When Slaraffenland, the Danish five-piece described as “Sun Ra meets Broken Social Scene” and “Animal Collective meets This Heat” stopped at the Cactus Club in October to perform with Collections of Colonies of Bees, we were transfixed. Their album “Private Cinema,” released in June, featured awesome artwork from Friends With You, and their live show was stellar.
In an e-mail exchange with Christian Taagehoej, bassist and flutist (shown here playing the flute at their Cactus Club show), he talked about where their name comes from, and why Milwaukee was such a great city to perform in.
Slaraffenland can be translated to Land of Milk and Honey… My dictionary says another medieval English word is Land of Cockaigne. In Danish the word has a duality to it that is lost in translation. Slaraffenland is the place Pinnochio goes with the bad boys to play and eat candy all day — but at evening they all grow donkey-ears. It’s a good place but don’t stay there too long… Guess it’s bad advertising actually. But I think the name’s good and bad duality reflects our music quite well. We’ve always worked a lot with duality– loud and soft, melody and noise, light and dark.
2. How did you like America?
We’ve been in America four times as a band now. And we love it over there (I’m back in Copenhagen right now). We love the openness of the American audience. People are not so worried with what kind of music you play. If they like it, they like it. Over here we always hear things like “you have horns — you must play jazz then….” People and the pres really want to be able to put a label on us over here.
Our beloved record label Hometapes is based in Boulder, Colorado, so fortunately we will return a lot of times in the future. Right now we are planning a Danish-dynamite tour of US in May with our friends and fellow danes Efterklang. Hope it works out.
3. At your live show, everyone played at least two instruments. How many instruments does everyone play?
How many do we play… Well we all have our mains: guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and trombone respectively. That’s the instruments that we based our first two albums on. But the recent years all of us have taken up various instruments. Mike (my twin) and I started out playing flute and clarinet 20 years ago before we picked up bass and guitar so that wasn’t so hard to come back to. Niklas Antonson has taken up electronics as his new main thing you might say. He’s got a nice table of various effects/samplers/stuff. On top of that he recently started playing trumpet, tuba, guitars and percussion. Jeppe Skjold has extended his reed arsenal to various clarinets and saxophones, plus he recently started playing guitars, lap-steel and percussion live. Besides being our fantastic drummer, Bjorn HeebÃ¸ll is our keyboardist — on the record, at least. Live he plays a lot of keyboard stuff on a melodica instead.
You might think that it’s a goal for us to feature as many instruments as we can… But really it’s not. Our songwriting process is based very much on the recording process. We like to be able to listen to the song and figure out what instrumentation the song needs. Earlier we wrote the songs while practicing and the instrumentation sort of was limited to what we could play at the same time.
When we play live now we sort of try to imitate ourself on recording. For example I like to put a lot of guitar tracks on the records but I can only play one live. So I think all the four others have played guitar live because of that. And it’s the same with horns and percussion.
4. What is it like having your twin in the band? Does it make touring easier?
Can’t really say it makes things easier. Mike and I are twins and off course we know each other so well. But we tend to argue a lot… I think we allow ourselves to say things to each other that we wouldn’t say to the others in the band. I think this is hard sometimes but to be able to say everything to each other is good thing too. But it isn’t really that bad. The five of us are best friends. We spend so much time with each other outside the band and our girlfriends are good friends too. So touring is easy. Everybody looks out for each other.
Like I said, the songwriting or at least the arranging is now based a lot on the recording process.Â One of us presents an idea that all of us sort of arranges on. Sometimes a song is written very quickly but sometimes it drags out forever. The song “Watch Out” from our new album took something like three months of at least 15 hours of work every week to finish. We just never got it right. But at the end it was one of the main songs on the album.
Another song from the album called “Polaroids” is very old. We wrote it around our first album but weren’t happy with it. So we put it away for some time. For the second album we tried it again put stored it once more. Actually it was the last song we featured on the latest album and then it ended up being the #1 single from that album. It was #1 on the Danish chart for alternative music for four to five weeks this spring.
6. How did you get involved in the Radiohead /”OK Computer ” tribute for Stereogum (with John Vanderslice, Vampire Weekend, Cold War Kids, The Twilight Sad, David Bazan)? Are you big Radiohead fans? Did you like “In Rainbows”?
Radiohead is a big influence of everyone today aren’t they? Off course we’ve heard them a lot. We have talked a lot about Thom York’s frazing when we record horn melodies for example…Â But there’s a lot of bands that have meant just as much to us.
We were contacted by Stereogum through our label. They have written about us before and featured us in their band to watch section. It was our first cover song and we loved doing it. It sort of made us realize what our own sound is and how we could make Paranoid Android sound like us. I’m very happy with the result!
“In rainbows”… Just heard it and I love it. Not as good as “Amnesiac” and “Kid A” but I think it might be a grower though…
7. How did you guys form?
We’ve all known each other for quite some time now. Mike and I met Bjorn in kindergarten when we were four years old and have been friends since then. We’ve played in various bands together before Slaraffenland. The three of us met Jeppe and Niklas about six years ago. They were roommates.
8. In a previous conversation, you said Milwaukee was one of the funnest places you performed at…why is that?
I think we played about 20 shows in the states. All the places were very different.
When people asked us where we were going next and we said Milwaukee people were like “why the f… are you going there?”. So I think we didn’t know what to expect when we went to Milwaukee. But it was one of the shows were we got the best response from the audience. On top of that I think the show with Canyons of Static and Collections of Colonies of Bees was one of the best matches we had on the tour.
We had the same experience when we told people we were going to Fayetteville (Arkansas) and Cleveland (Ohio). Both places a lot of people came and actually knew the lyrics to some of our songs.
I don’t know if some bands underestimate the “smaller” cities – but we by far had the best crowds outside the large cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.