INTERVIEW: MØL

A conversation with the Danish blackgaze group about their album, music and the year ahead.

Relaxing downstairs at Camden’s Brew Dog, MØL vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf and guitarist Frederik Lippert are in high spirits and excited about the events of the day. Having flown over from Denmark that morning Frederik tells me this is their first ‘flying gig’, their first time flying over as a band and first time in the UK. “A lot of firsts” laughs Frederik as the other members of MØL join us in the booth; guitarist Nicolai Busse Hansen, bassist Holger Rumph-Frost and drummer Ken Lund Klejs. First thing I wanted to do was learn how to pronounce MØL (meaning moth) correctly, it’s more like ‘moel’, “or ‘mooel’ if you’re from Copenhagen” jokes Nicolai. The title for their debut album Jord (meaning earth) is pronounced ‘yor’, with the ‘d’ being silent and the ‘j’ having the European ‘y’ sound. Having got to grips with the Danish it was time to get the lowdown on the life of MØL…

Before MØL, were you in bands before? How did you guys come together as a band?

Nicolai: Ken and I played in a shoegaze band which broke apart when I moved to England to study. We wanted to continue making shoegaze music and wanted to be harder I guess.

Ken: It kinda took over and we just did more our own thing, whatever we wanted to do. I’ve been very much influenced by heavy metal, metal in general and with the shoegaze it kinda moved into something else.

Nicolai: It was around that time we started exploring the boundaries of shoegaze, bands like ALCEST were moving into it and other European bands. That’s what kind of inspired it.

Holger: I’ve played in another band before and it was something completely different. It was like melodic death metal and I met Nicolai in coalition with another project and we just started talking about our common interest in black metal and shoegaze music and it was natural for me to join when there was an open spot for a bass player.

Ken: Frederik joined when I tried to form another different project and he came in…

Frederik: I didn’t know what it was we were trying to do…

Ken: No it didn’t become anything and it was like “hey! Would you play in this shoegazey thing we’re doing?”. And he was like “yeah ok” and then we, er…dissolved.

Kim: That didn’t work, but you had another idea with Nicolai.

Ken: Yeah, so we had my cousin on bass, he left the band and we had Steffen on vocals who also is not in the band anymore. And then we got Kim two years ago and that also added a whole new level to the sound of MØL.

Kim: I originally came from death metal and I also play in another band where I do post-hardcore and chaotic-hardcore stuff. So I played in a technical death metal band called 100 KNIVES INSIDE before and I actually knew the guys. I think I took photos of your second gig…

Nicolai: That’s when I broke my collar bone and so we had Simon as a stand in.

Frederik: Ah yes Simon from the Danish black metal band SUNKEN.

Kim: So it’s a mish-mash of a lot of different bands. Steffen stopped doing the band and I think our manager, Mirza actually hinted that I was pretty fond of the music so we kind of found out that it would actually fit. I think for me, I’ve always been drawn to more atmospheric music and something that’s more moody, but the other bands that I’ve played in I’ve never really had the chance to explore that realm so it’s really something that taps into something. That’s what I’m really fond of, that mood, I only get that from post-rock or classical music.

I was wondering this, if some members were more shoegaze than others or how the sound came about. So with the whole ‘blackgaze’ thing, is that something you were aspiring to, or are you happy to just fall under that bracket?

Holger: That’s a good question. When Ken started this shoegaze project, there was then a huge wave with DEAFHEAVEN and SUNBATHER and so on, also ALCEST. We’re doing an abnormal thing combining these two genres and I don’t think we’re inspired so much, I don’t think we can deny that.

Ken: I mean I hadn’t heard of SUNBATHER before we started to be honest. We were doing black metal, I love black metal and especially symphonic metal, so we kinda just edited it in and when we heard those bands as well we were like cool! That really sounds nice. You know, we’re the only ones doing it. What we were doing wasn’t actually solid enough because other people as well were doing it.

Kim: I also think because a lot of people are comparing us with DEAFHEAVEN so you think you kind of want to break away from that, although it’s not a bad thing. But we definitely want to do our own thing.

I suppose the danger of being seen as part of a trend is when that trend ends it might spell the end. So how do you see your sound evolving?

Ken: I guess just doing whatever we wanna do still I guess!

Kim: The transition from the previous EP to now I think, there’s like a really distinct prioritisation of some certain elements, especially in some of your guitar work…[Nicolai]

Nicolai: What are you thinking?

Kim: It’s got kinda heavier. Not as typical gaze but it’s more rocky.

Nicolai: Yeah I think it’s a good way to put it. There’s a focus on writing the metal parts to work and of course combining them with shoegaze parts and making them flow together.

Ken: And in general we’re better musicians now so we can do more things that we actually want to do and that’s important for MØL because we’re doing it so much. And Kim also put a whole new level on the singing and the lyrics and with everything mixed in it made a lot of difference.

Kim: The instrumentation, the whole picture, what really got me on board was the opportunity to be kinda a part of the orchestration, so that I don’t just specifically sound like a vocalist but as an instrument on the same level as everybody else in the band, contributing to this sound. So it’s relaxing to you you’re not the one driving the whole show that you usually do as a frontman in a death metal or hardcore act for that matter, so relying on this intense atmosphere that we’re trying to create that’s really something that’s brought a new dimension into my songwriting or at least my way of using vocals. So I think the main thing about where I come from I really thought about not doing purely high pitched vocals all the way through, so I think the variation that I provide with some death metal growls and some hardcore vocals as well, that can support this dynamic of all the shifts and stuff that actually happens throughout the whole album.

