You heard their hyperkinetic track "Around The Bend" in the commercial for the iPod Touch, and there's a lot more where that came from. Led by lead singer Mette (pronounced "MEH-deh") Lindberg and beatmaker Lars Iversen, this Danish group grew up on American Soul, and their music is retro and modern at the same time. We had a hard time figuring out how Lars made this crazy noise, and he was kind enough to tell us.
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): When you're in the studio, I'm wondering how you're making this sound, because there's a lot of stuff in there that I can't even identify. What are you doing in there?
Lars: In the studio?
Songfacts: Yeah, because it seems very unusual to me. There's a lot going on, but it doesn't seem completely compressed. I can hear some space in there, which is really interesting to me.
Lars: Yeah? Great. Then I achieved what I wanted. Thank you. I do use different kinds of samples and noise elements, like I would take a one-second sample and have it as a tiny flavor underneath each song. And just a little bit of noise from old albums, and mix it below with my beats. There's some bells, for instance, that are ringing underneath some of our choruses that are from old samples, one second, or maybe even a half second long that I just loop and they keep going, like "dililililililili…" It gives this kind of airy flavor.
Songfacts: Tell me how you go about writing a song.
Lars: Interesting question. It's not like I have this certain way of doing it all the time, but what happens most of the time is that I first get the feeling, the vibe of the song in my head. I hear a certain beat, like a groove or something. And some interesting chord changes, like a soundscape. It can even start with imagining a certain type of tambourine, like shakers or percussion instruments, and then building on top of that. If you picture a '60s kind of tambourine you want to create that kind of universe.
Songfacts: Can you tell me where the lyrics come from?
Lars: Yeah. It's all about what we experience, it's what's happening in our daily lives: where we live in Copenhagen and what's happening on the streets, and in our personal lives, and in relationships. Even though many of our songs have this uplifting feeling to them, many of our lyrics have serious or sad undertones, like loneliness and feeling like you don't belong to a certain group of people, but you're doing what you believe in and you have to believe in it to actually do it. It's a bit hard to describe, but I think when people dig into our lyrics and our songs that are not the singles, they get surprised that it's a bit more serious, even though the flavor of the songs is quite uplifting. We like to blend those two feelings together, so you don't have to have a really bad, crying song with sad lyrics. It can be the other way around, it can have sad lyrics on a happy song. That goes really well sometimes.
Songfacts: "The Sun Ain't Shining No More" sounds like what you're describing.
Lars: It is. But that's like a really old song, and the lyrics are very naive on that song, telling the simple story of this lonely girl who is looking for fast love, and then it just breaks her heart. I think many people can relate to that feeling. The way I wrote lyrics back then, they were more quirky and spontaneous, like telling this fast story of this girl. She's a sad girl.
Songfacts: And your song "Around The Bend," that just seems like a very joyful song, and the lyrics seem to match that.
Lars: Yeah, that's a more sexual kind of song. It's about sex, really, about that urge to feel someone close to you and to be addicted to it almost, so you would do anything to get that feeling. You would even say, "I stay forever with you," which is part of the song lyrics, even though it's a lie. It's ironic. Like, "I will stay forever with you to get that feeling, to get what I want," but you just say it because you want it. That's kind of the vibe in that song - you're out partying and at the same time craving this feeling, this intimacy, and you would do whatever it takes to actually get that feeling. Even make a fake promise.
Songfacts: How did that end up in the Apple commercial?
Lars: Apparently they just loved that track, but we never saw it as one of our singles. We have some other songs that we thought would be great singles, and that would work cool on for the radio, but they really loved that song.
Songfacts: Who did the 30-second edit for that?
Lars: We didn't do that, unfortunately. I would have loved to do that myself, because if you know that song, you can tell right away that it's been cut. But then again, you get used to it after a little while, and then when you hear it for the first time, you won't really be able to hear it.
