Impose contributor Dale W. Eisinger caught up with RØSENKØPF last week to discuss the origins of the band and its identity in hardcore and punk music. The band's self-titled debut is streaming below, in all its synthesized, gutteral growl and shredding glory.
I couldn’t find much info about you all. How did this band start?
Søren Røi: I had just gotten out of playing in punk bands and was sort like a little over playing in punk bands, and I think Saira was over playing in punk bands as well. I wanted to do something different and just wanted to do recordings on my own and simply asked Saira if she wanted to play bass over what I was doing. At that time, we were using just a drum machine. Really simple drum machine. So we did that and recorded a tape with it.
Saira Huff: And Emil used to practice here with his other band and said, “I want to play with you guys.”
Emil Bøgnar-Nasdør: I remember this was the first band I ever asked to be in. I heard the demo and I was blown away by this one bass line. And soon after that we played our first show.
SR: From the time Saira and I started playing to when we played our first show was about a year I think. We recorded another tape with Emil and that was the one people started responding to. Then we played at one of the Wierd Records nights that they do and that’s when Pieter [Schoolwerth] from the label started talking to us and eventually asked us to do the record.
Sound pretty easy and organic.
SR: I was happy that Pieter wanted to put out the record because I was a fan of Wierd Records and Weird Night and stuff. And when I was writing this stuff, I had maybe that kind of thing in mind, what he usually puts out. I was trying to imitate that a little bit. The final product of what we ended up sounding like I didn’t think was that close to that. I didn’t think he would even want to put out the record. That wasn’t really the goal.
People are obviously saying things like hardcore or aggressive music or extreme music, in relation to this record. So how do you not have an agenda when you approach this?
SH: This is like the softest band I’ve ever been in, like times ten. As far as I’m concerned it’s not hardcore at all, but probably coming from those roots.
EBN: It’s a release. It’s expression. I think the weirdest part now—there have been a couple interview things—like a little bit of hype, if we can say that, is to not think about those things, which is a weird thing. I’ve never been in those shoes. I don’t think any of us have really been to this level. So to make sure that doesn’t fuck up the “purity” or your organic-ness and not make that a part of your process in composing, just to still do whatever you want to do.
SR: And I don’t think that anyone has tried to pigeonhole us into any genre. I mean, when I have read what people have described us as, I think it’s pretty funny. Because obviously people will say whatever it is, but the fact is when we did it we didn’t have an agenda of sounding like anything. So whatever people want to say is fine. Even if they have criticism on it, it’s fine. If they say the song is good but it’s too long, or this thing goes on too long… I guess it’s one of those things where when you really do something for yourself it’s like, “Ok, you think that, that’s fine.” I’m not even talking about people liking it or not liking it. It’s just whatever…
This is a discussion I see myself having with artists more and more these days. How genre limits things in this day.
SH: Yeah genres are limiting. I’ve always hated that about bands that are too definitive. Or anything. Any sort of artform or design or whatever. If you can identify their influences too easily, I think they’re not really exploring or experimenting enough.
SR: I think there are times when we’ll come up—not sure I can pick a specific moment— like that totally sounds like this kind of thing. We won’t deny that but we won’t not go into that on purpose. But then we’ll cut that. Like, how do we bring in another element so people don’t just associate.
EBN: I like this personal mantra which is: “There are no good genres only good bands.” And that leaves it open to whatever you want. Genres are just copies of good bands in my opinion. Kind of based around that, just whatever sounds cool is cool music.
Why do you think bands and communities put themselves in pockets in the past?
SH: I think a lot of it is insecurity. People need to be identified as something because they are afraid to stand alone and be what they want to be. It’s hard if you don’t have a backup, you need to define what you’re doing as good or abnormal or different.
SH: Especially in a city like this where you have to have a little group to stay sane with. It’s hard to be alone here, standing alone. And it’s hard anywhere. But really in a more congested place, you need some sort of identity. I think people just join a clan. Safety in numbers kind of thing. And it’s easy. You don’t have to think. You just do what everybody else is doing. Some good comes out of it but usually it’s pretty predictable.
