Call & Response: The William Blakes
The William Blakes are from Copenhagan and they're Denmark's crown princes of quirky indie pop. Their catchy and well-produced songs have made them a household name over there. It also helps that two of the members are already Danish celebrities in their own right. Lead singer/songwriter Kristian Leth is a TV personality, while trumpet/keyboard player Bo Rande (also a member of Blue Foundation and who has played with Mew) is a popular music producer who apparently has worked on "almost anything worthwhile that ever came out of Denmark".
Their album is called Wayne Coyne. Yes - that Wayne Coyne. I spoke to them about this, how they made the album in only a week, and some strange Toronto museum they're hoping to visit while they're here for a show this weekend.
blogTO: I read that you recorded and mixed this album in only 5 days? How hard was it to do this? Did you prepare the songs a lot before heading into the studio?
Bo Rande: We each brought a small studio to an old house in the countryside of Sweden, and of course the instruments we each felt we needed. For 5 days we were making music and swapping files all day long, and of course making food, reading comics and chopping wood - and when everyone had made their mark on a tune, it just needed a proper mix.
Kristian Leth: We had some songs in demo form before we went to Sweden where we recorded it, but a lot was made on the spot. It was more fun than hard, really. You never had time to stop and say "is this really where we want to go?" We just gave up control in favour of magic.
Fridolin NordsĂ¸ (drums): I think when you work as fast as we did you don't have time to think or be skeptical about anything, we were in some kind of work trance. It's a great relief not to know or understand your own music; it's the same thing we try with live shows, doing things that are unpredictable and crazy.
About Wayne Coyne - what inspired you to write a song, name your album and have him on the cover?
Kristian: Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips are a great inspiration musically, but the point really was that he is such a positive person who channels majestic and otherworldly music and performances, but is also a really down to earth anti-celebrity. That makes him a true guru.
Fridolin: We also had the idea to put his face on the cover, but we never imagined it would turn out so weird with William Blake's body sitting in the Swedish forest, but when you give the graphic designer complete control, you have to keep you word.
Have you sent a copy of the album to Wayne?
Kristian: I gave him a copy when he played in Denmark last year. He laughed and said: "I saw that on the internet!" He said he thought it was cool.
You reference a Michael Jackson song at the end of "Wayne Coyne". Is it strange that he died shortly after you released your album? Is the song now your tribute to him?
Kristian: Michael Jackson's impact is immense. It was so strange when he died. But we kind of feel he is almost better off now. At least he'll be left alone. I think that particular reference - although it's an energetic one - would be too simple a tribute to such a great musician. He's in so much of our music, so I hope there's more for him in there somewhere.
Fridolin: When we recorded the album we had one rule and that was that you can't say no to any ideas, so I dared Kristian to quote Michael, and at first he just looked at me with this strange face like he was trying to say "this is so unfair you can't do this!", and then he pressed record and screamed his lungs out. In a way our entire career is a tribute to Michael. We grew up listening to all his records and tried to moonwalk -Kristian is pretty good at it!
You seem to be very critical of religion in your songs. Is there one big message you hope people take from your album?
Kristian: Hmmm. I'd say we're critical towards fundamentalism. Both on the side of religion and elsewhere. We're also extremely negative towards the new brand of Atheism or Antitheism preached by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and those idiots. We're very pro-spirituality and there's a lot of beautiful valuable things in religion, but creationists should get a job. I think if there's one big message, it's that things are more nuanced than either side of the debate would have you believe. I mean this album was made with magic.
If William Blake was never born, what would you call your band?
Kristian: The Talking Heads.
Fridolin: The Extreme Fridolin Experience or The Becoming Bob Dylans!
What piece of musical gear can your band not exist without? Do you have any rare guitars or keyboards/synthesizers?
Kristian: I have an old wooden guitar that is on almost every track. It has a special sound. But the band does not depend on anything like that I think.
Fridolin: Our most important instrument is the computer, it's the only thing that would radically change our sound if it was removed. On the album we used all different kinds of instruments, trumpet, clarinet, cello and so on, but I'm not sure you can actually hear what is what. We just hit or blow something and then go crazy with a lot of plugins, and then we get what we call "The sound of mystery".
Bo: I recently fell in love with the Omnichord, an electronic harp of a kind. But I don't think we're a band focusing much on our gear. It's more about using the stuff around you, I guess.
Have you been to Toronto before? What are you most looking forward to seeing/doing while you're here?
Kristian: I've never been there. I'm looking most forward to the concert! But I've heard so much about the place, there's so many things I want to do.
Fridolin: Never before, but I wanted to come for many years so I'm extremely exited.
Bo: I've never been to Toronto before. Actually, some of my friends told me about a really weird museum, have to remember to ask them of the name before arriving; I definitely have to go there.
What can the people of Toronto expect to see/hear/feel at your show?
Kristian: An 8-piece band that have an agenda and a message.
Fridolin: Something like a loving slap in the face!
Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo: Ideal Friends.
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