Another year, another by:Larm. Scandinavia’s flagship showcase festival in Oslo was as chaotic and intense as ever, with an almost unbelievable amount of concerts packed into its three-day span, with even what spiralled into a blizzard on Saturday thrown in for good measure. But it was also as rewarding as ever – Oslo still has a great range of venues, and on their stages this weekend was a wide variety of great concerts, and I saw a lot of them, with highlights including Drug Store Romeos, Perila, Lydmor, Brigt and Okay Kaya and JFDR (the last two clashed, which mean splitting the sets to catch first half of Okay Kaya and the second of JFDR, with a snow-dash in-between). And of course also among the live highlights were the bands we interviewed, and you can read those interviews below.
How did you guys form the band?
Jonas: Me and Justo met at a high school, playing music through different courses, he was playing reggae and I was playing jazz. He heard one of my loops at a soundcheck and said we had to work together.
Justo: Actually, what happened was he was playing this jazz stuff. But the thing he doesn’t remember is he had this shirt on which had a map of the New York subway system, but with the names of the city’s hip-hop artists on it. So I said ‘yo, you can’t have that shirt if you’re not a hip-hop fan’. So I asked him if he liked hip-hop, and he was like ‘yeah’.
Jonas: So Justo and I were playing with another drummer for a while, in Aarhus, in around 2014. That drummer didn’t have time, and I played with Jonathan in another project. So it made sense to come together.
Jonathan: We were actually working as a band for a solo artist at the time. And I was only getting into that kind of music at this time. And I was eager to have a project where I could have an influence on the composition, because with the solo artist we played with we were just the musicians. So Jonas I think could feel that from me, and then they lost their drummer, and they asked me to join. We had this idea that it would be fun not to be limited to working with one artist, but that instead we could work with whoever we liked. A band of producers, pretty much.
You guys are quite fluid in terms of genre, so what were the shared musical interests you bonded over when you started?
Jonas: When we started, hip-hop and neo-soul. I think those were the pillars. Since then of course, we’ve gained a lot of new influences.
Jonathan: Those two are the roots of our common interest. Because we’re super different in terms of what music we listen to outside the band. That’s probably what makes it interesting. I think that our music has gotten into a new, more interesting place now that we’re bringing in those different influences, influences that we don’t all necessarily like. So I start playing some samples or grooves that I have been inspired by, and we put it in a context where it doesn’t maybe belong. And I think that’s definitely where the most interesting things happen.
How does your usual songwriting process? What’s the start to finish point of a typical song for you guys?
Justo: There’s usually an idea, and you go from there. I might have a bass riff, play it for the guys and they go from there, and figure out how they can support it. Sometimes we’ll say out loud what feeling we want from it. It goes through three different people. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten to a point where we try and do something and everyone goes ‘oh, that’s exactly what I was thinking’.
Jonathan: Often it’s Jonas that will come in with an idea, and I’ll have been nerding out to something with a groove, and I’ll find a way to fit it in.
Jonas: It’s always interesting for me to bring something to the guys, because I never know what to expect. I have realised by now that when I bring something to the guys, anything can happen, and it will become something I never imagined it being.
Justo: That’s nice I think, to bring it to someone else and be like ‘woah, I never thought that piece could go that way’. Or sometimes you’re like ‘I had never thought about that, let’s do it that way because it’s more interesting’. When I go the rehearsal room, I like to go there without having prepared something. So I can work in the moment, and figure out how to support the music in the moment. I think it’s so interesting to do it that way, because it’s naturally more instinctive.
Jonathan: It can be just that we hear a sample we like, and just start jamming over it. Really we just jam out ideas, and we don’t really talk much. Then we try and get a nice loop, like in hip-hop, build in blocks. It’s also funny, when we have a gig with a long soundcheck, we just start jamming. We’re like kids onstage, we can’t help ourselves. Justo’s always been good at putting his phone down and recording those. So then we go into the studio with those sketches and we can finish them there.
