Welcome to my end-of-year coverage for 2023. In the coming weeks, I’ll be counting down the best synthpop videos, songs, and albums of the year. But first, as I’ve done the past three years, I’m kicking things off with my pick for the best new synthpop artist of the year: KUNT.
KUNT is a dynamic new act from Sweden made up of musician Rickard Rosendahl and singer Paula Lé Boss. They’ve released one EP, Unleashed, and a handful of songs, including a firebomb called “Jericho Stand” that showcases the band’s extraordinary blend of electropop melody and punk attitude.
The members of KUNT were kind enough to answer my questions about their background, their songwriting process, and the future.
Let’s start by introducing yourselves. Tell us your names and backgrounds, and how did you two decide to start a band?
Paula Lé Boss: I’m from Malmö. My music background consisted of dancing, singing choir, and listening to music at the library as a young girl. I would stand there for many hours and get to know all kinds of music. But my music background often contained punk music.
We became KUNT after meeting Rickard at a concert. He saw me there, and some days after he asked me on messenger if I would come to try to sing in his studio. I hesitated but eventually agreed. I was super nervous, but then magic happened!
Rickard Rosendahl: I live outside Hässleholm, and here is also where my interest in music began as a teenager. When I met Paula i saw something in her, and I wanted to know if she could sing. After a concert, I contacted her and invited her to my studio. It was clear she has the extroverted part of her that could work on stage, and we found out she could sing. She just needed a little help to come out of her comfort zone. And then KUNT came to life.
Was there a particular moment when you realized you had something special?
Rickard: I just knew that after the first song we recorded this would be a good thing. I felt a connection on many levels with Paula and started to get a picture of what we were about to create. It was a great feeling and still is.
I have to ask about your name. KUNT sounds like a vulgar word in English. I do not know if that’s also a bad word in Swedish. Why did you choose that name?
Paula: When I didn’t want to start a band, Richard tried to persuade me. He said, “Well Paula, we have a song now (the first one, “Breath You“). Can you choose a name for us?”
KUNT UP, I said, which means, “man up, grow some balls.”
But “kunt” is also an old Scandinavian word for a backpack made of natural material. My brain associated to “you are not your past, fuck that, now take your crap and move forward.”
It seems like all of my favorite artists come from Sweden. Why does Sweden produce so many great synth bands, and do you belong to a strong artist community where you live?
Rickard: I have been making music almost all my life, and it started in the town Hässleholm with a community where lots of musicians experimented together. Many of us still makes music in some form.
But since KUNT, we have both been working on gathering friends and people in the music scene together. For example, when we had the first release, Unleashed, we gathered many musician friends to create a one-day festival. To help and support each other, inspire, and be inspired is important for us both.
In the land of “lagom,” the subculture scene has a strong connection amongst the artists and audience. This creates an inclusive and creative environment for making good music.
You’ve covered The Cure and Depeche Mode. Are those two of your influences? Who or what else would you say are your biggest influences?
Paula: I don’t even have a specific picture of what I wanna create or be inspired by. But I do know that I’m the sum of everything I ever listened to, and that is a whole lot! To mention some, I must say Patti Smith and Juliett Lewis—two strong women with a presence one can’t ignore.
Rickard: We tend to listen to whatever comes our way. We think that locking your target on one particular genre is not helping either personal development or when making music. But to mention some important bands, Depeche Mode is right up there with Nine Inch Nails, Nitzer Ebb, Camouflage, and also metal bands like In Flames.
What’s your songwriting process? Do the words or the music come first?
Rickard: It varies. It can be that we have been somewhere and got a sudden idea or that we have a song embryo in the studio that we then create a feeling and lyrics around.
One of the songs, for example, was created when we were at a spa. Then we took the idea to the studio when we got home, and it was quite natural how it would sound and what it would contain.
We believe that writing songs is different depending on where you are in your music development. Also the work of our producer, Martin Sax, is a vital component of our work. His musical ear makes the songs shine even more both in production, mix, and mastering.
You’ve released around six songs so far. If you had to pick just one as the essential KUNT song, which one would it be and why?
“Sneaky Sins” really had us when two days later we sat with a song that had been conceived from a piece of paper filled with words like pippi birds, adult bibs, condoms, bike helmets and the great Christer Sjögren, just to name a few things we found cool.
“FCKS GIVEN” is our first promotional video, even though we didn’t have a full song at the moment. So we finished it the day after together with a music video.
I want to ask you about “Jericho Stand,” which is a powerful song. Is that about the city in Palestine?
Well, not really. We will not carbonate! We think more of it in the way you view art… in the eye of the beholder. Music is experienced by the listener, and whatever the songs give is good.
“Jericho Stand” is both about a Texas ghost town and also relationships in any form.
Paula, when you sing, you sometimes add a vocal scoop to the end of your lines. It has so much punk attitude! Where does that come from?
Paula: That just happened. I wasn’t even aware of it to be honest. I’m not an experienced singer, and I guess I just had that twist coming out when he made me grab the microphone. Some like it, some do not, that’s OK though.
KUNT performed live a few times this year, including at Subkultfestivalen. Do you enjoy performing live, and do you have more shows coming up?
Hell yeah, that’s the main reason we are doing this!
Gigs coming up include Nuclear Nation in Linköping, Klubb Död: Black Widow Party in Stockholm, and Winterwaves 2024 in Gothenburg.
We look forward to being booked outside Scandinavia in 2024
You’re working on your debut album for release in 2024. What else can you tell us about it?
It will be a roller-coaster ride between 80 to 130 BPM and of course some new remixes from our fellow musician friends. The working name right now is Disco Exorcism, but we have to wait and see. Hold on and ride with us. Stay KUNT.
Photo at top credit: Jens Atterstrand, Svartpunkt.