When did Sweet begin and who started it?
Erik J Pettersson: A local guy, Thomas Löfgren, started it in a small town and he just wanted to make a brand. It started in 1999 in Trollhättan, Sweden.
Were you guys involved at that point or was it just him?
EJP: Well, he let us buy the boards cheap.
Björn Holmenäs: B-sponsorship we called it.
EJP: And it was like that for some years I think.
BH: Until 2006 I think. Well we got free boards before that, but nothing really happened team-wise before that.
EJP: It was our first video Sweet Vacation in 2005 that got things off the ground. It was the first launch that people saw Sweet.
Yeah that was around the first time we heard of Sweet…
BH: Yeah well people knew about it in Sweden, but this was the first time that it made the company a real thing. Before we put out the video we weren’t really a company, it was still sort of just a local shop brand.
So this was with Junkyard (Swedish online retailer) at this point?
EJP: No this was before Junkyard. First Thomas just had a shop and he changed the name of the shop to Junkyard. At first it was just a small shop then he changed locations, changed warehouses, got big, etc.
So at the time, was this a good thing for Sweet?
BH: Yeah it was good for us as it meant we could maybe do more stuff than other smaller brands as we had some type of different financial backing.
EJP: And since Thomas had both Sweet and Junkyard he could spend money on both. Even though maybe Junkyard made the money and he lost a little on Sweet he had options.
BH: The good thing about Thomas was that he always had this dream of making a great skateboard company. You know, something bigger than a small shop brand. But maybe the way we see skateboarding is different than the way he saw it. So when he was busy doing the Junkyard thing we had a chance to form the team our way and the way we wanted it. So Sweet has always been two sides: one part the team and everything we did and the other side was the business part of it. We were never really connected to that side.
EJP: Björn has been the gateway in between. The team had one view and then the business guys had another and Björn had to be in the middle.
At what point did you guys decide you needed to leave Junkyard? When did it go sour? (Pun intended)
EJP: We thought about it years ago. When Thomas started selling off bits of the company to investors we started to think about it.
BH: Junkyard was such a success story and Sweet kind of tagged on along with that. And when the bigger e-commerce things started happening Thomas got more investors in to help run the company. That was the start of it… Well even before that we always named things sour. What they were doing was Sweet and what we did was sour. I mean we’d fly home to Sweden and we would see that Junkyard was the biggest thing ever and we’d see Sweet everywhere, but for the team we were kind of isolated from that. It just wasn’t the same thing. We didn’t even get to see the product. It was in Sweden and maybe a couple other stores in Europe. So outside of Scandinavia there was almost no presence. Outside of Scandinavia people thought it was a smaller company than it was. Then, when you got to a store in Sweden and you see 50 different colourways of a pair of jeans you’d realise that Sweet was massive.
BH: Yeah that was always a bit weird, but it worked for us because the boss backed us and helped me do stuff for the guys. It felt OK you know…
EJP: Yeah well that arrangement worked well at the time because you guys know what Sweet is now and he helped us fund making videos.
So you guys were willing to compromise?
BH: Yeah, I guess we did because we always knew it was big in Scandinavia and maybe it’s a bit fucked up, but I always thought we could kind of change it.
We had the history, we had the good team – we thought it would eventually get better. But it never got better and when he (Thomas) started selling off parts of the company it felt forceful.
So this was the time you felt like you really needed to do something on your own?
BH: Well even in the beginning when they started selling the company off it didn’t feel that bad. It was OK, he wasn’t selling all of it off, but towards the end he sort of said he was out. So without him, it was just ourselves against investors. So I understood that we were going to be told that we had to make cuts. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to keep my job. No one really knew where it was all going and since all of us guys on the team knew each other really well I started by asking Erik and then little by little the other guys if they were down to be a part of something new. I mean… The team has a long history together; it always felt like Sour was ours you know?
EJP: We all just wanted to be a part of a company that would do things the way we always want to do it.
