Prior to their much talked about set at Electronic Beats Festival Zagreb, Lucia Udvardyova landed face time with the 4AD-signed Danish masters of atmosphere. Away from the tyranny of promotion, the band instead expound on the subjective nature of sound, the essence of creativity, and a certain Mr X. Photo by Matej Grgic. Head here to watch highlights of Efterklang’s performance from the festival.
Hailing from Denmark, Efterklang is a 4AD-signed indie pop band established in 2001. Over the more than a decade of their existence, they’ve recorded several well-received albums, toured the world, and collaborated with filmmakers and symphony orchestras. Their latest, fourth LP, is Piramida, recorded in the desolate environs of Pyramiden, a Russian settlement in Norway. Fittingly, merciless cold engulfs Zagreb on November 8th, the date of the city’s Electronic Beats festival. Housed in a reminder of what was once a sprawling display of Croatian industry, the Zagrebački Velesajam, I meet the trio of Casper Clausen, Mads Christian Brauer, and Rasmus Stolberg in an impromptu interview room, a small white non-descript box of a room inside a large industrial hall, where the ensuing conversation turns to creativity, collaboration, and self-expression.
I wanted to ask about your name Efterklang. Apparently it means something like reverberation or remembrance.
Mads Christian Brauer: It’s a word that resonated with us. It refers to reverberation and remembrance, a very technical word but it also has some poetry to it; the decay, what comes after something.
MCB: Literally. ‘Efter’ means ‘After’. Klang is timbre, the sound.
What comes after sound?
MCB: That’s when something resonates within the structure, in a building or guitar. When the waves bounce around.
In a way it’s some sort of arbitrary thing, something uncontrollable, the echoes and delays.
MCB: But it’s not a repetition like an echo. Often it’s completely different to the sound, like a freeze frame of it.
Are you interested in sound as a medium? You also do field recordings, but you put them in a musical context.
MCB: Sound is a fascinating thing because it’s the same as light, except that we hear it. Sometimes it’s very fascinating how this world of sound affects us—and how we relate to it—because it’s just air that’s being pushed around but it can move you and talk to you. You can be attracted to any little silly sound and not know why you like it or don’t like it.
It is very physical and subjective.
MCB: Our sight is more alike but hearing is different for everyone. We don’t have a red for sound.
Casper Clausen: The first time I remember someone recording me was when I went on a school trip and they filmed us on this video camera. I heard myself on the videotape and I was like, “Wow, do I really sound like that?” You hear yourself through your mouth and your head one way, and when it comes out it’s different.
Peter Cusack, a field recording artist from Britain, recorded an album called Sounds From Dangerous Places in Chernobyl as a cautious reminder of the catastrophe of nuclear power as such. I wanted to ask whether Piramida is a purely musical piece or if it had an activist slant as well?
MCB: It wasn’t intentionally activist. We were fascinated by these pictures [of Pyramiden] that we saw. Of course, the communist aesthetics really affect the place. When you’re there you think a lot about the ideology. It used to be the “pearl of the Soviet Union” and in a way it was the perfect communist society because you couldn’t escape it. You were forced to make it work. It was a group of a thousand people in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic sea.
A utopian place?
MCB: Yes, and they were showing off to the Norwegians, so they built a swimming pool and a big cultural palace with an auditorium and a dancehall. It was like going to the moon, “See what we can do? We can create this little world where humans shouldn’t be.”
It’s a place loaded with atmosphere.
MCB: Of course it affects you. We were there for nine days and then we went to Berlin and recorded the album over the next nine months. It became this memory. The more distant the place became, time-wise, the more it became what you thought it was rather than what it actually was.
How can a studio, which is such a neutral space, inspire you compared to a place that is totally suggestive? How can you conjure a certain mood at such a place?
MCB: We made a lot of field recordings and based the album around those so we always had the sound to connect it to. The studio is something you have to get used to. It’s clinical, almost like a laboratory, but you get used to working there. It’s not like all music has to be recorded with candle lights and a very good atmosphere.
CC: I think it depends on who you are. Mads feels much more at home in the studio than I do. I’d rather try to escape it to be honest! For my part it’s a pressure to be in a studio whereas if I’m at home I just have to open my computer if I want to do something. But that’s something beautiful about these times, you can be creative in many places.
