Known for their unique musical interaction and unofficial titleholders as “Denmark’s best beat group”, The Beatophonics returns in 2020 with a new album, on which the band explores new paths. The album title ”Let’s Do This” refers to the process and the active choices the band has been through while writing the new music.
The dogma of the pure beat style is gone, and the band’s members have exposed their ideas to each other in search of the good, timeless song. The anchoring of the 60s aesthetics is still present, but the band has also opened a window to the sounds and moods of the last 40 years of rock and pop – and you can find references to everything from Elvis Costello, ELO, powerpop in general and even to The Zombies unique sense of harmonies.
SweetSweetMusicblog spoke to Rasmus Schrøder (vocal, bass) and Søren Koch (vocal, guitar) about the new record.
What was the moment you knew you were on to something?
Rasmus: When we released our debut album in 2015 it was pretty much a side project for us all and we didn’t expect too much to happen. But the music was neatly received, and we got to play a whole bunch of concerts and received a great amount of airplay on Danish national radio. And so now we are just pursuing the idea that there is something more out there for us to achieve. The three of us are basically musicians who love to play concerts and meet the kind people who are interested in what we do.
Soren: Certainly, when the first album released, that was the turning point. But actually, already from our very first gig, we knew we were on to something. We were all members of the Danish Beatles tribute band Beat The Meetles, who were asked to recreate the 1964, 20 minutes Beatles Copenhagen show. We felt that we needed to give the audience a little more than just 20 minutes and so the three of us decided to form this fictional band, The Beatophonics, to recreate the vibe of the supporting bands at the original show. We found it such a relief to be able to play this kind of music without having to sound exactly like the original record, but instead, just arrange and play the songs with the knowledge of that era playing style that we had accumulated as The Beatles tribute band.
How did this record come together?
Rasmus: We’re very confident that making a new album that sounded like the first one wasn’t an option. We’d been working with a dogma about being frozen down for 50 years, then being defrosted and made the album that we were supposed to make in 1965. That dogma pretty much gave us the answer to all our questions and when in artistic doubt we would just ask ourselves – what would we have done in 1965? So, with the new album we had to re-invent ourselves and stay confident that leaving the dogma would be ok for us. So, we gathered the material, arranged and recorded it as our instincts told us.
Soren: Still we are huge fans of that very immediate way of writing songs, the sounds, and the playing style of the sixties beat groups and that still shines thru, but again it felt like something of a relief to let the dogma go.
Rasmus: We started working on the recordings in February 2019 and as Soren was touring heavily with The Zombies that same year, we had to do a great deal of dubbing without being in the same studio. I did a lot of keyboard and vocal parts in my studio and we somehow managed to deliver the final master to our record company and distributor by November 1.
Soren: Not having the dogma to lean upon, every door was now open, and I guess you can say that we walked through quite a few doors before we found what satisfied us. That certainly took some time.
When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?
Rasmus: Early on in the process, we were very pretty sure about the four main singles so we started discussing it with people that we relied on actually as soon as May 2019. And good people like David Myhr and even Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone of The Zombies gave us some good advice as well.
Soren: Yeah, we were never really in doubt about which songs were going to be singles, but more the order of those.
As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?
Rasmus: As we debuted the song “Little Girl” on the opening concert of the “Let’s Do This” tour, I must admit that I was struck by a sudden perception of the change in our repertoire. The songs on the first album were pretty much all up-tempo songs and our live shows were also very fast – and loud. “Little Girl” is as quiet and naked as nothing we had ever played live together, so during that first live performance a lot of thoughts ran through my head – very fast…
Soren: Haha, yeah, I remember that. I guess I was more like “I don’t give a damn about what people are expecting”. As Elvis Costello said in a post recently: “You as the listener might think you know better what I should be singing, but I have to tell you that I know better what I should be singing”. We love our audience and we love them to like what we are doing, but if we are not comfortable with what we are doing, no one will be. I’m sure that pleasing ourselves first and foremost, will make it easier for us to please our audience.
Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million-seller?
Rasmus: The three of us in the band have been part of the music business for like 30 years so we are very realistic about the options for us. But we are also very keen on adding some new territory to our domain and are now planning for shows in Spain, Sweden, and Denmark. But with the current COVID-19 situation we will have to wait and see where it will bring us.