BH: I do not want to make any compromises anymore, I´m all about the team making the decisions as a group, they are the ones that skate – they put their names out there.
So was “Sour” the first obvious choice for the name of the new company?
BH: Yes, for me it was always a Vision to Blind sort of thing. I mean we always had the Sour, that’s what we named everything that we did for the company. What they did was Sweet and what we did was Sour so it was an obvious choice.
Yeah the old artistic direction of Sweet must have really been an issue. Can you tell us about what direction and look Sour will take?
EJP: It’s all just pieces of paper right now! (Laughs)
BH: Yeah everyone has their sketchbook.
So everyone’s involved in the process?
EJP: Yeah. We meet regularly and we also have a Facebook group where we all talk about ideas. It’s a good system as everyone can put their input in. Even if reaching a democratic decision between 10 guys is virtually impossible.
BH: Right now it’s one of the toughest moments as we are trying to decide on a logo. This is something that hopefully we will have to live with for many years to come. We are getting there though, somehow some way.
So are you nervous? Starting a whole skate company with no huge financial backer? You’re really putting your neck out there… It’s a big thing…
BH: Of course I´m a bit nervous but it´s really exciting at the same time. Before I didn´t see myself running a skate company at all, but then all of a sudden it just felt like the most natural thing ever. I just had to do this knowing that the team wanted to be a part of it and that I´m positive that the entire skate community will think of this as an exciting move. Together we will make sure that this will be a company done the way we always wanted it to be.
So do many people in the skate world know about this change?
BH: Hardly anyone. So far we’ve kept it a secret. The few people we’ve talked to about it have been really positive about this happening. I think a lot of people kind of waited for this to happen as well and they didn’t see it as this risky thing as we have so much history…
Yeah they already believe in it! And obviously the whole team believes in it, I mean they have to take this big leap. Is everyone fine with not getting paid right away?
BH: Well I hope so! (Laughs) I mean in the last 2-3 years everyone has sort of gotten something from their shoe sponsors and maybe they are making it somehow – in a survivalist sort of way. I mean, I think the guys know I’m putting everything into this. And they know this time it’s not just for me it’s for everyone. I mean, there will be an equal percentage for each and everyone but they all know a big part of what we make will go to the team. The better it works the more possibilities for everyone.
I guess it helps that everyone is really close on the team, which doesn’t come as a surprise for Erik, Spengan, Anton and Koffe as they were on it since the beginning, but what about the new guys? Can you tell us a little bit about how they got on?
BH: After the Malaga time and the first two videos that´s the first time we hooked up someone new who was from outside our group. We had met this kid Josef with his dreads at some competitions. It was actually back when I was helping out Cliché with the Swedish distribution and I was flowing him some of their boards. He was the worst though… He never got back to me about getting products or anything. One day I finally got a hold of him at a comp to give him a board and that day he killed it so hard that after talking to the others we figured we might as well start giving him Sweet boards instead and maybe even try taking him on a trip or something (even though he was still only 16). We always thought it was better to let kids be kids until they were old enough to come on trips without us having to explain to their mum that they unavoidably got into trouble. I guess Josef´s poor mum had already seen it all so that wasn’t really an issue…
Since Josef was not the most responsible young man it felt like a good idea to add Jonas Skröder, another Cliché flow kid (this time from Denmark). He came to Tenerife with Analog when we were there filming for the new video and everyone loved his style and personality and it felt good to know that he was more of a quiet kid and a good influence for Josef. To this day none of us have ever misjudged a person to the extent that we did with Jonas. He was/is a true devil in disguise and you never know what is going to happen around him off or on the board.
Yeah Jonas really knows how to have a good time! So what about some of the others?
BH: Whilst we were in the making of the fourth video Isak Lindberg the filmer told me that he thought it would be a good idea to ask Nisse Ingemarsson to join the team. He seemed to me as sort of a weird addition as I used to think of him as some Stockholm skatepark kid but that soon changed. He came out to Barcelona for two weeks and ate cookies all day and drank beers at Manolo every night. He filmed a great part and he fit in really well with the rest of the guys. Since everyone pretty much always lived together in the same apartment it was always pretty easy to tell how things would work.
