I'm From Barcelona In-depth Biography
When the rock histories of the 2000s are written, at least one long chapter will have to be written about the explosion of the concept of the rock band not as a small, discrete unit with relatively stable personnel, but as an amorphous, free-floating collective that could at times expand to include literally dozens of people. Canada's Broken Social Scene and the pan-European ensemble the Envelopes are perhaps the best-known examples, but I'm from Barcelona -- who, naturally, are actually from the small, picturesque, but not at all Catalan city of Jonkoping, Sweden -- may have them beat in terms of sheer scale. The magic number for I'm from Barcelona is 29, which is how many named participants performed on the group's debut EP.
That EP began as a one-off lark inspired in part by Sweden's legendarily generous labor laws. Given four paid weeks off from his office job in the summer of 2005 and armed with a stack of unrecorded tunes, part-time singer/songwriter Emanuel Lundgren decided to invite all of his friends -- most of whom were not in fact professional musicians -- to help him make a D.I.Y. EP. Recorded at Lundgren's house and various public spots around Jonkoping, the EP's completion was celebrated by what was supposed to be the group's debut and farewell performance, with a band name chosen almost at random from the classic British sitcom Fawlty Towers. ("I'm from Barcelona" was the catch phrase for incompetent waiter Manuel.) However, when Lundgren self-released the EP Sing!!, the popular response was enthusiastic enough that the Swedish branch of EMI signed I'm from Barcelona and it became an ongoing concern. The band's blend of sunshiny choral vocals, chamber pop instrumentation (heavy on the horns, banjos, and accordions), and folk-influenced tunes comes off like a winning mix of the Polyphonic Spree, Sufjan Stevens and the Flaming Lips, and developed an almost instantaneous online cult. Their debut EP, Don't Give Up on Your Dreams, Buddy!, featuring the single "We're from Barcelona," was released in the early spring of 2006, followed by the full-length debut Let Me Introduce My Friends that summer. Live incarnations of I'm from Barcelona depend upon how many of the 29 members can attend on any given date; Lundgren and Swedish electronica artist Adventure Kid occasionally perform all-electronic dates as a duo. The same group gathered together to record and release the decidedly more melancholy and downhearted follow-up album, 2008's Who Killed Harry Houdini?. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi