Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

The Rumour Said Fire

03 June 2013, 15:15 | Written by Merle Jobst

There are parts of the world that many in Britain can’t help being fascinated by. Countries that boast variants of our own independent music scene are always of particular intrigue – especially when our own popular musical history has been an influence on it – as it’s so strongly been in certain parts of Scandinavia. The UK have a special relationship with Nordic pop; it’s revered, untouchable. Artists from the cold North often think the same, and greater, of our own musical exports. This mutual respect can make for illuminating conversation when both sides come face to face, and tonight, as darkness settles over Aarhus, Denmark, that’s exactly what happens.

I’ve come to the Pop Revo festival to meet the opening band The Rumour Said Fire, an act that has released two fiercely strong alternative pop albums in Denmark – The Arrogant and Dead Ends – and who blew their home country’s doors down with breathtakingly tantalising folk ballad ‘The Balcony’. Their shimmering sound boasts plenty of facets, but all centre, firmly and without compromise, around rich, sweet melodies.

The brains behind the tight four-piece operation is a songwriter whose primary instinct and desire is to create accessible, beautiful art: Jesper Lidang was man raised in a small town in the throat-end of Denmark, but grew up firmly within the grasps of British and American culture. I meet Lidang in the band’s dressing room where – amongst the half-eaten Thai takeaway boxes and 330ml cans of Pilsner littering every surface – the band spread out and tell us about their lives amid Danish pop-rock stardom.

As we begin, the band are winding down from a raucous post-gig buoyancy, and the atmosphere is somewhat breathless. When asked how he would best introduce himself to a legion of strange British readers, Lidang grins.

“Well… we’re a band. From Denmark,” he laughs. “I write the songs, and I assembled the band some years ago. We’ve been working a lot since 2008, and we had a pretty big breakthrough here in Denmark with ‘The Balcony’”

Lidang got into music at around thirteen years old, forming a band in school that played covers but says he always found it dull. “I started writing my own songs which probably sucked at first, but you grow…I was skating a lot at that time, and listening to a lot of hardcore music – obviously something very different from our style now.

“It was all kinda old school punk from the US and UK, like Minor Threat, but actually very little from Denmark. After I graduated I started really getting into music and wanted to start this band, and that’s basically what I did. Christian and I had a mutual friend, so I assembled the band from there over a year.” Rindorf adamantly interjects that it was half a year.

Søren Lilholt, the band’s lead guitarist, leans forward as I ask about how it felt in the beginning and explains with absolute sincerity that “it was pretty clear from the start that this was all Jesper’s… well, that Jesper was the main writer of the songs. We all knew that the base material would come from him and that we would work on it from there. I think that was an important distinction to make, and a good set- up to have.”

Jesper Lidang, Backstage by Merlin Jobst

We move onto the band’s roots: “We’re from all round Denmark,” Lidang explains. “I’m from Farsø, which was very boring as far as ‘scenes’ go. I like to think, though, that whilst it may be boring, you have a lot of time and a lot of room to just… evolve. You just sit in your room, listening to records, and just start writing whilst you grow and get better at what you do.”

Despite this apparent silver lining, he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out now he’s relocated to the Danish capital. “We’re adults now, y’know?” he says. “You can take your time as much as you need. Our rehearsal room is in the middle of nowhere though, so I guess it’s kinda the same in that respect!”

Lilholt interjects: “I would say that, growing up in a small city, there was probably only Jesper and maybe a couple of other guys listening to this kind of music, so you couldn’t just go round the corner and meet a hundred people who liked indie music – you had to really work for it, and really work to get a record. They were usually from the UK, you know, and you waited a couple of weeks and then got it by mail and you invited the two dudes you were hanging out with all the time over to listen to it.”

Lidang nods, and continues: “You’d have to go to much bigger cities to go to see any shows. It wasn’t rational thinking or anything, because we were kids, but you just went with what your nerves told you to do.”

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The Rumour Said Fire

We launch into the subject of the Danish alternative music scene, and the band’s place in it. “I don’t think there aren’t any bands like us here right now,” says Lidang with confidence. “The new record is classic songwriting, but with a very distinct sound – kind of dreamy. It’s always hard to describe your own sound when you’re making it so that other people can do that.”

“The whole of Denmark is six million people,” explains Rindorf, “so of course there’s a Copenhagen scene but it’s much smaller and narrower. At the moment dancehall is dominating – it’s the entire scene in Copenhagen at the moment… and I’m fucking sick of it!

“But it varies a lot – one year it’s alternative rock, one year it’s dancehall… it’s very snappy. It definitely is like there’s a Copenhagen scene and there’s an Aarhus scene, though – the two big cities in Denmark. In the ‘80s it was Aarhus that was the main city, where all the bands would come out of, and even people from Copenhagen would move to Aarhus just to be a part of it.

Now Copenhagen is the main thing on the music scene and almost every young kid moves to Copenhagen just to start playing music or whatever. Whenever we play a show in Copenhagen it’s always cool, and if we travel around the country it’s still cool but we still miss a lot of the 25 year-olds – because they’re all in Copenhagen!”

