If any band brought the storm to Roskilde’s Nordic Talents showcase, it was Copenhagen five-piece Boundaries. As anyone who’s listened to their music (a catalogue that now includes a 2018 self-titled EP, along with a new split single, Tusk/ Forgiver) can attest, the band have access to a lot of power at their musical fingertips, and that especially manifests itself live. At the Roskilde Rising stage, they sounded like a hurricane spiralling around frontman Mads Grene, harsh, tough noise sharpened and shaped into something cutting and clean. I caught up with Grene and guitarist Morten Christian Brock Danielsen after the show.
How did the project get started? You [Mads] started it as a solo project, right?
Mads: Solo is a bit of an exaggeration. I was just writing songs for the hell of it, and nobody was ever supposed to listen. Then I started hanging with Emil [Sylvester, Guitar], after he moved to Copenhagen from Aarhus, where we had both lived. I had moved a few years earlier. He was friends with Jacob [Brøndlund, Drums], and they started listening to the songs and thought we could do something with them. Then there’s this huge street party in Copenhagen called Distortion, where we met Jonas [Wetterslev, Bass]. We were all pretty drunk, and we asked him, or he invited himself, into the band.
Morten: Jacob does sound for his [Jonas’] band The Entrepreneurs, who are a great band.
Mads: Then a year and a half ago, I broke my elbow and my collarbone when I was hanging out with Morten.
Who was responsible?
Mads: Ironically, my handlebar got caught in his jacket. We’re childhood friends, so Morton joined the band when I couldn’t play [guitar] for a couple of shows. And then he became an integral part.
And now you’ve stepped off guitar permanently?
Mads: Yes, as of now. I really enjoy not playing.
It gives you more freedom and presence in the live shows I guess.
Mads: Yes, and I think it’s more interesting, when you watch bands and you can see a person who’s a physically extension of what’s going on, soundwise. It adds physicality to the music. I think it suits the dramatic aspect that’s in our music.
Morten: And you can focus on the vocals.
Mads: That’s never a problem. Pitch-perfect! [laughs].
Multiple opinions, one vision
You’ve mentioned a couple of times that now that it’s a full band, the recording and writing process is quite complicated, and you can hear it in the songs with all the depth, layers and detail. What is your typical songwriting process these days?
Morten: It has changed a bit. For the EP, Mads had some demos, and then when I came in I wanted to make some changes, soundwise. And it took so long to make. The new songs were written in a few days maybe, and we just recorded it in a few more days. They’re much more intuitive, and much more to-the-bone, and we had a deadline too, which helps. I think it’s better.
Mads: I think it’s way better, and I would say what makes our music really good is that for a lot of bands in our genre, there is one person who is the main songwriter. That would be a bad thing for our band. What makes the music for us is that it doesn’t really matter who brings something to the table. We had a rehearsal a couple of days ago where I had written a demo that was almost like a hymn. Within a couple of hours, we had turned it into a full-on doom song.
Morten: When four or five people have their own take on something and combine it, it becomes different.
You mentioned Death Grips in an interview as to something you were listening to recently. Your sound is obviously not near theirs, but you reminded me of them in the way you used noise as power, the moments in the songs where these huge waves of noise come through, like on songs like Push. Is that something you think about, the way you use noise?
Morten: Maybe not in a songwriting way, but maybe more of an effect in the music. We have the songs before and we just add it.
Mads: I think it’s something that happens when we produce it, which Jacob does. Morten and I listened to a lot of shoegaze when we were younger, and I think we are definitely driven by the contrast between something that can be very noisy, harsh and abrasive and also melodic. My Bloody Valentine is a huge influence for Morten and I.
Morten: And I think Jacob and Emil have listened to a lot of hardcore and metal, so they also have the power in their background.
Mads: I don’t think we’re fond of music that’s too boring. So it’s nice to have that live, as you can see people get something from it. Maybe it’s a hidden post-rock thing, a lot of us are fans of Godspeed You Black Emperor, and I think you can hear that in our music.
Tusk and Forgiver, the new singles, sound a little more harsh and aggressive than the songs on the EP. Would you say that’s the direction your heading in?
Mads: Definitely. When we wrote the EP, a lot of the songs were written two years before we started recording them.
The issue with the post-punk label
Would you say there’s two different forms of the band? The older songs based on your demos, and then the new ones written from scratch as a band?
Morten: Definitely. And there’s two songs on the EP, Push and Endless Chase, were made later in the studio, and they sound more like the new ones. So I think that’s definitely the direction.
Mads: Also, I hadn’t written that much music before the band started, so I think we were pulling from really obvious influences. So I think what you could say the goal is, is to eradicate all traces of New Order in our music.
Morten: We love New Order but it’s boring to sound like them.
I had a question about that as well. I read your Gaffa review.
Morten: Oh shit …
And the title was ‘A nostalgic postcard from postpunk country’. You also said in another press release that you wanted to push some fresh life in a normally dogmatic sound. I think a lot of bands in the space you guys work in find it hard to escape the shadows of those other bands. They get a lot of New Order references or whatever. You guys seem to be able to find a way to do that. So how does one go about working, vaguely within a postpunk genre and try to find originality in that?
Mads: Maybe it’s because we’ve been asked about this five times now, but that whole post-punk label that’s been put on us is not something that we decided to have ourselves. We never decided that’s what we were going to do.
There’s a lot of noise rock, lot of new romantic. I’m not saying you’re post-punk, but as people who are sort of within that zone, how do you go about escaping writing music that sounds like what’s gone before?
Morten: I guess when we made the EP with your demos, and the whole New Order thing was very clear. So that was the first thing I said, ‘we have to get rid of this. It’s good, but it’s not new. We need to get this whole bass-chorus effect thing out and do something else’. But now we don’t think about it, we just make music we like. Everyone listens to different things and brings in different things.
Mads: One thing we do that maybe separates us a bit, especially in Jacob’s songwriting, is that he has been trained in classical music. And one of the things he’s really good at is arranging music. I think we dare to make songs that are a bit longer than usual post-punk bands. For us, when people make post-punk it’s usually short, usually based on a bassline, there’s a simple formula. I think we take more of a post-rock look at the genre. I think we dare to add a bit more to the music. Take the post-punk thing as a starting point, and then add more. I usually find post-punk to be very constrained, not a lot of layers, very simplistic. And that’s something we have tried to do.
Morten: When people say punk, I don’t see us as punk. We’re not very punk at all.
Do you spend a lot of time playing with ideas in the studio, to find what works?
Mads: Yes, and that is why we’re the luckiest band in the world to have a drummer that’s extremely good at mixing music.
Morten: He also mixes classical and pop music. We wouldn’t be able to make this without him. If you see him on a computer, he says ‘can you hear this?’ and everyone goes ‘no?’.
Mads: I think he experiments a lot. He’s a fucking machine. He’s got a special pair of ears, and can find the tiny details that are hard to pinpoint, but make the difference.
Do you take inspiration from the live show back into recording?
Morten: Maybe it’s a generic answer, but for me, you definitely get to know your music through playing it live to people. Getting that immediate response from people tells you a lot, and it also forces you to listen to what’s important in songwriting. It’s definitely what moved us towards a heavier sound, because we felt that what’s people liked.
Morten: Also, after the EP, there were some songs that didn’t really work live, and we don’t want to make music we can’t play. We re-arranged them and we might play them later, but if they don’t work we don’t want to play them. We want to play without computers, or without a bunch of backing tracks. We want to make the songs while we play them in a way, instead of in front of a computer.