Since the sixties most internationally acknowledged music coming out of Scandinavia has been associated with Sweden. Bands like ABBA, Roxette and Ace of Base are just a few of those Swedish artists who have sold millions of albums across the world. You rarely hear much about similar success stories of neighboring countries Norway, Finland and Denmark but that’s about to change.
Denmark with one of the biggest and oldest festivals in Europe, the Roskilde Festival, and a huge opportunity to use such an arena to promote young Danish bands, just like Sweden did at Hultsfred Festival where many young Swedish bands started their international careers, had mysteriously few international success stories to tell in the beginning of the nineties. Much could be attributed to a poorly organized Danish music industry at the time and a cultural policy with little money spent on popular music.
After a decade of reorganizing the music industry bands as Mew, Trentemøller, The Raveonettes and Volbeat, just to mention a few (and we didn’t mention the eurodance scene for a reason), gained global fan bases in the first half of the 2000s, and the following fifteen years have seen the arrival of lots of Danish bands on the international scene, bands that often started their careers at the Roskilde Festival; MØ, IceAge, WhoMadeWho, Efterklang and many more bands adding to the already existing international stars marking Denmark as one of the most exciting countries in terms of new music output.
Messed!Up have a long relationship with the post-punk/new wave scene, and the list of interviews with such bands is long. In January we met up with Danish The Foreign Resort and just a few days later when I sat down and listened through my personalized weekly recommendations at Spotify, “Push” by Danish shoegaze/new wave/post-punk act Boundaries turned up at the top of the list, a dark post-punk song driven by a brutal bassline that opens up their self-titled debut EP from last year.
Luckily Boundaries were set for a gig at Molotow a few weeks later and after a quick exchange of words with their lovely manager Emilie, we met up with Mads, Emil, Morten and Jacob ahead of their gig and talked about their plans for a full album, being inspired by Swedish melancholic song writing and their upcoming gig at the Roskilde Festival this summer.
Two years of EP work finally over
Congratulations to your self-titled debut EP that came out in late fall last year. What is the general feeling to see it out?
Emil: Great of course! It was a long process doing it, especially to find the direction we wanted it in including everything from writing, producing to recording it.
We used to have a shared studio space where Jacob had the main share and now it’s primarily his studio which was very lucky for us because he could bring it all in there and work on it, and we spent lots of hours together just to find out how to do it. But it was a lot of restructuring, rewriting and reorganizing the music, so it was a very long process for us. To finally get it out was a really big thing for us just because of those nearly two years we put in it, and finally we can start on something new.
We’re really thrilled to get out and do gigs and people seems to like what we do, and that makes us happy of course.
And if you already started working on new music there must be an album in the works as we speak?
Jacob: We’re planning to release an album in the beginning of 2020 and we’re working on some songs at the moment that eventually will end up on that record, but we may release some of them already during this year.
It’s kind of a new process now. All focus have been on the EP and we’ve tried to figure out what kind of sound we want and what music we want to play. At the moment we record everything live; someone has an idea and we work on it together and then we bring it into the studio and record it, and it has been really refreshing to do it like that.
Mads: It made the process way more efficient. When we did our debut EP we took a lot of songs we had played and rearranged them for almost one and a half years, and although I’m very proud of the result it’s also kind of obvious that we have worked on something for a very long time. It’s really refreshing to go into rehearsals and not take songs from kind of a demo level into the studio but play them through for once.
Jacob: And to try them out before we take them out live to see what works out and not.
But is it important for you to get an album out when you consider that many bands today continuously feed their fans with singles and EP’s instead?
Emil: We discussed that process in terms of that you can’t plan or predict if anything is going to turn out successful, and we want to do an album, that whole piece, where all the tracks are intertwined in a story. But it’s also like with these two new tracks we’re doing right now where we follow some sort of feeling and just go in that direction.
We’re open about working with different things, both an album and an EP where you record something really quick, in a week, and then just put it out which is kind of opposite to how we did it with this EP. But in the long run it’s really important for us to release a full album because listening to albums is how you learn to know new bands, and that makes it important for us as musicians to release an album as well.
Mads: Another boring answer on that one is that being a new band surrounded by all these other new bands that all release EP’s, sort of becomes a saturated market.
I really believe that you will get more attention when you make a full album. It seems like people understand that you invested more of yourself in it than just throwing EP’s out on the market. I don’t say it’s anything wrong with the format, it worked out well for us, but the next step of progression is making an album, but we won’t make an album just for the sake of making an album.
Jacob: It opens some doors for us, artistically, to work with different palettes of our sound, and we can be more dynamic and diverse on an album.
Emil: First and foremost, at the core we’re really good friends and just wanted to do this because we love writing and playing music, and all the decisions we’ve made have been based on that. It’s not about making an album just to get more attention, it’s also that if we as listeners were listening to Boundaries we want an album to be thought through and has some sort of meaning. Everything we do is based on what we like personally.
