When Abba announced their ninth and final studio album, Travelmany fans nervously wondered if he could live up to the huge expectations raised by the band’s 40-year hiatus.
Now the wait is over. Travel It may be the Swedish supergroup’s most mature and retrospective record, but it’s still very Abba. In an interview with QTom Power, founding member Björn Ulvaeus, noted that Abba has always stayed true to his vision, but also grows with each new release – and this latest one is no different.
“I hope so has a sense of depth that comes from 40 years of life, experience, both in [the] voice and in writing,” he told Power.
Ulvaeus added that the band did not attempt to follow trends or reinvent themselves with a new sound to appeal to modern tastes. “We don’t look at what Drake is doing or what other people are doing,” the singer-songwriter said. “Either the music is relevant for some reason or it’s not. But it’s on our terms and it’s organic.”
WATCH | Björn Ulvaeus’ full interview with Tom Power:
Despite the fact that Abba wasn’t inspired by today’s pop artists, every new generation seems to be falling in love with his hits anyway. His legacy is a gift that keeps on giving.
So what is the secret to Abba’s continued relevance? Ulvaeus said he suspects TikTok, YouTube, streaming services and the success of the Mama Mia! the musical and the films have something to do with it.
“I know we’ve been very careful, very disciplined in our line-up,” he added. “We didn’t write more than 12-14 songs a year because we weren’t satisfied until every element of the song was the way we thought it should be…I don’t think people write them more like that.”
What to expect from Abba Virtual Tour
Originally made up of two married couples, Abba disbanded in 1982 following the divorce of Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson. Over the decades, the band members received many offers to reunite on stage, but as milestone anniversaries came and went, it seemed increasingly unlikely.
“I mean, we were never really against recording together,” Ulvaeus said. “It never happened. The only thing we said was never to tour again. That’s something else.”
But to say that Abba will never tour again isn’t quite the full story. Fans will be able to see Sweden’s “super troupers” return to the stage as digitized versions of their younger selves in a unique virtual concert series scheduled for 2022.
WATCH | Abba’s announcement impresses fans:
The life-size digital avatars (or “Abbatars”) were created by the visual effects installation of George Lucas, Industrial Light & Magic, using state-of-the-art motion capture technology. The band will perform via their avatars accompanied by a 10-piece band in a purpose-built arena in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park that can hold 3,000 people.
“You’ll be, like, in the middle of this fantastic musical experience,” Ulvaeus explained. “And it will create an illusion, we think, that you will make a deal with us on stage that yes, [the avatars] are real…. That’s the purpose of the exercise.”
Ulvaeus said he’s thought a lot about what these digital avatars mean existentially — that his digital persona could live on forever after he’s gone.
“For me, I think of myself as an avatar from 1979 and I don’t think it’s — I don’t even think it’s weird,” he said. “Actually, I’ve been watching myself since that age, you know, for 40 years now because I’m reminded of Abba almost daily.…
“That’s how I see myself now, almost like another person.…And from an existential point of view, it’s very interesting.”
When asked if Travel is really Abba’s last album, Ulvaeus says he’s hesitant to say never, but he doesn’t see it coming.
“The four of us experienced something that no one has ever experienced before,” he said. “And the kind of bonds that [form] are great: 100% loyalty, solidarity and friendship. Meaning, you know, they can’t take that away from us.”
Listen to Abba’s full interview with Björn Ulvaeus at the top of this page.
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview conducted by Kaitlyn Swan.