The album has been out for about a month now, so how has the response been? How have you been finding it all? Because you’ve been getting some pretty good responses!

Frederik: It feels like we’ve had several months of good feedback in a short amount of time so we’re very grateful for the response we’ve got.

Ken: The opportunities we’ve been offered have been the greatest already.

Kim: But it’s also because half a year ago we were recording this album and were planning on releasing it on our Danish management, so none of this was even in our minds back then. And then Holy Roar came in the picture and then suddenly everything just blew up.

Ken: That opened up a new door and the response we got and the great PR work they made and all of a sudden..boom! In come the offers and we have a lot in store. We can’t say anything [laughs]. We got some goodies coming.

I’m looking forward to hearing that! You’ve got Arctangent and Damnation festival coming up, what else are you looking forward to this year?

Ken: Seeing other bands at Damnation [laughs].

Frederik: And Arctangent.

Kim: We have some touring in store but that will be revealed later.

Holger: In general just getting out and playing more shows like we’re doing now with this tour. That is at least for me, what it’s all about. Getting out and meeting new people and playing some music.

Ken: It’s funny you make music sort of for yourself, but then you see all these people on Instagram upload the album, the album that we made, it’s really touching. It’s like damn, this guy gets it! [laughs]

Holger: Also the fact that, at least I don’t have any reference of whether is it good is it bad, it’s just something that I like and we like and we think it’s good music and then the fact other people like us is really touching.

Kim: All those personal messages we have over the past month has just been really overwhelming. I think it takes a lot of courage to listen to something and think I’m gonna write to those guys, I’m gonna say this really means something to me.

Especially with new bands, some people still don’t check out new bands.

Kim: Yes you know, it is an oversaturated market and with all the streaming services to even get noticed just a little bit, that just doesn’t happen everyday. We’re really grateful. And talking about the lyrical context and the theme of the whole album like…I joined MØL at a time where I was kind of in a down-low period, so I was burned out with stress so this album kind of is a way of processing that really awful period in my life and that’s just really weird, you know performing those songs live because as a vocalist you’re actually sharing a pretty private place.

So does it become really cathartic to perform it live?

Frederik: It’s amazing to see people share the same feelings.

Kim: I think that’s the essence of both our concepts, much of what we experience of the band is the feeling that you get to get to project or share with the audience. That’s something of substance.

For me personally, when I first heard Jord I just latched onto the emotion and I could just immerse myself in it and then when I did my review, when I read more after I wrote mine everyone else seemed to have the same experience. So it seems a lot of people not necessarily relates to the lyrics, but relates to the emotion that comes out of the music. And I’m really interested to see how that translates live. So how would you describe your live show?

Nicolai: It’s going to be a lot different tonight, it’s quite a smaller stage to what we’re used to. We used to have a light show and also smoke, so it’s going to be…

Frederik: Bare bones tonight.

Holger: But we have a lot of experience with these closer support shows. We did a Europe tour about two years ago, which were mostly sports and smaller places.

Kim: That was before my time so I’m still looking forward to it.

Frederik: We played in an abandoned orphanage which we found out the day after we slept in there overnight.

Ken: So we’re cursed from now on but that’s fine.

Frederik: That was Germany.

Ken: A wine cellar in Paris…some really cool places.

Frederik: Unique experiences.

Ken: The mood kinda changes we often feel the room, sometimes the smaller shows get more intense and ferocious because the sound in general in the room compresses it. Then larger venues are maybe more mellow. It’s kinda reading the room and the sound you have and take it from there.

Kim: I think it’s cool at this point we can encompass both kinda shows, either the more intimate, intense, small pub show and the big live set-up. We recently got a light technician who does some shows with us, they made like a whole LED panel and stuff and we do usually bring strobe lights and fog machines. This will be a bit more plain…

Ken: Straight in your face. But it will be good.

On a last note, so with my blog I focus on new and up and coming bands. Are there any bands on your radar that people should check out?

Frederik: I’ll start, there’s a Norwegian black metal band called CHÊNE. They’re really amazing guys, I really recommend checking them out.

Holger: We’ve been jamming that hard.

Frederik: Their album is called Atlas.

Nicolai: I’m gonna go for a Copenhagen band called WOES, because their second album is really good and they’re kinda this hardcore/melodic hardcore. Really, really good.

Ken: ASTRONOID I guess. It’s not a new band.

Holger: They’re not a new band but they’ve just toured with TESSERACT.

Ken: It’s kinda the same sound as us but much lighter and happier. I think it’s a cool mix. And more symphonic. It shouldn’t work, it’s like spacegaze/powergaze [laughs].

Holger: I know you’ll pick these [Kim] but I’m gonna pick CABAL, from Copenhagen.

Yep, yeah I know them. I reviewed Mark Of Rot then I found out you [Kim] did the artwork…

Kim: Yeah, I have another one. I have some good friends in a band called TELOS and they just released a two track EP called HELIOS/SELÊNÊ.

And there we have it. The history and musical style of MØL explained by the band themselves. They then had to dash off to soundcheck and considering they mentioned the plainer stage show they were anticipating tonight, no one could expect the incredible performance that was to come. My gig review will be up soon. All will be revealed. M

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