- - Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Remember “The Final Countdown,” the massive 1980s rock metal hit with the unforgettable keyboard riff you couldn’t get out of your head? (You’re humming it right now, aren’t you?) Well, thanks to a clever TV commercial for Geico, that anthem by Swedish rockers Europe is back.

The ad has led to a resurgence in the band’s popularity that sees them on the road in America for the first time in a decade. Lead singer Joey Tempest sat down to talk about the staying power of that massive hit, how the Geico ad came to be and their new CD, “War of Kings.”

Question: When was the last time Europe did a full U.S. tour?

Answer: It’s been 10 years, but even that was just a small tour. The last real U.S. tour was 1991 and 1992. A lot of people in America haven’t seen us in a long time.

We tour all over the world, doing a lot of work in the U.K. and Europe the last 11 years. They grasped what we were doing and embraced our new stuff. America is just starting again now. People are coming out wondering what we are doing. “Are they gonna play just old stuff?”

Q: Take us back to the beginning. How did the band Europe come to be?

A: We started in the suburbs of Stockholm as teenagers listening to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. After a while we became more focused on bands like UFO and Thin Lizzy. We used to go to a lot of shows together as a band. We formed a strong bond as we developed our own sound.

Q: Where did your megahit “The Final Countdown” come from?

A: We were a guitar-based progressive hard rock band. We did two albums. When we started the third album I was looking around at my ideas, and that keyboard riff was one of the ideas I had written years before. We were a guitar-based band, but it was the golden age of keyboard music in the beginning of the ‘80s. I heard Rush using keyboards. As a songwriter you just use what you can as a tool.

I kept that riff for years. But I wasn’t ready to use it until the third album. Lyrically, it was actually inspired by David Bowie. The first single I ever bought was “Space Oddity.” I came up with the title first and thought it could be something about space travel. It was just a song that came out of the curiosity of songwriting and trying different tools.

Q: Why do you think that’s the song everyone loves?

A: It’s like a soundtrack in itself. It’s in a minor key, but it’s uplifting.

Q: Why did the band break up in 1992?

A: We had a 10-year run, and we felt like it was time for a break. There was never talk of disbanding, just a break. I wanted to do some solo albums. I wanted to dig deeper, get into the singer/songwriter thing.

Things became a little one-dimensional at the end of the ‘80s production-wise. It was a unanimous decision to take a break. The break then became a bit long. People started doing solo albums. The idea of reuniting was brewing for a long time to get back together.

Q: What sparked the reunion in 2003?

A: We did one gig in 1999. That night was like we had only just taken a lunch break and we’re back. But we had solo contracts still. That’s the reason why a full reunion took a long time.

The real meeting was in 2003, and we decided to do this properly [and] think long-term, get better. We were very young in the ‘80s during the first run. We were in the hands of the producers. Now we can take charge of all that.

Q: Do you appreciate it more this time out?

A: Absolutely. It’s really nice to be on this adventure, this journey, musically with the same five guys that started as teenagers.

Q: How did the Geico ad come about?

A: They approached us a few years ago. I said, “Let us think about it.” I live in London, so I saw Iggy Pop on TV doing an ad for insurance. I remember the ad was very tongue-in-cheek. It was fun. It didn’t do him any harm at all. He came across as really cool. Then all of a sudden more people were talking about Iggy Pop.

I thought we could do this if we could have some control. We told them we wanted to look the way we look now. We had a lot of conversations with their ad firm. They were so cool. We checked everything out — the script, director and all their other ads.

Q: It has done really well. Has it earned you new fans?

A: Yeah. There are kids coming up now. That’s kinda fun to introduce people to the band, and they might dig deeper, find out about our new CD, “War of Kings.” I’ve been recognized a few times, but the good thing is they know I’m from the band Europe that’s in the Geico ad, that I’m not just a Geico guy. They know the band is real.

Q: Did you have any reservations about doing it?

A: Of course, but that is why we researched their other ads quite a lot. We had a lot of phone conferences to make sure people got it right. We’ve been back together for 11 years, and we are serious about our music and didn’t want to make something cheesy.

Q: How did you get the epic timeless sound on your new CD “War of Kings”?

A: Our producer Dave Cobb had a lot to do with that. We decided to use old and vintage gear. We brought in the Hammond organ to make that warm, classic rock vibe.

“War of Kings” is out now.


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