Moving on to collaborators. I was reading an old interview where Jonathan said you see the band ‘as a platform for working with artists you admire and love’. You had quite a lot of collaborators on the album, what do you guys look for in a collaborator, what makes you want to work together?
Jonathan: I think that we love their music, basically. Usually it’s people we don’t know, we show each other their music and then we just reach out to them. That’s usually how it is. With Isatta Sheriff for example, we actually wrote that beat first for a Danish rapper, and we were like ‘nah’ [laughs]. Then we found a really cool New York rapper, through a friend. But that fell through, as when you don’t really know someone and you’re on the other side of the world, it’s very easy for things to get lost.
Jonas: We’ve gotten used to that [laughs]. You can’t get your hopes up.
Jonathan: So then we had a finished record, except for this beat. So we needed a rapper to finish it. So Justo found Isatta Sheriff on Soundcloud, and after rehearsals got us to check her out. So we just wrote to her. We still haven’t even met her in-person.
The album [Dark Smoke] came out early last year, and you’ve played live quite a lot since then. Do you think playing live so much has changed your sound?
Justo: The thing is the album you’re listening to is very different to the sound right now. We haven’t been playing those songs for three or four years. So you can ask that question again after the next album, because it will be closer to the songs right now.
Jonathan: When Dark Smoke came out, we were writing songs that will probably be on our third album. And we also couldn’t play those songs live, as we had so many features on them, and we also had a guitar player who’s not in the band anymore.
Jonas: I think the playfulness is something we’ve learned from playing concerts. I think we’ve learned that we play for each other live, and not so much for the audience. I think that’s something we learned from playing live.
Jonathan: I think with the music being instrumental, we have a platform, and now I think we’ve evolved that platform to the point where we could do anything, without the music falling apart. If we played to a click track with a singer, you would have to play kind of the same way every time. We’ve gotten way more limitless, and our communication has evolved. We’ve been through so many fuck-ups and weird situations that we’re all good at adjusting to something weird that hasn’t occurred before and turning it into something nice and interesting. That’s why I feel it’s okay for people to call the music jazz sometimes, because we have that approach to our live shows. The amount of improvisation we do. We like to change the lengths of things, and there are open sections of songs that change every time. And there are things that happen in gigs where we go ‘woah, that was amazing’. That’s what I love about the direction our music has taken, you feel free to experiment live.
Anything else you’re excited to see here?
Jonas: It’s too late, but I wanted to see Safario last night. We saw him in Bergen and it was wild, and the speakers were also wild, they were exploding.
So let’s try and get the basics in place first. How did the band start, and then develop into Das Body? As I understand it, it started off as Ellie’s project, became Ellie Linden and The Soft Power at some point and then eventually Das Body?
Ellie: It was me and Kim, writing music for a long time. And our first musical expression ended up as Ellie Linden and The Soft Power, and that was just not good. We got Patrik in, and needed a new name, so started over.
Patrik: But there were still some good songs that came out of the Ellie Linden and The Soft Power period. Like Graceland and Know My Name, they were some of the early songs that Kim and Ellie wrote.
Ellie: But they sounded worse then [laughs]. Not as cool. The ideas needed some work. They’re cool now.
So at what point timewise would you say Das Body becomes Das Body?
Ellie: At the end of 2018.
Patrik: That’s when we had our first shows. Didrik came on board in like September 2018, and then our first show was in December.
You said you reworked the songs as the band became Das Body, and you have quite a unique sound. So how long working together would you say it took to get Das Body’s modern sound?
Ellie: I worked with Kim for perhaps four or five years, a long time. I needed to find my own voice, as much of a cliché as that sounds. It was mostly working on finding it, not so much on writing songs. When we did, everything came naturally. And that’s when we got the boys involved.
It is quite a unique sound, it’s very fluid and playful, and it stands out a lot from other pop acts. When you were putting together these songs, did you want to make sure you had something distinct, that kind of stood out from the waves and waves of normal pop?
