It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon at Hamburg’s Indra club during the Reeperbahn Festival 2019. Several bands are preparing their Danish reception shows happening later that day and within all that soundchecking hectic, Niels Fejrskov Juhl and Theis Vesterløkke of GENTS are the epitome of relaxed. With their new album Human Connection in the pipeline and a tour throughout Europe ahead of them, you’d think that these two would have reason enough to be at least a little keyed up – no sign of that. Juhl and Vesterløkke are primarily one thing: extremely focussed.
The “relaxed” appeal is something that GENTS put at the very center for their new music. Ahead of the release of their latest single Right on Time they communicated: “It’s a direct comment on our previous album ‘About Time’. It’s the story of us growing up. The moral framework that underpins GENTS is of a different substance now. With ‘About Time’, we were very focused on getting ahead – of moving onwards and upwards. With ‘Right on Time’ we want to encourage everyone, including ourselves, to be patient and humble”. As our little chat at Indra’s backyard unfolds it turns out: they really live that.
Diving Deep Into The Emotions
When asked about the amount of uplifting, hopeful spirit on their new record, Juhl responds well prepared: „We have this kind of motto for ourselves: Sentimental at heart, optimistic by default. We are two emotional boys but we are also very hopeful on behalf of the world in general“.
I think we’ve always been optimistic with our music, that’s part of our nature. That said, I think this record has some more darker sides to it. We are more mature now and the world is not as carefree as it was when we released our first music.
Why this record still might come across as a bit more uplifiting in general? „It’s way more personal and vulnerable“, Juhl explains. „We simply allowed ourselves to look deeper into the different emotions – the dark stuff is darker, the uplifting stuff is more openly uplifting“.
One is tempted to label the optimism that GENTS‘ music emits as typically Scandinavian. There’s a basic trust in humanity that is deeply rooted within it. Yet it’s true: A certain spark of melancholia is always close to their glimmering synth pop. Although GENTS certainly fuel the late 80s, early 90s retro synth pop vibe, it’s not so much the Pet Shop Boys they recently rediscovered for themselves: „Lately it’s more the stuff we really grew up with around the millenium. Safri Duo, Dido, Kylie Minogue – also, production-wise, William Orbit who produced Madonna‘s ‘Ray of Light’. If I have to think of the early 90s I’d mention Seal‘s first self-titled record.“
Time is a reoccurring theme in our conversation. Which is a given based on what the duo revealed through their press releases. Originally, Human Connection was ready for a release in early 2019. GENTS themselves postponed it. Which is a rare thing, because normally, when speaking to artists, they are often annoyed by the artificial delay of releases for PR reasons. But the Danes want to send a message with their new release, so they explained: „We are very hands-on with this band. In terms of management, press releases, photos, visuals, videos etc. And what happened was, that there was a lot of that going on and it all had to happen at the same time. It was really crammed. So we realized we just made a record that is about living your life at your own tempo and we need to practice what we preach.“
Once more the feeling crystallizes that what might come across as very relaxed really is the will of GENTS to be in control. Of their art but also in a broader sense. „We are more confident now. With About Time we were much more in a hurry because we were nervous that that sparkle of a little bit of success would pass if we didn’t act fast. You worry so much about the momentum and that people keep on noticing that it becomes very high-paced.“
GENTS made some decisions for themselves: They decided to go all-in and are able to make a living out of their music for about a year now. And they’re either in this together or ain’t at all. There’s a strong bond and mutual understanding between Juhl and Vesterløkke and in connection with the music you get that words like „confidence“ or „trust in self“ are not mere goals in their cosmos. They are lived reality.
Juhl and Vesterløkke are very aware of their situation though, being highly dependent on their music now. „I don’t think this will ever be relaxed“, Juhl says. „We are very invested in this. It always feels more like Workation. It will never be hard work because music is something we feel like we need to do.“
Remember To Be Human
Just a day before we met for our interview the global climate strike happened. And while all that focussing on yourself and finding your own tempo is very much needed, doesn’t it feel a little contradictory to the vibe of our current times and its urging issues that need to change fast rather than slow and steady? „This is not a record about being passive or slow“, Vesterløkke clarifies. „It’s about that you’re good enough the way you are, and we all need to remember to be a human, to reach out and to be in the real world more often. That’s what we’re trying to say.“ His bandmate continues:
“Think about it this way: A big problem with the climate crisis is that it’s so big, so complex. And people tend to seek for easy answers to difficult questions. When you’re too much in a hurry to be present, to be connected to yourself and others around you, you can’t realize the sheer extent of such an issue. You simply can’t indulge if you’re under constant pressure. That’s also the obvious reason that bigots everywhere are as successful as they are: People turn to them in search for easy solutions because they are constantly in so much stress that they don’t have the time and ressources to do otherwise.”
It is relieving to see young folks like GENTS approaching things the way they do: They’re neither naive nor preceptive about their beliefs. In fact, what felt like ostentatious serenity at first turned out to be rather that they’re very aware and confident about their position and their art at this point – and their art is a deliberate beacon of informed hope that is very welcome.
Human Connection is out now on The Big Oil Recording Company.
All Photos by Louisa Zimmer