“Right now there’s a pretty big punk scene going on too,” Lilholt continues, “like, Ice Age and Lower – lots of punk bands where they sing in Danish. They all gather around a place called Mayhem, which is the real ‘cool’ place. In a basement – real trashy. Also, Ungdomshuset – ‘The Youth House’, directly translated – which used to be located in Nørrebro, which is the punk part of Copenhagen. They sorta give birth to all these punk bands.”

We jump at the mention of bands who sing in Danish, for The Rumour Said Fire, like many of their Nordic contemporaries, do not. Coming from a country in which impeccable English is commonplace it’s understandable, but I ask Lidang for his own reasoning behind shunning his mother tongue.

“Basically I never found the tone and the music in the Danish language,” he explains. “I never found myself experiencing it, never felt it. It’s always been English. I like to write in Danish – lyrics and poems, and so on… I don’t know why, but when I sing I taste the words, taste the language – and English just tastes better.” He says that his exposure to English media growing up was certainly a big factor in this, and that, other than Danish literature, the band are very affected by foreign culture. “As we said,” he laughs, “Denmark is a small country. We want more!”

At the mention of wanting more, I ask if the band feel like they’re ready to take on a scene as vast and unforgiving as London’s, and whether or not they find it an intimidating prospect. “It is, absolutely,” Rindorf tells me. “We’ve already experienced some of it. Last spring we went to London five times, or something, and Camden was really nice. We had some cool experiences, but also some really rough ones – experiences that sharpen your teeth, if you know what I mean. Both were good, to be able to start over from scratch. We really got a taste of how difficult the scene can be.”

“I know several small bands,” he continues, “who tried to make it big time in the UK and they all sorta snapped their necks on it. Traveled from town to town, played a number of shows, but never really made it at all.” Jesper nods along, and tells me, with a hint of ferocity in his eyes, “We don’t want to do that. We like the country and its history, and obviously we’re very influenced by it.”

The band say they feel quite unique in Denmark, but they are still absolutely a pop-rock band. “Almost everything is pop music though, actually” Lidang says. “All just different ways to destroy the term into bits and build it up again. I think we’ve done that, and are still working on it.”

This brings us to Dead Ends, the band’s second album – soon to be released in the UK – which presents a big shift in style from their debut; more ambitious, certainly, and more visceral than their previous work. “The change in writing since The Arrogant is just development,” Lidang says. “Being wary of not going into a comfort zone. It comes naturally for me as a songwriter to not want to do the same thing again.”

He continues, “basically we started doing demos for Dead Ends, and rehearsing with a couple of mics in a very DIY-style, and we just kept on working on those demos because they had this sound…”

Lilholt explains their post-demo recording process: “We actually went into the studio and tried to record everything again from the bottom and we just couldn’t do it! We put on the old demos and just realised that they really had something, so maybe we should just keep them as ground material and work on them from there.”

“Some of the actual tracks on the album started out as demos,” Lidang continues, “and just evolved over a year and a half. It’s been really nice working on this album. We’re really proud of all we’ve done, but right now it feels like something even more special.”

The album’s been out in Denmark since October last year and was released to a warm reception. “It’s had some great reviews,” Lidang says, chuckling as he continues, “some more neutral – like ‘hang on, what the fuck are they doing now?’-kinda ones – but we just did a big DK tour and it went really well, so it seems people are still with us.”

It all clearly means more than the world to these guys. “Music is just that feeling you get, you know? You can’t find that elsewhere.”

“It’s…a life source” Rindorf offers, and Lidang nods in agreement.

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I catch up with the band again in Aarhus a day later for a mammoth brunch of meats, cheeses and heavy, actual cake-like ‘pancakes’ drenched in syrup before departing for Copenhagen, where they’ve promised to show us their favourite hangout – a tiny two-room cafe called Kafe + Vinyl, boasting one of the most impressive selections of imported records we’ve ever seen, as well as some of the best and strongest coffee we’ve ever tasted.

As Atoms For Peace’s AMOK plays on repeat from the turntable on the counter, the band talk us through three records they’ve discovered this year (and spend a good thirty minutes deciding what they are).

Jesper Lidang from The Rumour Said Fire (by Merlin Jobst)

Lidang pulls out the self-titled first record by My Bloody Valentine, which he’s recently gotten into after being very familiar with Loveless – a record he’s been listening to for years and an influence on his songwriting. “It’s like a beautiful dream,” he says. “You just want to dive into it and get lost. The first album is sort of more poppy, though, and it’s great.”

Søren Lilholt from The Rumour Said Fire (photo by Merlin Jobst)

Lilholt has picked out Twins by Ty Segal and Kasper Nissen, the band’s bassist, has chosen Yo La Tengo’s Fade – both for the same reasons; the records are powerful, consistent, raw, melodic and “full of good tunes”.

Really, that seems like the most mutually intrinsic element of this outfit – a longing for melody; for good, honest, tender pop with enough grit to resonate with audiences both in their homeland and around the world. It’s enough to make the end of your fingers and toes tingle, and we can’t wait to see how this recipe fares for them in the UK.

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