Following a six-year self-imposed hiatus, Danish power pop supergroup Alphabeat made their triumphant return to the charts earlier this year with release of their long-awaited comeback single Shadows.
Playful, catchy and kitsch – the anthemic track with it’s sing-along chorus and soaring melody saw the groups distinctive, classic sound elevated to a whole new level, leaving both music critics and fans falling over themselves with excitement to see, and hear, more from the band they’d missed so very much.
Teenage, In The Pace Age!
Formed as teens in the mid 2000’s, a time when indie/rock guitar bands and anti-industry solo artists ruled the music world – ‘pop’ was all of a sudden considered a dirty word… but against all the odds the 6 piece collective, with their retro 1980s melodic indie-pop sound, managed to break out in a BIG way following the release of their debut single Fascination in 2008.
Subsequent singles 10,000 Nights Of Thunder, Boyfriend, The Spell and DJ along with albums Alphabeat, The Spell and Express Non-Stop catapulted the band into the pop stratosphere, selling millions of records and performing sold out shows and legendary music festivals across the globe.
But after working solidly together as a band for over seven years, Anders SG, Stine Bramsen, Anders B, Rasmus Nagel, Anders Reinholdt and Troels Hansen decided they needed a break, and in 2013 announced they would be taking some time out to pursue individual projects, leaving a giant power house pop shaped whole in the heart of Alphabeat fans the world over.
But that was then and this is now, and with the release of their latest single ‘I Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore’ and album of the same name (minus the ‘I’), Alphabeat are officially back!
“We’ve only been in London an hour or so, but it feels so good; we’re genuinely excited to be here.” lead singer Stine tells us as we catch up backstage at the BBC Building in White City, London ahead of the bands much anticipated performance on The Graham Norton Show last night (September 27th). “It’s a big deal for us to be doing Graham Norton.” Anders SG adds. “Even back in Denmark, people know about this show, so it’s a big moment in our career at this point.”
As we settle down to chat more about their new single and album, and what it’s really like to be back together having been away from one another for so many years, it’s clear to see just how much the bands two lead singers are relishing their second time around on the pop merry go round…
It’s been six years now since you decided to take a break from Alphabeat, as you launch the campaign for your latest single and fourth studio album, how does it feel to be back in full on promo mode as a fully functioning band?
Stine: It’s great! Busy, but really great – honestly, we missed each other.
Anders SG: Yeah, we really missed each other, so we’re really grateful to be back doing this again! We’re having fun and we love being here in London, it’s like a second home to us so we’re very happy to be here.
The old saying goes “a change is as good as a rest”, on reflection do you think that taking such a long break has been the thing that’s enabled you to come back and work together again writing, creating and releasing new music?
Stine: The break was what we needed for sure! We didn’t want to bury Alphabeat completely but we did need some time out in order to keep our creative spark alive.
Anders SG: We’d been together since we were 15/16 years old, we were a band going at full speed for about a good ten years so all of us needed to venture off into the world and get some new experiences as individuals.
Stine: Our teens and our early 20’s we spent together, I know a lot of groups say it but we really did grow up together, so to have some time to ourselves to just breathe a little was what we needed, so that we felt like we wanted to comeback, and we wanted to spend time together again as friends and as a band.
Anders SG: Everything we learnt during our time away, we’ve brought back and put it into the Alphabeat – it’s what we hoped would happen (by taking a break) and luckily it did.
What did you miss most during your time away from the world of pop?
Stine: Well, I was off doing my own solo stuff which I obviously enjoyed, but I did really miss being part of a group and being with a gang of people where I could discuss things with and it wasn’t all just up to me to decide what was supposed to happen and when. There’s a lot of power and energy of having 6 people together as a collective.
Anders SG: I agree. And because we all have the same goals and the same high energy, when we walk out onto the stage together there’s this special vibe between the 6 of us… it’s hard to describe, but there’s a magic that ignites and it’s something that we cherish a lot. That’s what I think I missed the most.
Stine: We definitely feel more confident and powerful together.
So was it quite a natural process coming back together and working as a musical group again?
Anders SG: Yes but being away from each other has definitely made us work in a different way now. We approach the songwriting process completely differently because earlier on in our career we wrote the songs individually but now me, Stevie and Anders B we write a lot of the tunes together and that’s given us so much new inspiration, motivation and energy – it’s a new time for us.
