‘The Foreign Resort are Denmark’s finest musical export of post-punk and dark new wave, led by singer and songwriter Mikkel Borbjerg Jakobsen. The band combines the shadowy mysticism of The Cure’s Pornography era with a driving production aesthetic akin to LCD Soundsystem. Intricate reverb-enveloped guitar lines glide over Steffan Petersen’s motorik bass and Morten Hansen’s powerful drumming, all while Mikkel’s taut and sincere vocal delivery demands your attention.’ (from the press release for ‘She Is Lost’)
Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s talk about the early days of the band. What was the trigger for you to be a musician and start a band? How did all of you meet each other? And how did you come up with your name?
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! I think we all had an urge to play music from early on. It was just there. We liked music and felt like playing. We met back in the day, playing in our respective metal bands from each our city. Later, after the metal bands split up, we moved to Copenhagen and decided we would start playing music together, but in a different genre. We’re still big noise fans, but we also like dark and melancholic melodies and so, a mixture of post-punk, new wave and shoegaze was the outcome. The band name was an idea that came after living in Israel for two and a half years. Being away from my country was my foreign resort. I didn’t really feel like being in Denmark and I realized many of the non-Israelis I met felt the same way about their respective countries. That said, getting away from your country for a longer period makes you appreciate your home as well as other places a little more. It puts things more in perspective. Another meaning of The Foreign Resort is the yearning to keep moving, an unrest I have in me, which works very well with us touring a lot.
What’s your earliest music-related childhood memories? Do you remember when and where you started to become passionate about music and what were your early beloved inspirations?
My mom was the first influential person. She was just listening to music and so I would be listening too. She played a lot of ABBA, but it was ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order (the instrumental extended version) that really caught my attention. I have been passionate about radio forever really. There was this DJ on Danish National Radio, who had a weekly show where he introduced us to all kinds of new wave, dark wave kinda music. I had no idea what it was back then, but I liked it and after a decade of metal I returned to my roots in new wave and post-punk like The Cure and Duran Duran combined with the more noisy indie (or whatever it was called) Curve, Swervedriver and Medicine.
In the highly volatile world of rock, you have stuck it out for more than a decade. What do you attribute that longevity to? What do you most admire about each other?
In short: We have fun with what we do. If it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it. At the same time, it’s a lot of ups and downs, but in general we love doing what we do in this band and we’re very good friends who can be very honest with each other. That makes things like touring and recording, where you spend a lot of time together, much easier. What I admire most about us is, that we are able to relax in each other’s presence. That might sound a bit weird, but I am sure anyone who has done expensive touring knows what I’m talking about. We know each other, whether it’s on stage or driving for 12 hours in the touring minivan (or station wagon in Europe) and we don’t have any expectations other than each other being able to perform on stage. Whatever you do before or after that is your own business. That creates a very relaxing atmosphere in the band.
What are your interests and hobbies apart from music?
Ha ha! Well, I don’t know. We just like music. None of us are into sports. We watch series on Netflix, HBO etc. like everyone else and maybe go to museums once in a while, but really, it’s all about music.
How has your writing and recording process evolved over the years? Is it about capturing improvisation or is it more structured? Are your new tracks usually in their final form when you play them live (before being recorded)?
A song usually starts with a demo that I bring into the practice space. The song might be finished and ready to play live or it’s only a verse and a chorus. If the others like the demo, we start working on it, transforming it into the band’s sound, which always brings more energy into the songs and makes them a little more complex. I like to keep it simple, the others like to add more parts and melodies and we all like dynamics. So, things happen once we start playing the new songs together. This has been the writing process all along. As far as recording, we have tried different methods, but ended up going with the procedure we used recording with John Fryer, which is very efficient. Whether drums, guitar, vocals, bass or whatever, we record 4-8 takes, then pick the best one and add from the others if they have spots where they’re better. Super efficient! It varies when we start playing the songs live. The opening track from ‘The American Dream’, ‘The New Blood’ was played live probably six months before it was released, ‘She Is Lost’ was played about a month before it was released, both were in their final form. But we have also played other songs live that never made it to a release. Not even a B-side.
‘The American Dream’ EP, originally released in 2015, was based on the concept about the death of the American dream, if ever there was one. Now the political and social situation keeps getting worse… Will the main themes of your lyrics be still political in the next album?
‘The American Dream’ EP is more relevant than ever today and we will most likely have a couple of songs on our next album that are a commentary on American society or the world in general, but it depends on what’s on my mind when writing the lyrics. ‘She Is Lost’ for example is a sad love song and has no political message. It’s a creative process and you never know what will happen.
Even if you are defined as a post punk/darkwave band, you’re listening to and influenced by a wide range of music, especially shoegaze. I funnily noticed that in your interviews when they try to make guesses about your influences rarely hit the target. Please can you talk about those influences and to what extent do they inform your sound?