Ellie: Yeah, we feel like there’s no reason to make music unless it provides something new. Why would you make music that sounds like somebody else?
And what are the influences that come into that sound?
Ellie: I think it comes from us as individuals with our musical tastes, which are all very different, though they overlap at points. We all bring each our influences.
Patrik: Both from music and other places, like films or whatever. Whatever’s hitting our sweet spots at that moment.
So how does the songwriting work, now that you’re a band band?
Ellie: Now it varies. Sometimes I’ll have an idea, sometimes Patrik will have an idea, someone else will build something on top of that, someone else will build something on top of that. We just work on it and layer on.
Patrik: It’s a weird process.
Didrik: Time-consuming as well.
Patrik: It’s always exciting, and it even makes you nervous. You get in the studio, and when someone says they’ve done something, and they show you, it can be nervous. Either it’s really good and everyone gets excited, or it’s not and…
Ellie: It becomes quiet [laughs]. ‘Yeah, good job! Glad you did something….ummm’.
Patrik: There’s a lot of discussion, a lot of talking things out to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Ellie: I like that a lot. I like that a lot better than before when the guys were just playing my music. I like everyone being involved.
There’s a thing in Das Body’s music, that even though it’s very catchy and listenable, there’s also something very raw and harsh about them under the surface. Is that emotional force something you want to capture in your music, that it has to have something sharp and raw about it?
Ellie: Yes, it need to have some sort of emotion. At least as long as I feel something, it’s fine, I don’t care. It can be anything, either the dark emotion of Graceland, or just something that makes you want to dance. It can be simple as well. It just needs to have some sort of tone to it, otherwise it’s just noise.
There’s a new album on the way, so tell us about that?
Ellie: It’s still in progress. We’re still working on it.
Patrik: It’s been great working with Jorge Elbrecht, the producer, it’s been really fun. He has a different way of working with music to that we’re used to. It feels like he gets the music, and he gets involved in the same way we do when writing the music.
Ellie: He really helps us bring ideas to the next level. And he brought some funk. It’s been really cool.
Would you say Against The Glass is a sign of where you’re going?
Ellie: The thing about the album is it’s very scattered. There’s a lot of different genres. So we’re going to have to narrow it down and work through that. And Against The Glass is very like R’n’B pop, we also have a rock and roll song.
Patrik: Some ballads. It’s clear that we all have our different tastes, and I think that’s reflected in the album. It’s a very wide span of genres.
Ellie: I kind of got to make everything I wanted to make. That may not be ideal for a record, but I’m very happy with it [laughs].
Patrik: When I’m listening to it myself, it feels fresh, new, something that wants to say something. And that feels good.
How did you feel the show went last night?
Ellie: As well as could be expected from this type of gig, which is stressful, as you only have 15 mins to set everything up and so on.
Patrik: It’s the first time we had the choir too, and the first time they met [Das Body played with a girl group chorus at their by:Larm shows].
Ellie: I’ve always wanted a choir, and we wanted to step up the performance a bit. We played by:Larm two years ago and now we wanted to step it up, so what can we do? ‘I want a choir. I want girls up on stage’. I think it turned out really cool.
What else are you excited to see?
Patrik: We’ve only started to look at the programme. I think we want to see Pottery.
Ellie: We played with them at SXSW last year.
Didrik: We’re probably going to catch Morabeza Tobacco. They’re Swedish friends of ours, we played and also lived with them at SXSW last year.
Ellie: That was their first gig ever, so we’re excited to see where they are now.
Patrik: I’m going to see Baby Rose as well. I haven’t listened, but it says it’s Atlanta R’n’B, and that sounds cool. I don’t think I’m going to check out her music prior, I don’t want to have any expectations or anything. I want to be surprised.
Ellie: I’m excited to just go into places and not know what to expect.
How did the band get started?
Georgia: We met at Guildhall [Guildhall School of Music and Drama].