Stine: We’ve come back feeling like we had something to offer musically. Being in the studio is where we want to be, we want to be writing songs.
Anders SG: We’ve been on a creative streak over the last year, year and a half – we’ve been writing so many tunes and it’s been easy writing together again.
Stine: It has been yes I agree, and may I add, I am very honoured to be welcomed into the songwriting group.
Looking forward to the here and now, you’ve got your new single ‘I Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore‘ and new album coming out soon, what can you tell us about writing that song?
Stine: Well, we’d actually finished the album, but we had a few more days left in the studio and time to write a few more songs and I don’t know, just one morning we started to talk about all of the ‘cool kids’ that we’d see out and about and we thought ‘oh my God – what is going on?’ We saw this one guy who was definitely cool, he’s a known songwriter in Denmark, and on that particular day he was wearing a bicycle helmet.
Anders SG: But he was wearing it as an accessory. He hadn’t brought his bike with him to the studio, he was just wearing it because he could, and I looked at everyone in the room and I said ‘I don’t know what’s cool anymore’ – and all of a sudden there was this spark of energy and we said ‘we should write a song about that.’
The music video, which premiered this week, looked like it was a lot of fun to shoot – 10 years on, how did you all feel about being back in front of the camera and how did you go about creating a concept for the video that would compliment the song?
Anders SG: Well we have two guys in the band who have made a lot of music videos for other artists – so we wanted them to make our videos as well because in all honesty we just feel really comfortable around them and it’s made the process a lot easier because we don’t need a lot of people on set – it’s kind of like just us doing a video together on our own and having fun and I hope people can see that.
Stine: Really it’s about trying to do what we do live on stage at one of our concerts, and putting that into a video. It’s really full on, and fun, and we enjoy it.
Anders SG: Yeah, it wasn’t really about creating a concept, it was more about getting that vibe into the video. We always like to convey the chemistry that the 6 of us have together to our audience and the people watching. It’s important that we keep that especially when the cameras are rolling.
In many ways the track is about not trying to be something that you’re not, and as there’s no real definition of what it means to be cool, we all just need to embrace who we are at this moment in our lives…
Stine: Exactly! And that’s a great feeling actually… well, it’s a weird, funny feeling but yeah you’re right, being able to say something like ‘I don’t know what’s cool anymore’ out loud and be okay with it is quite liberating! I’d like to say to people, just be okay with that feeling. And that message is what the essence of Alphabeat is all about really – we never tried to be cool, we never tried to sound like what was current or follow trends or what was in fashion, we just did our thing… and we’re still doing that now.
Anders SG: I think people our age can relate to that feeling of not really knowing what’s cool anymore. When you’re dealing with feelings like that on your own it’s hard, but we’ve always found it easy to be confident about ourselves because as a band every time we’ve questioned something like this, we’ve bounced ideas off each other and been there to back each other up, which I think is pretty ‘cool’.
“Being able to say something like ‘I don’t know what’s cool anymore’ out loud and be okay with it is quite liberating!” – Stine
As you say, Alphabeat as a band have never been ones to follow the crowd or succumb to what’s considered the ‘trend’ of now, but was there ever a point in the first phase of your career where you felt a pressure to stay ‘trendy’ and relevant within the music industry?
Stine: I’m sure at some point we’ve felt that kind of pressure yeah, because the more you’re in the music ‘business’ the more you think about the marketing and the image of your band and how you’re going to be perceived by the public, but in the beginning all you’re thinking about is the music.
And how about now in 2019?
Stine: Well, it’s definitely different this time around. But because we’ve had this long break away we’ve really been able to think about ‘what is the heart of Alphabeat?’ So now we make sure we stick to our gut feeling and trust our instincts – which is a great feeling.
‘Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore’ is your first album back in over seven years, what’s the feeling within the band as we approach its release date?
Anders SG: Excitement, nerves… but we’re happy, we love what we’ve created.
How was it going back into the studio this time around?
Anders SG: We’ve done things completely differently this time around.
Stine: Yeah, the last two albums we’re very much made on computers and it would be certain members of the band who would drive things forward. Now it’s important for us to all share our individual ideas, from listening to little demos and going back to our roots a little bit by playing songs on a guitar, singing and even jamming a little bit! (laughs) We’ve joked a that we were never really a ‘jamming band’ but now we really are like a little jamming band!
