Eponymous Debut EP art
From their meagre beginnings as a punk band to their meteoric rise to fame in the mid-2000s indie rock scene, Nauru was an uncompromising force in the music world and while they may have burnt out long before their time, they left a notable impression in music history.
The founding members, Onni Nilsson and Axel “Akki” Lundén met while studying music production and live sound engineering. Drawn together by their shared love of punk and experimental music, they naturally gravitated toward each other. Given that they both were recent transplants to Stockholm (Onni via Gothenburg and Axel via Oslo), they fast formed a strong, if not tumultuous friendship. In fact, it was Onni who gave Axel his early stage monicker to match his own name. Akki and Onni soon convinced Jan Fredrik Åkerman and Jens Backlund to leave their respective positions as drummer and bassist in another local punk band to form Nauru. The band chose the name by randomly throwing darts at a map in their old rehearsal space and choosing the best name from wherever the darts landed. And thus, Nauru was born.
After building up a following, the band recorded their debut EP on a shoestring budget utilising the facilities at Onni and Akki’s music school. The EP was originally intended to be a full-length album, but in the middle of recording, the band became acquainted with their soon-to-be sister-band, Attax, with whom they soon departed on tour, leaving them little time to record. The remaining songs were later recorded and found a home on the band’s first full-length record, A Murder of Crows, a record which had a much darker flavour, moving the band farther away from the punk scene and into the post-punk genre.
The two bands Nauru and Attax continued to tour and record together throughout the years until Nauru made a gradual genre-shift again, moving toward a more polished, darker indie rock sound with their albums Religion and Plasma. The albums garnered international attention. Subsequent tours opening for alt rock giants New Siberian Islands introduced Nauru to a much broader audience. The band reached their pinnacle with the 2008’s Means to an End, with the title track reaching the top ten in several European countries.
Their fifth and final album, Means to an End, would find them exploring a more accessible sound, earning comparisons to bands like The Killers and Manic Street Preachers. The resulting tour would find the band playing large venues across Europe. Ultimately, the big break would prove to be too much.
By summer of 2008, however, the cracks were already beginning to show. Tensions grew during the process of songwriting for the album, when many of the songs Akki brought to the table no longer fit Onni’s vision for the band. Akki threatened to take the rejected songs and start a solo career, but agreed to put that on hold and focus solely on Nauru after negotiations with his bandmates. However, being a notorious liar, he split his energies across both projects. Thankfully, neither suffered for it.
Nauru came to an abrupt end during the following summer festival tour when band infighting reached a climax. After an onstage altercation, Akki would vanish. Given the heightened tensions between the members, the band feared the worst. Eventually, Akki turned up some days later in Prague with Attax, having abandoned his band mid-tour. He would officially announce his departure some days later. Attempts were to find a replacement ultimately failed. The few unreleased tracks from the last period of the band’s activity were released on the Nauru retrospective Never Look Back.
Akki has since wed Attax drummer Micke Berg and is currently a successful solo artist under his birth name, Axel Lundén. Jens Backlund joined Axel’s solo band before moving on to form his own band, Nestor, along with Jan Fredrik Åkerman. Onni Nilsson is now a successful producer based in Los Angeles, where he also runs the No Rest for the Wicked festival. There are no plans to reunite Nauru in the foreseeable future.