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July 15, 2016

Music,
set me free

Music, set
me free

Miruna Dumitrascu
CONCERT REVIEWS

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Arvid and Lars want to take music back to its roots and give people the space to reflect about the world and themselves. That sounds like one hell of a mission, but when you hear how these guys speak about music making and performance, it  gets more reasonable.

 

How come music?

Lars: My father played traditional folk music, so it has always been a part of my life. I knew from the beginning that I was going to play an instrument and, at the age of 8, it turned out to be the electric bass – it’s been 22 years now. I was at an after-school and there was this young guy wearing black leather pants who showed me and my friend a rehearsing room and talked us into playing some music. I wanted to play the drums, but my friend, who always reacted faster, seized the drum kit. “So what am I gonna play?”, I asked. “You’re gonna play the bass”, he said. And it stuck with me.

Arvid: I’ve never really had any kind of formal training in music. I was raised on a farm with six other siblings. One of them, Maya, was a big fan of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and she used to play the guitar in the living room. I was around 10 and it got to me, but I didn’t start playing until I was 17. That’s when I started a guitar course while in high school. I attended for three weeks, just to learn the basic chords, after which I quit, because I didn’t really like being told what to do, and I started composing my own songs.

 

"I’m used to music that just gets under your skin."

 

But how did you two meet?

A: In 2014, while in London, I released my first EP – “Grand Machine”. Until that point I had never actually performed , it was something that came from nowhere. So then I was like ‘Wow, I made an EP, how am I going to perform it? I have to play this music outside’. And then came the time when I lived in a student dorm in Copenhagen – and so was Lars! I knew he was a great bass player, so I casually asked him if he would be interested in playing with me. I gave him the EP and he said he would listen to it.

L: I only had to listen to ‘Hope to start a fire’ for one minute to make up my mind. That music touched me somewhere so deep that I had to play it. I had an instant understanding of how we were going to do this.


So how did it work between the two of you?

L: When Arvid has nearly finished a song he sends it to me. I listen to it over and over and after that, we meet and we put everything together, as well as discussing how to improve several things.

A: Yeah, he has a much more methodical approach to analysing the music, he gets the structures and how it should be performed live. I think that’s how we complement each other.


What about the production of the music?

A: I’m still trying to find my sound, and I think that meeting Lars has helped in that search. Hopefully, we can keep on developing our live performances and see if we can keep close to the roots of the music. I think you have a good song when you’re able to play it acoustically. You can always add extra instruments, but for me it really comes down to the live sound. It’s there, naked and simple.

L: I also feel that people need simple melodies that work on their own with no great production. Everything is so auto-tuned and nicely cut, but what we miss is bringing life back to music and a more organic approach to it. This also comes with my background in Scandinavian folk music, which has an intuitive basis. Or Balkan music, I’m used to music that just gets under your skin.

Arvid and Lars want to take music back to its roots and give people the space to reflect about the world and themselves. That sounds like one hell of a mission, but when you hear how these guys speak about music making and performance, it  gets more reasonable.

 

How come music?

Lars: My father played traditional folk music, so it has always been a part of my life. I knew from the beginning that I was going to play an instrument and, at the age of 8, it turned out to be the electric bass – it’s been 22 years now. I was at an after-school and there was this young guy wearing black leather pants who showed me and my friend a rehearsing room and talked us into playing some music. I wanted to play the drums, but my friend, who always reacted faster, seized the drum kit. “So what am I gonna play?”, I asked. “You’re gonna play the bass”, he said. And it stuck with me.

Arvid: I’ve never really had any kind of formal training in music. I was raised on a farm with six other siblings. One of them, Maya, was a big fan of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and she used to play the guitar in the living room. I was around 10 and it got to me, but I didn’t start playing until I was 17. That’s when I started a guitar course while in high school. I attended for three weeks, just to learn the basic chords, after which I quit, because I didn’t really like being told what to do, and I started composing my own songs.

 

"I’m used to music that just gets under your skin."

 

But how did you two meet?

A: In 2014, while in London, I released my first EP – “Grand Machine”. Until that point I had never actually performed , it was something that came from nowhere. So then I was like ‘Wow, I made an EP, how am I going to perform it? I have to play this music outside’. And then came the time when I lived in a student dorm in Copenhagen – and so was Lars! I knew he was a great bass player, so I casually asked him if he would be interested in playing with me. I gave him the EP and he said he would listen to it.

