Soul-pop meets symphonic-flavoured jazz tunes… or however can you label the music of that band coming from East-Germany’s Cottbus – now residing in Berlin – whose name derives from the notorious Homer Simpson? To be honest, labelling doesn’t really count. DO I SMELL CUPCAKES? is simply a band that made its first attempts at walking as a student band in 2005 and with their very first album Springs they now discover their own possibilities, recover some gems and lay a foundation for quite a unique sound.
Whether it is the harmonious bundle of joy Reality, the mysterious Gaps & Horizons, the pumping horn section groover Inside Out or the quiet and dramatic, melody-laden and symphonic ballad Stranger & Me: The list of overwhelming songs is long, though the album itself is by far not perfect. The debut has just been released and according to guitarist, founding-member and one of the main songwriters Dennis Depta the pre-release hurly-burly is slowly receding after a great record release show in Berlin’s Frannz Club on the 20th of January… in front of 420 people! Dennis gives a self-aware insight of the first reviews of Springs:
DENNIS- For the most part they have turned out very positive. Of course there are some things to criticise, but all people find something good in this album. There might be two points of criticism, that not everybody shares of course: One is that the album might “lack balls” here and there. That hasn’t been written too often, but that is something we ourselves realised within the band. Especially the three or four more rocking songs could have been a bit more pumping forward. But that might also be a question of the mix and mastering of the whole album. It’s quite constantly mixed and therefore it all might sound a bit more melodic. The second point some people have animadverted sometimes was that the whole album goes into too many directions. Whereas others again pointed out that this only seems that way on the first sight and that they are curious about what is to come next.
KATRIN- To me that album sounds young and fresh. You immediately know that this is a quite new band with many different ideas. But on the other hand – and you’ll hear that on several occasions – the whole thing is very thought-out and one quickly realises that it must have taken quite some time to become as it is now. It comes without any narrow-minded thinking, too.
DENNIS- In the future our music will go more into one direction. We just realise that in our current songwriting state, because we already have seven or eight new pieces. But it will remain multifarious. It will be simpler and the songs will be shorter and more rocking. You will see that on one of our live shows.
The first songs were made in 2007 already and have been released on our first EP. Also (In Brackets), our sixth song. We already played this one in Hebrew and with a string orchestra! Only since 2010 we have the five-piece core lineup assembled and songwriting starts to flow more consistently.
KATRIN- Though you said your new stuff will go more into a straighter direction I have to admit that all the “trappings” appealed to me very much, especially the horns arrangements. Sounds like you’re still in good contact with the big band of your youth?
DENNIS- I’m not sure how this came to happen. On the one hand there are those grandiloquent horns arrangements, on the other hand there are string arrangements on four songs. The strings are more an addition to the album, at least to me they underline the songs and can be left away when the song is performed live. The horns arrangements are a lot more evident. Big band experience? I don’t know. When we still lived in Cottbus in 2008 we first worked with two or three different people and then Kevin began to write the horns arrangements on his own. He has been studying jazz singing and you can hear plenty of jazzy stuff on Autumn in Minor or Inside Out for example. Out sixth cupcake is a trumpet player. Especially at concerts this pushes things much further. Our horns section and mainly our trombone player are into folklore stuff and you will also find the on a Sorbian carnival. Other people we got to know via the Jazz Institute Berlin. Sören for example, our sax player. He is from Cottbus as well and very, very young, but already playing for the most different people. We let him do his thing on Autumn In Major. Or take the free trombone solo in Quantity of Things: That’s very much free jazz. Forgive me if I say so, but the people from the Jazz Institute Berlin are among the best in whole Germany. You give them a few notes and they play it with two or three alterations. That’s much more relaxed than with the string section. The latter ones are also very hard to implement live, because they constantly don’t hear themselves.
KATRIN- At this stage we might have a small glimpse into the past of how a song on Springs sounded live with a string ensemble, a bit strained:
DENNIS- The “extensiveness” of the album might come from our own listening habits at that time. Many songs were born between 2007 and 2009. Kevin and I listened to SIGUR RÓS very much… or ELBOW, who worked together with the BBC Orchestra so nicely. Some things inspired us and we thought “Cool, our song could sound like that, too!” We’ll see, only two new songs are with horns so far, but these days we have much more possibilities with the guitars, keyboards and vocals, so that we don’t have to use real strings when it comes to arranging the songs. And the cooler it sounds as a five-member band the better and the more practicable it is.
It’s not that I listen to our album every day, but we are very proud of what we attained. Max was on the bass for only half a year in summer 2010 and therefore it was very hard to get this live sound on tape. I think it’s that live sound that represents us. After so many bass players in our band – we even had Joachim Deutschland for a short time! – we asked Paul’s brother to join us… though at that time he was “only” a keyboardist. But it’s amazing what he can tickle out of his bass guitar by now. At times we had some really great bass players, but they were all mavericks and didn’t really fit into the band. The most important thing next to everyone’s musicality is that we all get along well in the band and respect each other. The whole thing is a formation. We are all very different, but it fits wonderfully. The songs themselves are mainly written by Kevin, Slady and me, but the other two are so enthusiastic to work with us.
KATRIN- The ideas on this album would have been enough to release two. Already the moment (In Brackets) started I had the feeling that a little break in terms of inventiveness would have been good. A break in the sense of meaning that there should have been a moment to breathe freely. You say yourself that there are mainly calm songs on the album, but even there happens a lot, though they are quiet. Sometimes there is too much singing. I don’t know if it’s that necessary to to show what you guys are able to do!? From the mere listening experience it sounds like Kevin is the main songwriter, because of the big emphasis on the vocals. Sometimes it is a bit demanding to have too much singing, though Kevin has a super voice. I have to admit I haven’t heard something comparable in rock music until now.
DENNIS- I think this is a matter of taste. I could listen to albums by MOGWAI for days, but every band has to distinguish itself by some specialty. I think in our case a lot happens in respect of melodies and harmonies. That’s something very particular about us and it happened very naturally. In nowadays’ music too much happens in terms of rhythm.
KATRIN- Last your you guys were part of a poetry project together with Faina Machanowa. Do you plan to do something similar in the future or to even lead this into a second round?
DENNIS- We try to concentrate on the band at the moment. Our songwriting will go back to the basics and we want to make music, because it goes into a really exciting direction. Probably there will be another album in two years. But we are open to other things. Especially the poetry project with Faina pushed us forward musically. In 2009 we have been in Israel and arranged and performed three or four songs together with musicians from Israel. Such experiences are more sustainable than anything, though they might be only for a few days. On the other hand we’re also very interested in anything related to theatre. In Cottbus we could contribute a song to the soundtrack of the coming-of-age film Blaue Stunde. The music video can be seen on the internet. It was very interesting to be a part of that. Our guitar player Paul is the boss-man of a theatre newspaper publishing house, I’m into German language and literature studies, bass player and drummer are into Japanese studies and our singer Kevin works in the technical department of the Schaubühne. We hope to have a theatre project somewhen, because we are extremely interested in that scene. We will see and always also think out of the box.
KATRIN-Thank you, Dennis! I’m very excited about the new songs that will be performed live soon.
DO I SMELL CUPCAKES?
rock / pop
from Berlin, Germany