[MUSIC: Interview] Efterklang
Now In Surround Sound
By Caitlin Welsh
Everyone from Metallica to Michael Bolton has given their old material the highbrow makeover with a few dozen tuxes, tubas and timpanis; it’s a great way to add gravitas to material that may lack it, and usually to sell more tickets or records without having to make anything new. But for Danish three-piece Efterklang, the symphony is anything but an afterthought – this time around, anyway.
Vocalist Caspar Clausen says that the band are getting nervous as they put the finishing touches on their Vivid LIVE show. The trio should be old hands by now, having given their 2006 album Parades the symphony treatment with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in 2009, but this time they’ve taken the unusual approach of writing and arranging the performance of a new album they haven’t even recorded yet.
“It’s probably the biggest single project we’ve ever done,” Clausen admits, on the phone from his home in Berlin. “With Parades we made an album that was quite ambitious, but we were focussing only on the album and had one and a half years to finish it. And once we were done with that album, we all looked at each other and thought it would be amazing if we could perform this piece as one thing – take that one and a half years and condense it to 45 minutes, just play it like music is supposed to be played.”
The band were already in the early stages of writing the new album – which is to be titled Piramida – when they were invited to work and perform with the Sydney Symphony. Clausen says that doing it “backwards”, collaborating with conductor Matthew Coorey and arrangers who have previously worked with Kronos Quartet and Sigur Ros, certainly changed the way the album will eventually sound. “All the time we were thinking while we were making the album, ‘This is also going to be performed with a symphony orchestra.’ And that was pretty crucial for us. We don’t really feel like performing music with the orchestra is over the top. For us, it’s very important that it’s all one thing. Like an integrated part of it. So we were kind of giving it space while we were composing.”
But the symphony is a natural fit for the band, whose sound blends post-rock’s appreciation for slow burn, long-game songwriting with an emotional and accessible orchestral aesthetic. “The way we make music anyway, we use a lot of sound sources and a lot of orchestral elements, but we don’t really use them as just salt and pepper on top of something – we use them as ingredients.”
That said, he welcomes the blurring of boundaries between indie rock and classical composition evident in recent years (exemplified by poster boys for the blended sound – and fellow Vivid LIVE performers – Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly). “There are definitely more and more people working with the orchestra. And it’s funny that you say Metallica, because throughout Parades we were using Metallica as an example of what we didn’t want to do,” Clausen laughs, of Metallica’s 1999 release S&M, recorded with a symphony orchestra. “So that was a big part of it. I like Metallica, but, at least to us, it was unnecessary.”
One of the most telling details about the show, though, might be that Clausen can’t really tell us too many details – they’ll probably still be finishing the album as you read this, working in the Opera House right up until opening night. “It’s quite incredible, we think, that we’ve got the opportunity to do stuff like this without actually having anyone approve it beforehand,” he says mischievously. “We could be doing anything,
What: Efterklang & Sydney Symphony – commissioned by Vivid LIVE
Where: Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House
When: Saturday May 26