Denmark’s Communions dropped their debut LP today on Fat Possum, and in anticipation of the release, I was able to dial up Martin Rehof (guitar + vox) for a little chat. We talked about the quartet’s record, how they stand out from the average broody Danish sound, whether or not we can expect them here in the US anytime soon and MORE, so internet-eavesdrop on all of that below, grab a copy of Blue here, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on all the latest news:
So what are you up to today, apart from talking to me?
I’m going to go practice with the other guys after this, actually.
Are you practicing for a specific upcoming show? Or are you working on new songs? I know you’ve got the record out on the 3rd of February…
We’re rehearsing for some shows this weekend that we’re doing, but we’re also starting to write new songs as well. It kind of happens a little slower; it’s not really planned when we write new songs. Since we did the record, we’ve been focusing mostly on live shows and things like that.
When did you actually finish the record, and how long did it take to get it to this point of being released? I know that when you work with a proper label, things sometimes take a little longer than if you were to do it on your own.
It does take a really long time. I think we finished writing all the songs back in May, so a while ago. Then we recorded the album that spring, and we mixed it all the way up until about September. I’m not even really sure what they do with it, but the records have to be made, and there are always at least three months that go by in between things being finished and then released. They always have a very specific plan for that. But a lot of the songs are ones that are older, almost a year and a half old. It kind of feels almost like a compilation of stuff we’ve done since the last EP more than it feels like a record that we went into the studio and made. It’s pretty much a compilation of the last few years, you could say.
Right. Well it’s a great debut, and it’s interesting, because I know you guys spent some time growing up in the US, and to me, it sounds like a happy balance between US pop and dark Scando vibes. I have some friends from Denmark who’ve got musical projects, and a lot of them tend to go with that very brooding sort of feeling that seems fairly typical. I mean, do you think that the time you spent here in the US maybe (even subconsciously) affected your songwriting inspiration at all?
No, I definitely don’t think it had any conscious influence on this record. But I think probably just having grown up somewhere else and then coming into this musical environment definitely had an effect, like maybe we’re not afraid to sound a little different than what everyone else is sounding like, the way you just described. It’s that very dismal, dark-sounding stuff that characterizes a lot of what’s being made around us, especially in the scene that we’re coming out of, so I think it’s more of an indirect thing more than a conscious effort. It’s not like there’s a certain American influence that we incorporated on the album; the influences are pretty wide-ranging. I think it’s an indirect thing.
Cool. And so how does it feel for you to have people analyzing your music and writing (oftentimes) these very flowery sorts of portraits of what you’re doing? I mean, I’m sure it’s cool, but does that feel weird?
Yeah, it’s definitely always really weird, but it’s also interesting. I mean, I think part of the reason why I love making records (this is the first full-length one I’ve ever done, so it’s not like I’ve tried it that many times) is getting that reaction, and seeing how people react to something that you’ve made. I doubt that any of the things that people write are things that I’ve ever thought about, and that’s what’s so weird about it. Seeing how far those reactions go and range…it’s almost like an experiment, where you send something out and just kind of wait to see what happens with it. It’s pretty interesting.
So have you read anything specific that struck you as, “Oh, I’ve never thought about that before, but that’s actually really true!”
That’s a good question. I can’t really think of a concrete example, but I think I have. I mean, it’s just surprising how much people can get out of the music, where it’s a very unconscious thing when I make it; I never really think too much about what I’m doing. So even talking about it afterwards, after you’ve been so much in it yourself in your own bubble, and you finish it and send it out, you have to do interviews and describe what our influences were, and it’s hard, because I don’t really always know. I don’t always know what I was thinking about while I was doing it. So that’s what’s kind of so fun about reading that stuff.
For sure. Now with this being your debut LP, if you could sort of curate an immersive listening experience for someone who’s putting it on for the first time, what would that look and/or feel like?
Well, I don’t have a car (or even a driving license, actually), because it’s very expensive to have a car in Copenhagen. So we bike, and I always listen to music when I ride my bike around the city, so that would be something that I’d like to imagine people doing with the music. [Laughs] I guess that doesn’t really apply so much to US listeners. Maybe riding the bus or walking through the city? That’s when I listen to music the most, so that’s how I hope people would put it on. I think it’s really good for listening in headphones and turning it up really loud.
