Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Efterklang in time and space.

Danish band Efterklang, since forming in 2001, have produced consistently critically acclaimed, exciting and adventurous albums (including Tripper, Magic Chairs, and Parades), collaborated with film-makers and orchestras, and have driven pigeon-hole-placers demented; their music has been variously described as post-rock, dream pop, neoclassical dark wave, electronic, glitch, ethereal wave or even indie-folk-pop all of which justs illustrates how unique their music is.

For their latest studio album the band, which has become the trio of Casper Clausen, Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg [after the departures of Rune Mølgaard and Thomas Husmer], set out for a change of scenery to help the creative process. That’s nothing new, after all artists like David Bowie or U2 have famously produced career changing records having decamped to Berlin (where, incidentally both Brauer and Clausen have now moved). Efterklang, though, perhaps emboldened and inspired by their 2010 collaboration, an Island with French film-maker Vincent Moon, chose a far less comfortable location, the abandoned city of Piramida .

Piramada, on the island of Spitsbergen,  far north off the coast of Norway in the Arctic Circle was, from 1927 onwards, leased to the Soviet Union’s Mining Company, and for years had a thriving community of technicians, miners and researchers, before eventually being abandoned. Rather than the tired and by-now conventional approach of relocating to a lonely cottage, Led Zeppelin style, where they could write the record, the band travelled up to Piramada and recorded sounds that caught their imagination – empty oil drums, lamp-shades, Polar Bears, and the world’s most northernmost grand piano; they then returned to Berlin, bringing these sounds with them to write the record, a process of  “taking sounds found organically in an alien landscape and using them to power ‘traditional’ progressions of notes”.

The band were kind enough to answer some of TMO’s questions (via email).

Making music is like building a house, people move in and they decide where to put the furniture.

Let’s jump straight in and talk about Piramida – One of the things that intrigues me is this idea that you chose this fascinating desolate place, did research on it, jumped through all the hoops necessary to get there to let the sounds and space dictate your album; it seems more like the way a novelist or historian would go about things rather than musicians. How important was the research, and the logistics in terms of making the actual album?

It was quite a crucial part of the album. In fact that was the only thing we knew about the album, when we started. We wanted to begin this album together. Gain a collective understanding of the foundation, before the actual songs would follow. We’re facinated by sounds, and this facination has been quite a big part of our work ever since we started making music many years ago. Sounds often lead to music. On the Piramida album we allowed ourselves to stay a bit longer in that pre-state of a song, explore it, and then transfer to the “music world” so to speak. We did indeed feel a bit like scientists, researching with our microphones, notebooks and cameras, collecting “material” that we found interesting, without having to think about the outcome, It was liberating.

It’s a beautiful, spacious, resonant album, and the story behind it is wonderful, but I also like the fact that it doesn’t come across as that dreaded beast ‘the concept album’. It seems, at least to me, that the story of Piramada is an extra layer that you can bring to it – but it’s not dominant like a Pink Floyd or The Who album where the concept becomes the defining element. How do you feel about concept albums?

They can be terrific. We decided before we went to Piramida that the album should begin there but we also agreed that we were ultimately aiming for a personal abstraction of the place, without knowing what that would be.

Chris Isaak once said ‘if you have to be miserable to write great songs, you should go drive a truck’, do you think he’s right?

What a wicked thing to say, but I’m not sure what he mean about that truck..?

You’re three Danes, two of whom live in Berlin, so it seems appropriate to ask you about nationality, culture, and Europe; it’s a very particular moment in Europe, where in lots of countries the idea of a ‘European Culture’ is very much being called into question. Do you, as musicians, feel Danish, European, or simply world citizens? Do you think that European culture does exist, and if so are we in danger of losing that identity?

I feel danish, nordic & european, but rarely do I feel like a world citizen unless I’m in a deserted place, it’s much more poetic though.

You’ve earned a great reputation as a live band.How much, if at all, do you think about entertaining your audience when writing songs? For example, do you find yourself, like a traditional rock band, pursuing a song because you know it’ll work brilliantly in a live context?

It changes from time to time & project to project. An album like the previous one Magic Chairs found a lot of inspiration in the audience. Generally I like when music is a social thing, a collective experience.

You’ve collaborated with countless other artists – whether it be other musicians, film-makers etc. Let’s go into the field of fantasy – imagine you could collaborate with any artist from the past, on one of their famous works, who and what would it be, and more importantly why?

I would have loved to be on the ‘twin peaks’ set, first 8 episodes, very fascinated by Lynch work and cast

Can you tell us a little bit about the Ghost of Piramida film, and also about the screening parties scheme that you set up – it seems like a really innovative idea, and one that maybe has applications for music as well as film?
It’s a film by Andreas Koefoed partly about our trip to Piramida, about the place & about it’s past narrated/filmed by a former citizen of Piramida Alexander Ivanovic Naohcin, who we met up there on day 5.

Like our previous film An Island with Vincent Moon, we presented the ghost of Piramida via a concept we call ‘Private Public Screening’ It means that people can screen the film in their home as long as they inviite guests and it’s a free entry

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given musically?

Making music is like building a house, people move in and they decide where to put the furniture.

It seems to me that, describing each new album of yours as it comes out, journalists more often than not use the phrase ‘a new departure’; do you see your albums in that way – radically different from each other, taking different directions? And is it too early to say where the next direction is going?

Life has only one direction, I believe there is an essense that will keep haunting us, but we like to excite ourselves. I think we’ll try and let go a bit more next time…