Punk-Garage Band Helping to Bring Back Guitar-Driven Rock & Roll
They’re the hottest thing from Sweden since meatballs. Hate to say we told you so.

Punk-garage stalwarts The Hives are bringing back the good old days of speeded-up rock & roll, with an approach that has endeared them to critics and fans alike on their current album, Veni, Vidi, Vicious.

Originally put out in Scandinavia, the U.K. and Europe by the Swedish Burning Heart label in 1999, then picked up for U.S. distribution by L.A. punk indie Epitaph in late 2000, the album ended up re-released on Sire/Warner Bros. The activity has spurred a spirited major-label bidding war that has reportedly escalated to offers of $3 million for a U.S.-only two-album deal or $5 million worldwide, with at least a 20% royalty rate. Whoa.

The five-piece group, with such colorful aliases as lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction, Chris Dangerous and Nicholaus Arson, formed in the tiny industrial burg of Fagersta, Sweden, back in the mid-’90s, announcing their playful aim of conquering the world of pop music.

The Hives’ initial European release, the 1996 mini-CD Oh Lord! When? How?, was followed by their ’97 album debut, Barely Legal, ’98’s I-D-I-O-T EP and a second album, Veni, Vidi, Vicious. The group was nominated for a Swedish Grammy Award, garnered serious airplay on Swedish National Radio and won the country’s award as Best Live Act of 2000.

After playing an invitational concert at Poptones UK’s London club radio4, The Hives caught the ear of Poptones boss Alan McGee, who licensed the U.K. rights to distribute Your New Favourite Band: Poptones Present the Hives, from Burning Heart. The LP, a compilation of album tracks and b-sides, came out in October 2001 and promptly climbed to the top of the English indie charts.

Currently on a month-long tour of the States, which got underway in San Diego May 26 and ends with a show in Washington, DC, June 15, the group has elicited raves from the likes of the L.A. Times and USA Today.

The first single, "Hate to Say I Told You So," has been getting major spins at leading PoMo outlets like KROQ L.A., WHFS DC, WZZN Chicago, XTRA San Diego and KITS S.F., while notching huge airplay at MTV, MTV2 and MuchMusic Canada. It’s also featured on the Columbia/Roadrunner/IDJ/Sony Music Soundtrax Spider-Man soundtrack.

Warner Bros. has launched a comprehensive marketing and promotional plan, including:

* TV appearances on Conan O’Brien (6/13) and MTV2’s $2 Bill Show in Baltimore last weekend (6/2); will tape Last Call with Carson Daly (6/10) for future airing.

* Major magazine features in Alternative Press, Details, GQ, Guitar World, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vogue, Revolver, Interview, Pulse, Stuff, Teen People, Time, Blender and Entertainment Weekly.

* Album re-release with enhanced video content.

* TV spots running on MTV2, MTV.

* "Hate to Say I Told You So" to be included on samplers for Urban Outfitters and Caf Music Network.

* Offering individual online trading cards for each band member and an animated flash desktop application that fans can download for their computer desktop.

* Street teams distributing full-length copies of the album and stickers to clothing stores, restaurants, bars, tattoo shops in N.Y., L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and Toronto.