Anticipation can be a dangerous thing. When expectations are raised, the possibility of falling short of them is perilous, and when the situation giving rise to this is a much loved band releasing a new record, anticipation can often be a band’s worst enemy.
There’s a key to combatting this pressure however, and that is to stick to your guns, to not pander to the expectations of those around you and to ensure that your band are following their own intuition and exploring their own ideas. Strong heads are needed, and in Copenhagen’s When Saints Go Machine, strong heads and strong ideas reign, meaning that their new album Infinity Pool has been well worth the wait. When we catch up with the band, they’re lounging in a grassy garden in Denmark’s Aarhus, having performed the very first show to feature their new material the previous night.
“It’s a lot of pressure off our shoulders, I guess. It was the first show with new material and with the new album coming up…” says vocalist Nikolaj Vonsild, settling onto the grass and reflecting on the previous evening’s festivities. “I’m glad it’s over, it went well but there’s a lot of stuff that you think about while playing, there are a lot of little details and it’s very much about intuition when you’re playing live.”
The unveiling of the new album took place at Denmark’s SPOT Festival, an inner city showcase event presenting bands from all over the Nordic regions to a new-music-hungry crowd. When Saints Go Machine were selected to headline the festival’s opening night, offering up a first glimpse of their revamped live show to a crowd of avid and eager listeners. With the newest sounds having now been aired and that nerve-wracking unveiling out of the way, the band are now able to focus their attention on the imminent release of their second full length album (or third, if you consider the non-UK released Ten Makes A Face). “We’re excited, we finished the album a month ago and we had a chance to dive into the material in another way. I think it might be less of a mainstream album than the last one… but I like it! I think it sounds like it was supposed to. And the next one will sound as it’s supposed to too,” says Nikolaj with a confident, wry smile.
Releasing the critically acclaimed Konkylie back in the spring of 2011, the band suddenly found themselves in a situation where a huge amount of attention was flooding in their direction, from mainstream press and fans through to listeners that they’d garnered in the time since the release of Ten Makes A Face. Having used what was clearly a winning recipe to create Konkylie, did the band decide to carry on in the same vein and stick to the same writing and recording process this time around? “It was kind of similar, but we went to my mother’s house in the forest to make Konkylie – and this time around, that didn’t work,” Nikolaj responds. “I guess everything was too chaotic, playing a lot of gigs, coming off of tour and then you had to figure out how to relax and get your mind around writing an album. So the feeling changed, we wanted to be harder. The process didn’t change a lot but the feeling of the music changed a lot. We didn’t try to make it organic, we weren’t inspired by nature this time around, we were more inspired by television and buildings and concrete.”
“When we made Konkylie, it felt like there was a kind of silence surrounding us,” he continues. “It was like a fairytale or something – I wasn’t living in the real world when we wrote that album! When we wrote Konkylie, my father’d passed away and six months or something passed, I got fired from my job and then six months after that, I thought ‘shit, I don’t have a job – let’s just try and live off music’ and it worked out. But this time around, it was more about it being strange being isolated in a city. It’s a natural thing to be isolated in a forest because you go there and there’s nothing around, but it’s weird being isolated in a city with so many people around you.”
Konkylie was released to unprecedented, but thoroughly deserved acclaim which saw the album chart at number two in the band’s native Denmark. An immaculate collection of rich, layered, electronically led and incredibly emotive tracks struck a chord with audiences far and wide, leading the album to be listed in ‘several Best of 2011’ lists and the band to be counted among the most important artists currently coming from Denmark. So second time around, was the album making process any easier? “I think you get in a state of mind where you’re writing these songs and if you’re making something shitty, you get down,” says synth player and vocalist Jonas Kenton, “and if you’re making something good, then you’re happy. It’s a state of mind where you’re really influenced by the work that you’re doing over a long period of time. So it can be really good and really bad.”
“It’s great because it’s something that you love, but at the same time it means so much to you that it’s fucking stressful work,” Nikolaj adds.