Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Interview with Rasmus from Efterklang

N: Efterklang, how do you prononce that?
R : Ef-teur-klan-gne (laughs).
N: What does it mean?
R : It means ‘reverberation’, but it also means ‘remembrance’. ‘Efter’ is like ‘after’ and ‘klang’ is ‘a sound’.
N: Why did you choose that? Did you think it fitted the ambiance of your music?
R : I think we liked the word. We didn’t put that much though on it.
N : It’s rarely the case with band names (laughs). Your first record, Tripper, was compared with Montreal-based band Godspeed You Black Emperor and your second one, Parades, was compared with the also Montreal-based Arcade Fire. Do you think these two bands had an influence on your music?
R : Yeah, I think we’re influenced by a lot of different bands, contemporary bands, but also older stuff. For sure, Godspeed and Arcade Fire, both bands, are huge inspiration to us.
N : I’ve heard you worked with the Icelandic string quartets Amina, who also worked with Sigur Ros. Do you feel it helps your band to be compared with Sigur Ros so much or you feel a little bit in their shadow?
R : (hesitation) When we did our first album,Tripper, people compared it to Sigur Ros a lot and, I mean, at the beginning, I was just honored by it. We liked Sigur Ros, it’s a huge band, it’s a great band. So for us, the debut was very good and people said, ‘If you like Sigur Ros, you would also like this band’: that’s a compliment. We get compared to them, but we also get compared to a lot of other bands as well. I think it’s fine. I’m happy about it.
N : Talking about Sigur Ros, they said they wouldn’t feel authentic if they sang in English. Here in Montreal where we mostly speak French, it’s also a hot topic. What do you think about that?
R : I don’t write the lyrics in Efterklang. But first, it feels very natural to sing in English. It feels more natural than singing in Danish. A lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of the music that we grew up listening to and that we like listening to is in English. Some are very good at writing lyrics it Danish and singing in Danish, but it’s kinda hard actually. It feels more natural for us to sing in English. It’s just the way the words are pronounced, the sounds that you can make. It works better for us. But the lyric side of our music is not that important. We like words and we like nice sentences, but we’re not trying to deliver a certain story or a certain message in the song, so the vocals has always for us been like an instrument compared to any other instruments. It’s part of the music we create. It’s not something on top of the music.
N : So what do you want to communicate with the music?
R : (hesitation) I think what we’re trying to do and what we like to do is sorta to… Our music is not really related to anything on earth. What we try to do is create feelings and create pictures and landscapes that are dreamy and maybe otherworldly. So the music should be like a trip to something unknown, something new, something strange. It should take you away from your daily life.
N : Well, it’s very successful that way. You founded your own label, which is called… wait a minute (checking my notes)… how is it called?
R : Rumraket.
N : I read that it’s related to Grizzly Bear.
R : Well, the first signing we did was Grizzly Bear. I released the Grizzly Bear record in Europe. I debuted the record in Europe. It was our first signing so that’s why it’s related to Grizzly Bear. Then, they got huge afterwards (laughs).
N : So you’re the one who made them known. They owe you something don’t they?
R : (laughs) No, I only put it out in some countries in Europe. They owe to themselves.
N : And what's the mission of the label?
R : The mission of the label, I mean, it changes all the time, but in the start, it was just (hesitation) feeling very good about sharing good music with other people. If we found music we really liked, we wanted to share it with the people. Then, it’s also very nice for us to have this sorta family, cause we have so many bands to work with and it creates this very family life feeling. That’s about it. And then also, Rumraket works as Efterklang’s home in Denmark. We put out our own music on Rumraket in Denmark.
N : … which is probably the place where you sell the most records.
R : We sell a lot of records there but Denmark is so small that it’s not really that many. But it makes it possible for us to record expansive records and invest and stuff, I mean, buy new instruments…
N : You’re active since 2001. So eight years and you only have two LPs. Why do you wait a lot between records?
R : (hesitation) Well, you know, we did two full albums but we also did two mini-albums which are thirty minutes each. The first album we did was in 2003. I mean, we take a lot of time recording. We don’t write songs that fast. It takes a long time for us to write a song and then, since Parades came out in October 2007, we have basically been on tour for a year and a half now. The way we make music, we don’t sit down with a guitar and then make a song, it happens in the studio. It’s a process that we have to be at home, we have to be in our studio, we have to be with all our instruments, in order to be able to create something.
N : The core members of the band are five of you and live you’re playing nine people…
R : … this tour we’re seven.
N : or seven, why is it important for you to invite extra-musicians on stage?
R : Well, we’re just four people actually. The fifth guy, he doesn’t go on tour with us. We just need extra people to play piano and violin and guitar for us (laughs), because we can only play drums and sing and bass and electronics, and then we need some more people to help us out with these.
N : So you really want to get the sound of the record live?
R : No, it’s not about getting the sound of the record. I think it would be pretty boring if we were just the four of us (laughs). We would have to do a lot of backtracks and we don’t really like backtracks. We prefer to create things live on stage as much as we can.
N : I think it could give a kind of minimal feeling, but obviously I have nothing to say about it (laughs).
R : The thing is that the four of us who have the band, we’re not trained musicians, we are self-thought. One thing about Efterklang is that we’re not skillful musicians. I think we are very good at composing stuff and getting ideas and finalizing stuff.
N : … like most bands actually (laughs).
R : Yeah maybe. So it’s very nice for us to have extra people and the people we bring in are very good instrumentalists and often they do many different instruments, which makes it possible for us to do very nice arrangements which we need to.
P : Is there a reason why you don’t include the other musicians in your band?
R : (hesitation) Well, the four of us, we’ve been together for a long time. Two of us have been together for seventeen years. Three of us have been together for eleven years. We feel a very strong connection to each other and we are often agreeing. When there’s something to figure out, we always think the same about almost everything. We never fight. Everybody has this clear idea about where we’re going and how we should do it. To bring people into that is hard and not really something we’re interested in doing. If it ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it right? (laughs) So that’s just why I guess. In that way, we kinda stick to that, but then on the other hand, we bring so many guest musicians and we’re working with so many people that we do sorta both things.
N : What can we expect from you guys in the future?
R : In the fall, we’ll release a live DVD, which was recorded last fall with a classical orchestra. We played our album Parades from start to finish with a 50-pieces classical orchestra. It was filmed and it was recorded and it will all be very nice (laughs). It will be out in the fall. Right now, we’re working on our new album. We haven’t recorded anything yet, but we have a lot of new songs. We’re gonna play some of them tonight. When we’ll get back from this tour and throughout the summer, we’ll record our third album.
N : Will it be a similar sound or you’ll still evolving?
R : It will be a different sound. I think it will still be very clear to people that this is still Efterklang, but we’re trying to do something new actually.
N : To conclude, here in Montreal, we have nearly no idea about the Danish music scene. You’re in a label so you probably know most of the music in Denmark. Can you name a couple of Danish bands that you think we should check out?
R : We only have one Danish band in our label, all the other bands are from outside. The one Danish band we have is called Slaraffenland. They’re very good. They’re inspired a lot by this Montreal scene as well. Then there’s a band that we used to be very influenced by is called Under Byen. I think they have a record on Paper Bag Records, which is a Canadian label. There’s a duo called Murder that I like. There’s a lot of good names actually. I think you should go on myspace and look up Danish bands and look at their friends.
N : ‘Tak’ and good luck for the show.

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