From "under the city", as their name translates, into the limelight of the world: This could be a short description of the success story of Under Byen. It already might appear unusual that a Danish-singing band gets Europe-wide success. But there are other unusual things about Under Byen as well, as anyone can convince himself on the basis of their current CD "Det er mig der holder TrŠerne sammen".
The music might be difficult to classify but it is loaded with a sublime, rough energy and embellished with romantic lyrics that evoke wistful feelings just by the sound of the voice of Henriette Sennenvaldt.
Carina Prange spoke with Thorbj÷rn Krogshede and Henriette Sennenvaldt of Under Byen
Carina: You are getting more and more famous outside of Denmark and there are many (non-danish speaking) young people who are fond of your music. What do you think is the reason behind this growing attention? And how do you all of you , cope with getting famous?
Thorbj÷rn: We don't experience ourselves as famous. The thing with international success is totally abstract. So it's not a big problem, because it's only in small circles that we are recognized as being semi-famous and that's a bigger problem for the "normal person" because it might be difficult to relax.
Of course it can also be a problem for us if we believe that we are famous and act accordingly identifying with the attitude, the superficiality. If being famous has a sideeffect it must be getting further away from people rather than connecting to them. The psychological mechanism around being famous is unhealthy and can make the artist rather cynical and empty inside. So luckily we are not famous.
Carina: The go-cart crash photo (among others) on your website looks a bit morbid. Is this just irony or is there a tendency for the "dark side"? The website also has a kind of "grungy" look. Would you call yourself a pop group or do you see your roots in the underground scene?
Thorbj÷rn: The go-cart photo is kind of ironic. It's simply to exaggerated to be believable in any way. So it was actually an attempt to not being taken so seriously. But at the same time we have a dark side it's in the music. We are definitely trying to be a popgroup, but every time we really try to make music inside that domain the music itself forces us to take it in its own direction and that is seldom the sound of what you normally classify as pop.
Carina: The ┼rhus music scene is there a community of musicians existing there and what is special about the scene - maybe in comparison to Copenhagen?
Thorbj÷rn: I don't think there is a big difference between ┼rhus and Copenhagen in that respect and yes there is a community, but not so much musically as socially.
Carina: "Under Byen" was founded by Katrine Stochholm and you, Henriette. It was also the idea of both of you to integrate unusual instruments and sounds into the musical-cosmos of the group. Were you two founding members like a 'red thread' for the band concerning the development of the band's career?
Henriette: It has been almost ten years since Katrine and me started this band. Members, ex-members, all kinds of co workers have formed our situation. I would feel stupid to say that someone was the red thread. I honestly believe that there is a strength in the many, like giving the ones who have the energy the space to use it...
Thorbj÷rn: First of all I don't think violin and cello are unusual instruments, because I'm coming from the classical world. But at that time maybe it wasn't that common to use them in pop and rockmusic. A lot has happened since they formed the band and every bandmember has contributed with their own thing, for example.
Nils (violin) is playing the saw and that's his own idea. And Anders was (now it's Stine) playing a lot of weird percussion also developed by himself. So what I'm trying to say is that it's a bandthing. Of course they formed the band (thank God for that) but it's many years ago that they were like a red thread. Henriette is very much into emphasizing that we're a "band-band", and that is also the way we work and have done all the way through. And by the way is Katrine not a part of the band anymore.
Carina: For some years Katrine used to be the main composer of the band and Henriette wrote most of the lyrics. Now you, Thorbjoern, compose a lot as well. In which way do the new compositions have an influence on the musical style of the band? Is there a direction visible, in which the sound will develop?
Thorbjoern: Yes - we are working on that right now. But I'm not the only one composing. Anders is also and maybe Nils. Something is definitely going on in another direction and that's something we have been looking forward to in a long time.
Carina: Henriette, singing in Danish language also goes back to Katrine and you - and also contributes to make the sound outstanding. was it a pre-condition and consensus for all band members, that Danish lyrics would be a kind of trademark for "Under Byen"?
Henriette: In the beginning singing in Danish was part of the idea, partly because of our bad English, partly because of the political correctness and punk in it that you need when you are a teenager... Now that ideas don't seem so important to me I could not let it go, it has turned out to be such a gift. I never imagined singing it to anybody outside Denmark but it has convinced me of the power of words: like the frog does not understand "simsalabim" but still turns into a prince.
