Text by Ali Millington / Photograoh by Amir Chamdin
You might think you haven’t heard of NoNoNo, but you’ve surely heard them. Their stratospheric breakout single, Pumpin’ Blood, has whistled its way into everything from Samsung Galaxy ads to Jimmy Kimmel Live! and a hundred TV montages. The song’s video, all woolly jumpers and frigid sunsets, has been seen 3.5 million times on YouTube. Imagine Lykke Li singing over Peter Bjorn and John and you get a sense of Pumpin’ Blood’s sheer catchiness.
It wasn’t always thus. Before NoNoNo, singer Stina Wäppling had grown tired of the music industry (she signed with Warner Music, aged 17, but the hits never came) and started working as a psychiatric nurse in a day centre for people with mental disorders. But in 2012 she met producers Michel Flygare and Tobias Jimson, better known by their production alter egos Astma and Rocwell, who’d spent 10 years working with top Scandinavian acts such as Icona Pop and Beatrice Eli. The three realised they had a similar musical sensibility (yes, they all loved Lykke Li), and eventually formed a band in summer 2012.
“We weren’t inspired at the time,” remembers Flygare. “The band’s name was because we kept saying no to projects, and we found a kindred spirit in Stina. The result of that is the best thing we ever did.”
Flygare says that Pumpin’ Blood happened fast. “I whistled the melody thinking we’d replace it, but everyone thought we should keep it. And Stina wrote the lyrics in about an hour.”
So what’s the secret to producing a hit? “There’s no formula,” says Flygare. “You try to get a catchy melody while still keeping it credible and not too cheesy or too underground. We thought there was something there when we finished the song, but you never know with these things.
“The reaction to the song has shocked us. It’s like we’re in a dream. It’s not very common for a Swedish group to get this far, and we’re still getting used to seeing our song on adverts and TV shows.”
Now signed to Warner Music again, and with Wäppling’s career in psychiatric work on hold, the next thing is a new album, which will be released in Scandinavia at the end of March. Can we expect more rousing hits? “Well, part of doing the album is to show people that there’s more to us than just doing happy, up-tempo songs. We’re still coming together and finding our sound… We’re finally understanding the struggle of the artist.”