L: I only had to listen to ‘Hope to start a fire’ for one minute to make up my mind. That music touched me somewhere so deep that I had to play it. I had an instant understanding of how we were going to do this.


So how did it work between the two of you?

L: When Arvid has nearly finished a song he sends it to me. I listen to it over and over and after that, we meet and we put everything together, as well as discussing how to improve several things.

A: Yeah, he has a much more methodical approach to analysing the music, he gets the structures and how it should be performed live. I think that’s how we complement each other.


What about the production of the music?

A: I’m still trying to find my sound, and I think that meeting Lars has helped in that search. Hopefully, we can keep on developing our live performances and see if we can keep close to the roots of the music. I think you have a good song when you’re able to play it acoustically. You can always add extra instruments, but for me it really comes down to the live sound. It’s there, naked and simple.

L: I also feel that people need simple melodies that work on their own with no great production. Everything is so auto-tuned and nicely cut, but what we miss is bringing life back to music and a more organic approach to it. This also comes with my background in Scandinavian folk music, which has an intuitive basis. Or Balkan music, I’m used to music that just gets under your skin.

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Who is the first person that listens to your music when you work on something new?

A:  Sometimes I write a song and I think ‘I love this, Lars is gonna love this’ so I send it directly to him. But it might also be my girlfriend and my baby daughter.

L: I also test new music on my flatmates – the ones living right next to our rehearsing studio, which happens to be my bedroom. And they happen to be in the kitchen, so they listen and give us some feedback.


"Knowledge without action is decadent, action without knowledge is barbaric."

How do you feel about home concerts and switching from a venue stage to a living room?

L: Playing home concerts is a great feeling because you get intimate with the crowd. When you’re on a stage, you’re blinded by lights and you can’t really see people’s faces.

A: At a home concert, people are there for the music, I feel they respect the artist and its songs more.

L: It can also make you more nervous, because you sense how fragile the whole music becomes when confronted with such a close audience. With 15 people in a living room, every note is noticed, every sound you make is very, uhm, outspoken. You really put yourself out there. There’s no hiding. There’s no role to play.


So what is your favourite spot at home?

L: My sofa is in a perfect triangle between the loudspeakers, so that’s my favourite spot to chill and also make music, because it’s right next to my instruments.

A: I like sitting by the window in my living room. That’s my favourite place in the house, but I also keep my guitar next to a bar chair in the living room so that I can grab it and jam. Sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for 5 hours.


Where does the inspiration in your music come from?

A: When I start writing, I channel my discontent about how our society works. I think our society considers, in many ways, that we as individuals are just born to take everything for granted and not question anything, like the economic system or the way our institutions work. I consider myself a classical renaissance person or a classical humanist, you could say. I believe that human experience and condition should be at the centre of our society. I think that you should be critical of the system you’re in, but also engage in exploring what it means to be a human.


Are you trying to convey a message?

L: (pointing at A) When it comes to the message, it’s also about the emotional or personal action. His message is about reflecting on society, but on your personal life as well.

A: Some of the lyrics I’ve written are also inspired from philosophy and pantheist writers, because I believe that life, or meaning, lies in everything. So for me it’s about gaining knowledge about the world and putting that into some kind of action. I used to be a political activist for an NGO (“Action in Denmark”), so I have this idea that knowledge without action is decadent, while action without knowledge is barbaric. 

Who is the first person that listens to your music when you work on something new?

A:  Sometimes I write a song and I think ‘I love this, Lars is gonna love this’ so I send it directly to him. But it might also be my girlfriend and my baby daughter.

L: I also test new music on my flatmates – the ones living right next to our rehearsing studio, which happens to be my bedroom. And they happen to be in the kitchen, so they listen and give us some feedback.


"Knowledge without action is decadent, action without knowledge is barbaric."

How do you feel about home concerts and switching from a venue stage to a living room?

L: Playing home concerts is a great feeling because you get intimate with the crowd. When you’re on a stage, you’re blinded by lights and you can’t really see people’s faces.

A: At a home concert, people are there for the music, I feel they respect the artist and its songs more.

L: It can also make you more nervous, because you sense how fragile the whole music becomes when confronted with such a close audience. With 15 people in a living room, every note is noticed, every sound you make is very, uhm, outspoken. You really put yourself out there. There’s no hiding. There’s no role to play.


So what is your favourite spot at home?

