Talking about the French- Finnish duo’s new album, musical transcendence, manga and heroism with Olivia Merilahti of The Dø.
Shake Shook Shaken hit #1 on the overall Album Chart on iTunes in France and will be dropping on January 27th in the United States. What are your expectations for the album in the states?
Well it’s great for us to have a release that is not too late compared to the previous one. The French release was at the end of September, so the end of January seems like a good time and the rest of the world is great! I’m just looking forward to come and play in the US. It’s not like we have expectations, but we just hope that people are going to like it and there are great things with the music.
When you’re performing, would you say you notice any differences between the European and American music scenes?
The difference between the US and the English scene is that there are so many good bands and the standards are very high. The bands all play very well, everyone has a really good project and the conditions are difficult, so it makes everything a lot more demanding.
Whereas in France, we have a certain concept for bands and we have some venues for concerts. Sometimes there are good conditions, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for anyone… that’s the difference.
But it is just great to easily meet very, very good musicians.
I’ve only been to Europe a couple of times and from going to shows, I’ve noted some of the different environments and I think it’s great that you are able to transcend cultures and come in and make it work.
Yeah, and it even applies to English. I guess we still have a European identity somewhere, and I’m becoming more and more aware of that now, but the idea is not to make music like the English or the Americans would. We are making music like the French and Finnish people that we are. We are making music that will transcend borders and I think that has been the vision for us… to make it global.
And it seems like you guys are well on your way. You have a fan base that spans to all areas…
Yeah, it’s great to see that people come to the shows and to get great responses from different countries.
I’ve read that on this album, you exposed yourselves to a lot of hip hop and club music while writing it. Was there a specific artist that you formed a connection with or you feel maybe served as a small part of your creative inspiration?
We were really blown away when we discovered Die Antwoord… we were really blown away. I think maybe it’s the thing that they’re a duet as well, but they’re doing the music that we will never do. They gave us some sort of a kick and I think we wanted to get away from maybe a little too intellectual indie music scene now, which we don’t really feel a part of. That maybe despite the freedom that we have in our music, maybe we were a little bit stuck in there.
And I think there’s an energy, a range we like about them. They’re very original as well, and they’re doing their own thing – like their own videos, that make it a very personal project. We are very influenced by them in a general way and I think they were quite present throughout the process.
And I can see you sort of fitting into that scene here in the states. When I first listened to the album, that’s where my mind went. To me, it was a good fit, the indie scene where you can do what you love and not be confined by any category.
That’s what’s great about pop music. You don’t have to stick to any rules, which is sometimes even a little scary because you are so free to do whatever you want. But, it’s important to have some boundaries and we set them ourselves. Like with this one, we had a certain vision and a goal we wanted to achieve and to go through and that was really important throughout. And I think that is why we decided not to use instruments that we had used before. We used the less traditional instruments and a lot more retro instruments that we never thought we would ever use for our songs . It’s great!
And how was the production process this time around? Did you Dan collaborate together in the studio at the same time or do your separate thing and then merge together at the end? How did it all work out for you?
Well, the first month was sorta more of the creative process. We worked as much as possible on our own in our own studios (I have mine at home and Dan has his own) and then we shared ideas and sent each other demos and beats, lyric ideas or melodies and images… so that was the first step. And then we got together when we felt ready and right in the studio. We decided not to spend too much time together recording the foundations of the songs. We really tried to spend like two or three days on recording and just trying to catch the energy and motion at the same time. We didn’t want to get carried away by being in the studio with all new ideas.
Sometimes in the studio, you can rebuild and reshape the song over and over again, so we really tried not to do that at the beginning. It still took us quite a while to do this album because we recorded a lot of other tracks that we didn’t keep for this album… but that was basically the process.
That’s great so that you could just run with your ideas. Some of the themes for this album were that you wanted to create an epic- sounding record that was centered on heroism, comedy and manga. Could you expand on those themes and how they all tie in together?
I’m obsessed with manga – I love manga, and I think it is the thing that inspires me the most. Usually Japanese graphics of 1970’s Japan – like photography and manga – feed me during the writing of an album. For this album, I watched Akira (the anime version) and I was completely blown away by it and I wanted to capture its energy in the album. There’s something a little psychedelic and a sense of heroism about it, like mixing something like Akira with James Bond, that fascinated me. I just realized that the other day… I guess we were looking for a higher something that is not too far from religion or something sacred. But I guess it is just one of those things that happens when two people are in the studio so long and you feel so alone and you don’t really know why you are doing this. And then with people coming in and out of the studio sometimes, it’s hard to feel alive in the studio, but I think it’s just a way to feel such power.
And I’ve also grew up listening to Queen and Freddy Mercury and there is just something very triumphant and heroic about it that I like. It’s almost a little cheesy, but I didn’t mind and these were things that I lived with.
All of those elements transform well onto the album and the combination make it a fun experience to see and hear the album performed live. You’ve acquired a sort of reputation for putting on some very fun and high energy shows, but how is a typical live performance?
Well, for this one, it is going to be quite different than the shows used to be on the previous tour. We’ve changed a bit… we’ve had 3 people on stage and then 4, 5 and 6… we’ve just been very versatile and different. With this one, we started the tour with 4 on stage and a set of electronic drums. We have Mariel playing the synth and backing vocals and Sebastian who is playing the guitar, the bass and keyboard. We have a hybrid set up and there is a fifth musician joining us in January. I think it requires all of them to play these tones and there’s a huge focus on the melody and the beat, obviously.
I’m glad that we were able to incorporate all of the obsessions that I’ve had for throughout the recording process like manga and heroism so we can have them on stage. We are still writing the story around it and we still have a lot of work to do, but the energy is there. I think the main difference is that we tried to stick to the original versions because we used to change them very very early into the tour, and change their shape, and change it all – because being two in the studio and then suddenly being a band of five or six people is just too tempting not to change it around in all different sorts of ways.
It sounds like your upcoming shows are going to be a lot of fun and I hope you come to LA sometime soon. Do you have any big plans for a North American tour?
For now, I think around Spring we’ll be around.