EBN: I think a big important part of music and finding your sound or whatever is like really digging into yourself super hard, really getting to the most honest place within you, which has to take some ignorance of what else is going on as well. A combination of knowing your shit that’s happened and also not giving a fuck and just paying attention to the vibrations that are coming out of you. That will inevitably be your personality and your instrument and your style. There are some cool bands coming out that have their own thing because they are worried about having their own thing. Or strange conceptual borders, instead of emulating a band, it’s striking a border that you can break out of, but you can always return to this border. A good friend of ours, Ben in Crazy Spirit—they’re an amazing stylized band because they have one drum beat basically that they always connect back to. And it really connects them because they really pre-thought that in. They don’t really sound like anyone else because they have this formula that was more a conceptual thing.
So do you find it strange that people are reacting to it at all?
SR: Minblowing in a way. I think we’re all, you know… any weird press or anything that we’ve been offered or given is probably more than any of us has ever gotten in the past or expected for this band.
SH: I’ve played underground punk music from like ’95. Back then, it would have like been an insult to get the press that this band has gotten. It’s really nice that it’s just open and weird. But it’s different and nice to have someone notice it. For me it’s like, “what does it mean?”
SR: We’re all still trying to figure out how to open ourselves to that.
It seems like you are confident in what you’re doing to the point that if no one noticed it wouldn’t matter. But if you had seen something about your band on Spin in ’95 you would have been offended?
SH: Yeah because it would have meant I wasn’t playing hardcore enough.
Has the role of hardcore changed do you think?
EBN: Yeah now that shit’s all over Vice and Spin…
SH: Yeah but I would have been pissed. But with this where there actually is no agenda, it’s flattering to an extent.
So what do you think the role of hard or aggressive or dark or punk or whatever music is these days? Where is it situated in the culture if something like this band can be in the mainstream music press?
SR: I mean aggressive, I don’t know so much about that. I don’t know if I would consider us an aggressive band. We’re not aggressive people. I think maybe powerful is a better word that I would hope people would associate with us. Aggressive maybe because of the vocals or the heavy distortion on stuff. But all that stuff can be taken into a different context. I mean Jesus and Mary Chain used so much of those heavy elements and I wouldn’t consider that aggressive at all. All these things in breaking apart, if you took all the elements and separated them it wouldn’t really be aggressive. The vocals I think are maybe the thing that do put it off on the aggressive side. But what we’re singing about is not in that vein. The reason we did the vocals as screaming is that that’s what I’d done in other bands. I’d tried singing on our first demo tape and it just didn’t sound right.
EBN: Heavy music has become so big. All the ‘00s, nerdy shit with like a hundred different time signatures. That’s really aggressive music and twelve-year-olds listen to that when they listen to video games. The bar line is really high for what heavy and hard music is now. Punk is pretty light compared to some of the really fucking tech-ed out mind melting stuff.
SR: Punk can be more aggressive though.
EBN: That’s where we’re raw. It’s more about action. On that level it’s way more aggressive. Just sonically, and with vibration even recording quality has gotten so crazy, you listen to some shit and it’s just like, woah. That is really intense. I don’t really vibe with that shit but that recording is really getting inside of me.
You’re evaluation of punk next to tech metal as one being rawer, more visceral and one being more cerebral makes me think of a Bukowski quote: “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” The line of aggression is almost invisible. I mean I go to a technical metal show these days and I can get bored.
EBN: Super bored.
SH: Sure you can play incredibly well, but there’s no style.
EBN: I also heard a Bukowski quote recently. There is a big difference between trying and just doing. And to boast about us for a second, I think the honesty comes from just doing. We’re not trying.
SH: We couldn’t have tried. We would have needed a formula and we didn’t have one.
RØSENKØPF's self-titled debut is out now on Wierd.