Nowadays, the way artists work has changed. It’s more distracted, people often do art in between other things and time is a diminishing commodity. In a way this has also affected the art that’s produced.
Rasmus Stolberg: I don’t think that’s anything new. Music has forever been used as a part-time pleasure. You may have been working hard during the day and at night you sing songs; some people develop a special talent and they may start doing it for living. It’s brilliant that these days people can have a job and make music on the side. It means they’re not always doing it to make money—it’s a creative outlet. I think there are lot of things coming out that are original and special because people are doing it for their own pleasure.
CC: But there’s a big part that you are missing. If you’re doing art, if you want to say something and there is something inside you that you want to come out with, it’s a call and you can’t just ignore it. Any artist I know has given up a lot. These days everyone, as Rasmus was saying, can do things and create, which is beautiful. However, being an artist takes more than just loading up a GarageBand. It requires the artist to take themselves out of their comfort zone, to experience something new. And that is an scary thing to do and will forever be that way.
RS: There are a lot of different artists, some artists are more proactive about reaching an audience but there are also a lot of people who sit at home doing really amazing things but they don’t have the ability to share it.
Back in the day, a lot of artists were only discovered after their death. These days everybody wants to have success right now.
CC: But there is too much focus on success. Everyone wants record deals, everyone wants everything. They want limelight all the time. People want to be everywhere all the time, including ourselves [laughs]. It’s a time of stupidity—a little bit—and we have to figure out what to do and focus on the right things.
RS: I think the focus is on creating. There are so many different ways of doing it. We have a friend in Berlin, a Swedish guy called Erik, and he’s been working on an album for seven years. He has a plan with it. And then there are bands like us who put out records every third year. You can’t say what is better and what is worse. I think there’s a whole problem with how music works these days, it’s about hits on YouTube, how big your name is on a festival poster… And while I totally understand that system, it has nothing to do with the quality of music. It’s just a system for marketing. You have to go out and find music somewhere else.
RS: Sometimes the unique things are harder to find. As a music listener you have to invest a little time in finding these things that are around because there are so many.
These days everyone is a filter.
RS: You have to use other filters or be your own filter. The output of music is insane—a crazy cacophonic world. It is extremely important that, as an artist, you are able to ignore that and focus on creating.
But once you put it out it’s in the public domain, it doesn’t belong to you anymore.
RS: If you make something that you believe in and that you think is really good, you want to share it with people. And you hope that other people will also have joy with it. If you make something that you believe in then you should focus on that. Maybe in twenty years someone will understand that, or maybe you will be the only one who understood and that is cool as well.
You are quite open in that you cooperate with lot of other artists. There’s a community around your music, which is also important.
CC: Ideally, if I describe what we want to do it’s to make something that is not necessarily finished. The best art is not complete. A certain percentage is left to the audience to carry on, and I think we play a little bit with that. Efterklang is three of us, but there is also a fourth member, Mr X, who is always there. That can be a lot of things, different musicians we work with, filmmakers, the audience. The three of us always need that fourth thing: the tension. ~
Efterklang’s Piramida is out now on 4AD.
In a feature for Slices Issue 3-12, Danish musician and producer Troels Abrahamsen created a live recording of “Sequence” in his studio before the cameras. This version of the track, from his 2011 album Unset, is an excellent example of the less is more ethos which Abrahamsen discusses in the feature; the “very rough” take features a naked piano melody, adorned by digital percussion and Abrahamsen’s inimitable voice. Nothing else needed. You can listen and download the track, for free, below. You can also watch our Slices Issue 3-12 YouTube playlist here.
Asteroids Galaxy Tour, one of our favourite Nordic pop bands (and we’ve got a few), are getting ready to release their sophomore album Out of Frequency later this month. With Electronic Beats presenting the band’s club tour in 2009 and their music being picked up by the likes of Apple and Heineken, the Danish pop-monsters have had a stratospheric rise to the top over the last 24 months. I caught up with the band’s front-woman Mette Lindberg to talk about partnerships, living in the Danish ghetto and funny Europeans…..