Inspired by Swedish melancholy
The evolution of the music industry is destroying bands that play music mid-tier or lower because of the “mass extinction” of smaller venues in the name of gentrification, and on top touring is a tough business, regardless of whether you’re just starting out or a well-established band because it’s expensive. Denmark is no exception and a 5.5 million country may not be enough to sustain a full tour for any band.
But Boundaries walk down their own road. Musically they’re very different from most bands on the Danish scene, even bands on the new wave/post-punk scene, and the explanation is found in the melancholy of neighboring country Sweden. And Denmark isn’t the main output market when the band scour through the live venue market.
I don’t really associate Denmark with that type of music you do, with a few exceptions as The Foreign Resort for example. To me Denmark is about electronic music and bands as Trentemøller and MØ. Where do you get the input to your new wave/post punk sound?
Jacob: We actually have a great post-punk scene in Denmark. The last seven or eight years we’ve had bands as Shiny Darkly and IceAge which became really popular, so there’s definitely a post-punk scene but it has its own sound.
Actually, our new music is more inspired by the Swedish nineties and millennium rock (laughs), because the song writing in Sweden has some kind of melancholy to it that the Danish scene doesn’t have; it has a completely different sound.
I always think about the Swedish music scene as being minor chords while the Danish scene is major chords (laughs); it’s more thoughtful, it’s deeper and it’s more melancholic. We probably get our inspiration mostly from other music scenes than the Danish.
Is the Danish scene big enough to find venues to play? I’m thinking that a country of less than six million people may not have enough places to play? I know that Sweden has that problem and it’s almost double the size of Denmark.
Jacob: We’re just in the beginning of our touring career but I guess we’ll find that difficult in the future as well. I don’t think that our music fits the Danish scene because we’re not influenced by the Danish sound. We’ll probably have the same problem as a band like Kellermensch have, and they are a much bigger band and widely known in Denmark.
Emil: We also had the discussion to book a few gigs somewhere just to get live experience but decided to rather spend the time and energy on writing new music and play the gigs we find more interesting, inspiring and motivating than playing those small gigs in a small town somewhere. We don’t gain anything from it and it’s a lot of work to catch those very few people turning up. It makes more sense for us to come down here [to Hamburg] and set things up for the future; I find that way more inspirational.
When you listen to what you do and compare to bands that are some sort of similar, like The Foreign Resort for instance, many of those bands have lot of opportunities to play in Germany because the post-punk scene is really big here.
Emil: It’s also about setting up the right channels. There’s a lot of bands like VETO which play a lot in Germany.
We have an eighty million country [German population] and just a three hour drive from it and of course it’s obvious we want to go there and play instead.
Aiming for a European tour
Just like most bands from the UK have their goal set for playing Glastonbury Festival, is the Roskilde Festival the major target for you? Almost every Danish band we’ve talked to want to play at Roskilde.
Jacob: Yeah, and we play Roskilde this year (laughs) and of course that’s a major goal for any band in Denmark. That’s where you really want to play when you’re in a band in Denmark.
If you think three years into the future, let’s say three years, what’s your position on the music scene by then?
Morten: I don’t think we ever will play the Orange stage at Roskilde or any major stage, that would be a bit weird for a band like us. It’s not our major goal to play a certain stage or something like that.
Jacob: We would love to go on a major European tour and at some point also go the States, and England as well but that so tough (laughs). There’s lots of Danish bands aiming for England and it’s fucking hard for them, almost impossible to get stage time there.
Mads: Our ambition sort of lays into making music we’re proud of rather than having a goal of playing a special venue or stage somewhere. As long as you focus on the music you put out then those things may happen automatically. That’s sort of what happened so far because we have really been dedicated to the music we’re playing and not been focusing that much on playing this venue or that festival.
That’s what you should keep your focus on and probably what we will do the next five years. Maybe we’ll make another album.
Morten: And we need to keep in mind that we’re friends doing this, all with full-time jobs, and this is our way to get together for some fun, and everything that comes with it is just fucking great. But the main point is that we like to hang out together and make music we like. We’re not giving up our ordinary lives to go on tour, at least not yet.
And if I meet you in three years and you have played the Orange stage at the Roskilde Festival, what will you say then?
Emil: For me it’s more about the acknowledgement that lays behind it; when people are referring to you as an influence, the sound, the songs, the production process or whatever it may be, that’s when you understand how big it turned out. When people actually listen to what we do at another level that they will use what we do in their own music, that’s where we want to end up.
Morten: I still get surprised when I hear our music being played somewhere else, like on the radio, and it’s just like “Wow, that’s us, that’s our song”, or when people come to you and say “I really like your band” and I somewhat surprised say “What!? Have your heard us?”.
Mads: We had that kind of experience when we did a gig recently and we didn’t know anyone there, we usually play for friends, and you ask yourself “Why are all those people here?”. That’s still surreal, an extraordinary feeling.
Jacob: But if we are about to play the Orange stage at Roskilde; I hope we will put up a really good show then (laughs).
Emil: And I hope we will play the Orange stage together (laughs).