects, working after-hours until crashing on the nearest couch.

On his U.S. debut, Sweet Bills, Kristoffer bundles the results into one of the most idiosyncratic packages heard since the advent of Beck. Each track veers unpredictably to the next: The wall-of-sound pop of “Lonely Lane,” broadcast by roaring guitars and thundering drums, gives way to the simmering funk of “Doctor, Give the World a Smile.” Mellow horns and backward guitar samples on “Sweet Bills” explode into a complex groove that nudges surreal lyrics – “My girl wants to be an astronaut/My boss wants to be a talent scout” – through “Born as a Lion.”

You can also sense a chronology to Sweet Bills. Echoes of sixties garage rock permeate “Never Get Used to You,” an eighties electronic dance hook slices through “Man Overboard,” and on “Keila” the music is timeless and the message playfully twisted: “I’ve been waiting for you to call the last seven years,” Kristoffer intones. “You see, honey, we’ve got a problem …”

As Kristoffer sees it, this overlay of irony and multiple musical influences captures who he is, personally as well as artistically. “I’m honest with my music,” he explains. “No one pushed me. I got to where I am on my own.”

Unlike the material on his first album, the songs that would eventually be featured on Sweet Bills included other musicians: members of Kristoffer’s band Electric-4, saxophonist Andreas Gidlund, guitarist Per Stålberg from Division of Laura Lee, and, on one track, (International) Noise Conspiracy drummer Ludwig Dahlberg.

Kristoffer worked smoothly with co-writers Magic Joel and Pontus Winnberg on finessing the production. And so – why not? – he impulsively invited Chris Brown to polish it off with a final mix.

He’d met the respected engineer (Radiohead, Blur, Supergrass, the Beatles Anthology) during some sessions in Gothenburg. “We hung out, and I asked if I could send him some of my music. He said yeah, and after he’d heard my tapes he brought me to England for a mixing session. Everything worked between us, so we kept in contact until I could bring him to my studio in Sweden, where he mixed my whole album.”

Kristoffer and his band performed some of this material during their first trip to the States, in late 2005. Their sets at the Knitting Factory, the Living Room, and other venues stirred interest in New York, from audiences as well as label people. One of the latter brought him onboard at bluhammock music, without even having to trot anyone from Abba out as incentive.

Sweet Bills is, Kristoffer insists, a project he can introduce without hesitation into the unsuspecting American market. “It’s very intimate – naked, even. I’m not trying to be smart or anything. I’m just doing what comes naturally. Sweet Bills is one hundred percent me.”

One hundred percent Kristoffer: As the world will soon discover, music doesn’t get any hotter than that. - Filter-Mag.com


The songs are never long in the tooth but instead are poignant pieces that condense rich harmonies and uplifting beats into an opus that you will hum along to in no time. This no nonsense approach by Kristoffer Ragnstam is well appreciated in a world of saber rattling and studio wizardry. That’s not to say that some crafty elements of knob twiddling aren’t applied on “Sweet Bills”—there’s vocoded voices and groovy synth rhythms abound—but it doesn’t feel fake or over produced and that spells all the difference in the world. - Smother.net


I debuted a song from Kristoffer Ragnstam a few days ago [see here] promising to show you more. His album Sweet Bills is quickly becoming one of my most played of the summer-- awesome psych-rock, bending classic rock riffs, and smart lyrics (think Andrew Bird). Here's another great song from that album:

Kristoffer Ragnstam - Too Close To The Curb

The beginning riff on this song is completely impossible to ignore...just pulls you in. It reminds me a bit of the alt rock music of the mid nineties that I grew up listening to (which may explain why I love this song and album so much). It's got that weird cyclical "told you so" feel to it...and I don't know how to explain it much more than that, so I'll leave it up to you to see if you agree or disagree on whatever level. - IGuessI'mFloating.com


Kristoffer Ragnstam is Sweden’s best kept secret. He’s a singer/guitarist who learned his craft playing drums, he’s a performer who trained as a studio engineer, and he’s a hero back home with growing support here. It’s this duality that allows Kris to make a cut ‘n’ shut masterpiece like “Beauty.”

Starting out as a Beatles-esque stomper, “Beauty” takes Ragnstam’s vocals and applies chiming piano and glammy guitar to make the best song that Paul McCartney never wrote, before all of a sudden slowing down with a soulful Hammond organ groove for the leadout, with Ragnstam hollering like Joe Cocker.
- Filter Magazine


there is a genre of independent music that i will predictably love. it's everything rolled up into a jangly rock-pop burrito: folk, alt-country, sunshine pop, a little piano here, a few strings there, a little electronic play, unusual vocalists (Isaac Brock, i love you. Colin Hay, we'll talk)... eggs? if i ate them, i'd have them scrambled, thank you.

but sometimes an artist comes catapulting through this predictable pattern, knocking everything all over the place and straightening up, settling down, only to make my jaw drop and say - hang on, kids, i like this album. the force can vary from a rubber chicken to a cannon-ball, but neverthless, lying snugly somewhere in this category comes Kristoffer Ragnstam.