Hey Mette. So one new album…Do you want tell me a bit about it?
It’s new! Me and Lars we are the main core of the band and so we have created the music. Lars is the producer and is the main songwriter, but we write together as well and we work on all the songs in the studio. Back and forth, listen, record and write on it…
What feeling are you trying to capture with the music?
We like to create fiction, to create characters and have this psychedelic big band feeling to the music and that everything is possible. We like the romantic drama and that it’s the rise & the fall and mystic. We like to play around with all that to create this universe. We see it as a kind of soundtrack. Out of Frequency is the name of the movie and I like that everything is possible. We just love music and that everything is possible.
And there are more elements of dance music on Out of Frequency
We like dance music! We like good beats, we like hip hop, we like jazz, soul and funk music.
Where did you record the album?
We’ve got a studio in Copenhagen in the red-light discrit, where all the hookers, gangsters and drug addicts are! It’s an old house which used to be stable and Lars actually started building in there with his brother who’s got a studio as well. And they kinda built more and more and now we’ve got a studio next to it as well. Do you know Who made Who? They have our old studio. So they’re just in the next room with Lars’ brother.
Does that environment influence the music then?
Well, Copenhagen is a small city. Denmark is a small country where no one is really rich or really poor. Everyone is alright in some way and even though that’s good, in many other places people need to sacrifice and really suffer for survival and for art. So we find it more inspiring to travel. It’s just interesting, the different cultures and the social cult – that’s also what I find most interesting by traveling. Maybe not always in Europe, because Germany is not that far but something like the English culture and French culture and then the European pop culture. The body language is just so open or simply different in other cultures and it’s an exciting thing to observe.
So do you find that when you go to different places that people react to your music and the band in a different way?
Yes! It also depends on what day of the week it is, how drunk are people. Was it a good opening act? Is it cold, is it warm, is it small…
I remember the shows you did for Electronic Beats were very high energy. I enjoyed the music on record but then when I saw you live there was a whole extra element. It wasn’t just you standing there playing the songs.
We are six people and we want to play! Most of the time we played for Electronic Beats it’s been really rock ‘n’ roll. Small stages with sound that is really in your face. It’s small, we’re a big band and so it’s sweaty! It’s the beauty of chaos.
In terms of recording Out of Frequency was it a long process?
Well as we’ve got our own studio we can go in whenever [we like]. We kind of went three or four days a week and just hung out, chilled, talked, sometimes we were really productive, just hanging out and I think it got that feeling of all the time we spent together, me and Lars just chilling and talking. We both talk a lot! We are different but musically we agree a lot. We have a lot in common. I do the interviews as it’s easier for me instead of us being six people you know…six monkeys or one monkey!
So you don’t mind doing the press then?
No I mean it’s easier just to go with the flow as one person instead of “can I speak now?” or “I don’t agree” or something like that. I speak on the behalf of me and Lars.
How did you get together musically with Lars?
We met through friends and the music scene here in Denmark. We played a little bit sometimes and did other things and stuff. Lars called me one day and said “I’ve got these songs and I’ve been producing them and I want you to sing”. I was listening and was blown away by his production and then everything just happened. Searching for someone who produces music with me and can create something, it’s difficult…how do you explain what you want? We of course have different opinions but because we’ve got a deep respect for both ways. We tried many times to be in other peoples bands. It’s a great thing that our friends & musicians are in our bands, but mainly they play with us and then they have their own bands they play with sometimes.
So there’s not so much pressure?
No we tell the people what to play, they join the tour, they record when we need it in the studio and it’s only me and Lars who need to decide. It’s so much easier.
Asteroids Galaxy Tour will be playing at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on April 23rd presented by Electronic Beats. Buy tickets here.
Trentemøller is in the studio and working on a new album. The Dane, who’s last album Into the Great Wide Yonder saw him move into the realms of indie-rock revealed the news via his Facebook page. However he has not locked himself away with machines and instruments entirely. A number of new DJ dates across Europe have been announced in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy . Check them out here.
WhoMadeWho will be back with a new album in the new year called Brighter – their first in over three years. Released via their new home Kompakt you can get a taste of what to expect by streaming the new single ‘Inside World’ below.