Photo by Baijie Curdt-Christiansen
Last Monday, we thought we'd have a little fun and bring two generations within the current Danish psych rock scene together over a few beers at Cafe Svejk—a classic neighbourhood haunt in Frederiksberg characterized by timeless vibes and jolly crowds happily spilling beers on each other in front of the bar window. The two generations we're referring to are Lorenzo Woodrose, the frontman of hyper-influential psych rock band Spids Nøgenhat; and Lau Pedersen, the lyricist leading Fribytterdrømme—a newer and younger act that's already earned itself a pretty solid reputation with consistently killer shows and a refreshingly poetic approach to song lyrics. Maybe it was the beers that did it, but Lau and Lorenzo riffed off of each other like old buddies and covered a lot of ground. Here's what they talked about.
NOISEY: Hey, guys. ‘Psych’ is such a broad term these days for so many different types of music. What do you think ties everyone together under that term?
Lorenzo Woodrose: To me, the original definition has always been music that refers to or tries to recreate the psychedelic experience. I mean, you can play heavy metal and still be psychedelic, so it doesn’t have much to do with your style. It’s more a matter of attitude and approach.
Lau Pedersen: My guitar player, Tor, said something really cool recently: the psych music scene is not so much about genre but more about sensibility—that you might feel connected to this kind of music or experience, the drawn-out parts, the freak outs, the free spirit, whichever area of psych rock you wanna identify with. It has to do with how you connect with the lyrics and the music.
Lorenzo: It also has to do with the other bands and the audiences. I remember back when I was young in the 90s, the grunge thing was happening and there was a lot of bad-mouthing. There were many negative attitudes and competition between bands, which makes it much harder for everyone—I feel a lot of the young bands today seem to do things together, play gigs and take part in the “scene”.
Lau: What was the scene like back when you started out, though?
Lorenzo: In the mid-‘90s, the terms “psychedelic” or “acid rock” were totally outdated and not a label you wanted to put on your music. Gradually over the next 5 years there were a few bands that had a glimpse of this attitude, making longer songs and singing about weird stuff. Then, the buzzword became “garage” but that eventually died out, too. Same thing with the Danish language.
What do you mean? It became popular to sing in Danish for a while then died down again?
Lorenzo: Yeah, I think so. It comes in waves.
Lau: I remember I saw you guys at Roskilde Festival in 2011 and at the time Danish rapper/pop artist Burhan G had a hit single with Nik & Jay. At that point I felt a lot of Danish music was confined to pop/hip/hop/mainstream – and then I remember listening to En Mærkelig Kop Te, Spids Nøgenhat’s first record, and suddenly I heard Danish lyrics I couldn’t really pinpoint but knew were radically different from whatever else was on Boogie-listen or wherever. Emerging with all of the music I had in my backpack as a teenager, it certainly inspired me to switch over to Danish.
Lorenzo: Actually, Lau, Danish lyrics were why I originally liked your band. I felt there was real poetry in the lyrics.
Lau: Well, thank you. I remember switching to writing lyrics in Danish because suddenly it just made sense: I never felt my own songs in English, but now with these Danish songs, I feel connected to them and invested on a whole other level than I’ve experienced before.
Lorenzo: Do you ever have to force yourself to write something?
Lau: Of course, yeah. It can be tough because I work a lot with associations—there’s not a clear purpose in the lyrics except to make the mind wander and take you places. I think that’s the power of poetry—especially surrealistic and expressionistic poetry has a lot to do with applying your own sense of the world with words.
Lorenzo: I work in the opposite way. I know I can write a pretty good lyric if I have to—but I always push it to the very last minute so I always end up with a great song I still need the lyric for. So I have to sit down and force myself to do it. It becomes part of who you are, the way you work with it.
Photo by Baijie Curdt-Christiansen
How closely do you guys work with your labels, though? People in the music scene here seem to have a general mistrust of bookers and labels.
Lorenzo: There are a lot of incompetent people who want to be part of the music business and you’re bound to run into some at one point or another. I’ve always had this mistrust of major labels and the more mainstream side of the music business. So for me it’s been a freedom building something with small labels and agencies because there’s mutual trust involved.
Is that freedom not something that would happen on a bigger label?
Lorenzo: I think it’s more that the organization within big labels is the total opposite of working with a person you know and trust and have built a relationship with. People get fired; if you’re in the major label music business, everybody wants to be part of a success and as soon as you’re not a success, nobody wants to deal with you. So you can imagine what kinds of problems this can create for a band that wants to break down borders or do something experimental – you’re basically fucked.
Lau: With big labels, I think you become part of a "business machine"–in the most positive, and the most negative ways.
Fribytterdrømme at Copenhagen Psych Fest, 2015 - Photo by Peter Troest
Do you ever worry about the interest for your music dying down along with the trend and becoming part of that business machine, when you're riding the momentum like you are now?
Lorenzo: Certainly not me. It’s the type of music I know and love. My whole life is filled with this fascination and interest in music from that particular time period—60s, 70s stuff. It’s the only thing I know how to do, really.
Lau: I don’t really know how to answer that—for me, it’s never been about being famous but about being acknowledged as a writer, lyricist, guitar player and poet, if you will. I have absolutely no idea what to do right now because everything I have ever written and recorded that I feel comfortable about releasing has been released now.
Lorenzo: I think all trends die out—it’s in the meaning of the word. It also has to do with a particular time in a person’s life. Maybe they’re 16-29, really into the music scene, hip to what’s going on, know people that play in bands and have their finger on the pulse. Once you’re 35 and have an education, kids and a good job, only the most hardcore are still concerned with the music scene. Don’t you think so, Lau?
Lau: (laughs) I am a youngster in the scene: I’ve only just started out and got my relatively successful band going on and I feel I can evolve a thousand times before I get tired of playing guitar. I don’t know what the future brings for my creativeness but I’m not afraid to evolve. Maybe I’ll run out of fuel but as long as it makes sense to be part of my seven-man band, I’ll keep doing it—until we get older and someone gets kids or something like that. As long as it’s driven by the fun of playing music and the togetherness of the band, I’m totally fine with doing this and having a lousy job on the side.