Since they burst onto the scene as new-rave kids around a decade ago, LCMDF, the project of Finnish sisters Emma Kemppainen & Mia Kemppainen, have always had a flair for punky, street-smart electro-pop. And that style is definitely present on their freshly-released second album, Sad Bangers. But there’s a lot more to Sad Bangers too. Arriving eight years after the release of their debut full-length Love And Nature in 2010, it’s an album the band actually started work on in 2013.
But due to a couple of writing wrong-turns, and Emma’s burn-out from trying to spin too many music industry plates at once (the story of which she told in this essay), Sad Bangers took longer to arrive than anyone would have thought back in 2013. In the end however, it ended up contained some of their deepest and most fully-realised music to date. ‘Party’s Over’ albums are quite common these days, but Sad Bangers isn’t quite that. Instead, it’s more about the edge of unease and sadness at the edge of the party, high-octane, karate-kick electro-pop songs that ask if the fun you’re having is really what you want it to be. We caught up with them to talk about it.
You hadn’t released a full-length album since 2010, when you were a very different band stylistically, and you hadn’t released an EP since Mental Health Part II in 2013. You mentioned that the origins of this record started that same year, with Call It A Night. So why did it take so long in the end? And has it been a difficult journey to Sad Bangers?
We started the creative process with Call It A Night, but took a little detour after that and found ourselves surrounded by the wrong people. Internal changes can be extremely slow in the music industry, and it wasn’t until we met our current manager three years ago that we felt we got things kicking in the right direction again. We needed time to go in the wrong direction and then do the u-turn. Basically it’s a road many indie-bands go down, they try co-writing sessions because of outside pressure for a hit and that might turn out great, or not so great. The backbone of Love and Nature was the crazy electro demos we created on our computers, and we needed to return to that workflow. Sad Bangers is essentially us two barricading ourselves from outside influence to do our thing – weird synthlines and quirky and extremely sarcastic lyrics. When the wonky skeleton core of the album was there, we started to bring in collaborators. I guess it was just about regaining control and summoning the courage to lead.
Fooled, Procrastination 365 and Rookie all came out in 2015, and the feeling from the outside looking in was that you were on the way with a new record then. None of those songs ended up making in onto Sad Bangers in the end, why was that? Was that kind of a false start?
In hindsight I think Fooled and Procrastination 365 could have made it onto Sad Bangers. They’re the only older songs we still play live along with the new album. Rookie is the only release made in an co-writing session from scratch with an external producer. We still think it’s a great song, but it represented too much the time we wanted to leave behind, so it didn’t make the cut.
You had this vision of a ‘dance/nightime’ album from the beginning of the process, so was it only over the intervening years that it became a dance-pop record kind of themed around the downsides/dark sides of the music/party lifestyle?
I think the themes of Sad Bangers were hovering in our orbit for years. We both just got fooled into writing corny mainstream lyrics for a while, but luckily we came to our senses. Returning to the creative core is the only good move sometimes.
What I like about the album is that it captures so many aspects of that point in your life when you’re questioning and thinking about your relationship with your social life. From realising that there’s certain people who aren’t good for you (Another Sucker, Thank God I Didn’t Get To Know You At All), to Glitter, which is kind of an ‘keep-partying-even-though-there-are-these-negatives-in-the-background’ song to Call It A Night, which is when the illusion of having fun starts to crack but you still don’t want to go home and face your life. Did you really want to dive deep into those feelings for this album?
Think you really hit the nail on the head with the themes. You’re on the dancefloor, trying to party while there’s a monster lurking in the corner of your eye. Build this glittery armour to shield yourself from gossip and social structures, but end up barricading yourself in/isolating yourself. Don’t stop the train, even if it’s barely holding together. The lyrics are mostly parts of Emma’s diaries from the gone years.
No cheerful cheerleader jams
Call It A Night is about that feeling where you know you should go home, but you don’t want to because then you’d be alone with your thoughts, and that’s worse. That’s a feeling I think everyone has known at some point. Emma, you mentioned it was your favourite song from the record, what makes it your favourite?
This is probably the most experimental song on the record. Even if we have a real sweet tooth for big choruses and pop structures, there’s an edge to this song that also makes LCMDF different from other pop acts. We never wanna lose that edge.
The three interludes give the album the kind of conceptual structure of a night out, starts off with Shoelaces, reaches its euphoric peak with Until The Music Is Gone and then the tired, sad end with Drink Water. Did you title them that way to give the album that kind of ‘three chapters of a night out’ structure? And what do you think the interludes add musically to the album?
This is exactly how we intended it to be! At first you might think the album is a bunch of cheerful cheerleader jams, but it’s actually the story of a burnout in three phases. In the beginning you struggle but try stay strong, everything is cold and hectic. In the middle you just want to lose yourself, crash, and in the end you do your best to rewind, heal, and give yourself time to think.
Did you place Waterfalls, which is the most optimistic, positive song on the album I think, at the end to kind of close it off positively? To move on, on a more upbeat note?
Waterfalls is a call for togetherness in the otherwise individualistic culture we live in. It’s also the answer to many of the questions we’re asking in the beginning of the record, what everything boils down to after spending most of your 20s riding bumper cars. There’s maybe a certain tiredness of our own problems and the need of widening the spotlight of focus to a bigger one. I guess feeling connected with others and your surrounding is the best remedy against anxiety.
You’ve been in the music game for while now, and faced a long tough process to get to this record. Is releasing an album like this what keeps you in the game? Does the reward make up for the struggle?
We don’t care about the game, we just wanted to release these songs. Getting them out and hearing people connect with them, online and at shows has been the biggest reward there could be. There’s always a reward when you start dealing with yourself and your struggles but it takes that one bit of extra struggle to get through it.
What’s next for LCMDF? After this album came together over 5 years, does it feel like you’re now moving into a new era?
It’s definitely a new era. Let’s see what happens?
Finally, as this album is obviously one of ‘Sad Bangers’. But what are some of your favourite ‘Sad Bangers’ from other artists? Upbeat, dance songs with melancholic themes?
Heartbroken – T2
Robyn – Dancing On My Own
Dreamtrak – Bad Thoughts
Black Madonna – A Jealous Heart Never Rests
Onni Boi – AlrightNo
Danny L Harle – Broken Flowers
DJDS – Love Songs
Hercules & Love Affair – Blind
The Knife – Heartbeats
M83 – Midnight City
Crystal Castles – Crimewave
Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself
Hot Chip – I Feel Better
El Perro Del Mar – Party (not a dance song, but a sad banger for sure!)
LCMDF’s Sad Bangers is out now on Playground.