Continuing our exclusive run of features on Danish super group Alphabeat, today we sit down with band members Anders B, Anders SG and Stine, to talk through the heartwarming story behind their exciting comeback and the creative process of putting together their 4th studio album Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore – out now!
“We feel so good! We’re super, super happy with the album.” Anders B tells us as we sit down down to chat in a private room at the Soho House 76 Dean Street in London.
“We have so many good feelings about each single song on the record.” Stine adds excitedly. “It feels weird that it’s finally out, as we’ve been working on it for quite a while, but like Anders said, we’re really happy and pleased with how it’s all turned out.”
Looking Back, To Move Forward.
In the notoriously fickle world of pop, the life of a pop band can sometimes be incredibly short lived – simply put: one minute you’re hot, the next you’re not.
Imagine if you can, the hustle and sacrifice it takes to breakthrough into the musical mainstream… and then the subsequent rush of euphoria that comes from experiencing a level of success you’ve dreamed your whole life of achieving. But then all of a sudden there’s this feeling of immense pressure, brought on by the fact that you not only want to maintain that same level of success, and remain on top AND stay relevant, but in no way at all do you want to compromise your artistic integrity or appear to be a ‘sell-out’. Then, if you can, imagine and factor in the (at times) merciless scrutiny and opinion forced upon you by the public and the press, maybe then, and only then, might you be somewhere close to understanding what life can really be like for a young person in a pop group.
As any music act will tell you, there will come a point where taking time out from that endless cycle and fast paced way of life, is not only inevitable but an outright necessity if you want to achieve any kind of longevity (and sanity) in the business the call show.
“Gosh…” Anders B exhales. “We needed a break.”
“Even though we always loved being in the band, it could be tough at times.” Anders SG agrees. “So definitely, like Anders says, we needed a break and to take some time out.”
As the old saying goes ‘a rest is as good as a change’, but in an ever changing and evolving industry, if and when a successful group like Alphabeat does decide to return to the world of pop, they mustn’t expect anything to be the same as it was before…
“I don’t think anything is the same as it was when we were last doing this together as Alphabeat!” Anders B laughs. “I do remember Spotify launching and the beginning of streaming, but when you think about all of the different ways people now consume music, that’s when you realise that it has been a long time since we released an album… everything is completely different now. But what’s not different is what we, as Alphabeat, are doing, the basics and the meaning of what we do is the same.”
The decision to not chase trends and to stick to the formula they know and understand was a bold move, one of which Stine explains was something the band discussed at length, early on in the process of getting back together, “we very much decided that we were only going to focus on what Alphabeat are good at…”
“And let the record company worry about all the other stuff.” Anders SG interjects, as the group fall about laughing. “But to be serious though, with all of the changes since we were last doing this, one of the challenges of coming back together was ‘how are we going to be relevant now?’ And we we’re like ‘okay should we try to fit into the music scene of 2019 in terms of our sound?’ but we soon realised we just couldn’t do that, because it just wouldn’t work.”
“When we left each other in 2013 we didn’t know where to go creatively.” – Anders SG
Industry pressures and politics aside, we wonder how it feels for the band, all now in their 30’s, to be back in an environment they first stepped into back when they were teens?
“The 6 of us coming back together to really do this again, properly, meant we had to commit.” Anders B says firmly. “The whole point in taking a break in the first place was so that we could all find our own separate identities and create a life for ourselves outside of the band – those were two things that we didn’t really have back then because we had grown up together in Alphabeat.”
“And it’s been great (to take a break) because I know we’ve all gotten to a point where we where we feel pretty good about ourselves, our lives and what we’re doing as individuals.”
After The ‘Vacation’
“It was a very natural beginning, us coming back together.” Stine tells us as we talk more about the process of Alphabeat reforming after such a long hiatus.
“Anders SG and I had been fooling around with some music, and we asked Stine to come to the studio where we were working.” Anders B explains. “There was no pressure, we just wanted her to try out this one song. So we did the session and we really had a good time, and it was that moment, well for the three of us at least, where we thought this could totally be something, this could work – the track, the vibe… it sounded like our band.”
“Yeah, I loved the ideas that the guys (Anders SG and Anders B) had come up with.” Stine adds. “Doing it made sense to me because it was all about the music… it was the music and the songs that pulled us back in and brought us back together.”
