Within the past two years, a group of associated Danish bands have been making waves all the way over to the United States. Centered around a venue called Mayhem, bands including Iceage, Girlseeker and Sexdrome have formed a sound with a raw coldness. Itâs at times harsh, at times tactical, and always hard to pin down.
Copenhagenâs Lower is the latest band to spread out from Scandinavia, having recently toured house shows and small venues in the United States. At those shows, Lower exhibited their strange, haunting sound, and wowed the crowd, but did little to explain some of the mysteries surrounding them and their compatriots.
Because Lower has recently released their debut LP, Seek Warmer Climes, features editor John Gentile spoke to bassist Kristian Emdal about the new LP, the Copenhagen scene and kidnappings.
You can click read more for the interview.
When Adrian Toubro, vocalist of Lower, was 18, he was kidnapped in Africa. After dropping out of gymnasium, which is like upper high school in Denmark, he traveled to Tanzania to build toilets for the poor. However, the organization that Toubro hooked up with turned out to be a heavily religious organization, requiring Toubro to sit through long-winded prayers every morning that bored and annoyed him.
So, he decided to start walking south. While on his way to Malawi, Toubro was apprehended by locals. Itâs unclear exactly what happened down in the heart of the tropics and whether Toubro actually was kidnapped, or almost was kidnapped but got away or had drugs planted on him in an effort to extort him -- but at any rate, the whole thing ended with Toubro jumping out of a moving vehicle and running away.
The experience acts as the centerpiece of the band's new album, Seek Warmer Climes. Bassist Kristian Emdal opens the seven minute "Expanding Horizons (Dar es Salaam)" with a cold, pounding line before drummer Anton Rothstein drops from above with a marching beat. Simon Formann adds a an amorphous, metallic guitar texture and then Toubro fades into the clash with his ghostly wail. The whole thing mixes the haunting core of Joy Division with the twisted glam of Bauhaus, the intelligent brutality of Wire with the distant coldness of Denmark. Even though the track is about an incredibly personal (and scary) experience, Toubro guards his tale with ambiguities as he laments "Expanding horizons/ nothing seems to match my fantasies." Though, despite his lyrics, his intonation tells you all you need to know.
Emdal, too, seems to guard whatâs deep down. Like their fellow-band Iceage, he avoids definitions and prefers to let the music do the talking. "Weâd rather not have a tag," he says. "I think the whole genre thing is something you should come up with by looking back. Weâre all about looking ahead and progress. Having a tag is would be standing in our way. Weâre just a rock band and nothing more than that."
In a way, the group isnât avoiding tags out of a strategy. While their music sounds fully formed and tactical, itâs really just the resulting alchemy of having four separate members in the band with four separate agendas. "Since we only have one guitar, there is a lot of space to fill up," Emdal says. "Simon, he likes picking melodic sounds and itâs not like power chord, so thereâs a lot of space to be filled up. I just try to compliment his guitar."
"I just started playing and itâs an intuitive thing," Emdal continues. "I really like when it has a very heavy bottom, but it still has a melodic quality on top of it. It varies a lot, how the songs come about. Sometimes Simon plays a riff and I try to put a foundation underneath it. Iâm not a very good guitar player, so when I want to make a new song, I make it on the bass. I tend to make a melody and use the bass as a foundation. I like to have the top and the bottom all in one song."
In fact, the bandâs "letâs see what happens" ethos is manifested in their local venue. The band regularly plays an abandoned car repair shop in Copenhagen was has been converted by the local bands into a DIY space. Now re-christened as Mayhem, the venue regularly hosts gigs with Lower and fellow bands Iceage, Girlseeker, Sexdrome and others, most of which share members with each other. "We all play in at least three bands that are all sort of the same group of people. We just played in LA and had 14 bands and all those 14 bands consisted of about 25 people," Emdal says. "At Mayhem, because it is sponsored by government initiatives, we donât have to worry about door money. We can go do a show whenever we like. That in of itself is a very supportive thing."
"People often bring up that we are from Denmark," Emdal continues. "I think thereâs no way of escaping it. Weâre just proud of being part of a very productive group of people who are very close friends. Why try to do be something that youâre not?"
Seek Warmer Climes is out now via Matador Records.