The Hives are busy as bees 

It’s not a gesture you’d expect from Sweden’s egomaniacal garage-punk champs, the Hives.

But every year, new album or not, the group’s members send out Christmas cards to almost every music-industry figure they’ve ever met, including hundreds of rock journalists around the globe.

The 2007 edition featured the five members in the same faux-preppy crested blazers they’re sporting on the cover of their latest release, "The Black and White Album" on A&M.

Why expend such effort? Four reasons, explains beanpole frontman "Howlin’" Pelle Almqvist: "We just figured it’d be nice; it’s a lost tradition, Christmas cards; people really seem to like it.

"And basically, we’re such a cool band that we can afford to do some dorky stuff once in a while."

The mailings, the singer says, started out with just "our bookers, then our record company and our friends, but it just kind of spread until now we have a big long list of names that we send out to every year."

The kindness doesn’t stop there. In addition to hosting a weekly Sirius Satellite Radio show of all-Scandinavian artists called Nordic Rox, Almqvist consistently blogs on the band’s Web site, regularly posts wacky short films, invites his rabid following to write in about "The Time I Met The Hives" and oversees countless contests.

"The Internet is just an easy way to communicate with people that want to know about you, you know?" he says. "And we’re actually preparing to raffle away our old touring van online, because it’s just hanging out in the back yard of Hive Manor, our rehearsal space in Fagersta. So we figure it’s better if someone else gets some use out of it. But the winner has to come and pick it up, though."

At the Hives’ gig at San Francisco’s Fillmore tonight, fans can feel even closer to the band by purchasing a tuxedo-T-shirt replica of their new uniforms, or an iron-on embroidered "H" crest, to complete that bratty schoolboy look.

The group has also shifted career gears by writing the new Cartoon Network theme song, and linking its latest "Tick Tick Boom" anthem with a Nike campaign.

Figuring that "Black and White" would be the last big-budget effort his label could afford, Almqvist went whole-hog and recorded with a potpourri of producers such as Pharrell Williams, Andre 3000, Jacknife Lee and Dennis Herring.

All part of riding the new file-sharing wave that’s shaking up show biz, the Hives honcho explains.

"People are used to not paying for music now, so there’s nothing left to do but go on tour and sell T-shirts — which actually works," he says. "There are still 5,000 people showing up at our concerts who know all the new lyrics, so they’ve heard the music. They just didn’t buy the record."

IF YOU GO

The Hives

Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 20

Tickets: $20

Contact: (415) 346-6000 or www.thefillmore.com  

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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