Countdown to international success

By: Lee Sherman            From: Faces - 1987

Naming your band after an entire continent takes a lot of guts. It would've been pretty embarrassing had EUROPE's popularity only spread as far as its native Sweden. Fortunately for the band, "The Final Countdown" has gone to # 1 all across the continent. Now that the band's name is a household word in... well, Europe, they've set sight on the next challenge, the U.S.

A slightly nervous Joey Tempest, the band's lead singer and main songwriter, is on the phone from Stockholm, where EUROPE is beginning rehearsals for a world tour that will finally see them performing on American stages.

"It's really huge in Europe and I sincerely hope that it will happen in the United States as well. Our feet are still on the ground," he says of the group's widening popularity.

The recording of "The Final Countdown" was marred by problems, so now the band is feeling more relieved than overjoyed. All the hard work has paid off. Tempest came down with a throat virus that originally prevented him from recording his vocals properly. After attempts were made in Switzerland, Sweden and the Southern United States, he was forced to take a month off to work with a voice coach. Once the band returned to the studio (recording at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California), they quickly recorded 10 songs in as many days. Now, as EUROPE becomes better known, it becomes more subject to labeling and the band's good looks are keeping the music from being taken as seriously as they would like.

"We have always tried to play the music we like," Tempest says. "We can't help it that we're not looking too bad. Of course I like it when people come up to me and say that we have really good songs, good guitar playing, and good vocals."

He's not afraid of appealing primarily to teens. "We're not into drugs, we have a positive image," he adds.

It is the image which has made the band in the U.S. thus far. At a time when artists are turning away from video as a means of self-promotion, EUROPE can be said to have made it on the basis of its MTV airplay.

"It was really important to us to get people to see what we look like onstage," Tempest says. "We've heard that it's (their video) been playing for like 28 weeks on MTV."

The tact was more expedient than slogging around the country, and since EUROPE knew that it would be a while before they'd arrive stateside to tour, the EUROPE concert experience has now been pre-sold to American audiences. The show is the same one the band performs in Sweden, but it is being extended. Tempest is thrilled with the new stage set, which he describes as a visualization of the night sky, complete with stars, planets, and the Milky Way. EUROPE can't wait to get on the road again.

"It's really inspiring to go to different countries and see the reactions of different audiences," Tempest says.

Because of its "cutesy" image, it isn't surprising that EUROPE's arrival in Japan was greeted with a reaction that could be described as EUROPE Mania. The blonde Scandinavians must have looked as foreign to the Japanese as men from Mars.

"It was a little bit different than Sweden because the fans are hysterical," remembers Tempest. "They are into the idol thing."

Still, he was impressed with the fact that in addition to the usual deluge of presents, the band received letters commenting on the music, and even mentioning specific songs.

All the touring has kept Tempest so busy that he has hardly had the time to compose new songs, which could be a problem for the band. He is primarily known as a songwriter, and one that has a unique ability to come up with melodic hooklines. Last Christmas though, he began getting a few ideas down on tape while at home for the holidays, working in the studio he built in his parents' house. So what does the new music sound like?

"Different melodies and different melodies and different kinds of songs but still in the 'Final Countdown' style," says Tempest.

In a relatively short period of time, that style has come to be defined as something that takes the European classical influence and filters it through the American and English hard rock that the members of EUROPE grew up on. The band has more in common with Bon Jovi than curly long hair; it relies extensively on keyboards to supply the melodic textures while remaining a guitar-powered hard rock band. EUROPE wishes to grow gradually, so fans won't be disappointed. After all, their style is just beginning to emerge.

"I think we will experience some changes," Tempest predicts. "Perhaps there will be an introduction of different types of keyboards but we want to keep a lot of guitars."

EUROPE has come a long way since winning a 1982 song contest on Swedish television. The band now leads the way as its country's most popular musical export. For a band that once listened almost exclusively to English and American rock 'n' roll, it must be exciting to now find its own records high on those charts.

"It's like a boy's dream come true," admits Tempest.

As EUROPE becomes more popular in other places, they'll likely spend time touring those countries and less time at home in Sweden.

"It worries me a bit," says Tempest, concerned about his original fans. "This year we had a huge success in Sweden also, and now we are leaving for Europe and the U.S. The next album won't come out for a long time. People are getting used to the fact that we are becoming a more international band."

Some of the more nasty factions of the Swedish press accuse EUROPE of making a lot of money without putting anything back into its own country. Tempest insists that the band will always remain loyal to Sweden and is considering even putting out a single for Swedish fans only. ("We have this thing called 'Swedish jealousy," he explains.)

Having gotten a taste of the world, EUROPE is looking forward to its American shows.

"I've been there a few times but only for short periods," Tempest says. "I haven't gotten the feel for it yet, but I have seen a few gigs in America. It's pretty wild!"

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