At first glance, you might think that the four members of Play are just four young women who like to pursue the usual activities associated with teens. And while it's true that Ana´s Lameche, Rosie Munter, Faye Hamlin and Anna Sundstrand are still young teenagers who love to hang out with their friends, go to the movies, listen to the latest music and watch the newest videos, the Swedish pop quartet have little time these days to do the regular teen thing.
Rather, as recording artists and performers, they're busy shooting their own videos, promoting their self-titled debut album for Columbia Records and performing in concert. In the fall of 2001, Play performed on the "TEENick Presents: Aaron's Party" tour with Aaron Carter, his sister Leslie and Swedish compatriots the A*Teens and started creating a real buzz among young audiences who were impressed with the group's collective energy and vocal skills. With all this exciting activity, the members are certainly not complaining! "It was so cool being on the tour bus and going from city to city," says Ana´s. "And we all love to be in the studio," adds Anna with a grin. "It's always a lot of fun!"
Fun is one of the main ingredients evident in this Stockholm-based group's impressive debut album: from a hip, contemporary version of Olivia Newton-John's '70s classic "Hopelessly Devoted To You" (from the film "Grease") to the infectious "Us Against The World" (the first single from the album), Play delivers music with a decidedly universal appeal. Key cuts on the album include the heartfelt ballad "Watch Me Now" and the standout track "Disco Hippie" with its retro party flavor, a lyric line borrowed from UK legends The Kinks' classic "You Really Got Me" coupled some fab vocal harmonies from the group. "It's pop with a touch of R&B," says Faye. Rosie adds that lyrically, "our record is 'girl talk,' the kind of things that we girls talk about with each other. Of course, it's great for the guys too -- by listening to our songs, they get to find out more about us and what we're thinking!"
As a prime example, Faye mentions the mid-tempo "Boys Lie" which she says "is all about guys lying so they can get what they want. And," she grins as she turns to Ana´s, Rosie and Anna, "we don't like that, do we girls?" In unison, all three respond: "No, we don't -- and if we ever run into that situation with guys," the four smile as they raise their hands, "we say 'talk to the hand!'"
Now co-managed by Mathew Knowles--the renowned guiding force behind Columbia Records super group Destiny's Child, founder/CEO of Music World Entertainment--and working with hot hit making producers Rick Wake, Evans & Sturken, Hit Vision and Anders "BAG" Bagge (who was responsible for bringing them to Sony Music) and Arnthor Birgisson, the members of Play showcase their strong harmonies while sharing lead vocals on various cuts on the album. Most of the album was recorded in Sweden (with the exception of tracks--including the R&B-flavored "I Don't Get Down Like That"--cut with Evans & Sturken in New York). Wake produced "Cinderella," a song that Rosie says "is about being strong and independent and realizing that you have to depend on yourself. It's about the fairytale character but asking the question, 'what if the prince doesn't come along?'"
While no romantic princes are in sight for the four talented performers, the members of Play have certainly had their share of good fortune in the last couple of years. All four have been singing for as far back as they can remember and each mentions similar influences including Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Swedish star Carola. Anna--who is related to legendary actress Greta Garbo--was the first member of Play and she explains, with a smile, "I was studying in a dance school and that's where our co-manager Laila (Bagge) first saw me. I won a local talent contest when I was ten and I had been in a musical. When Laila saw me, she asked me if I wanted to be in a group and I said yes!"
The next recruit was Ana´s, who regards her mother and sister as her biggest musical inspirations. "I was in the same dance school as Anna and I had also been in a musical. Laila thought I sounded good so she asked me to be a part of Play." Eager to get just the right sound, Laila held auditions to find two more vocally strong female singers. Out of some 700 hopefuls, she choose Rosie--whose resume included the lead role in the Scandinavian hit film, "Eve And Adam"--and Faye, who had won a national talent contest when she was eleven. Coincidentally and unbeknownst to Laila, the two girls were classmates and friends.
When all four got together for the first time, the musical magic was instantly evident and during rehearsal and practice one-day fate stepped in. Producer Bagge (known for his work with Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, 98 Degrees, Samantha Mumba and others) was at the Play rehearsal and, as Rosie recalls, "He was on the phone with Tommy Mottola (Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment). He heard us singing in the background over the phone and he asked Anders who was singing." Remembering the scene vividly, Anna continues, "Anders came in with the phone and asked if we could sing for Tommy Mottola and we started freaking out!" Ana´s adds, "We sang for him over the phone and I guess he liked what he heard because he said, 'welcome to the Sony family!'"
After seeing a demo video of the group, Mottola signed Play to Columbia and the group began working with Bagge and partner Arnthor Birgisson on the song, "Us Against The World" (co-written by the pair with Samantha Mumba and Ana´s' sister Amanda). "It was a very good start for us," says Ana´s. "It's a song about friendship, about sticking together as a team. It was perfect for us."
Work continued on the album through the summer of 2001 with Play benefiting from the hit making experience of producers like Bagge and other Swedish production teams like Murlyn Music's Hit Vision. "I think American artists like Britney and 98 Degrees come to Sweden because we have such great producers," says Ana´s. "People like Anders and Arnthor and Max Martin are very talented."
While huge fans of U.S. stars like Columbia label mates Destiny's Child, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, Joe, Aaron Carter, Destiny's Child and U.K. sensation Craig David, the members of Play feel like they have something unique to offer. "We don't feel like we're competing with anyone else," says Rosie, "because we do have our own thing. We can't wait for American audiences to hear what we have to offer."
"the party girl" while Faye declares that Anna is "the cute one, happy all the time!" Certainly, with Play ready to hit the streets, the group's members are more than happy: "We chose our name because it stands for something playful, and we think everyone has the right to play, even when they're grown up." With that kind of philosophy and the mainstream pop appeal of standout tracks like "Never Neverland," "Is It Love," "Remember To Forget" and "To Live And To Die For," Play is ready to show the world that the group means business!