The Ziegfeld theatre in NYC wasn’t full of quiet murmuring the way a typical night at the movies would be before a film began; it was full of girls dancing around by the screen, holding up signs, singing along to iconic electronic songs. Rather than previews, there was a solitary message “Tell Us What You Think” inviting the audience to submit Twitter and Instagram reviews of the documentary. We were all bound together at this premiere by our love for three individual artists who worked together and became the face of mainstream EDM, Swedish House Mafia.
On the west coast, the Arclight Theater in Hollywood was having a premiere of its own. The attendees weren’t quite as rambunctious, but there was no lack of fandom as the crowd was dressed to the nines in support of SHM.
Swedish House Mafia manager Amy Thompson spoke with Leave The World Behind’s director Christian Larson before the NYC premiere to explain that this was not a love story showing three best friends who rose to the top through teamwork and dedication; it was a divorce story.
Leave The World Behind beautifully chronicled the group’s break up, without ever digging too deep into the actual causes. Instead, we were forced to read between the lines of the wonderfully choreographed cinematography, the subtext of the artists’ conversations, as well as other external factors to try and understand why such an iconic group would call it quits so early in their career.
With both myself and Matthew Meadow being at premieres on different sides of the country, we thought it might be interesting to take this opportunity to have a somewhat lengthy conversation regarding our thoughts on the film – its merits, faults and any other interesting bits.
Matt: So the very first thing you see in the film is this beautiful speedboat. SHM are in it, looking like they’re having a great time, being bros and all that. It’s interesting that the opening scene is completely counter to the theme of the whole movie.
Diane: When it first began I thought to myself, “Wow- look at these three best friends. How lucky they are to be able to have worked together to create something so much larger than themselves”, but as the movie progressed, it became clear that their friendship was deeply affected by the strain Swedish House Mafia put on them.
Matt: It’s hard to stress enough how much dedication that a team like that required, and when it came down to it, all three – Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello – had their own solo careers and their own lives. They weren’t all living in Sweden, they all had wives and children, and the stress and expectations of a world-class DJ group on top of that became too much.
Diane: They each had their own agendas to fulfill. During the film, they mentioned how SHM fans deserved more than they were able or willing to give them at that point in their careers. They were rarely even physically together while making music- they were unable to fully commit to the group. In Leave The World Behind, you were able to catch an insider glimpse of the other aspects of their lives; these guys were more than just DJs, they were fathers and husbands spending months away from their children and wives. Not only did they have to focus on their musical careers, as they grew up they took on other responsibilities.
Matt: And so Leave The World Behind focuses primarily on their relationship as they embark on this absolutely massive 50 show world tour. And to be honest, I am not really a huge SHM fan. I know their singles, of course, but I think I would feel out of place at one of their shows. At least, I thought… The energy and community that was demonstrated at every single one of their shows was staggering. The one that stands out most to me was India – a crowd of nearly 20,000 people, somewhere that we wouldn’t think EDM is as big.
Diane: That is what makes Swedish House Mafia so iconic – they became the face of mainstream EDM merely by being not only talented but, as they mentioned in the movie, at the right moment with electronic music at the right time with their own music. They rose to the top just as EDM really boomed around the world. Throughout the film, fans were floored at the idea of their breakup. Why end something so good just as they were exponentially becoming more popular? They sold out Madison Square Garden in just 9 minutes!
Matt: There was a whole scene where Sebastian was just reading tweet replies to the news – calling him names like faggot and asshole, saying their [the fans] lives were over or that their favorite thing in the world had just died. The sheer degree of devotion that fans had for these three men – they never had a complete album release, and they only had eight releases over a six year career. What that says about them is intangible; what we can infer is just as Diane said: they found themselves at the right place at the right time, and they had the skills to back it up.
Diane: You could definitely pick up on their anxiety throughout their career as SHM in regards to their sudden explosive success. Axwell discusses his concerns for being looked back on as “one hit wonders”, Ingrosso admits “we’re not best friends anymore”, and they all take a moment to think about how long this scene will last. The cinematography was superb, filling in where words failed to display the tension, the elephant in the room. There were shots of them silently eating dinner, sitting at the same table, words unspoken. There were shots of them trying to speak to one another, even make small talk, without reciprocation. You could sense the loneliness they each felt, even when the rest of the world viewed them as three best friends living the dream. “We all want to be happy more than we want to be in Swedish House Mafia”.
Matt: The fact of the matter was that they were still going to be friends. They would still (we hope) visit each others’ families and have their children grow up together. But the business side of things was failing so heavily the did not want it to affect their personal lives. And so they chose to end it all.
Diane: Their reason throughout the movie for ending SHM was “to salvage their friendship”, but I’m not sure they really came to a resolution. The film ended at Ultra, their last ever show together as Swedish House Mafia, but they never discussed their true issues with one another. Perhaps they didn’t want to discuss on camera, perhaps they didn’t want to discuss at all. I was left with a yearning to find out what truly went wrong between them, but the movie was unable to pinpoint that, because the elephant in the room was never addressed. It seemed as though the trio would rather leave the world behind, sweep it under the rug, and forget the issues of the past.
Matt: We can see again, at the final scene, they are driving the same boat as in the opening scene. Things had somewhat come full circle, as their career as Swedish House Mafia came to an end they could focus on themselves and their solo careers.
Diane: I’ll never forget live streaming Ultra 2013 from my dorm room and witnessing over my tiny little computer screen the last ever Swedish House Mafia performance. It was beautiful, emotional, engaging, but it was a spectacle. And perhaps that is why they needed to call it quits, they needed to individually focus on their solo careers, get back to the music, and leave behind the grandiosity of SHM.
Co-written with Matt Meadow: