Go Go Berlin interview: My new live-band crush

This Danish outfit is one of the bands who sound good on an album but are absolutely mandatory in a live setting. Their debut “New Gold” (out in Denmark since a few years, release in Germany will be in April) is a mix of pop songs a la “Because of the times”-Kings of Leon, 60s rock with a big booty of funk and some awesome rock-monsters that promise to be epic on stage. It’s the kind of fun and diverse debut that hints at greatness and as hinted in the interview, they might go for the epic sounds on their sophomore which makes this little lady (points to self) very happy.

The band consists of five dudes, namely Christian (vocals, guitar), Mikkel (guitar), Anders (keys), Emil (bass and best hair of the band) and Christoffer on the drums. I met Christian and Mikkel for an interview after a Showcase-gig at the Gibson-showroom in Berlin which is a beautiful location with an awesome sound and tons of beautiful guitars – so yes, everyone did their obligatory ‘haha, imma gonna steal one of those’-jokes which the owners probably hear every single time anyone enters the room.

The gig itself was a lot of fun and there was a magical moment of geek-pride when the band covered a little “Speeddance” from fellow Danish live-wizards Reptile Youth which is the kind of camaraderie I love.

go go berlin m&m

They got their own M&Ms for that show! Usually, I am not a fan of weird/expensive Showcase-extras but this was just too weird to not be considered awesome.

As I hadn’t heard the full album before and only listened to roughly a dozen youtube-clips of acoustic and live-sets, I wasn’t prepared for the insane stage presence this band has and that is one of the reasons why they hopefully make it really big. They are already kind of a big deal in Denmark and will tour heavily throughout Europe and the rest of the world this year. Although their sound is very radio-friendly (lots of material for a club-night and sing-alongs), their technical skills are top notch and they use them accordingly.

I am saying that because sometimes bands with radio friendly material tend to backtrack a little on their musical skills and make the instrumentals a little too simplistic. But because this band has been to the old school of rock, they add psychedelic moments on songs like “California Mind” (not surprisingly one of my absolute favourites), there’s a cheeky little nod to the dawn of metal in “On the run” and a butt load of early 70s goodness all over the album. It’s a stylistic firework that elevates their songs in a live setting because there they add guitar soli – that never overstay their welcome – and have their secret weapon in full force: Christian Vium.

As much as I like those introverted weirdos on stage, I fully appreciate stage presence when I see it and Go Go Berlin have it in heaps. Christian has some swagger like ye olden Gods of Rock’n Roll and I assume that the weird comparisons to Led Zep they occasionally get (which don’t work for their debut) come from his sassy hip-action that reminds a little of Robert Plant.

Oh, and even though I compared him with Caleb Followill in the interview, upon hearing “California Mind” over and over again, I had this weird sense of 70s Tina Turner because the way Christian uses his voice is very Rock’n’Roll with a lot of funk aesthetics mixed in in quite a few of the songs. And given the way that Tina rocked the house in the 70s, this is nothing but high praise.

His interactions with the audience are also witty, charming and even made me clap along (which is something I usually don’t do) – look, it might not appear to be as important as the musical style and skill-set but if you look at the great classic rock bands, most of them had it and believe me, THAT was a huge part why their music was able to reach such a wide audience over the years.

Plus: Look at them, they are all gorgeous. Scandinavian beauty strikes again

The Interview:

Christian: Want me to hold the recorder?

Me: I can hold it.

Mikkel: You learned that the last interview that you don’t hold it, it’s always the interviewer.

Me: I have to be in control.

Christian: That’s what the last one said.

Me: I actually wanted to start with a different question but you played one new song from the upcoming album that – I think will be out in Denmark by the end of the year?

Mikkel: We will start recording it by the end of the year.

Christian: There’s no schedule yet. It’s just that we haven’t been playing live in December and January and so we’ve been just writing songs. We’ve been in a songwriting-state-of-mind.

Mikkel: We know that the next year will be touring, touring and touring, so every time we get a hint of a break we have to write songs for the new album, every time we get a chance because otherwise the label will just come knocking and say ‘You have got to record’ and you just have nothing.

Christian: And also we’re very energetic guys as you’ve probably saw, so there’s no point in sitting still, you’ve gotta use it.

Me: So you don’t write when you’re on tour?

Christian: I want to have things separated because there is too much stuff in your head.

Mikkel: It’s because there are very different states of mind. There are two kinds of creative processes. The songwriting is kind of – you have to look inwards when you’re writing a song and when you’re playing a song for people you have to make it out otherwise you’re going to be one of the indie bands that stand around, looking down and go: ‘uuuuh’ (makes zombie-noise).

Me: I loved the song because it had a certain “Kashmir”-Led Zep-vibe to it.

Christian: There are a lot of people in Denmark that have been saying that we remind them of Led Zeppelin on this album and we can’t really see it but now we gave them something.

Me: So, are the other songs also going into that direction or not? Because you’re very diverse already on this album.