Soren: There is a tradition in the Danish music industry of focusing primarily on your backyard or at least not to see the world as your stage until you have played every inch of that backyard, which is a funny approach as the country is so small. It might be age or maybe touring the US, Europe, and Scandinavia as a member of The Zombies – or maybe a combination, that is convincing me that it would be stupid not to take a look at what is outside that backyard.
You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?
Soren: Generally speaking, I’m actually not the biggest fan of co-writing. Anyway, not in the sense of going away to some kind of retreat, meeting up with strangers in some kind of songwriting camp, being sat in a room with two acoustic guitars and try to come up with something from scratch. I just don’t believe in that approach. The songwriting teams I adore, like Lennon/McCartney or Difford/Tilbrook, I’m pretty sure they go to the other guy with something, saying “I have this idea for a verse and the chorus, but I’m kinda blocked regarding the middle eight. Does it say anything to you?” I do believe in that way of co-writing. I could easily come up with a list of songwriters that I deeply admire. McCartney, Neil Finn, Difford/Tilbrook, Costello, Aimee Mann, the list is long, But the idea of writing with people like that? Ha! I just guess I’m too much of a fan. To me, it’s a question of knowing the person and being comfortable in that situation to achieve something from it.
What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?
Rasmus: When we released our debut 7” single “Poison Ivy” on Danish national TV in 2013 it kickstarted our ventures for the coming years. But as we didn’t know the contents of the program, we didn’t know there was a chart involved. I remember looking into the eyes of Soren and Flemming as we were presented by the TV host, just getting ready to perform, and the look in their eyes we’re hilarious. We definitely should’ve prepared a little more thorough – but to our big surprise, the song climbed to no. 1 on the chart the following week.
Soren: That certainly was an awkward moment (laughs).
When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?
Soren: It has happened a few times that I’ve written a song in almost the time it takes to sing it. Maybe apart from the lyrics that always needs some more time. Like when the whole melody with chords and everything just comes to you as a complete thing. And it’s always those 2 minutes, 30 second kind of melodic Power Pop tunes that appears in that situation. With this band it happened with “Could You, Would You” from the first album. The closest I come to that feeling with the recent album is “I Can Do With Anybody Else”. A thing that I have become fascinated with is writing without an instrument. Just writing and working things out inside my head, not trying it out until the song is finished. I did that with the opening track of the new album “Keeps Coming Back To Me”. That is all written in my head, without ever touching a guitar or a keyboard until I was sure what was gonna happen regarding melody, harmonies, chords, modulation, and so on. Talking about easy co-writing on the recent album, I think Rasmus and I certainly did get that right with “What Became Of You”. Rasmus came along with most of the verses. I just grabbed it from there and threw the middle-eight in, in the time it took to sing it. Very simple, very impulsive, very easy-going. Kind of the way I always imagine John and Paul or say, the early Hollies, wrote those fantastic songs on tour busses or in between shows in hotel rooms. They sound like it was just so easy to do that.
Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?
Soren: It is very tempting to just come up with the answer of “Yes” to that question.
Which 5 records would you bring with you for your stay on Mars?
Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue
Jellyfish – Spilt Milk
George Dalaras – Latin
Weezer – Make Believe
Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach – Painted From Memory
The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night
The Zombies – Odyssey And Oracle
Squeeze – East Side Story
Elvis Costello: Brutal Youth
Aimee Mann: I’m With Stupid
Recording music. What’s all the fun about?
Soren: To put I short: Not knowing what’s around the next corner
Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?
Soren: To put it even shorter: The beauty of communication.
You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?
Soren: If people get touched emotionally by our music, that would make me proud. That’s what I enjoy the most myself when listening to other people’s music. When our songs are best, they are effective, short pop tunes with a melodic sense, but also at best, with a little edge or quirkiness to them. But again, that’s just my assumption of what we are. It might be completely different from someone else and quite rightly so.
Vinyl is back, Spotify is ruling, tickets for concerts are becoming more and more expensive, everybody can record songs, social media is the marketing tool, Coldplay stops touring … how will the music industry look like in 5 years?
Soren: Honestly, I have no idea. And if I knew, I would probably stop doing this right away. But as long as it makes sense for us doing it, as long as it does something emotional to us and our audience, I feel we should continue doing it. If it becomes like a boring day-job, then forget about it.