Photo by Emil Jupin
You may have seen them at Distortion. You may have seen them playing for tens of thousands at May Day in Kreuzberg in Berlin, or maybe even for one of our magazine release parties. You have definitely seen them at Culture Box—four different hairstyles gleaming in front of that iconic red wall. No matter where you’ve seen them, it’s clear Apeiron Crew – the DJ quartet from Copenhagen – is a growing techno force. Take heed.
Apeiron Crew (pronounced like “A pie, Ron” and Greek for “unlimited”) is made up of Najaaraq Vestbirk (glasses), Sara Svanholm (tallest), Simone Øster (septum) and Emma Blake (none of the above)—four chicks who came together because they knew there was a void in Copenhagen that needed to be filled. They respected each other’s skills enough to know they were the ones to do it. Over the past two years, Copenhagen has stopped looking at them as simply four hot chicks and has realized they really know what they’re doing, they’re super talented, and they can throw a hell of a party. We sat down with them three of them to talk about their sound, the difficulties of fitting four bodies behind a DJ booth, pseudo compliments from fans and not leaving your fellow crew members in the shit. Enjoy.
NOISEY: How would you guys define your sound?
Emma: We play techno. I don’t know if this sounds silly but we focus on big, characteristic tunes. It’s not deliberately hard-hitting but we like stuff like that.
Simone: I think it’s a cliché to say ‘No fillers, only killers’ but that is the way we go about it. Also because we’re so many people playing together, everyone has their tunes and we want to fit everything in. Take Sara: she has a bit more mellow, dubby techno stuff.
Emma: Yeah, we also have a lot acid stuff. I think we play that because we can sing along to an acid line. We can punch each other, hug each other, and play percussion on someone’s back.
Simone: Our sound very much reflects what we are feeling and we’re also having a lot of fun. Our sets aren’t the typical serious, steel, Berghain set. I mean, we can mix and we will do the whole thing – but we’re a party crew.
That must partly be because of how many you are on stage. The crowd can see how much you enjoy the music.
Emma: Yeah. We take turns partying around the one who’s mixing. And the one mixing is kind of like “Uh, mate, can you back up a bit?” We’re just all over the space. There’s always at least two people partying – usually three – and then one person mixing, who is also partying.
Najaaraq: As far as enjoying the music, I think we’re sometimes quite unaware of how underground our music is. It’s probably hard for some people because it is kind of unconventional. I was talking to an artist I’ve known since when I first started playing, like 9 years ago, and he was like, “You’re playing some weird stuff now.” We don’t hear it because we’re used to it and we like it.
Since you started, do you think your sound has gone in a different direction or do you think it has just become more refined?
Najaaraq: I think it’s not really a genre thing as much as how the style of playing has changed for us. If something has developed it would be our individual styles as DJs and the way we mix. This has developed massively for all of us. When we started, we weren’t playing that much as individuals. As Apeiron Crew got more successful we also started getting booked individually. So we started developing more of our own way of doing things. The challenge becomes bringing that back into being Apeiron Crew again. I dive into the way I like to mix tracks, but I have to consider how that works into the group dynamic.
Yeah, if someone is coming in right after you, you can’t really pull the “I’m just going to leave you on this crazy track” and leave her hanging.
Simone: That is a very classic Apeiron Crew move. “Oh, by the way, this one goes nuts.”
Najaaraq: Yeah. “And it’s two minutes long. Have fun.”
Simone: Emma, you had crazy tracks.
Najaaraq: Really short electro tracks that are amazing.
Emma: Yeah. They’re good, but I realized that I can’t play that in a group. I would think “This is going to be great and every one out there is going to love it!” Yeah..well…not if the track runs out before you can even put on headphones.
It’s like a team sport. I mean…booth etiquette. It can often seem like you’re being rude when you’re just not thinking about it. It turns out there is a lot of etiquette in the booth. Which we’ve been learning as we go along.
Emma: It’s a trust thing. It’s knowing now that even if you’re left in a bit of a shit situation it wasn’t the other’s intention to fuck you over.
Simone: But that also makes you more confident. Because if something fucks up, you also have your three best friends behind your back just cheering and dancing and saying “Fuck it!” Because…I mean, we’re really fun at least!
So in the creative process, do you guys ever find a gem of a track and keep it a secret and surprise the other girls during a set? Or is that a big no-no?
Emma: This is an interesting question. I think a lot of crews do this. Guys complaining like “Ah, I left my hard drive at so-and-so’s house and he played that Theo Parrish tune that I know he didn’t know about.” They do this thing where they’re stealing music off of each other. I think we’ve always had a really good culture of sharing.
Najaaraq: We know that music doesn’t become more valuable because it’s secret. In Chicago and Detroit people used to put labels on their records so others couldn’t see what it was because a big part of the gigs was having these secret tunes. For us, it’s much more about making something good together than it is about having that tune for myself. And often, in terms of introducing each other to music, the tracks kind of rotate between us.
Emma: Anyway – we don’t keep tunes from each other. And we think that the people who do that are fucking stupid. What they’re doing is claiming music that they didn’t make as their own thing, as part of their identity. That’s bullshit.
Copenhagen is a small city. Bars are small. DJ booths are small. Is there any one place you guys can move around?
All: Culture Box.
Okay. And which one is the worst and tiniest? Like, guaranteed inadvertent groping behind the booth?
Najaaraq: I don’t want to say the worst but Bakken is way too small for four people. You can barely fit two people. I love playing there so I don’t want it to sound that way. It’s just the booth is really small.
Simone: Also, because we need our record bags.
Najaaraq: We’ll have four or six record bags with us – and that fills up the entire space.
Simone: And we need room for our gymnastics.
Is there a lot of sexual harassment? In such a small space and all.
Emma: Between us? Definitely.
Simone: Sara grabs my butt a lot.
Najaaraq: In terms of other people, it isn’t that bad. We have weird guys coming with weird comments that are supposed to compliments but then they’re actually really disgusting or degrading. Like “I can’t believe you’re so good because you’re a woman” but that follows women in every profession. And that’s shit.
I feel like you guys first got booked because you were four chicks and they didn’t care about your talent as much as the aesthetic. But now it seems like they don’t talk about “those four girls” as much as “that DJ crew.”
Emma: We’ve worked hard for that.
Najaaraq: People know what we play now. We were less tight back then but it wasn’t like we weren’t good. So in the beginning, people maybe booked us for inappropriate things. That doesn’t happen anymore. It’s just about people being knowledgeable about our style.
Simone: It was actually kind of sweet that people wanted to book us because they had some pre-assumptions about “these four girls” and they would see our press photos in floral outfits looking anxious and cute. Then they would think we would play suitable ‘girly’ music if you can even call it that. But then we would go out and smash it.
Najaaraq: A lot of people will approach us and say “I really feel like women have a more essential way of picking techno tunes.” They will say it as a compliment as if that is some sort of borne skill. But I don’t hear it and I don’t see it. There are loads of women playing monotone techno. Loads of women playing warm tech house – as well as men. It’s hard for people who don’t know music to compliment us without making it about our gender. If people know music, they don’t usually say stuff like that.
Simone: I think more of the compliments that we get are more for our style and energy. I don't know any guys who party as hard as we do behind the booth.
Najaaraq: You see it with other crews where there is a real bond. It’s having that ‘we’re fucking best friends’ vibe and people can detect that. It’s authentic.
Thanks a lot, crew.