Anders SG: We just really wanted to keep it organic. The songs sound like classic Alphabeat because it’s us playing them, it’s us writing them – the songs are us. We made that decision early on in the process that we didn’t want to get too caught up in using computers, we wanted to write some really really good songs and then just go into the studio and record them.
Stine: We were adamant that the energy had to feel genuine and that we had to try and get that Alphabeat energy across in the songs so that when people hear it they have to feel that we enjoyed recording it.
Are there any stand out tracks on the album that you’re extra excited for people to hear?
Anders SG: Oh every single one! We were just talking about this and we couldn’t say just one of them you know?
Stine: Yeah, we’re really very proud of what we’ve made together. It’s been a great experience. I do want to mention one song on the album though, it’s called ‘Sing A Song’ and it’s kind of a new area for us to experiment in, because it’s a song about our story and how it all started for us, reflecting on when things have been difficult… it’s kind of like our autobiography – and it’s definitely a new level to Alphabeat that I really enjoy, and I love that we’ve been mature enough and brave enough to do a song like that this time around.
Anders SG: Earlier on in our career we would make songs sometimes with words that we thought maybe sounded cool, whereas now it’s a lot more personal and every song on the new album is special to us – we’ve used our life stories more and more and turned them into the songs. We’ve written a song about climate change, there are a lot of different vibes on there and like I said earlier it’s us playing the songs so even though they are all a little bit different – it all fits together and works.
“We’ve done things completely differently this time around.” – Anders SG
So once the album is released, the next step will be to take these songs on the road and play them live to your fans, that must be a pretty exciting prospect?
Stine: We’re very excited about it! We’ve been rehearsing already, we have some shows in Denmark before we come back to the UK so we’re going to be super ready for our fans over here in April.
As well as the new songs, which of your back catalogue are you most looking forward to revisiting and modernising for audiences in 2020?
Stine: We have so many songs and we genuinely love them all. With the big hits, we’ve played them so many times now but to still get that whole sing along vibe with the audience is incredible! I love it, but every once in a while, when you play a song that is an album track or something that not many people have heard before, and they know the words and sing it back to you… it’s overwhelming.
Stine: Obviously we’re always going to love ‘Fascination’ and what it did for us, it started everything… it’s a time in our lives that we’re definitely going to be telling our Grandchildren about.
In the pop landscape, seven years is considered to be a life time away from the industry, coming back after such a long break, what have been some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed as you delve back into the business?
Stine: Streaming is a big one!
Anders SG: And social media. Being able to make and have that straight, direct contact with your fans is incredible. When we went back on Instagram and wrote ‘vacation is over’ the instant feedback we got from all over the world was amazing! Hearing that they had missed us was so nice and a huge motivation – we love that instant feedback.
Stine: We were so relieved to get that response – it felt like people have really been waiting for this moment and for us to come back. And it’s not just online that we get that feedback, we were in London recently and we played a gig and honestly, it was a night that we’re never going to forget – it was so overwhelming; the energy in that room was crazy.
Anders SG: Oh, it was amazing! We played some of the new songs and it just felt so right because people we’re so open to it. They were the perfect audience because they didn’t just focus on our singles they knew every word to every album track that we performed that night – I’ve never seen or felt like that before.
Stine: It’s not often you see Alphabeat cry we all did have a little tear that night.
Also whilst you’ve been away, a whole new wave of artists and bands have come on the scene, are there any in-particular that you’ve been excited or inspired by?
Anders SG: Well in many ways we really detached from what was happening in the charts, because we didn’t want it to influence the kind of music we were making in the studio. But I love Ed Sheeran – I think he’s probably the worlds greatest songwriter at the moment. Mike Posner is really cool, we really like his songwriting – he inspired us to write more personal songs on this record.
Stine: I love Miley – her new song is great. I love her entire change of influences and image, it’s inspiring to me. She seems to have really found herself.
So we’ve got the single, the album, the tour… you’re going to be pretty busy for the next 12 months, how do you feel now looking into the future of Alphabeat?
Anders SG: Yeah, we’re going to be pretty busy aren’t we? (laughs) But it feels great, it feels like this is going to be a really, really special time for us.
Stine: The break that we took really helped us. We know now what makes Alphabeat really great – we’re a band that makes pop music and makes people happy! We’re excited for what’s to come.