The Aarhus-based Danish ‘noise pop’ collective Lowly has just released their full length debut album ‘Heba’ via Bella Union, a clear confirmation of their huge creative potential, after a series of amazing singles, and a further imaginative and bold leap forward in defining their own personal experimental electronic pop sound.
Let’s a have a chat with two of their members, Soffie Viemose (lead vocals, laptop) and Kasper Staub (keyboards).
Let’s start with the band’s origin, how you started playing together or had you worked together before? How did the idea for your project emerge, which were your early influences and why the name Lowly?
Kasper: We met at our school, a music academy in Aarhus, Denmark. Thomas and Nanna asked the rest of us if we wanted to do a collaboration. Some of us had worked together before, and some of us met for the very first time to our first rehearsal. We met and arranged a handful of songs written by all members, and during these first rehearsals, lots of references, styles, songwriting and arranging concepts Lowly was founded. At the time, I just bought a new synthesizer (a Juno-60), so I was very interested in working on that one.
Do you recall when and where you started to get passionate about music or other form of arts? What type of music and art influences? Were you exposed to as children and later as teenagers?
Kasper: My parents had a huge record collection and I was exposed to Neil Young, The Doors, Chet Baker, Keith Jarrett a.o. from very early childhood. There were a lot of books of art, theatre, poetry etc. in my childhood home. When I was a teenager, I had a lot of different musical influences, I’ve had my progressive rock period, my jazz period and even a contemporary classical-period…
For many years we got used to listen to several brilliant Swedish bands, but as many are rising nowadays, also covering a wide spectrum of genres, from Denmark; I’m talking about Iceage, Communions, Lower, Vår,The Marching Church, Lust For Youth, Puce Mary, Hand Of Dust just to name a few. What’s your view about the Danish scene and the Aarhus one in particular ? What still ‘unknown’ Danish new bands/artists have excited you recently?
Kasper: If I should recommend a couple of projects, it could be School Of X, the drummer of Mø’s solo project. Check out as well the reed player Lars Greve, a great musician, both solo and with the band Girls In Airports. Also I need to mention my girlfriend Katrine Stochholm, who has just released a fantastic album. But there are so many great artists and bands right now, like all the ones you’re mentioning.
Let’s talk about your approach to the song composition; How is the songwriting process divided between you five? Do the musical ideas build the atmosphere for the lyrics at first or is it the other way around? Is it the capturing of improvisation or is it more structured?
Kasper: We used to describe Lowly as a composer’s collective, because we all write the songs – individually or in pairs. It has been relatively structured so far; most of our songs are pretty finished, when they hit the rehearsal space. For me personal, music and lyrics is mostly written simultaneously.
Your first single from the LP ‘Heba’ was inspired by the refugee crisis, ‘Deer Eyes’ by Britney Spears’ physical breakdown, ‘Prepare The Lake’ by Gertrude Stein’s poetry… Do also the other songs’ lyrics follow this path of external inspirations or are they also inspired by a more intimate personal emotional side?
Kasper: I would say both. We’re five different songwriters, with different approaches to songwriting. But I think we’re really inspired by each other’s lyrics and writing approaches.
Soffie: I think it’s important to add, that all the lyrics come from a personal place or reflect some kind of intimacy. The reason why we wrote about the refugee crisis is because it literally hurt in our guts to watch on the news. And the reason for writing about Britney is because I could recognize her loneliness and frustration about being a woman who had to fit in a certain box. I don’t think I could write about something that I wasn’t related to or emotional about in some way.
Finally your long-awaited debut album, titled ‘Heba’, was out on February 10th. Please help our readers to better understand the title, the influences, the recording process and the ups and downs that have brought to the final result?
Kasper: ‘Heba’ is a woman we know. It’s a common Arabic female name, a beautiful name with a phonetic quality, that we all like. The record was made in a couple of weeks in a studio in Aarhus.
You have always avoided to categorize your sound, defining it with a vague but effective “noise-pop, and everything in between”. Ivo Watts-Russell, the 4AD founder and This Mortal Coil mainman, said that ‘his aim was to make music that was timeless and free of any trend, movement or era’. He eventually did it with Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. Do you think that your sound could be on the right track to follow that heritage? Which songs would you pick out as your most representative of your artistic development from your debut album and why?
Kasper: That is really an admirable aim, I think we can connect with that. I think maybe ‘Deer Eyes’ in a lot of ways set the band in the new direction that the album displays. The song ‘Word’ is also a favorite, especially when played live. It was written by me and Soffie as an improvisation, so I think it’s particularly beautiful that the song ended up sounding like it does.
Your engaging videos are directed by very talented forward-thinking filmmakers and you often use a lot of amazing visual material during your live performances, what’s your relationship to cinema or to visual arts in general? Are there any visual artists, movie directors, painters that you find particularly inspiring? Could you talk about the album artwork as well?
Soffie: Our latest collaborator Frederik Valentin, who made the video for ‘Prepare The Lake’ is a brutal artist, I really admire his way of exposing the world in all its ugliness and finally turning that into beauty. Jakob Kvist who has made light/visuals for our shows is also an incredible artist. I think to be able to express yourself through images or something visual and not step on the music’s toes, but actually enforcing it, is a very hard thing to do and they both do that very elegantly.
You’ve played a lot of gigs around Europe and been involved in many festivals, with Roskilde as your top achievement I guess, what’s your favourite part about playing live and can you still remember your first gig? Do we have to expect any exciting surprises from your forthcoming tour?
Kasper: Concerts are in many ways our main thing. I really love being on the stage and just enjoying all the incredible stuff that the other guys are doing. Roskilde Festival was great, SPOT Festival 2016 with light by Jacob Kvist was great, our first ever gig in UK at London’s The Lexington was special and I think our forthcoming show with The Copenhagen Phil will get on the list as well.
Your track ‘Fire’ has been reworked and transformed in a great dance party starter by the Danish electronic producer Kasper Bjørke, should we expect other similar reworking ‘‘treatments’’ in the near future? With which artist/musician would you like/dream to collaborate?
Kasper: I’m sure we would have 5 different opinions on that one. Lowly is already a collaboration, so I guess that would be our dream collaboration.
What kind of old/new music are you listening to when you’re not creating your own one? Any current bands/artists you are excited by at the moment?
Kasper: I’ve been listening a lot to the new albums from Radiohead, PJ Harvey and Frank Ocean lately.
Soffie: Solange, Rihanna and all the same as Kasper. Also listening to Hamlet Gonashvili, Georgian Choir music which is very calming and inspiring.
Photo credits: Erlend Eggestad