This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of Ascension Magazine which is entirely in Italian. I wanted to share the English version in case that is easier for some people to read. Enjoy!
🙂 ~ Candy
The Foreign Resort
The Chameleons of Copenhagen
– an Interview by Candy Rosenbaum
Out of Copenhagen, Denmark, this band has already had an EP and a debut album as well as lots of shows throughout Europe and the US over the past few years. Now, their new album “New Frontiers” has just been released, and was produced by the one and only John Fryer. This record is the most solid sound we’ve heard from this band, displaying more of their raw passion for postpunk and new wave, and their ability to write good hooks and melodies. The Foreign Resort have truly focused their energy and evolved into a mature project, but they aren’t afraid to keep evolving.
Recently, while the band toured through the USA, working their way from the east coast, through the south, and over to Texas for the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival, they found themselves with a day off, and made a stop here in Charlotte, North Carolina. During their visit, we sat down and chatted about their music, their influences, touring, and their new album. Joining me were Mikkel Jakobsen, lead singer/guitarist, and Morten Hanzn, drummer. (To complete the live lineup, Steffan Petersen also joined this tour on bass.)
Even though I had unfortunately missed the band’s show in Raleigh, after talking with them, I could tell these guys know a thing or two about performing live. And, their smiles, energy and enthusiasm told me that they were thoroughly having a good time on this tour.
Q: Thank you for joining us for this little chat in the pages of Ascension Magazine. Let’s start with something easy. Can you tell us, how did the band form?
MIKKEL: It was a solo project to begin with, and then after about a year or so, I got in touch with Morten, our drummer. Then we started contacting other people. Eventually by 2006 we became a band – two guitars, bass, and drums. We were fooling around in the practice space for about two years to figure out exactly what we were going to sound like, which then resulted in the first album coming out in 2010. So, it really took about four years to become the band with the sound we have now, but the sound keeps developing. The current lineup is me on guitar and vocals, there’s Morten on drums and vocals, and there’s Henrik Fischlein, who is not with us on this tour, on guitar and bass. So, the quartet has turned into a trio lately, after the latest recording.
Q: Your music feels very familiar to me, though it would be difficult to compare your sound to any one band. You have your own unique style. But, I’m curious, what are some bands that you get compared to?
MORTEN: I would say a little bit of The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, New Order, My Bloody Valentine…
MIKKEL: Brooklyn Vegan [music blog] compared us to The Chameleons. That’s a good one.
Q: And would you say that list is quite accurate as far as your influences?
MORTEN: Yeah you could say that. Also The Jesus and Mary Chain. We’ve heard that one as well, and I can totally see that comparison in pieces of our music coming together there.
MIKKEL: We listen to a lot of newer, rather unknown bands. A bigger one of them, which is not really unknown, is The Soft Moon. I know Morten has been listening to a lot of them. So as far as the droning sound of the songs, the chorus on the bass guitar and things like that, we just we listen to a lot of different things; New Canyons from Chicago.. André Obin.. I don’t know, anything new will influence us all the time. There’s of course always the basics; The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, etc., but we keep redefining ourselves because we get new ideas from what we listen to.
Q: It’s always interesting to know how a band comes up with their songs. Describe your songwriting process. How do your songs start to take shape?
MIKKEL: I usually make demos at home and then I bring them into the practice space and I play them for the band, and they say, “wow, that’s a great track,” and we start rehearsing that, or they say, “well, that’s an ok song,” and then we throw it in the trash. [laughs] So it either gets accepted or it doesn’t get accepted. Well, if it gets accepted then we start working on it and every band member will start adding their own touch to the song, so the demos often sound very little like the final result. For example, Morten will often refuse to play the drums that I programmed, which is cool because he adds the organic touch to the whole thing. Our guitarist, he’s very noisy and I’m less noisy, so it develops more.
MORTEN: Yeah the whole process is like Mikkel said, but sometimes a demo will come up and we’ll say, “this is a shitty song, but the chorus is really good, let’s build from that.” Then, something new develops in a whole different way, and Mikkel takes it back home and starts redefining the whole thing around the chorus, or the words, or the hook line or whatever. That’s the whole interesting part of that process.
MIKKEL: It’s actually very interesting. You know, the chorus from “Dead End Roads” is a bridge from a different song that got canceled because everyone hated it. We worked on it, we changed the chords just a bit, but the actual vocal line is a bridge from a different song, and now it’s the hook line!
MORTEN: One more example like that would be the song “Dave,” which is the B side of the single “Alone,” It basically came out of a guitar riff that our guitar player Henrik used to play all the time in the rehearsal room, and one day Mikkel came in the rehearsal room and said, “Hey man, I used your riff. Listen to to this!” Everyone was like, “Hey, that’s great! That’s awesome!”
Q: So you have a new album, “New Frontiers” How are your fans reacting so far? How does it compare to your previous work in “Scattered and Buried”?