Mikkel: I think it’s coming more together this time because this album was three years of songs and we had some we just wrote just before the recording and we recorded some we had from the very beginning so that’s why it’s very diverse. It’s from a lot of different states of mind. But now it’s not gonna take three years till we record another album it’s gonna be more similar.

Christian: The first album was a lot of writing in the rehearsal space with all five people in a room together. This time, it’s a lot of personal ideas and some stuff that I’ve only made or Mikkel and I made or Christoffer the drummer, he is also starting to write songs. There is an individuality at the beginning and then we start to Go Go-lize it. Now there is more thought behind it.

Mikkel: The first album is more live, like playing live concerts. Like “A Hard Day’s Night” from the Beatles where they were going into the studio and they played the song as they are and we want to explore and use the studio more because we didn’t know how to use it the first time. But there’s nothing bad about this record. There is just a really good live vibe about it and an organic sound.

Instant good mood with this song.

Me: The first time around you had this bunch of songs and you knew they were working live and you could just pick the best ones out and now you don’t have that much time and it has to be great and concise – is that scary?

Christian: At first I thought it was really scary, when we had our last show on the 5th of December, I thought ‘Ok, now I have a month and a half to write’ and sit down with a pen and go: Now write! But now we have this song and three more that we are going to play live on our tour in Denmark and I am really happy about those songs. And we will try them out and play some new songs in spring on the tour and see how people react. And then you can see what doesn’t work. Now we have written some songs and test them. I am quite confident.

Mikkel: Our pace in writing songs is faster now. Suddenly, we just write more because if you are playing in a rehearsal studio with five people and no ideas that means that you make a song one out of ten times but when you write at home and bring it to the other guys, then you can make four songs in a day.

Christian: It’s also cool because when you’re in the rehearsal room and you get an idea but the train of sound is just continuing, it is really difficult to shout ‘Everybody make a left turn’ If you’re songwriting, you can be the tour guide. I also found out that it’s a great idea not to write the whole song but do a verse, an intro, maybe a chorus and don’t stick to it and see how the guys work with it.

Mikkel: And that’s a very different approach to what we used to do. It doesn’t mean that the old one was wrong it’s just perfect for the place where you are and we’re still playing these songs live as we move on with the new songs and it’s a great feeling in that sense that we have these more naive songs and it’s a nice side to get out.

Me: So, are the newer songs the kind of songs that are more epic and go out into those guitar solos?

Christian: The pop songs like ‘Raise your head’… we have those two parts in the album. Like ‘California mind’ is more complex, there’s an A to B. That is also something we came up with when we were in the studio and that is quite a great example of where we are heading because there are a lot of songs that have been written years ago like ‘Raise your head’…

Mikkel: …one of the first.

By the way, that’s the song where hips start to shake…

Christian: Yeah, ‘Waste of Trying’ as well and then there are more complex songs, it’s more thought through and that’s something like ‘California Mind’ that creates a picture.

Mikkel: But we also wanted to combine different sounds on this album, the old and the new ones. We wanted to make an album and not just twelve singles. That was the glue that was meant to bind the together: The chorus – if you can call it – comes out three times in the album, the start, the middle and the ending.

Me: I listened to a couple of songs from a few years ago and your voice sounds so much different back then. Did you work on that consciously?

Christian: I don’t know.

Mikkel: I can tell you! I’ve been following your voice intensely through recordings and different stuff. It’s just that slowly through these years – I sound so old when I say that – through these three years it slowly just developed. It’s like hearing Aerosmith when they started and then in the 80s, it evolved so much and I think it comes from singing.

Christian: I never had the training but you always learn something when you do it a lot and that’s what happened. In the beginning I didn’t want to be the front singer but now I am really comfortable singing and I enjoy throwing away the guitar and singing (editor’s note: he doesn’t throw the guitar, he gently hands it to the roadie, just for your information, no guitars were harmed during their show). And that is one of the developments. I am more secure and I gained a lot of power. And you find some more technique and style by listening to yourself. I don’t do it intentionally but you get to know your voice and you want to do different things with it.

Mikkel: You learn by doing. We did a lot of wrong things and a lot of right things and you talk about it after the show if it didn’t work or try something different but probably with your singing that’s in your own head and we don’t really talk about it, it’s maybe unintentionally that – if something doesn’t work – you change it unintentionally.

Christian: Also, with ‘Raise your head’, we’ve been recording it three or four times in the past two years but the first time, the verses were so much more of a pop-song and then by listening to it and recording it, I was changing the approach to it and made it more rough or soft and by changing that, that also developed me as a singer because I found a sound.

Me: I asked because upon first hearing it, your voice sounds a little like Caleb Followill from the Kings of Leon.

Christian: He is the best singer.

Me: But I think that your voice changed a lot more in the amount of years than his did and even though you sound a little alike, you use the voice differently.

Mikkel: It’s also why we in the band are so confident in this because we feel like we have something that the scene is missing and that is a male singer with a personal voice and I can say that.

Christian: Thanks man!

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