Taylor: About two or three years ago. We were vaguely aware of each other, we weren’t on the same course, but we were in the same year and lived in the same building for a while. We eventually figured out what the other was doing. We were both making music by ourselves, and then it was Georgia who wanted to start writing songs. She sent them to me over the summer, and we worked on them separately over the summer, and then when we met again we put them together. And that’s been the process ever since.
You guys met there, and on the EP [Love Is The Key To The City] the orchestra is made up of some of your classmates. So how was Guildhall as a place to start a band, was it a good creative base to start Jockstrap?
Georgia: Yeah, it has great resources. We met other people in bands. Lots of free spaces to use. The studio there is good. It’s a great place to start a band.
Taylor: We were lucky, we had a lot of interesting people in our year. A lot of the time, it’s people doing classical music in their rooms all day, and we were lucky to find people that weren’t just doing that, that were looking to create other forms of music. It is quite weird that so many people we were to work with were there at the same time – to have three jazz experimental musicians isn’t that common.
Your style is very interesting and unique to you. So how does your process work?
Georgia: It starts off as poetry. Then I’ll write a demo at the piano, then it takes a while to get the harmonic impression perfect, for me. Then I’ll send it to Taylor, just MIDI and a vocal take, which is usually the vocal take we go with actually. And then Taylor starts designing the sound world. Not necessarily based on the lyrics at all actually.
Taylor: Based usually just on what I’m feeling.
Georgia: It can go anywhere really. I think that’s really our concept, not having rules or boundaries, and I think not referencing anything. Never saying you want it to sound like anything else. We work in our own little box. And then if there’s something put down, we’ll come together and get to work on it. I think we work quite hard on tracks, and we’re both quite stubborn. So we work until we’re both happy, until we’ve found something that works for both of us. We all do the work in Taylor’s room.
You’ve [Taylor] been producing since you were like 12, and there’s a large diversity of sounds in your work. So when you guys are making music, are you always looking for new sounds to incorporate in your work?
Taylor: I think so. Because with Jockstrap I mainly just focus on production, it puts in you in a nice headspace to think about things. When you have to think about songwriting it puts you in a different headspace. So I was doing a new track a few days ago and I found a new thing to put on her vocals. It seems to come quite naturally, new sounds and new themes in the production as well. On this new EP, production-wise, it was trying to be as extreme, and then as minimal as possible. We both like different music, but then there’s music we both like.
Georgia: Everything comes from somewhere, even if we’re not talking about references to things while we’re making it.
Taylor: I think we share a love of the same kinds of music. Obviously there’s differences in the things we like on the surface, but I think we value the same things in music. I think that’s quite hard to find with people, so we’re lucky to have that in each other.
You [Georgia] said your lyrics start off as poetry, in terms of the lyrics and the videos, there’s a real fascination with the dark undercurrents of human emotions, the stuff people don’t like to think about and certainly don’t like to talk about, the weird and strange desires people have. Are those the kinds of things that fascinate you creatively, that inspire you to write?
Georgia: I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it like that. I write from my own experience, and maybe that just makes me weird and strange. I guess when it starts as poetry, you’re working with just the words, and there’s so much you can do with that. And there’s actually so much that can get lost, if you’re writing it as a song when you’re writing the words. So maybe they’re hyperbolic, as they start off as words.
I guess it also influences your style, if they start off as poetry first, isolated from the music?
Georgia: It definitely makes it more interesting. The rhythm will always be different, as you’re not writing to a structure as you don’t know how the structure will go yet. You could never write a pop banger like that, but I think that’s what’s quite nice about a song starting off as poetry.
So new single’s [Acid] just out, what’s happening later this year?
Taylor: We’ve got an EP coming soon, and another single. Another similar length-thing to the last one. It’s all finished.
Georgia: The official plan is in the works for that. I think last time we set the bar quite high, with videos for every track and a string orchestra. So it’s been a lot of work to get it to be a step up.
How did you guys find the show last night?
