Efterklang... Pira-midas touch
Published on October 16th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker was mesmerised by Piramida, the latest dreamscape from Danish adventure-pop masters Efterklang – why, click here to read our four-quail review – so we caught up with bassist/multi-instrumentalist Rasmus Stolberg to discuss the band’s reduction to a core membership of three, their UK dates performing Piramida with the 35-piece Northern Sinfonia orchestra starting next week (scroll down for dates), and the trip to the abandoned Russian settlement of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen, which inspired the new LP…
Congratulations on another wonderful Efterklang album. You’re going to be in the UK this month playing shows with André de Ridder’s Northern Sinfonia orchestra; have you played with them much before, or is this all new?
We’ve played Piramida concerts in Sydney, New York, Denmark and Ireland so far, and each time we did it with a local orchestra. In the UK we’ll be playing all of our shows with Northern Sinfonia; we haven’t played with them before, but I hear good things about them.
How did your Sydney Opera House performance in May go?
It was amazing, a gigantic relief! It was very special to play so many new songs no-one had heard before, with an orchestra even, but at the same time we were finishing the album so there was a lot of bother, a lot of thought that went into that show, but in the end it went surprisingly well.
Your forthcoming London show shall be at the Barbican; last year, Rocksucker saw Mouse on Mars play there with the orchestra musikFabrik, also conducted by André de Ridder, and it was superb. Have you been there before?
Yes, we played our second album Parades there in 2009, I believe, with Britten Sinfonia. The venue is amazing, as is the programming: they put on great stuff.
Will you be performing Piramida in its entire original running order?
Very close; there’s a track in the concert that isn’t on the album.
Is it the track that was written on the world’s most northerly piano?
No, but this one was recorded on some empty diesel tanks from up there.
Aside from the use of found sounds, how much of an impact do you think spending time in Pyramiden had on the songs themselves? Was there any kind of essence that you tried to capture or recreate in the music, or did the feel of the place bleed through into the songs more naturally, more subconsciously?
Definitely subconsciously. Being there makes you feel a lot of things: it makes you feel small, you sort of get a grasp of how enormous the universe is, a bit like looking at the stars. It was nice to be in that space with the rest of the band because it was something we shared together, but how to get those thoughts and feelings into the album was not something we talked about. I definitely think the trip has played a role on the album that’s much bigger than just the actual sound and views from up there.
You’ve said that you collected too many sounds. Do you plan to do anything with those that didn’t get used?
We collected way too many sounds so we just used the best ones on the album. There were also a lot of great sounds that turned into songs that we didn’t finish, or couldn’t make work. It’s just tough luck (laughs). We’re thinking of making an EP or something, because we wrote more songs for this album than we’d ever written for an album before. There are a lot of unfinished songs still lying around, and we’re trying to get our heads around finishing them. We have mixed feelings about it, though, because it feels like it would be going back to work some more on these songs, which are all from the same process.
I was fascinated by the picture you took of a plant in Pyramiden which still stands to this day as the climate doesn’t lend itself to a quick rotting process, and read that you’d recorded the sound of its leaves. Did this make it onto the album?
I don’t think it did, no, but it was a nice papery sound.
Put it on the EP!
Okay, I’ll make a note to use that sound.
It’s probably far too early to be asking this, but have you given any thought yet to the fifth Efterklang LP? Perhaps you could spend time somewhere sunny and luxurious next time!
That sounds very nice! I don’t know if we’re going anywhere for the next album, but we are already talking about how to make it.
Is there anything you can tell us about it at this stage?
No, I’m not going to say anything! (Laughs)
Fair enough! With less band members on board these days, has it been much harder work for each of you, or has it made things simpler?
It was actually a bit simpler this time, but I think a lot of that was down to us going on this trip together, because it gave all three of us the same reference frame for making this album. Not a note was composed until we actually got up there, so we all started on the same day and were all together when it started. That’s a really nice feeling, and then the ideas for how to use the sounds we collected made it easy for us to communicate throughout the process; it was easy to come up with ideas and understand each other’s ideas because it was all from the same framework.
By the sounds of things you don’t write songs in a particularly traditional way, one guy with an acoustic guitar or some such. Do you guys carry around voice recorders to lay ideas down on when you come up with something while out and about?
Yes, we do yeah. (Pauses, then laughs at the succinctness of his own reply)
I’ve heard of it but I haven’t heard it. It’s such a coincidence. Is it on Spotify?
Yes, it is.
I saw news on this album just before ours came out, and I was like, “What??” We’re not the first ones to do something in Pyramiden or Spitsbergen, and from what I read their project seems quite different, so it’s all good.
I can confirm that the albums sound quite different from each other too. Now, I read that Earl Harvin from Tindersticks recorded some drum parts on Piramida: do you like their The Something Rain album from earlier this year, that is if you’ve heard it?
Yeah, I do, actually. I like all the Tindersticks albums. I really, really like Earl Harvin as well; I think he’s one of the world’s best drummers, so it was such a treat to record him on this album. He’s much more than what you hear in Tindersticks, where he has a more low-key role.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your life in solitary confinement, with just the entire back catalogues of five different musical artists for company, whose would you choose?
Talk Talk, Talking Heads, Einstürzende Neubauten, Radiohead and Moondog. Rasmus Stolberg, thank you.
Rasmus Stolberg, thank you.
Piramida is out now on 4AD. For more information, please visit www.efterklang.net
Efterklang will play the following UK dates this month, performing Piramida with Northern Sinfonia conducted by André de Ridder…
23.10 – GATESHEAD, NEWCASTLE – The Sage
24.10 – EDINBURGH – Usher Hall
27.10 – COVENTRY – Warwick Arts Centre
28.10 – BRIGHTON – Dome
29.10 – MANCHESTER – Bridgewater Hall
30.10 – LONDON – Barbican
For links to buying tickets, click here.