Miike Snow Makes the Most Out of Ultra's Live Stage

Because Miami is a black hole of traffic nightmares (especially this weekend) and I’m so very Miami myself that tardiness is a way of life, I arrive late to my scheduled interview with Miike Snow at this year’s Ultra Music Festival. Luckily, the Swedish-American indie pop trio do some scheduling gymnastics and push ahead with a separate group of interviewers, a film crew from Japan. My foreign media counterparts came bearing gifts for the band, namely a popular snack called Pocky, a line of chocolate-coated biscuit sticks that currently come in a variety of flavors including milk, mousse, green tea, honey, banana, cookies and cream, and coconut.

I have nothing to offer — not even a granola bar.

By the time I sit down with the three members of Miike Snow, the sweat from my hectic run between the Metro Mover and Bayfront Park has mostly dried. Thankfully they’re too engaged elsewhere to notice my disheveled state. Composer and vocalist Andrew Wyatt and the producer duo of Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, who in another lifetime could have been on another stage at Ultra under their former moniker, Bloodshy & Avant, are all very pleased with their Pocky treats. In fact, no one is more enthralled than Wyatt who steamrolls his way through the bunch and answers questions between bites. 

Our conversation begins with the band's most recent record, iii, their first LP in four years which is garnering overwhelmingly positive responses. We focus on various elements of the album including the title (“It’s a process, the story of us, the third album, three members”), the recording process (“it really is like having a kid”), and the decision to include guest artists (“Charli XCX is a friend and with Run the Jewels, we just got lucky.”) We even venture briefly into how their upcoming side project, a collaboration with Lykke Li, was the result of a Vanity Fair event that took place during last year’s Art Basel.

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However, it isn’t until we get to the topic of peculiar presents that their ears really perk up.

Aside from their genre-tripping music, the Miike Snow jackalope is one of the band’s most distinguishing hallmarks. Over the years, they tell me, they’ve received a lot of gifts in the form of the jackalope: drawings, figurines (Winnberg keeps a tiny one in his studio), and, of course, the original jackalope featured on the back cover of their self-titled debut. Still, there’s one gift that comes up that has nothing to do with their mythical creature mascot, yet is equally as fantastical. 
Karlsson, who’s been mostly quiet up until this point, reveals there’s something he never leaves on tour without.

“I carry some stones around in my pocket that are supposed to have magical properties.”

He says “supposed to” because he’s a skeptic. So then why indulge in the imaginary?

“I carry these couple because of course they were given to me by a very beautiful woman. You’re more inclined to go with it depending on who the messenger is, right? I think that’s how it works. If the moment is right and the messenger is right, you believe.”

When he turns to his bandmates to ask if they carry anything special, Wyatt is already on his phone. “You gave me an idea and I’m actually texting my girlfriend now to get me some magic stones.”

Later that night, a different sort of magic occurs.

Miike Snow open their headlining gig on the Live Stage with the new LP’s first track, “My Trigger” and sprinkle their set with the punchiest, most raucous numbers in their arsenal. Happily, iii is bursting with such songs including their most recent single, a shimmering number called “Heart of Me,” and the sexy and soulful “Genghis Khan.”

It is a properly bombastic set throughout, and it has to be. The three-piece are flanked by a pair of stages that are almost cartoonishly, over-the-top noisy. On the left is the UMF Radio stage that, at times, sounds like a car alarm going off and to the right is the garish, Las Vegas wet dream of the 7-UP stage. Many in the crowd move up front to get a better listen and are ultimately glad they do. 
“We appreciate you coming to see us,” Wyatt says between songs, “We know you could be listening to much louder music.”

What could have been a sprawling mess of bleeding noises canceling each other out turns into an intimate, private concert for a fortunate few. An EDM fest of this magnitude isn’t really their thing and shouldn’t be a good setting to see them, but there’s the rub – this is the perfect place for a Miike Snow concert. Movement is unrestricted, reaching the pit is a cinch, and if you’re exhausted from two-stepping all day, the amphitheater’s seats offer a welcome respite.

Like the Japanese crew that showed their gratitude with chocolatey snacks and lovers who gift each other tokens of affection, this large group of revelers decided to forsake dozens of other attractions to attend the Miike Snow concert, and that in itself is a valuable present. With that in mind, the group close with a lengthy rendition of their first big hit, "Animal," concluding with a thunderous third act of crashing instruments that serves as a giant thank you for all the gifts they’ve received, edible, intimate, and beyond.  

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