Taylor: I think people enjoyed it, and a lot of people we really admire like Mica Levi were there. It was a similar situation when we played a similar festival in Iceland. I think that’s what you gain, we met some brilliant people yesterday, and I think that was the highlight, rather than the gig.
Is there anyway else on the line-up you’ve enjoyed?
Georgia: We saw Kanaan last night and that was amazing. Did not know what to expect.
Taylor: Black Country New Road was good. I want to see Okay Kaya as well today, I’m looking forward that. I wanted to see Jessy Lanza as well but I missed it.
Spring & I
So what are your own backgrounds in music, and how did Spring & I as a project get started?
Marie: We met like nine years ago, and started playing music together. We started playing covers and then moved into folk music. But we wanted to try something different, and start playing electronic music, we were listening to a lot of electronic music at the time.
Ditte: When we met first, neither of us actually sang. So I started trying it out, and Marie was pushing me to do more of it. I asked Marie to start doing backing vocals and harmonies. So then it was us singing, Marie on guitar and me on piano, a singer-songwriter thing, and that was like nine years ago. We played a lot of concerts and festivals with that constellation, but we felt something was missing. We tried getting a guy in on drums, but that was not it. So we kind of stopped, had a crisis and started over. And then we started learning how to produce music, and it started to develop from there. Neither of us are tech people, so we just started to play around and figure it out.
Marie: We still have some of vocal harmonies and some of the inspiration from the folk music we left behind. Which is what makes the music special, we combine the electronic elements like the bass and drums with those elements.
Because I was interested in the pathway you took to the music you make. Because the songs you make are kind of in the middle of club music and something more conventionally-songwriterish.
Ditte: We describe it as a bit of a patchwork, and I think that’s because we don’t have a technical background. We just play around. So it often starts with one of use playing around with a beat, or a vocal sample, and then building something up from that. I’ll do something and send it to Marie, or vice versa, and we’ll just keep patchworking until the song is finished. When we first started making music, we just fell in love with harmonies. Neither of us are strong vocalists, but together on harmonies, we dig that. We also don’t start in any particular way when we start a song. We can hear an indie song and find inspiration from that, or hear a club beat and start there.
Marie: And then it always turns into something completely different.
I was watching clips and photos from your live show, and it seems to have a lot of equipment involved, both playing with production gear like beatpads but also with guitars. So I was wondering, what is your live set-up? Did you, despite the fact your music is quite clubby, want to capture the feeling of a band live?
Ditte: I think with the songs we’ve released so far, on record they’re one thing but live they’re a whole other thing. So we want to capture that live element. Marie plays guitar, and we have a lot of small MIDI keyboards, so the only analogue thing is the guitar really. We want to have as much live instrumentation as possible, but being only two of us, we can’t do it too much. We tried at first actually, but that made it difficult to concentrate on singing.
Are these your first shows abroad? How are you finding the festival so far?
Ditte: We just came here actually. But we have been going to SPOT festival in Denmark for nine years, and we love that festival. It’s very sophisticated, where people are there to discover new music. And I think it’s going to be even more like that here.
Marie: It’s also out first international concert, and that’s a big thing. It’s going to be exciting. We don’t know what to expect. But we’re ready.
Is there anything you’re excited to see from the rest of the line-up?
Marie: There’s a couple. We want to see Jessy Lanza and Okay Kaya.
Ditte: Cashmere Cat as well. There’s a lot of electronic music in Denmark, but Norway has a very strong scene as well. We’re definitely inspired by a lot of Norwegian artists as well.
New single just out, Crying 4 U, tell us about that?
Marie: We’re very excited to get it out. It’s the most clubby, experimental track we’ve done so far. But it also captures where we are heading.
Ditte: It’s very different from the singles. You can still hear that it’s us, but it’s very non-vocal, just a sample thing. The thing about that single was that we wanted to make something we found totally awesome. Something we could have fun listening to and have fun making. So this song was done so quickly. Often you want to try and fit into a box of what you think the listeners want to hear. This time we just decided to make something we find fun.