Thorbj÷rn: It was from the beginning because of the larger degree of authenticity in your mothertongue. And later this consensus was strengthened because of the international interests. But this is not negotiable.
Carina: How did the idea emerge for a band sound without guitars? And secondly - why did that never change? Who decides nowadays, which instruments and sounds fit to the band and which compositions should be played on stage?
Henriette: In the beginning it was just because Katrine doesn't play guitar. We all decide everything and often in the last minute. And well, we actually have a guitar in the band. And we all want to play it, maybe that's the reason why we've never done it.
But now it's different because Anders in a way has left the band. He is simply not able to tour like the rest of the band so he has been replaced by Stine. The only problem is that he can't let go, so he took the guitar and this is going to be a part of the sound now. On record maybe not so much live.
Carina: There have been several cooperations with remixers and you came up with some remix albums as well. What can a remixer in your opinion add to the sound of a song to make it special? Is it just the look from outside? Or, in other words, what is it you like about remixing? You did a remix of Rammstein's "Ohne Dich" correct?
Thorbj÷rn: I don't think it's a matter of adding anything to a song. It's more like making some new music. And I always think it's a miracle if some remixer makes an Under Byen song danceable. Regarding the Rammstein remix it 's the same thing not about adding anything, but, on the contrary making new music which of course has something in common.
Carina: People say about "Under Byen" that you combine "fairytale fragility with massive rock energy", "folky, jazzy and classical elements and sensitive female vocals". Would you agree to this definition or does it miss central points? What is in your opinion the essence of your sound, of your music?
Henriette: The sound? I seems impossible to hear yourself somehow... I can tell you that the fairy thing has become kind of a joke in the band. We tease each other with. It is both sweet and disgusting!!! To me it has to do with a fascination of romance, with all the glamour and beauty and irony and impossibility.
Thorbj÷rn: Well, I agree. I can hear a lot of different things in the music. And we have an essence I'm really not capable of describing it. Maybe it's our ability to creative dreamlike states in the music. Which of course is the place between the pleasant dream and the nightmare. Or maybe mostly the nightmare.
Carina: There is no translation for the lyrics of your album available. What are the songs "Det Er Mig Der Holder Traerne Sammen" (the first song on the CD, I think) and "Mission about?
Henriette: If you go to the Under Byen fansite under "lyrics" you will find some translations they are not perfect but maybe they will give you an idea?
It looks like courage
But is not
Most of all I wish for
Please read them yourself! I cannot explain it better than I did when I wrote them! That's why I write them.
Carina: Your latest album was released in Denmark already in 2002, and SPV does the promotion for Germany, Austria, Switzerland. What about a new album after these three more years of live-concerts? And supposedly you have enough new songs and ideas to fill the next album what might be the main topic of such a new CD?
Henriette: It's to early to say what the topic is. Mainly because is has several and we still need to get it together. But we're working on it.
Carina: Henriette, in 2004 you said about asking Manne Von Ahn Íberg to be the producer of the CD: "We never thought he would accept, but we aimed high and to our surprise he said yes. This taught us that we should always aim high. If we should fail it's not the end of the worldů" To aim high is that in a way just a strategy for the band, or maybe even a general sort of strategy for life and music?
Henriette: Yes! And it is about being humble because there is so much to learn!
Thorbj÷rn: I think we only aim high regarding choosing a producer. And naturally so his job is to turn our world upside down and that demands a professional. Or put in another: if my musical world is going to be turned upside down it better be someone who knows what he is doing. Regarding other things I don't think we aim high. We just go along and see what happens. For some of us there isn't any choise it's an addiction.
Carina: Last question - "Under Byen" was founded by two women in the first place and is equally manned gender wise - why is nowadays the spokesperson for the band the newest - and male - member?
Thorbj÷rn: Because I'm the oldest and wisest. Well I don't know. Why not? Every time a musician joins the band he is as much a part of the band as everybody else. We don't work with seniority, but with dedication. Everybody always has the possibility to do interviews. And they do them too. It's often me, but that's just because I like working. Maybe I'm a bit stupid.
CD: Under Byen - "Det er mig der holder TrŠerne sammen"
(SPV 087-70922 CD)
Under Byen im Internet: www.underbyen.dk
Under Byen (Fansite): www.larsdideriksen.com/underbyen/
SPV im Internet: www.spv.de