It was only this time last year that Copenhagen native Soren Lokke Juul played his first gig under the name Indians. Before that, he’d spent the best part of a decade in Denmark playing in bands, always in the background, never up front.
But Juul finally tired of being a bit-part and began to write his own songs – one of these was the track ‘Magic Kids’, which quickly created some blog buzz, leading to British label 4AD hearing it and not hesitating in signing him up. That track, along with the rest of Indians’ debut album Somewhere Else confirms 4AD’s decision as the right one: an album of hazy, insistent and hard-to-pin-down pop music, a seamless combination of electronic and acoustic sounds, slightly psychedelic and with a beating, melodic heart. We caught up with Soren to talk about his journey so far.
We begin by discussing the tour so far; Soren, between swigs of beer and drawing on a cigarette, replies: “Really good! We’ve just started it; this is the third show. It’s always a weird thing getting started, but with the guys it’s so nice to actually think we’ll be playing a lot of concerts in a row. Given that Somewhere Else was played, produced and recorded entirely by Juul himself, was it hard to find the right people to get Indians working as a live band? “I always wanted this to be a band project, live especially,” says Soren, “and I’ve been playing with Jebbe and Emil for maybe six years – in other bands – so it was a natural choice to pick them to be onstage with me.”
It took some time for Juul to step out of the shadows and become the front man. He was playing in other Copenhagen bands for ten years before deciding to push ahead with his own music. He explains: “I used to be in the background playing keyboards and doing backing vocals – just being a keyboard player.” Was it case of being unfulfilled, then? “I always thought of myself as being like a ‘live producer’” says Juul. “When you play the keyboards you’re able to do all kinds of sound, the guitars and the drums, stuff like that. I did that for ten years, and in a way I got to a point where I wasn’t excited going out playing concerts any more. That made me feel really bad, because music is important. So first of all I just wanted to challenge myself; I had an opportunity after I moved into a new apartment. There was a small room so I built myself a studio so that whenever I felt like it I could record music.”
The Copenhagen scene seems a very tight knit community, whether it’s from the experienced acts like Mew and Efterklang, or the bonds between up-and coming acts like Shiny Darkly and Snake & Jet’s Amazing Bullit Band, so did Soren feel supported when he went it alone, or now that his record is out? He’s a little hesitant in his reply: “I think so… It’s really weird, it’s in a lot of newspapers… and I haven’t been home to Denmark in a lot of time this year, so I don’t have any feeling about whether people know my stuff or anything.” In general, though, the response to Somewhere Else has been terrific. Whether it’s here at Best Fit, or in other newspapers and magazines, there’s a lot of love for Indians. “Now the record is out, I’m quite surprised at how many newspapers want to write about me,” says Juul. “I think it’s never happened before – one guy, doing songs, in Denmark, and playing concerts in Europe and the US like I am at the moment… and it’s not to be like ‘hey, here I am, it’s fuckin’ cool’… it’s not a fairytale, it’s real and I’m doing it!”
When Juul says this, it’s clear he’s not being big-headed about what’s happened to him via Indians. Sure, he’s confident, but he’s genuinely delighted about the support and kind words. But is all this focus on Soren and his record is something he’s comfortable with, especially now that he’s out playing these songs live to crowds of people? “If I start thinking about that…’oh there’s so many important people here’… I would get too nervous, I can’t think about that.” He goes on to explain that he’s got to have some confidence in what he’s doing thanks to the support and interest shown by the legendary 4AD label. “The first point when I started making the record, I only had two songs at the point when 4AD contacted me,” he reveals. “If I’d thought at all about that I’d be a nervous wreck, you know? You have to take the decision within yourself and say ‘well they’ve obviously liked the two songs’, and you keep on doing what you’re doing as it’s obviously good enough.”
And does that confidence feed into how Indians perform in a live show? “Yeah, so when we’re playing live concerts I want to do the best that I can, and that’s really easy, in a way, because you have to focus before you go onstage, and you don’t think about the audience. You have to think about how to present the songs in the best way, and at least try to get back to the emotions that you had when you wrote the songs – and then you have the perfect expression of the song again.” But is that easy to replicate? It must be close to impossible to feel that emotion in the exact same way again? “It’s difficult; you record a song and that’s a special moment, but you can never do it the perfect way again. You can search for it every night, at least.” And it seems to take a physical toll as well as mentally. “I’m really tired after an hour of a concert; you spend all your time running around places you don’t know – you’re in a new city trying to find your way around, you’re looking out the window of your bus… but you have to actually concentrate on playing a concert. But, no, I don’t think it’s hard because that’s what I want, that’s why it’s funny! I don’t have anything to lose; I don’t think about what is this person going to think of this song, what is that person going to think? Are they bored right now? If you did that you’d destroy yourself.”
We move back to 4AD to discuss how the label got wind of his music and what led to Indians joining the company. “What happened was that I made the song ‘Magic Kids’, and I was really satisfied with the recording, the song and everything about it,” says Soren. “I wanted to share it, share it with my friends so I got a bunch of friends of mine to do a video for it and I just put it on my personal Facebook page. My friends liked it, and their friends liked it…and suddenly it was just on a journey. A music blog picked it up, and then another and I think 4AD saw the video on a blog somewhere.”
Indians seem to fit as a 4AD band thanks to the hazy and layered pop music they write and record; they sit well alongside Deerhunter and Blonde Redhead, and fellow Danes Efterklang, and there’s even perhaps a touch of nebulous, otherworldliness of the classic 4AD band, Cocteau Twins. Soren, though, disagrees: “No not at all! I never saw myself with a company like that,” he insists. “When I was told I was like ‘what the fuck am I doing there?’ in a company with Grimes, Bon Iver, St. Vincent… I couldn’t see myself there, the album is completely different to what else is on that label. I think that’s what’s great about 4AD – they want to take chances.” Are there any bands on the label that have influenced the sound of Indians? “I like music that is curious,” he says. “I like music when you don’t think about where it’s gonna go, and you just make music to satisfy yourself, in a way. I like Flaming Lips’ records, I like the songs and the way it’s produced… I like all kinds of different genres, you know?” Was there anything that influenced the recording of Somewhere Else? “In a way I never thought about anything when recording this album,” admits Juul, “I just wanted to satisfy myself and I’ve spent my time doing what I really like doing. Some people go fishing, or some people like playing football – I like sitting in front of a computer creating sounds and melodies.”
We end with a discussion on the name Indians, something Soren turns out to be extremely passionate about. “I liked the idea of music being part of nature; I think in the way we’re living now we’re on our way to destroying ourselves as human beings. I like the Indian world – it’s present in a lot of music, it’s honest. I’m scared this generation of people are forgetting each other and thinking of themselves all the time… but with Indians, we’re all natives and music is part of our nature. I just think Indians is a good description, like ‘let’s get this down to earth’, we’re all equal and part of nature… and music is a great way to get together and feel that. Bit cheesy, I know!”
Somewhere Else is available now through 4AD.