MIKKEL: Oh yeah! That’s a big difference. I mean, “Scattered and Buried” was this combination of older recorded songs and remixes and it was was kind of like a very mixed reception. The new album, it’s being received very well, because it’s more focused, and I guess the songs are better too. We abandoned the shoegaze almost entirely to go postpunk/new wave instead. And so, the responses have been really good. But, I think we’re still rebuilding, because our audience are still unsure, like, “What are you really? Are you shoegaze? What are you?” So we’re kind of re-branding ourselves in black and white, and building on John Fryer’s reputation. So, it has been really good. Great reviews so far.
Q. That leads to my next question. John Fryer, the producer on this album, is known for so many great records. He has worked with everyone from Depeche Mode to Fad Gadget to Clan of Xymox and many, many more. What was it like working with this legendary producer?
MORTEN: That guy is really a pro, so we were pretty excited to start out the process with him. He was so down to Earth and always in control of his ideas and the way he works. It totally reflected the whole recording process. It was nice and calm, intense, and a lot of hours. Twelve hour days, eleven days. But it was good, I think he challenged everyone in the band in his own ways, and “New Frontiers” came out of that.
MIKKEL: A good example was that we had a lot of trust in his decisions, even though we were like, “woah, this is weird.” He put me in front of a huge old microphone from 1948 which, from what I heard in my headphones, it sounded terrible. Then he said, “I think we’re going to use this for the entire album.” and we were like, “ehmm.. alright. Let’s do it, let’s do it.” So he did that, and at the end, after the final mix we could totally hear why he did that. If he had used a super hi-fi microphone, then we would have been a total ripoff of The Cure, but since it’s more lo-fi and pulled back, it sounds older and, I don’t know, it sounds like our own sound.
Q. I’ve heard from other bands that there is always one song on the album that was a headache, that took more time and effort than the rest, but it’s usually worth it. Was there any song on the new album that was particularly challenging?
MORTEN: I would say “Quiet Again” was a challenge for me because I didn’t know in which direction the song would take. And, Fryer actually insisted on me recording the drums all in one session, so I worked my ass off for like three days. And when we finished and we started to put layers on top of that, I could instantly hear that the drums I had been working on just didn’t work. So, I went to him and said, “Hey, tomorrow morning, we have to tape that all over again because my approach to that was totally wrong.” So we did that, and after that, it turned out pretty good.
Q: When you play live, do you prefer the smaller intimate venues or do you like the big festival crowds? Do you have a preference of the types of places you like to play?
MIKKEL: It depends on the audience really, and how they respond to our show. I would say more than often I like to play the small venues because you get the people all the way up front, and you’re kind of interacting with them, like cracking jokes or whatever. The whole serious image we have, that kind of breaks when we go onstage because I actually like to have a laugh. But sometimes the audience gets really serious, like, “ah, we’re watching this gloomy band, we’ll be gloomy too.” I’ll be like, “oh, whatever.” I prefer having a few laughs. When we played recently at Great Scott in Boston, I had some trouble with my pedals. It turned out good and everything, but there was this interaction with the audience and everyone was like, “c’mon get it fixed” just laughing and everything.
MORTEN: Then again, you know, big stages are cool too. When we supported the Raveonettes on their Denmark tour in winter of 2011, we played bigger stages than we’re used to. The crowd were a little bit different, but they were listening and they were receptive, and it was really cool. It was a different feeling, a bigger feeling. I’m a fan of that – the big stage, the big sound. Our songs deserve a big sound, you know, a big PA system, things like that.
Q. And now you’re on your way to South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas later this week and this will be your third time. I have to assume it’s worth the trip to go. So how it compare to other festivals you’ve played?
MIKKEL: I would say it’s more fun that any other festival. We have showcase festivals in Europe, like in Holland, Germany and Denmark, but they’re more organized. They’re smaller, but more organized. SXSW is this huge chaos of these 7000 shows in one week and something like 3000 bands playing, if not more. But we kind of enjoy that, I don’t know, the whole chaos of that is cool. What we exactly get out of it, I’m not sure. We’ll have to see what happens after SXSW. But, I guess we’re just jumping head first into it and doing it as we go along. We have five shows set up, and I know all of them will be pretty chaotic, but I don’t know, we’re used to it now that we’ve been there before. It’s a lot of fun.
Q. Obviously I am talking with you today on behalf of my fellow postpunk/newwave fans who live in Italy and who read Ascension Magazine, and they’ll want to know something about when they can see you live, so I ask; do you have some plans to tour in Italy?
MIKKEL: We just signed with the Italian label Black Nutria and they’re releasing the album in May. They’re doing some promotion for that. We already have the first reviews coming out in Italy now, I just read one today.. in Italian, which was why I didn’t understand it [laughs.] So, we’re planning Italian shows for the fall, which would be probably September or October, so stay tuned for that!
Official Website: http://theforeignresort.com