Marie: We do the music with harmonies and guitar, but we also can do club music when we want to. We don’t want to become fixed in some structure where we only write in one style. With this song, it just came out and felt right.
Ditte: We’ve been shuffling around from studio to studio, but for the last half a year we’ve been in this bunker. No windows, no natural air, no phone connection. So we’ve been really focused when we’ve there because there’s nothing else to do but make music.
How did Porto Geese get started?
Joar: I made a couple of demos, three years ago I think, which were much more pop than they eventually turned out. So I sent them to Bendik, I’m not sure why but I did. I was living on a mountain, in a cabin back then. He suggested we start a band. I eventually moved to Oslo.
Bendik: We had been talking about starting a band for years.
Joar: We’ve known each other since I was small. I used to live on the west coast, but every time we met up we would be like ‘Let’s start a psych band!’. Then we’d see each other again a year later and be like ‘Yeah, let’s build a studio and start a psych band!’. In the end it happened. I think it was a good period in our lives, we both had the time to do it. I guess it was January 2017. We eventually got a gig, and then we had to decide a name and make it real.
Bendik: We had the demos, and so I showed them to this guy at a festival I had been working at, and he called me and asked if we wanted to play. That’s when we had to find a name and finish some songs, because we had some we had never actually finished. And then we found the sound.
Joar: I think it’s good we spent a long time without having decided a lot of things. We were going to three or four concerts every week, and saying ‘we don’t want to sound like that’, or ‘we don’t want to sound like that’, or ‘we want to sound more like this’. The concerts that we found most interesting were the noisy ones.
Your songs do tend to focus on this dark heavy rock, and structurally they focus more on build-up and release than a conventional songwriting structure. So how does your writing process work?
Joar: Some are just jams. We take pieces and put them together.
Bendik: Sometimes it’s a demo where one person has made almost everything, and then we look at it and tweak it and start to play around with it. Sometimes it’s more a jam from a rehearsal that sounds like a song afterwards.
Joar: Tea, actually the second half of the song is a mistake, it was a loop and then it sounded good, so we needed to try it.
Since you started playing live with the project, has that influenced the way you want the songs to sound?
Joar: I think when we were going to concerts and things, we wanted to be live-orientated. I think we always had in the back of our head that it needed to be cool live.
Bendik: The live thing, at least how I think about it, has been influenced by the years we’ve been seeing bands like Swans and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Where they are songs, but they keep building on from each other. And the songs don’t have to be the same as on recording, they should be one thing that make sense together.
With the live show, it seemed like yesterday you were going for a basic level of intense noise that unites all the songs, and the charm of it comes from how you play with the details over that bed of noise.
Bendik: The goal for me, when going to a concert, is that you witnessed something that happened there and there, that you really experienced it. So the noise helps to suck people in I think, and not give them the chance to think too much about individual songs.
How have you felt the response to the shows has been, as you’ve played only two live?
Bendik: The feedback has been surprisingly positive actually. I think at least the first time, I wasn’t expecting much from people. I think you’re kind of blind to what you do yourself.
Joar: I think it’s been good. Though of course I don’t expect people to come up and tell me it sucked [laughs]. It’s the second gig we’ve played, so it’s only the first time I’ve dared looked out at the crowd. But the feedback was good from the people who said something afterwards.
Are there any other artists you’re excited to see?
Bendik: There’s a band called Kanaan, who play kind of instrumental kraut. I do sound for them, so of course I’m a bit biased. But the gig yesterday was the first time I’ve really see them do a full show, and it was scarily good. They’re playing before us tomorrow, so they’re a threat I guess [laughs].
Joar: I’m really nervous about our own, so I haven’t checked so much, I’ve been focused on that. I want to check out Dwall, they’re doing a cool thing.
Thanks to all the bands interviewed and all the staff at by:Larm.
All photos by Austin Maloney