WhoMadeWho wants to make a masterpiece. The Copenhagen-based trio, commonly described as experimental pop meets indie dance, soared to new creative heights with its fifth album, Dreams, in 2014. Vocalist-guitarist Jeppe Kjellberg, drummer-producer Tomas Barfod and vocalist-bassist Tomas Høffding regularly releases singles and remixes, but the trio expects it will demo 140 songs to find the perfect dozen or so tracks for their forthcoming sixth album. PRØHBTD spoke with Kjellberg to learn more.
How much work have you put into the follow-up to Dreams, and what can you say about the tracks currently being made?
Since fall last year, we have been working hard on making a new album. At the moment, we have made approximately 70 demos, and the outcome is very diverse. We are trying out new methods of composing and producing, diving deep, searching for music with a strong personal identity. It is a long, exciting and demanding journey. We teamed up with Nima [Nasseri], a great American manager who pushes us forward with brutal honesty. Our goal is to make an iconic album, and it seems we are slowly getting there. We have seven tracks that are very strong now, so we just need to make seven more, meaning probably 70 more demos.
You recently helmed the 17th Body Language compilation. Can you tell me about the compilation series and what you hoped to do with the latest installment?
We released our EP Ember at GP [Get Physical Music] and enjoyed working with them, so when they asked if we could host this compilation, we decided to do it. We wanted to make it a little different than the classic Spotify playlists so we played on top of some tracks. We added an a capella and guitarpellas to give a bit of that live flavor we have when we do our WhoMadeWho DJ sets.
The “Hi & Low” remixes also just came out. Can you tell me about the remixes, and can you pick a favorite?
We picked some different remixes for “Hi & Low.” I guess at this moment doing the interview on my way to Madeira, the Emanuel Satie Remix is my favorite since it has a nice beach vibe.
The group had a background in indie rock music before delving into electronica. How does that influence shape your sound, approach and live shows?
We started out coming from three different backgrounds. Tomas Høffding, the drummer-DJ-producer, comes from electronica; Tomas [Barfod], the bassist-singer, comes from indie-pop; and I, Jeppe, the guitarist-singer, from more experimental music. When we made our first record, it was from a vision of trying to make electronic music that Tomas the DJ would spin in the club. Doing that type of music translated well to the more handheld live music background that bassist Tomas and I had. So we did a quick recording of some classic dance tracks, Two Covers for Your Party, on Gomma Records, and thereafter we realized the whole international club circuit was craving for that more live-oriented sound. That EP sent us off jamming live in nightclubs all over the world, trying to work the dancefloor like a good DJ with this classic rock-trio formation. After doing some jamming around in those nightclubs around the world, we went to an old wooden summerhouse on the west coast, smoked some weed and had a lot of fun making our debut album, which was pretty indie.
You pushed your sound in new directions on Dreams. What was the original vision for the album, and how did the final product differ from the original plan?
We always go into the studio with a lot of visions in mind. On Dreams, we wanted to make an album that was like a luxury car with less chaotic elements and more focus on a quality feeling. We also wanted it to be more song driven, with songs that you can sing and play on a guitar around the fireplace, basically. Our life was very comfortable and smooth in that period so I think Dreams, by accident, got this undercurrent New Age vibe. That was not intentional. All is different now… the next album is going to be more colorful, diabolic and diverse in terms of emotions and energy.
In what ways does the EDM differ in Europe than in North America, and do you keep these differences in mind in order to create songs that appeal to both audiences?
The U.S. and Europe are two completely different places. It seems like Europeans in general are more diverse in their tastes, but I think the whole U.S. EDM crowd is slowly starting to open up to new sounds and vibes. It is my hope and goal that WhoMadeWho will fit in perfectly to that movement next year with our coming album.
What is something about the music and art culture in Copenhagen that is distinctly Danish?
I always had the deepest respect for the Danish film industry: Zentropa, Lars Von Trier, the Dogme movies and so on. When Danes have the balls to do something new—it’s not a very common thing in Danish culture to be brave, bold and innovative—but when it happens, it makes me very proud of our culture. In the U.S., it seems you are pushed to search for new ideas and entrepreneurship since your culture is so relatively young. Here in Denmark [and] Europe, we have a tendency to be more laid back in a lot of things. We don’t fight so hard for our ideas; we are cool with the status quo. Everything needs to be hyggelig, which means cozy and nice.
Social media has changed dramatically since the group started more than a decade ago. How have you adapted to making and promoting music in the new social media world?
We have used the internet from day one like everyone else—thinking internationally, doing mails, social media updates, releasing on Spotify and so on—but in the beginning, we did send demos to our German label via old school mail. Now we also like to do art projects that include the fans. For the music video “The Morning,” we asked them to do a snap video with the phone when they woke up in the morning on the day of the release of the single “The Morning.” So they got to wake up to the sound of the new single while recording their sleepy face directly into the app made for this. I like that we got a lot of footage of what our fans look like in the morning, and they are all featured in the fan-based music video.
For "Hiding in Darkness," our manager Jesper arranged an art installation in the toilet of the Danish club Bremen. So we made four “stems” for the song, each one activated individually by four separate urinals standing next to each other. People were not informed, but they slowly got a jam on. From that we made a video, too, and we learned that men put their beer way too close to the urinal when they pee and that they pretty often skip washing their hands.
David Jenison (email@example.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD. Band image by Nima Nas.