Songfacts: Yeah, I was just thinking about how much of a better song it would have been if they asked you to make a 30-second mix of it. And that's not the first song that's happened to. When I heard the Coldplay song that they used ("Viva La Vida"), there's just a brutal edit in there.
Lars: Yeah, there was not much we could do about that edit. It's okay. I kind of like it now when I've seen it a few times, it sort of works well with the pictures - you see two hands playing with the iPod and all these silly computer games and so on. It looks kind of nice, and it fits with the pace of the song and the cuts.
Songfacts: Did you and Mette grow up speaking English?
Lars: No. Not at all. Does it sound like it?
Songfacts: It sounds like you might. I'm wondering why your songs are in English as opposed to your native language.
Lars: That's because it is just so much easier to make something make sense in English. The very few times that I've tried to write lyrics in Danish, they sound so weird and clumsy. And maybe our lyrics sound that way in English, too, but I don't know, we're not English people. So maybe we just think that they sound amazing. (laughs) Maybe they sound really clumsy, but we feel like it's a lot easier to express ourselves that way. I think English is a much more poetic language. There's so many more words describing the same thing. Whereas Danish is a much more simple language. We have less words per item to describe something.
Songfacts: Yeah, but many languages sound so much more elegant than English. But I guess our language must be more descriptive than others, because bi-lingual people tend to throw English words in all the time, even when they're speaking their native language.
Lars: Yeah, and we also do that a lot in Danish. But another very important thing would also be that we grew up with English music. I've never been a fan of a Danish band. I mean, never. So since I was 10 years old, I've been listening to soul and jazz music from the '60s and '70s: Stax and Motown, Sly and the Family Stone and stuff like that. And Miles Davis, and that's all American music. Black American music. That's where my main influence comes from.
Songfacts: When did you start speaking English?
Lars: I started before school, because I was doing role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons. And back then we couldn't buy the learning books in Danish - they didn't exist - so we had to get them in English, and that's when I started. I looked up every word that I didn't understand - the first English word that I learned must have been "dragon" or something like that. But that was how it all started. And then of course in school we all have English lessons from like 7 years old.
Songfacts: You said that "Around The Bend" wasn't planned for a single. What are some of the songs that you anticipate being singles?
Lars: We have this song called "Lady Jesus" that I think is one of our best songs. The lyrics describe the situation that came up in Denmark one and a half years ago, with this kind of youth culture house that is in my neighborhood. It's a very famous building where alternative youth people live and create art and play punk music and have alternative kind of parties all the time. The government doesn't like this place, and wanted to move it. And then this religious leader, which is what I call "Lady Jesus," came in and bought the house behind the young kids' backs. They didn't know about it. She just bought the house somehow from the government, and threw out the young people. They'd been there since '72 or something. And then like 6 months after they'd been fighting back and forth and negotiating about it with the government, she had the house bulldozed. She tore it down, this great old building. It caused riots all over town. I mean, it looked like Baghdad or something for a few days. There was gas in the air, fires on every street corner, people throwing stones and police everywhere. It was a crazy situation in safe little Copenhagen. It was so weird. And that song is about this lady from the religious sect. She's really sick.
The whole vibe of the song and the groove is really heavy, and there's lots of people singing at the same time. It's almost like some old Funkadelic kind of thing. I hope for that song to become a single at some point. But the next single is called "The Golden Age."
Songfacts: Yeah, tell me about that one.
Lars: That must be the most happy and cheerful song that we have. It's about dreaming yourself back in time, back into the '30s, '60s, '70s - whenever you feel like there was something going on that you missed, and that you weren't a part of because you weren't born at that time. It's about that feeling of walking down the street and dreaming yourself back to these cool times of Frank Sinatra or Jimi Hendrix. It's out in March, I think, together with our album it comes out at that time. We're planning a really crazy video shoot for it. Lots of green screen effects, just madness everywhere and psychedelic things going on, and that'll be fun.
We interviewed Lars November 20, 2008. Learn more at theasteroidsgalaxytour.com.