Sound of 2012: Niki & The Dove

Traditional English afternoon tea with Swedish duo Niki & The Dove

Swedish electronic duo Niki & The Dove, who want to be "the Bjorn Borgs of pop music", have come fifth in the BBC's Sound of 2012 new music list.

The list, compiled using tips from more than 180 tastemakers - made up of music critics, editors, broadcasters and bloggers - aims to highlight some of the most exciting emerging artists. We are revealing one artist from the top five every day in reverse order until Friday, when the winner will be announced.

It is approximately 16:00 GMT on a grey Tuesday, and in a hidden 50s-style tea room located above a pub in Soho, central London, Scandinavian electro artists Niki & The Dove are taking afternoon tea.

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"We really like going for afternoon tea, it is becoming more popular in Sweden," says singer Malin Dahlstrom.

Gustaf Karlof, the other half of the band agrees: "When you're playing in the evening you have a few hours in the afternoon where you can have a rest and it's nice to go some place calm and have some tea."

Tea, it would seem, is the new rock and roll. "I think Sid Vicious had tea," muses Karlof.

Putting preferential beverages aside, the band is causing some serious buzz with their gothic-tinged club tunes.

The pair started recording as Niki & The Dove in 2010 and released their debut single DJ, Ease My Mind on independent label Moshi Moshi to some acclaim.

Earlier this year, they released the seven-track EP, The Drummer.

Karlof, who studied music in Gothenburg, has composed for theatre and recently played with Magnus Ostrom, a former member of Swedish jazz band EST.

He also briefly worked with Dahlstrom - who found some success in Sweden as singer in the electro-folk band The Dora Steins - before.

Niki and the Dove Dahlstrom and Karlof previously played together in folk band The Dora Steins

Describing themselves as friends for many years, Karlof says they did "play a bit together", but the decision to start a band together was delayed as "I was afraid to ask her".

"Because she worked by herself so well," he explains.

Describing Karlof as "the one I've felt most kinship in music with", Dahlstrom has some difficulty describing their music.

She says: "Our music is very different from song to song. It's electronic pop music but we use a lot of acoustic elements."

The pair are keen to see off any suggestion that Karlof is the main creative force behind their sound, while Dahlstrom is limited to providing the vocals.

Karlof insists: "We write the music together, Malin writes the lyrics by herself."

He jokes: "I'm not allowed to help.

"She wants to write because it's awkward to sing somebody else's words, and I can really understand that."


Niki & The Dove's inclusion in the BBC's Sound of 2012 list should come as no surprise to those following recent cultural trends.

Niki and the Dove The band will be part of the NME Radar tour this spring

The past couple of years have seen a resurgence in all things Scandinavian, not least the success of things like Denmark's Bafta-winning drama The Killing, Wallander - starring Kenneth Branagh - and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series of books and films.

The Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, effectively re-vamped a genre which was, to keep the puns going, a bit long in the tooth. Director Tomas Alfredson went on to the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

But musically, there has been much celebration over artists like Mohombi, Swedish House Mafia, Oh Land, Robyn and Lykke Li and their brand of effortlessly cool Scandi-pop.

Using a colourful sports analogy, Karlof explains: "We have confidence, it's like when Bjorn Borg was the best tennis player in the world, six or seven others came after him because he told the Swedish people: 'We can do this, so let's do it'.

"Then after that, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Mikael Pernfors. But I don't want to be a Mats Wilander. We want to be the Bjorn Borg of pop."

A bemused smile and a shaking of the head from Dahlstrom signals that Karlof's flights of fancy are not a rare occurrence.

As if to try to make amends for his seemingly flippant sports analogy, Karlof continues: "It's also a political thing in Sweden, we have good welfare, we have time and money to make music.

"There is a lot of support as a child so if you want to do music or sport you can do that, you don't have to pay because they want to encourage that."

But is there more to it? According to actor Daniel Craig, who is starring in the US remake of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a land which, in the far north, spends large chunks of the year in darkness fosters a culture of storytelling, myths and legends.

While Niki & The Dove's songs don't necessarily have a narrative, their music is certainly filled with gothic darkness.

"We have a lot of mystical strange ghost stories," says Karlof, citing the work of Swedish artist John Bauer - known for his illustrations of fairies and trolls and on whose work Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal was based.

"I think the darkness in those pictures, as a Swedish person, you are very influenced by it. I think Sweden was quite a scary place to live before electricity, people were afraid of the forests."

However, Dahlstrom disagrees the band is part of any kind of emerging scene: "When you come from Scandinavia, you don't think of yourself as a Scandinavian musician that is part of a movement or a Swedish trend.

"It isn't your musical identity."

Niki & The Dove's debut album is due out in the spring.

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