Well, I guess not all the music we listen to influences us. One of the reasons I like shoegaze and the very dreamy expression the genre has, is that it is hard for me to create that type of music. In general I operate at a very high momentum. That makes shoegaze like Valium for me. It is very soothing. It is hard to say what really influences us. It’s like a million tiny parts from everywhere. Morten got one of his “signature” fills from ZZ Top and we are currently working on a song, where the intro sounds like Van Halen’s ‘Jump’. You know when you hear a song and it gets stuck in your head? That’s how new songs often come about. As a remaining piece of something we listened to, new or old. People hear a lot of The Cure and we do listen to The Cure. But we probably listen more to New Canyons, PRGRM, Film School, Fleeting Joys, Tycho, Operators and only very little to New Order and never Joy Division. That’s just a fact. A new obsession is ACTORS from Vancouver, BC and Bootblacks from Brooklyn, NY. They are both the perfect example of reinventing the genre and sound, which is what we also try to do. You can hear what we have been listening to, but the list is longer than that. It’s not just The Cure and Joy Division like many want it to be.
It seems you are quite British in your musical approach. Are there also any distinctive and peculiar Scandinavian elements or influences that maybe we’re not aware of? Which are your favourite Danish and Scandinavian new/old bands at the moment?
See, that’s another funny thing about our inspirations. Except from the “old gods”, we don’t listen to British or Danish music at all. I’d say 95% of the newer bands we listen to are either from the United States or Canada. This is probably a result of me listening mainly to American college radio and setting up tours in North America, getting to know all these great bands we’re playing with. I have been listening to the Danish band Love Shop lately though. Their album ‘Go!’ from 1997 is fantastic!
Do you think the threat, cultural value and relevance of rock n’ roll in the previous decades has been lost in these frantic, liquid and superficial days? Do you think Rock n’ Roll will ever die?
Well, it depends on what Rock and Roll is. I am sure it will continue forever in some form and I think it changes from one individual to another. What does music give you? For me Rock and Roll is a symbol of escapism in a good way. Music that makes you forget about yourself and the world for a while. It doesn’t have to be sex, drugs and Rock n Roll. I think a lot of people are too busy to appreciate music and a lot of people are in the music business to make money and not to make people forget their everyday lives. I know we do it because we’re in love with music and the people we meet through music. I can get bitter at the music scene sometimes, as well as Trump, but most of the time I focus on what makes me happy. Life is too short to care about things that upset you. I could go on here but I think I got my message through: Music must be freedom to you, otherwise you should be listening to something else.
Your new single ‘She Is Lost’ seems to be a return to a synth-driven analogue sound, combined with shoegaze guitars and even more electronic elements. Can you talk about the genesis of this song and the related crowd sourcing campaign for its video?
‘She Is Lost’ is a personal song for me. It was written during a dark time in my life. So lyrically it is a sad love song, like I mentioned earlier. The song was written and the first demo was recorded pretty quickly. Guitar themes and vocal lines were all done in one evening and the song was pretty easy to rehearse. Some songs are like that. The sound is definitely a lot like our album ‘New Frontiers’ with a lot of synth, programmed beats and basslines and then analogue drums, bass and guitar added. There’s not even bass guitar in the intro and the verses, only in the chorus and outro. It wasn’t a goal in itself to make it electronic, it just sounded better that way, so we decided to do it like that. The video campaign is still going. We have a couple of people working on videos and it is taking them a little longer to finish than first anticipated, but we’re patient and excited to see the result.
As a constantly evolving band, what should we expect from the next album sound-wise compared to your previous ones? Please can you give us any hints about it?
Like I explained above, things turn out the way they do. You can only control a creative process to a certain extent. We actually enjoyed the raw post-punk sound and song writing of ‘The American Dream’ and wanted to write new songs in that vein, but then songs like ‘She Is Lost’ came out instead. The other new songs are all a mix of anything from ‘New Frontiers’ to a very droning or even naked, raw sound. One thing is for sure though. We’re keeping the drums big sounding on the next album. The band has had some extensive worldwide tours and great shows over the years, like the recent Canadian tour and the current north-west Europe one with NYC’s Dead Leaf Echo.
What’s your favourite part about playing live and your most memorable moments on the road so far?
We love touring and it is always good to be on the road. We have played around 400 shows so far and it is hard to remember all of them. My band mates might have entirely different favourite moments than I have. I’d say, our recent show in Leipzig, Germany with Dead Leaf Echo was one of the legendary ones. Great crowd for both bands and people stayed and partied until the early morning. That’s what I like about shows, especially in Europe where people stay up all night. In North America, we love getting invited to house parties. American bars are awesome, but nothing beats a good party at home with a ton of people that you just met that night. You are kind of alert while having a great time. You start fresh cause no one knows you and you don’t know them and everyone is friendly. And sometimes lasting friendships form. It’s beautiful!
Are there particular records that you have been heavily immersed in lately?
Many thanks for being our welcome guest. Before we sign off, can you tell us about your forthcoming plans and projects for this year or beyond?
Right now, we are in the final stages of booking shows for 2017. We will return to Canada for a cross country 10-day tour in September. I know, that’s ambitious and a lot of driving, but we want to play Vancouver and Calgary as well as Toronto and Hamilton and this is the way to get it done. We’re also playing shows in Europe in the fall and in between we will write and record new songs for our next album that should come out sometime in the spring 2018. Still looking for the right label to release it. We also plan on returning to the United States and Canada in March 2018 for another 3-week tour. All good things on the horizon. Thanks again so much for including us in Last Day Deaf!
Photo credits: Scott Vezina (1st one), Tenna Poulsen (2nd one)