As for the next addition, Gustav Tønnesen, the weird thing was that some of us felt like he was almost too good or something. He wouldn’t say very much in the beginning but it didn’t take long before he became an essential part of our group.
Just before splitting with Sweet we had asked long time friend Barney Page to be a part of this and it was the most natural addition ever. It just made sense.
There is also another guy in the mix that people might not really know about, Simon Isaksson. He is sort of our secret weapon guy, you’ll see why when the video drops…
And finally now we’ve also got Albert Nyberg. We’ve all known him since he was 10 or something so when the opportunity to start something new came up we asked him if he wanted to be involved and we are delighted to have have him on board!
Powerful team! Now I know most of the guys live in Barca, have you ever had to step in when you thought they were getting a bit carried away with the destructive Barca lifestyle? Is the partying ever an issue or are they more on a work hard party hard kind of vibe?
BH: I just believe everyone needs to do what they need to do. Everyone needs to go through that. If they want to go party, let them go party. If I see that someone would go too far into something… And I think that’s not just me, that’s all of us we would say something. But fortunately enough we haven’t had to do this. Everyone’s good right now. Everyone has survived through the worst Barcelona temptations.
Tell us about going to the States and linking with the Sk8 Mafia guys… Is it good getting the whole team together like that?
BH: Even before filming for Stee some of us new some of the Sk8 Mafia guys for example, but that’s when we really got to know each other. Those guys would come over for barbecues and parties at our house that we rented and that’s how it all started. And since then we’ve been back over there (USA) and they’ve been to Sweden and it’s never really that productive, but you know – thirty people going out skating with one anda half filmers and maybe, just maybe a photographer. We went to Eastern Europe with those guys for a full month and from that we only got one clip in the video. (Everyone laughs)
So at the time were you like: ‘Ah we’ve blown it!’ or was it a valuable experience to have?
BH: It was a vacation. I don’t know, no one is getting paid anyways just have fun in your life. You just have to have fun and the result in the end… Don’t stress too much about that. Sometimes I would think: ‘Fuck it! Just film something, whatever!’ And this always sort of worked. We would still get the attention we needed. Even though that was one of the most unproductive trips you always at least have something to show at the end of it. And now that there is no one else to present stuff to besides me and I’m already there so we don’t have to worry about that! We don’t have to worry about some sales meeting with a power point presentation or whatever. I’m not saying that we are not going to take this seriously, but it’s going to be the way we want to do it. If you skate and you try then you’ll get your shit out there.
So what about the video? I know you guys were working on something before when you were still Sweet?
EJP: Yeah well we still have the footage.
BH: Yeah well it’s sort of the re-launch of, or I should say the start of the company will coincide with the release of the video. It will have all the riders, but we are still trying to keep it short and not too drawn out – just good skateboarding.
Is Jonathan Lomar still filming and putting the video together for you guys?
EJP: Yeah, but his hard drive crashed.
BH: Yeah we don’t even know if there’s any footage…
EJP: Yeah he’s having this huge problem with his hard drive.
BH: I think he’s sent his hard drive to Norway or something to some specialist.
BH: I mean we still have the tapes because it’s VX.
Thank goodness for the VX!
BH: But we are talking dozens and dozens of tapes – a month to go through all of them if he has to. Hopefully they’ll be able to save his hard drive. In a week or so we’ll know.
So when do you want the video out?
BH: Mid-May is the plan, but you never know… That’s what we are aiming for. The new website should be up by the time this article comes out though. I mean we are really thankful for getting the chance to do this. It’s a really cool way of launching a brand to explain it like this.
It’s fine we are backing you guys!
EJP: Well we are backing you!
Cheers Björn and Erik, best of luck!