I like that! Now, speaking of Copenhagen, I know you guys are playing some shows over there, but do you have any immediate plans to come over here?
I think it would probably be in the summertime during festival season, but we’re trying to build it up one step at a time over here before we do a huge US tour, jumping into too much at once. I think there’s definitely some stuff in the works, but I guess it will depend on how the record is received. Going to the States would be awesome, though. Definitely something we want to do.
Do you like playing festivals or tiny rooms better? They’re both very different.
I personally like the nightclub shows where it’s packed; that’s definitely where I feel most comfortable. Festivals are cool, too, but it’s not always like people are coming to see you, specifically. It’s just a different atmosphere. I think my favorite show we ever played was recently, back in September; we played this sold out show at this club in Copenhagen where there were a lot of people and everyone was really into it. I’ve had the best experiences in that kind of environment, I think.
And then what about when you make music videos? Is that comfortable for you to be in front of a camera and kind of combination acting-performing?
Well, “Come On I’m Waiting” was actually really fun, just because it was our very close friend who made it. Even though it maybe looks a little more polished than the other videos, which are smaller and handmade, it felt very natural and was a lot of fun to do. We’re going to be working on another video soon, and that’ll be filmed with an actual director with a production company behind it, so that’ll be kind of weird, probably. [Laughs] I don’t feel like we’ve made an actual music video or anything yet.
So bottom line is that it’s fun for now, though the stance could stand to change. [Laughs] Now, tell me about your musical trajectory; when did you realize that you wanted to do this full-time? Did it start out as a fun thing that you maybe didn’t take quite as seriously as you do now?
Yeah, I mean, personally I’ve been playing the guitar since I was really young, but I never considered it something that I was going to try to make any sort of career out of in any way. I didn’t even really sing until we started this project, so the first EP that we made is one that I almost consider more of a demo recording; the fact that we recorded it ourselves on this USB microphone, and I’d never tried singing…it was just a really weird thing, but it got us some attention. After that, I think we became more of a “real” band, where we were trying to figure out how we actually wanted to sound and things like that. I think from there we began taking it a little more seriously, thinking that we could actually make a serious recording. So we did that with the second EP, which I think is a much more complete product where we actually made a conscious effort (or, more than the first few songs we recorded, at least) to sound a certain way. And now with this album, we’ve definitely progressed a lot. But the songwriting in itself hasn’t drastically changed. I think the foundation of the songwriting has always had something, and that’s been there all along.
Was there anything you wanted to be when you were growing up that’s completely opposite to what you’re doing now?
I really don’t even know. I was always really good in school, so I think I just kind of thought that…well, first of all, we grew up in the States, and then we moved to Denmark, so I kind of thought, “Well, now I have to go to high school here, I don’t know anybody.” So I had no idea what I was going to do. I think I even thought about going back to the States and doing whatever I wanted, and I quickly figured out that I couldn’t really do that. (I didn’t have any money or anything.) So I think I just kind of had the idea that I’d go to college here at some point, and actually, I did start on some courses, but I think once we started doing this, it just kind of naturally progressed into something I’d take more seriously. So I don’t think I ever had a serious “Plan B” at any point. [Laughs]
Well, honestly, that’s probably for the best; when you start to get those forking paths staring back at you, it can be tough to know which one to take. And actually, I think I was reading something where you said somebody told you, “You can’t have your feet in two boats,” or whatever, because they’re inevitably going to split off from each other.
Yeah, so the earlier you can figure it out, the better. Now, also, I do have to say that I’m super envious that you guys DID eventually get out of the States, because now we have Donald Trump. So you kind of dodged a bullet, to be honest.
Yeah, well my relationship with the US is a very love-hate thing, because definitely the politics and all of that is very much not me (I’m very European in that sense), but it’s still like my childhood home, so I have this very…I mean, I’m almost envious that I can’t go back, and don’t have the opportunity to be there for a longer period of time, maybe live there for a while. But I know it definitely depends on what perspective you’re seeing it from. (But yeah, it is pretty fucked up with Trump and everything.)