Do You Want A Piece Of Me poses a question that can be answered only after a few listens. do we want a piece of him WELL yes we do - but it takes a minute. the EP comes in trailing influences too varied to mention all of them, but some of my favorite are older. on "Breakfast By The Mattress," deservedly the most popular track, they have an updated seventies disco flair, a little like Under The Influence of Giants - those giants being the bee-gees. more importantly, though, is the extremely successful range of songs produced on this simple 5-track. anything he tries, he gets right. 60's garage, delicate harmonies, piano, POP. the guy knows his pop.

speaking of the guy, the name is Swedish. he's got a great history, hailing from Sweden but veering off the Swede-pop bandwagon to do his own, slightly more involved (sometimes i think i could write a Swede-pop song, and yet i love it still) genre of rock and pop and disco and 60's dance and psychedelia and... i'm telling you, this cat does everything. he loves his craft, and he's honed it well - not to mention getting in the studio with producer Chris Brown (think: Radiohead, Beatles, and big Brit stars like Blur). it's all very impressive... and hopefully i can impress upon you to keep him in mind for his debut LP Sweet Bills, out in March sometime.
- Noisefortoaster.com


Discography

"Panic Ride"- 2003
"Do You Want a Piece of Me EP"- 2006
"Sweet Bills" - March 2007

Photos

Bio

While high-profile pop bands from Sweden were busily grabbing press attention, their countryman Kristoffer Ragnstam was working under the radar screen, making music that refused to fit the Scandinavian stereotype.

His sound was different – too different to ignore. Musicians took note, not only in his country but in Germany and Japan. The media responded too, going overboard with effusions that, at the request of this somewhat self-effacing artist, we won’t repeat here.

It’s strange, when you think about it, because Kristoffer didn’t play that many gigs. In fact, he didn’t even play any instruments, other than drums, and yet managed to cut a solo demo that won him his first record deal. Soft-spoken, with a wry sense of humor, he thrived primarily in recording studios, where he apprenticed to staff engineers on sessions and then applied their lessons to his own projects, working after-hours until crashing on the nearest couch.

On his U.S. debut, Sweet Bills, Kristoffer bundles the results into one of the most idiosyncratic packages heard since the advent of Beck. Each track veers unpredictably to the next: The wall-of-sound pop of “Lonely Lane,” broadcast by roaring guitars and thundering drums, gives way to the simmering funk of “Doctor, Give the World a Smile.” Mellow horns and backward guitar samples on “Sweet Bills” explode into a complex groove that nudges surreal lyrics – “My girl wants to be an astronaut/My boss wants to be a talent scout” – through “Born as a Lion.”

You can also sense a chronology to Sweet Bills. Echoes of sixties garage rock permeate “Never Get Used to You,” an eighties electronic dance hook slices through “Man Overboard,” and on “Keila” the music is timeless and the message playfully twisted: “I’ve been waiting for you to call the last seven years,” Kristoffer intones. “You see, honey, we’ve got a problem …”

As Kristoffer sees it, this overlay of irony and multiple musical influences captures who he is, personally as well as artistically. “I’m honest with my music,” he explains. “No one pushed me. I got to where I am on my own.”

It took him a while to start that journey, though. Kristoffer didn’t really get serious about music until he was fifteen years old. Growing up in Kungälv, slightly north of Gothenburg, he devoted most of his time to other diversions: playing soccer and savoring the biscuits and cookies for which his hometown is celebrated. Eventually, though, like musicians throughout history, he discovered that girls seemed to take special note of guys who had a way with a song. With that, he shifted gears.

Drums were his first choice. “It’s funny, because I don’t even like the album that much, but I first noticed drums as I was listening to Money and Cigarettes – the first one Eric Clapton recorded after he got clean,” Kristoffer says. “It was pretty boring, actually, but somehow the drums intrigued me. So I promised my mom not to eat candy for a year, and she got me my first kit.”

Characteristically, Kristoffer went beyond performance. He examined how the drums were built, picked out some details he thought he could improve, and began building kits on his own, in his mother’s basement. His work appealed especially to jazz players, but because of the expectations he placed on his own handiwork it began to take more time than he could spare – up to three months – to finish each assignment. (He did find time, though, to make his own kit, which he uses onstage to this day.)

Kristoffer could barely play when he and a few friends put their first band together. They couldn’t play either, which is why the name they chose for themselves, Blind, might not have been as suitable as, let’s say, Deaf. “Just imagine five guys who never even held instruments, trying to do our own songs,” he remembers. “We had no success at all. But it was good for my self-confidence. And it’s also important that we never played covers. In fact, all I’ve done from the beginning, on my own projects, was to play my own music.”

As his drumming improved, Kristoffer started doing session dates in Gothenburg. While that helped pay the rent, it didn’t satisfy that urge to do original stuff. For a while he hooked up with two American visitors, whose enthusiasm for hip-hop made a strong impact. “They were used to working with sequencers and samplers,” he explains. “I didn’t have any of that, so I had to work out break beats on my own. It was a big challenge, but it was also the best school of drumming I’d ever had.”

Restlessly, Kristoffer moved into the country and started building a studio at home. Stocking it with a mixture of commercial products and some analog delays, microphone preamps, and other items that he’d built, he then started acquiring instruments and cutting demos. The fact that he played only drums was but a minor impediment. In fact, that made it easier to coax unusual material from some of the odds and ends he had gathered, including a guitar with just one string.