It’s been nine years since Emil Odling founded Blithe, the band he formed with his friends out of sheer boredom in the small, unpretentious college town of Umea, Sweden. And it took six years since they started to be signed in both Sweden and America, release three albums and tour the world.
In 1990, Emil recruited friends to play around Sweden as a cover band. They didn’t see this as the beginning of a rock career path at all. They just wanted something to do in their spare time while still in school. Shortly after forming, Blithe was playing covers around their hometown. That soon became boring and they began to pen songs of their own. It was then that their current successful path took hold. Blithe began to tour in Sweden and their fan base spread. A record deal with Swedish label A West Side Fabrication/NMW followed and “Pagan Rituals Under A Midnight Sun” was released in parts of Europe in early ’92.
In 1994 “Head Is Mighty”, their sophomore album, was released in Europe to rave reviews. Touring played a significant part in spreading the band’s gospel, and their audiences grew even larger and more enthusiastic throughout Europe. Around this time the U.S. began to experience a “Swedish Invasion” of sorts – it was only a matter of time before America came calling. Blithe was among The Cardigans, Fireside, Komeda and other top acts in Sweden that began to be pursued by U.S. labels. Fortunately, Alias was at the Trastock Festival in Skelleftea, Sweden that previous summer and inked Blithe, who blew fans and spectators away that day of the festival.
Alias Records re-released “Head Is Mighty” in North America in August ’96. Knowing Blithe was a strong live act Alias brought them to the U.S. to tour in support of their first U.S. release. Blithe first set foot in America (New York City!) in September ’96 for the CMJ Music Marathon conference. Irving Plaza played host to the fellas; they performed for a packed group of impressed college radio kids, hard to impress industry types and NYC groovesters as the opening act for the Archers of Loaf. It was a startlingly large audience (especially for their first U.S. show ever); they won the crowd over with aplomb. Blithe’s first U.S. tour included opening slots with the Cardigans, Love 666, Jonathan Fire*Eater, Spoon, Those Bastard Souls and the Archers. Guitarist Mattias Norlander performs double writing and touring duty with his other band, Komeda (signed to Minty Fresh Records).
While “Head Is Mighty” had a more raw unrestrained sound and feel, “Verse Chorus Verse” their second release, is more polished and literate, a sign of the band’s budding musical maturity on the road and in the studio. Emil remarked during the U.S. tour that constant performing has done a world a good in the quality of their overall sound, but that “we’ve always had a sound of our own.” Despite the lighthearted and often humorous lyrics that drape the melodies, Emil asserts, “I want to write about things that matter.” On “Verse Chorus Verse” the songwriter does just that and in a way that will make you ponder his meaningful point of view while grinning in spite of yourself.