Refused is a Swedish punk rock band originating from Umeå and formed in 1991. Refused is composed of vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, guitarist Kristofer Steen, drummer David Sandström, and bassist Magnus Flagge. Guitarist Jon Brännström was a member from 1994, through reunions, until he was fired in late-2014. Their lyrics are often of a non-conformist and politically far-left nature.
On January 9, 2012, the band announced their reunion confirming shows at Coachella, Rock am Ring, Ruisrock, Roskilde Festival, Groezrock, Way Out West Festival, Sonisphere Festival (Cancelled), Download Festival, Rock for People, Primavera Sound, Hellfest, Fuji Rock Festival, Øyafestivalen, Pukkelpop, Resurrection. After embarking on a world tour for nearly a year, Refused went on hiatus again in 2012, but announced another reunion in November 2014.
The band released five EPs and three full-length albums before originally splitting up in 1998, and released their fourth full-length album Freedom on the Epitaph Records label on June 26, 2015. “Elektra” was released as the first single from the comeback album on April 27, 2015
Refused formed in early 1991 with Dennis Lyxzén (former frontman of the straight edge band Step Forward) on vocals, David Sandström on drums, Pär Hansson on guitar, and Jonas Lindgren on bass. They formed with the aim of playing outside of their hometown and releasing a 7″ record (the latter which never happened). They released their first demo, Refused, the same year. With an already altered lineup (including Kristofer Steen joining from local band Abhinanda with Pär Hansson going the other way) the band released their first studio album, This Just Might Be the Truth, in 1994. A month later, they released the Everlasting EP.
Refused’s final line-up consisted of Dennis Lyxzén, David Sandström, Kristofer Steen, and Jon Brännström, but the band never found a permanent bass player, switching up to 12 bassists until their original break-up. In June 1996, they released Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent through Victory Records. The album had a style that steered towards the metallic hardcore genre and included a fanzine explaining their political ideas. For this record, they toured with Snapcase. Later on, they did it in support of Millencolin in the United States and with Mindjive in Europe.
Its follow-up, 1998’s The Shape of Punk to Come, incorporated diverse sounds outside of the strict hardcore realm, such as electronica, jazz, and ambient. Initially, the album was both a commercial and critical failure, with little media coverage and mixed reception from fans and critics alike; some even refused to rate it because of its stylistic divergence.
The United States tour to support the album was canceled halfway. It was joined by Washington, D.C.’s Frodus and only completed eight shows in half-empty basements and coffeehouses, finishing in a chaotic performance in a basement of Harrisonburg, Virginia that, after four songs, was shut down by police. They described these concerts as “emotionally devastating” and “an awful experience”, which finally led to their break-up after a rough internal fight in Atlanta, Georgia. Other factors to their disbandment were a depletion of creative energy and band members wanting different things. There was also conflict between Dennis and the rest of the band.
Refused announced their demise through a strongly-worded open letter titled “Refused Are Fucking Dead” on their label Burning Heart’s website.
The story of Refused’s last show soon became popular, as well as The Shape of Punk to Come. A year after its release, the album shot up from 1,400 to 21,000 units sold in the United States. In 2000, it went up to 28,000. From then on, many notable artists started to praise the band and newcomers cited them as an influence.
Lead singer Dennis Lyxzén went on to form The (International) Noise Conspiracy soon thereafter, while the other members, as well as venturing into their own projects, formed the group TEXT.
In 2007 Lyxzén and Sandström briefly reformed their Refused side project, Final Exit, which existed in the mid-late 1990s and originally consisted of members of Refused and Abhinanda, with each member taking a different role to that which they had in their main bands (e.g., David on vocals and Dennis on bass guitar).
As of May 2008, Dennis Lyxzén and David Sandström formed a new straightforward hardcore band under the name AC4.
Kristofer Steen moved to Orange County, California and attended film school there. He made a documentary on the band’s last year in existence called Refused Are Fucking Dead, which was released in 2006. Then, he began working on operas in Sweden.
In March 2010, Epitaph Records put up the old Refused website online with the words “Coming Soon.”. Rumours spread across the Internet about what the new website could indicate, including speculation of a reunion. Citing an anonymous source “close to the situation,” Punknews.org unofficially announced that the band would perform at European music festivals in 2010. Dennis Lyxzén denied claims of a Refused reformation as he and David Sandström were busy with AC4. The new band website was later announced to be a promotional site for a reissue of Refused’s final album, The Shape of Punk to Come. The reissue, released on June 8, 2010, is a three-disc set with an unreleased live album recorded in 1998 and the Refused Are Fucking Dead DVD documentary in addition to the full original album.
In November 2011, multiple posters said to be for the upcoming 2012 Coachella Festival appeared on several Internet sites, and the line-ups included Refused. This started new rumours of a long-awaited reunion.
During BBC Radio 1’s “Punk Show” on January 2, 2012, Mike Davies stated that Refused, along with At the Drive-In would be reforming in 2012. On January 9, 2012, it was announced that Refused would be performing for the 2012 Coachella Festival. The reunion was confirmed via Dennis Lyxzén’s Facebook page. This was highly contested considering the band’s original and explicit declaration to never reunite. Later that day, it was announced that they would also be playing at Way Out West Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden. They also headlined the Groezrock festival in Belgium. The confirmation that Refused would be UK exclusives at Sonisphere Festival in the UK was made on February 20. However, in light of Sonisphere UK’s subsequent cancellation, Refused were officially booked by Download Festival on April 3, to perform at Donington Park instead. On February 29, Refused played a secret show in Umeå, their first live performance since 1998. Refused are also confirmed for the Rock for Peoplefestival in Czech Republic. They appeared for the first time on TV in America on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on July 18, 2012.
On August 23, 2012 Refused indicated by a Facebook post that their reunion was for 2012 only and not a continuation of their career. On August 24, 2012, it was announced that Refused would undertake a theatre tour of Australia for the first time ever that November. The after party for Refused’s show on December 15, 2012 in Fabriken, Umeå saw brief reunions from related Umeå hardcore bands Abhinanda and Final Exit, as well as some rarely performed songs from Refused. Redd Kross also performed on the evening.
On February 22, 2013, Refused were awarded “The special prize for Swedish music exports” by the Minister of Trade. Lyxzén and Sandström chose to criticize the current Government at the ceremony, instead thanking the efforts of popular education, in particular Workers’ Educational Association (ABF) and youth centers (in Sweden associated with social democracy) while Jon Brännström chose to not accept the prize on his behalf later stating he wished they “[…] had said no to the prize and instead held a press conference about why we had turned it down”.
On October 31, 2014, Jon Brännström stated on the official Refused Facebook page that he had been fired from the band (the band would later state that he left the band in 2013), implying that Refused were still active and planned on performing again in the future. On November 25, 2014, the band announced that they would perform their first shows in three years at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, Groezrock and Amnesia Rockfest in the summer of 2015. They also headlined Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas in May 2015. Around the same time, rumours surfaced of a new album being recorded for release in 2015 after …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s Autrey Fulbright II posted a photo on Instagram claiming that Lyxzén had been in the studio recording vocals for the album.
On April 27, 2015, it was announced that Refused would release their fourth studio album, Freedom, in June 2015 via Epitaph Records. The album was produced by Nick Launayand includes further collaborations such as two songs produced with Max Martin-collaborator Shellback (Taylor Swift). The news was announced along with the release of the album’s opening track, “Elektra,” as its lead single.
On November 20, 2017, members of Refused revealed on social media that the band has been in the studio working on their next album.