As the three friends take a moment to reflect on that special day in the studio, a time before any real conversation or thought of the band making a comeback had taken place, they can’t help but smile at one another – their joy, natural bond and genuine friendship evident for all to see.
“Everything just made sense which was a great feeling because when we left each other in 2013 we didn’t know where to go creatively.” Anders SG admits candidly. “There was a spark there and our ideas just flowed. As I said before we’d talked about how our a band like ours could be relevant in 2019, and in those early days back in the studio we felt like instead of changing our sound it was more like us saying ‘okay, maybe we can do something with our lyrics that we haven’t done before and in that way we can make it fresher and more relevant to now.’ That’s been our biggest change, the lyrics are a little bit different.”
“We’ve taken a huge step forward lyrically on this album” Stine says proudly. “We’re braver now to write more personal lyrics and songs – that feels really good.”
Lyrically more introspective this time around, the band have definitely grown as artists, musicians and maybe more importantly, as individuals during their time apart, exploring more personal and prevalent themes. – CelebMix review of
‘Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore’
‘The Right Thing’
Now at ease and excited by the prospect of working together as a band again, the group threw all they had at creating brand new music for Alphabeat, in the hopes of creating a brand new kind of magic.
“Anders SG and I had been working on this one particular song.” Anders B recalls. “We kept developing it and coming up with new ideas of what we wanted to do with it, and all of a sudden I just has this feeling that it was everything an Alphabeat song should be in 2019.”
“It was a bit like having an epiphany.” Anders SG explains. “It was really just like ‘wait, if we can make this work and we get this amazing feeling from playing this one song, on an acoustic guitar, then we’re onto something good.’ It was an exciting feeling… I’ll never forget it.”
The song in question evolved into track 6 on the album ‘Sometimes’ – a glorious, unifying track rich in sentiment, complete with honest yet uplifting lyrics signalling a coming back together of sorts, following a period of time spent away from the life you once knew… very much reflecting Anders SG, Stine Bramsen, Anders B, Rasmus Nagel, Anders Reinholdt and Troels Hansen coming back to revisit Alphabeat.
Sometimes life is easy, sometimes it’s hard
But I’m still strong and I’m ready to start
So if you’re coming around, don’t pass me by
Just come and see me… sometimes.
Stronger Together: ‘The Fantastic 6’
Despite finding creative-clarity and a new sense of energy and purpose following the writing and recording of ‘Sometimes’, Anders B, Anders SG and Stine are the first to admit it hasn’t all been plain sailing working on the new record as, like all of us too, they have experienced moments of insecurity and self-doubt.
“There have been times where we’ve wondered to ourselves ‘is this going to fit into the market now?’ or ‘will it get played on the radio?’” Anders SG reveals. “But having that comfort of being around one another helps to reassure us and we can say to each other ‘hey look its cool, let’s just continue with what we’re doing here, because it feels right’ Sometimes that feeling of doubt can make you turn around and stop you in your tracks if you’re on your own.”
Stine nods in agreement: “if this was me releasing another solo album, I think I’d feel completely differently… well I know I would! Being with 5 other people I don’t feel as nervous – we’re so confident together as a group and we’re proud of what we’ve made. Of course I’m going to be annoyed if we get bad reviews but I’m still going to love the album, I’m always going to look back on it and be proud that we did it.”
On the topic of ‘reviews’ we can’t help but wonder how Alphabeat feel putting themselves back out there again to be judged by the industry after such a long time away…
“You can’t ignore it.” Stine says matter of factly.
“No, you can’t” Anders B agrees. “But it also depends who it is, if it’s somebody who you totally respect and you know they know what they’re talking about, it can get to you if they don’t like it. The alarm bells in your head start to ring and you think ‘maybe we didn’t get it right’ or ‘maybe what we thought was good isn’t’ – or maybe we just weren’t clear enough in what we were trying to do. But listen, we’ve never even a ‘critics’ band. The funny thing about coming here to London in the beginning was that suddenly there were journalists and people taking our kind of music seriously – that was a big deal to us. We didn’t have that in Denmark.”
As the Queen of Alphabeat, and the eternal picture of perfect poise and glamour, Stine sums things up perfectly when she says “whatever anyone says, we just have to dig deep and trust in what we do. We know we now have a good process of working together, and there’s a good feeling between us about everything we do and we’re happy, we’re really happy.”
A Family Affair
So when you’ve made an album you’re really proud of, but you still need some sort of reassurance that what you’ve created is up to par, who better to turn to than your nearest and dearest for honest and constructive feedback?
