Back in 2007 the Danish trio – having released just one album – were drafted in as very last minute replacements to open that year’s Benacassim Festival after the Klaxons were delayed by a grounded plane. Fast-forward six years and their forthcoming fifth album, Dreams, has been labeled one of the best indie-dance albums to emerge in years. Having toured around the world as a band, the trio are now turning their hands to DJing.
The bands producer and drummer ‘Tomas Barfod‘ is a longtime experienced DJ, whilst his fellow band mates (Tomas Høffding & Jeppe Kjellberg) possess a diverse and extensive musical background. With the coupling of these musical minds you can expect the unexpected, an ecclectic style exploring fresh angles of classic and contempory club sounds
You guys have been together for awhile now.
Tomas Høffding: It has been 10 years since we first got together to make music – maybe more than 10 years? We should have our Jubilee soon –
You formed in Copenhagen?
TH: Yes, but we are from the countryside.
Tell us about the name of your band. Does it have anything to do with the AC/DC album?
Jeppe Kjellberg: When we formed the band, our label was very quick at releasing our first EP, so suddenly we had a deadline. We had to come up with the name of the band for the print of the vinyl. Tomas Barfod, who is a DJ, browsed through his collection of obscure vinyls. There he found this album from some (in his opinion) pretty unknown rock-band. It was the name that sounded less terrible of all the names we came up with at that time, so it stuck.
Did you guys use analogue or digital equipment?
Both. We all have laptops, so we use electronic equipment, but we also put in loads of acoustic instruments. It’s a big mixture of acoustic and electronic in a big pile. And, also horns actually, and harps… I have a very good friend who plays the weirdest horned instruments in a very good way. He’s the only one we got from outside [the band], the rest we do ourselves.
You’ve stated your intent was to grow up and become more serious as musicians. Any fear that you might grow up too much and kill what fans love about WhoMadeWho? How serious is too serious?
Tomas Barfod: It’s less serious than the two previous albums because we’re not trying so much. We do everything that the song needs, and nothing else. Maybe we had eight different vocals, but we wound up with one at the end. Also in terms of writing the song, we used the pop method. If we couldn’t finish it ourselves, we asked our songwriter friends. You can hear it’s our sound, the method of making it was more serious.
Are you classically-trained?
Yeah, well, basically me and Tomas went to a place called Conservatory in Copenhagen. My fifth year at the Conservatory I was basically just hanging out in New York and listening to music all the time. It was a really fantastic education.
You guys have expressed an interest in Amish culture and dress. [Laughs] How did that come about?
We use the Amish dress for the live show, basically. In this scene in Europe, where there’s so many electronic acts and night clubs, we just had this idea we’d bring it back down to earth. And instead of using these skeleton outfits and the colored new rave craziness, let’s go into the Amish period. So we had a period where we were wearing straw hats and suspenders.
Where did you gather these costumes?
We have people offer us some weird things or we’ll buy them ourselves. At one time we were half-naked with wife-beaters and underwear. Many different girls like to do weird costumes for us because they think it’s inspiring seeing men wearing these tight, tight things. Remember, the whole idea when we started out… we came from Scandinavia, which can be kind of cold, dark, and the nights are long, and people get depressed and they cry over nothing, like you can see in the video [to “Every Minute Alone”]. In the beginning of our career, we were really having this counter-movement and doing something as uplifting as possible. You can see that definitely in our outfits and also in the music, which was super uplifting. After awhile we changed a little bit. You can see the influence of Scandinavia sneaking into our uplifting disco universe.
Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you build a track from scratch?
We have many different approaches to writing a song. The classic WhoMadeWho recipe of a song is that Tomas Barfod sets up a session, with some cool sounds and a beat. Tomas Høffding and I, Jeppe Kjellberg, join in and we establish the instrumental skeleton of a song. Thereafter, Høffding and I each go into our little cell and try to come up with melodies or lyrics for the track and decide via democracy which bits and pieces we like. We repeat this cell situation a couple of times until we end up with the structure of a real song. That is the first part of the process. 95% of the songs we do, end here. The last 5% we work on further, and if we’re lucky they end up in the album.
You’ve mentioned that the Scandinavian love of melancholy somehow found its way into your music, could you expand on this?
Since day one WhoMadeWho has been about fleeing the “Scandinavian melancholy”. At the time of Knee Deep 2011 we had established ourselves as a festive and physical live-band. We needed to try to expand the palette of emotions. It felt very natural to do so. We always lived in Scandinavia with dark and cold winters. There is a strong vein of sadness in our nature, so in the end we have also tapped into that a little.
Before – exponentially – I guess eventually everyone would inevitably have to be in your audience?
TB: We succeeded in integrating it as a part of our thing because it got us to be serious. Now we think: if we want to do something, it is possible IF you do it right, and that is how we do music and move forward with our career now. We think about what we do and we set some goals and go for them instead of just ‘Yea, – we’ll do that, go to a strange city and play some fucked up gig – that’s fun!’ We’re more strategic now.