L: My sofa is in a perfect triangle between the loudspeakers, so that’s my favourite spot to chill and also make music, because it’s right next to my instruments.

A: I like sitting by the window in my living room. That’s my favourite place in the house, but I also keep my guitar next to a bar chair in the living room so that I can grab it and jam. Sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for 5 hours.


Where does the inspiration in your music come from?

A: When I start writing, I channel my discontent about how our society works. I think our society considers, in many ways, that we as individuals are just born to take everything for granted and not question anything, like the economic system or the way our institutions work. I consider myself a classical renaissance person or a classical humanist, you could say. I believe that human experience and condition should be at the centre of our society. I think that you should be critical of the system you’re in, but also engage in exploring what it means to be a human.


Are you trying to convey a message?

L: (pointing at A) When it comes to the message, it’s also about the emotional or personal action. His message is about reflecting on society, but on your personal life as well.

A: Some of the lyrics I’ve written are also inspired from philosophy and pantheist writers, because I believe that life, or meaning, lies in everything. So for me it’s about gaining knowledge about the world and putting that into some kind of action. I used to be a political activist for an NGO (“Action in Denmark”), so I have this idea that knowledge without action is decadent, while action without knowledge is barbaric. 


"Knowledge without action is decadent, action without knowledge is barbaric."

Do you think your music is that action?

A: It’s definitely a kind of action. This idea that the cultural products that we surround ourselves with don’t influence the way we think, the way we experience the world, is not true. We’re constantly exposed to ideas, and when we play a song for the audience, we’re in action, we’re making an impact and, of course, a lot of responsibility comes with that. I really hope that when I impact people I do it in the most positive manner.

 

How would you describe your music?

L: Well, we talked about calling it Americana, but… it’s ultimately music that has to do with roots. What people see when we play is all we have to offer: two voices, two instruments.

A:  Yes, and this is where honesty comes in. Our music is very transparent and people react on the way we perform it. In Western societies, we lack the ability to be honest to each other about our emotions, about what’s wrong with things around us. We tend to put on a facade, go on Facebook and make all our updates, so that it’s perceived as having a perfect life. The truth is we’re all struggling with existence. We need room to confront those deep and big emotions in an honest manner. So we try to make a room for that.


One last question to go out with a bang. Why does music matter?

L: I think people can’t help but be moved by music. It’s as simple as that. It puts you in contact with a deeper emotion that you don’t need to put into words. You just see how the harmonies affect you: you get goosebumps, you can’t tell why you’ve got them, but you feel it.

A: It’s an emotional language that transcends any cultural barrier. But it’s also a great vehicle for reflection. We have this thing about pure rationality, numbers and figures, but the truth is that we’re not only rational beings. We’re mainly emotional ones, and we have to keep the two sides connected.


"Knowledge without action is decadent, action without knowledge is barbaric."

Do you think your music is that action?

A: It’s definitely a kind of action. This idea that the cultural products that we surround ourselves with don’t influence the way we think, the way we experience the world, is not true. We’re constantly exposed to ideas, and when we play a song for the audience, we’re in action, we’re making an impact and, of course, a lot of responsibility comes with that. I really hope that when I impact people I do it in the most positive manner.

 

How would you describe your music?

L: Well, we talked about calling it Americana, but… it’s ultimately music that has to do with roots. What people see when we play is all we have to offer: two voices, two instruments.

A:  Yes, and this is where honesty comes in. Our music is very transparent and people react on the way we perform it. In Western societies, we lack the ability to be honest to each other about our emotions, about what’s wrong with things around us. We tend to put on a facade, go on Facebook and make all our updates, so that it’s perceived as having a perfect life. The truth is we’re all struggling with existence. We need room to confront those deep and big emotions in an honest manner. So we try to make a room for that.


One last question to go out with a bang. Why does music matter?

L: I think people can’t help but be moved by music. It’s as simple as that. It puts you in contact with a deeper emotion that you don’t need to put into words. You just see how the harmonies affect you: you get goosebumps, you can’t tell why you’ve got them, but you feel it.

A: It’s an emotional language that transcends any cultural barrier. But it’s also a great vehicle for reflection. We have this thing about pure rationality, numbers and figures, but the truth is that we’re not only rational beings. We’re mainly emotional ones, and we have to keep the two sides connected.

Follow ARViD on Spotify and Facebook or bring him to your living room through Low-Fi.

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