NORTHERN WINTER READ:
On their 5th studio album, “Altid Sammen”, Efterklang mixes new sonic discoveries with an unexpected lyrical turnaround. And after almost two decades of musical exploration, they seem more adventurous than ever. NWR had a chat with the band’s singer, Casper Clausen.
by Mikkel Brandt
When Efterklang kicks off their upcoming European tour at Northern Winter Beat 2020, the ever-curious trio is once again on to something unique. Not only does their new material include some of the barest arrangements the band has ever done, but it also introduces Danish lyrics for the first time in their career.
Singer Casper Clausen:
“For Efterklang, one of the most important ingredients has always been moving forward. That there’s always some kind of new challenge in what we do. There must be some excitement. Something we haven’t tried before.”
The band consists of Casper himself and his two childhood friends Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg. And apart from a ton of musical collaborations – including scoring an opera with composer Karsten Fundal – they have recently joined forces with percussionist Tatu Rönkkö and mutated into the band Liima.
Now they are back as Efterklang with their first studio album since 2013, “Altid Sammen”.
“When we came back to make music as Efterklang, we were turned on by the idea of scaling things down. We hadn’t tried that much before in the band. To scale the songs down to just a few instruments.”
The first sketches for the album were made in Casper’s studio in Lisbon, where he and Mads experimented with Baroque-inspired chord progressions, which eventually made their way into the album’s last track, “Hold mine hænder”.
Casper mentions intuition as a central part of their creative process, and that he prefers to think as little as possible when he writes songs.
But how did Danish words begin to sneak into the lyrics?
“It’s not something that comes out of the blue. It’s something that has articulated over the years. I’ve been thinking that it might be interesting to sing in Danish at some point, and wondering what it might be like.”
In this process, he says that living in both Berlin and Lisbon has influenced him.
“I have spent most of my time during the last ten years living outside Denmark. So it has got a little ‘foreign’ somehow. But on the other hand, I can also feel at home there in a very special way. I think I needed to be in that place to look at the Danish language with new eyes. It felt like a whole new language to sing in.”
In relation to lyric writing, he mentions inspirations like C.V. Jørgensen and Michael Strunge.
He also tells that writing in his native language gave a sort of comfort, which allowed him to be “wrong in the right way.”
“In English, I can feel hampered by the fact that the language must be correct. So I have been very pleased with a sense of indifference, and that I can say things that I want because I feel completely confident that this isn’t what it’s about in this context. This has been a pleasure.”
Casper explains that both this approach to lyric writing as well as the idea of downscaling the songs have enabled new ways of working with the songs in the studio.
“There are still 40-50 musicians involved on the record. The difference is just that by scaling the songs down to something very simple, we could communicate more freely with the musicians.”
He explains that this open starting point – that these simpler songs represented – allowed the guest musicians (an extensive troop including the Icelandic choir Kliður and the Antwerp-based baroque band B.O.X) to contribute in a great extent, contrary to bigger pre-written arrangements with more defined roles for each instrument.
“It was possible for the musicians we invited to act more freely, and we could communicate in a more free way. It felt very new for us and ultimately created a barer musical universe.”
At Northern Winter Beat the band will present both old and new material and will be flanked on stage by Norwegian drummer and singer Øyunn and Christian Balvig on piano and synth.
“I think we’re in a pretty good place right now. And I think the new material has a different tranquillity than the earlier. So for us at the moment it’s also about cultivating that condition.”
By the end of the interview I asked Casper to give his (from the top of his head) recommendations from this year’s festival lineup:
“I’m a huge fan of Kali Malone. I recently saw her live in the Netherlands, and I listen to her music a lot when I travel actually.”
“I also think that Iceage are fantastic. There’s a kind of danger in their universe. It doesn’t stand still. Things are vibrating. And Elias is just a wild frontman, and they just play tremendously well together.”
“I’m a huge fan of Michael Gira’s band Swans and have seen them live many times. But I’ve never seen him solo. I would love to experience that.”
Efterklang will be playing at Northern Winter Beat 2020 January 31st.