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Lovebugs aim for success at Eurovision

Rechberger (left) and Sieber (middle) and the rest of the Lovebugs are representing Switzerland at Eurovision © Lea Meienberg

Swiss band Lovebugs are hoping to have Eurovision viewers dancing in their seats at this year's song contest in Moscow, where the semifinals start on Tuesday.

This content was published on May 11, 2009 - 14:03

The "Swiss Britpop" group are somewhat unusual Eurovision participants – not a glittery skirt or monster mask in sight – but therein, the group hopes, lies their appeal.

The five Basel musicians, who make up one of Switzerland's most successful bands, will be singing The Highest Heights, the title track from their newest album.

They are among 42 entrants who will be whittled down to 25 for the Eurovision final on May 16.

"On the one hand, I'm very excited about it because I've always wanted to do this, I've been watching this competition for many years," lead singer Adrian Sieber told swissinfo in Basel shortly before the band left for Moscow.

"On the other hand, I'm terribly nervous because it's not our usual thing, we are a rock and roll band which plays for 90 minutes on stage and in Moscow we have three minutes on a TV show."

Sieber believes that it is good for bands to be showcased at the contest. In the past few years it has been dominated by solo artists and novelty groups, among the most memorable being the Finnish heavy metal "monster" group Lordi.

Realistic hopes

But the rest of the Lovebugs needed some persuasion. "I first mentioned it ten years ago, saying it more as a joke and they were always laughing at me, but it seems this year I managed to convince everybody," Sieber said.

The Song Contest has come under fire for its voting system, which has allowed blocs of countries to favour their friends. This year the rules have changed and 50 per cent of the votes will come from juries in participating countries, with the other half from televoters.

Another problem for Switzerland is that it has not performed very well of late – the two previous years' entrants did not make it to the finals.

Sieber said the contest had to be seen as an opportunity for the band and that winning was not the main aim.

"This is not realistic because of the type of music we do and also because we are from Switzerland, a neutral state with not many friends or enemies. But my hope is do to a good performance," he said.

"We have already had a huge internet feedback from all over Europe from people who have been waiting for something like this, so we already have everything that we wished for."

Great heights

The Lovebugs' song, the Highest Heights, which will be performed against a backdrop of skyscrapers and mountains, is energetic, but it also has a melancholic side.

"Sometimes if you work on an album in the studio it's like being in a world of your own and one day you present the work to the outside world," said Sieber.

"It can seem like climbing a huge tree or giving your baby away, so you have to let yourself fall down and hope that somebody is there who catches you and likes your music. This is what the song's about."

Anniversary year

The band made its latest album with producer Richard Rainey, who has worked with U2. It has an upbeat tempo, but still retains the Lovebugs' characteristic emotional core.

"This is our tenth album and the band had been together for 15 years, so it was a celebration and we thought it would be nice if the album was danceable," explained guitarist Thomas Rechberger, who joined Sieber for the interview.

The Lovebugs' sound is usually called "Swiss Britpop", a tag which makes the band smile.

"We have always been a band with very strong melodies and guitars, so some journalists sometimes called it Britpop and in another decade it was called Grunge," Rechberger told swissinfo.

The group, which has had three number one albums in Switzerland, has played more than 1,000 concerts across Europe and has opened for the Rolling Stones. Before leaving for Moscow it had its first ever gigs in London and Los Angeles.

Success secrets

Sieber and Rechberger say that it is not easy to break out of the small Swiss music market. "There are so many bands in different countries in this genre, and each country has its own Lovebugs," the guitarist said.

It is generally easier for groups from bigger countries with bigger record labels, like in Britain or Germany, to enter other markets, he adds.

Sieber says that the secret of the band's success so far is that it was open to change, but always remained true to itself.

"We had to try everything ourselves, we never let anyone tell us anything," he said. "We made some terrible mistakes in our career, but we had to do it because it made us what we are now."

Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Basel, swissinfo.ch

The Lovebugs

The Lovebugs are: Adrian Sieber - vocals, Thomas Rechberger – guitar, Stefan Wagner – keys, Simon Ramseier – drums, Florian Senn – bass.

The band was started 15 years ago, but has been in its present form for eight years.

6 of their 10 albums have been top 10 albums and 3 have been number 1 in Switzerland.

The band was chosen from 55 others to represent Switzerland by Swiss Television.

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Eurovision Song Contest

Initiated by the Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union in 1956, Eurovision is one of Europe's most popular annual music events. Switzerland has only won twice, the last time in 1988 when it was represented by Canada's Céline Dion.

This year it is being hosted from May 12-16 in the Olympiyskiy Arena in Moscow. Twenty-five countries will take part in the final: 20 from the two semifinals, plus Russia, France, Germany, Britain and Spain. Switzerland is in the first semifinal on May 12.

The contest has already run into controversy this year. Georgia was forced to drop its first-choice entry, which appeared to poke fun at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

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