“My Mum – oh, she really knows!” Anders SG laughs. “She has a good ear for hits, so when I play her something and she’s like ‘no, not that one’, that’s it, game over, it’s not going on the album!”
“She’s such a harsh critic but that’s great – your Mum will always be honest and tell you how she feels, and we need that.” Anders B jokes. “If it’s your friend, they’ll be more polite and they will find something good to say because they don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you exactly what they think, so it’s important to have people around us that will always be honest.”
“I put ‘I Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore’ on one day and played it to my eldest son without telling him it was our song.” Anders SG tells his bandmates. “I put it on repeat a couple of times and I noticed that he started singing a-long to it which I thought was a good sign.”
Stine agrees “yeah if you play a song for a child, and they can sing it back to you you know you’re onto something good. Actually do you remember that video we saw on Instagram? It was a 1 year old kid, was doing the ‘whoo ah-ah’ from ‘Shadows’ – it was great.”
Alphabeat: Our favourite songs…
As I listen back to the album as a whole now it’s done, I think maybe the last 4 or 5 songs are my personal favourites, with ‘Sometimes’ being my absolute favourite.
It’s a really special song to us, it’s emotional, it’s warm – it’s about experiencing both sides of success, on an obvious level and relating to what we’re experiencing right now, which of course is a great feeling, but it’s also about that feeling of what it’s like when success fades.
If I had to chose one it would be ‘The Answer’ because it totally ignited my love of singing again.
I’ll be honest, at some points in our career I had moments where I didn’t really feel like singing anymore, like when we made our second album we made a lot of songs with Stine taking lead because I just wanted to keep a low profile and be in the background, but this time around I definitely feel differently.
The whole feel and sound of the track is a vibe that we haven’t really explored before. It takes its time, it develops – we did our own gospel backing vocals, which really elevated and made the song and I really like that.
I’m gonna go with the last song on the album ‘I’d Rather Die’ because I think it’s such an unexpected style and song for Alphabeat, and an un-expecting end to any pop album for that matter – I’m quite proud that we’re doing that.
I love the whole folk vibe of it and that it’s not filtered, it’s got a camp fire feeling to it – in some ways we really went back to our roots with that song, so that’s why it’s one of my favourites on the album.
(A) ‘Brand New Day’
As the band reflect on their past and how far they’ve come as individuals during their hiatus, to be back in London, talking about their brand new album – their gratitude and appreciation for what they are shines through.
“We definitely appreciate things much more now.” the ever graceful Stine says. “It’s a huge privilege to be able to actually live your dream, and to be able to say ‘my passion is my job’ – and you don’t always walk around remembering that when you’re younger because it takes a lot of hard work, you’re always very busy and you’re tired. But we now have balance, because we’re happy people at home and happy people at work and I don’t think we always had that before.”
“It’s a huge privilege to be able to actually live your dream.” – Stine
“It feels like we’re starting again in every possible way. Doing promo again and interviews, it feels completely new and we really appreciate all of the people we meet who are into the band – we’re really grateful for that, so we make sure we’re more present now, especially on stage.” Anders SG admits. “This time around, I just really love playing live.”
A point of which a now animated Anders B agrees: “when you get back from the audience what you’re giving and that energy just gets bigger and bigger – I love that! And that’s definitely something I’m more aware of now compared to when I was younger. I appreciate it so much.”
“That moment in a concert where you start a song,” Stine smiles. “And you see all those faces in the audience, and they just love the moment as much as you… it’s in those magical moments where you feel like you have a really privileged life.”
‘The Beat Don’t Stop!’
As we finish our interview, pack up our belongings and leave Soho House, we can’t help but smile.
When you’re in the presence of any of the members of Alphabeat, you’re witness to a tangible chemistry that simply cannot be described. There’s genuine warmth, joy and gratitude that radiates from each one of them as they relish being back together not only as bandmates but as friends also.
This feeling and sense of togetherness is captured perfectly on their new album – with it’s mix of uptempo, out and out pop bangers and more self-reflective, introspective mid-tempos bops and ballads.
Achieving their goal of wanting to create a body of work that musically paid homage to their late 00’s pop sound, but that was lyrically more mature empowering to their audience – Don’t know What’s Cool Anymore is EVERYTHING a pop album should be in 2019… Alphabeat, welcome back – we’ve missed you!