Starting out in the Swedish town of Jönköping in 2000, the Mary Onettes have since been on a long journey containing a few downhill slopes and a lot of brick walls. The band was drawn together much due to their common interest for 80s and 90s music, with bands such as the Stone Roses and the Cure. The band’s first years weren’t unlike most bands, members came and went and their sound changed from one week to another.
Although development is crucial for a band one thing has remained the same, the songs. The band revolves around Philip Ekström’s songwriting and although some songs have been stripped down, rebuilt or even thrown away they have kept coming. Things started happening for the Mary Onettes in spring 2004: signing with a brand new label the future couldn’t have looked brighter. Six months later the band lost the deal without being given the chance to release anything. Eight months of despair followed until Sony/BMG decided to sign up the band up for an EP. The debut was released in May 2005 and didn’t make big fuzz to the main crowd, although it got great reviews. A couple of months later the band found themselves without a recording contract once again. Instead of splitting up or getting depressed, they started building a music studio and plans took form to start their own label and release everything themselves. A demo CD sent to Swedish indie label Labrador changed those plans. For the first time the band felt that they had a label that understood them and their music. Signing for a full-length album in spring 2006 led to more frequent studio sessions and recording in their newly built studio in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Humans don’t believe in stagnation, it’s in our nature to develop, evolve and invent. The Mary Onettes started out in 2000 and considered in retrospect, many things have changed. Starting out as a passionate, yet naïve rock band from a small town and therefore having a lot to prove, the band have managed to stay together because of their love for music and each other. It takes time for a band to develop a sound and to create that special bond between members in a rock group. Six years on, that development is still in progress.
The Mary Onettes’ self-titled debut album was released April 25 in Sweden and was soon followed by a full European release. The album got well-deserved, amazing reviews everywhere and the release was followed by extensive touring around Europe.
Since the band debuted on Labrador their international buzz has been growing steadily. Pitchfork put “Lost” on Repeat and the TV series Grey’s Anatomy has used both “Explosions” and “Lost” in their episodes.
The year 2008 was characterized by the deaths of close relatives and friends of Philip Ekström (singer and songwriter of the band) and on “Islands” he’s put more focus on the lyrics. He bought a honky-tonk piano and spent time in complete isolation from the rest of the world writing material for a new album. The idea was to make an album that was closer to nature and epic landscapes.
After a difficult recording process that included a truly modern glitch (first someone stole the hard drive that held all the music the band had recorded, then the backup hard drive failed) the band released their sophomore effort “Islands” in November 2009 and it got rave reviews. The songs, which are their best lyrically so far, are about love, death, frailness and the end of youth, and breathes of heartbreaking sentimentality and desperate hope. Philip reveals that he sometimes finds it hard to play the songs in front of people because they are so personal. This, along with the organic elements such as acoustic guitars, pianos, strings, and children’s choirs, makes it a magical album.
Popmatters puts them on their best indie of 2009 list and writes: “There’s a magical mystery that’s impossible to ignore. Grandiose yet never overbearing, The Mary Onettes have achieved a sonic mastery that grows with every spin of Islands.”