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Danish quintet Oh No Ono has at last made a splash on this side of the Atlantic with the recent worldwide release of their sophomore album, Eggs. The band debuted live in the U.S. in January, opening a sold-out show for Bear in Heaven at New York’s Mercury Lounge while selling out their own headline gig at Union Hall the following night, and they’ve just had a successful return to the city for a couple of shows in March following South By Southwest.

Sublimely surreal and textured, Dali-esque even, Eggs is an enchanting collection of melodic and brilliantly trippy songs, one of those records that quickly becomes addictive as it demands repeat listenings. It’s a rather psychedelic blend of varied influences (particularly the more experimental stuff from 60s and 70s) with the band’s own inventive craftsmanship.

Oh No Ono is Malthe Fischer (guitars and lead vocals), Aske Zidore (guitars and vocals), Nis Svoldgård (bass and vocals), Kristoffer Rom (drums) and Nicolai Koch (keyboards and vocals). Now based in Copenhagen, the band formed in 2003 in Aalborg, Denmark, where all but one of the members are from originally. The average age in the group is 26.

I had the pleasure of spending a sunny spring morning catching up with front man Malthe Fischer in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, one of his favorite places in New York.

How did the band come together?
In 2003 I met Aske at a show — he was playing, and I was doing sound. We met again a few days later and both felt like we’d known each other all our lives. I knew Kristoffer and Kristian (Olsen, the band’s original keyboardist) from music school. After writing a lot of demos we rented a house as a rehearsal space. We made an EP in that house and then after a year and a half, we moved to Copenhagen. Nis joined the band when we worked on our debut album, Yes. After intense touring Kristian left the band, and Nicolai joined before we started recording Eggs.

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What are some of the things that inspire you?
I feel inspired just hanging around here, meeting people! But musically, I think the last couple of years I’ve been really into Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd. And actually a lot of new stuff as well, like Animal Collective, of course. The reason I said new is because for a long time I was only listening to 60s and 70s music, because I kind of thought that what was going on, like 10 years ago, was a bit boring. But for some reason it’s just changed. I really like Mew as well, and I think they did something that no one in Denmark had ever done before. They were the first indie band who kind of did their own thing; they showed that it’s possible to make music in Denmark and get it out there, and they made an international leap. Before Mew, the music scene in Denmark was like interpretations of what was happening outside, like a Danish Radiohead or a Danish Coldplay, and that was kind of boring. I also like My Bloody Valentine a lot, but that was more like 20 years ago. (We were debating the year of MBV’s release of Loveless when a stranger sitting nearby chimed in, saying it was 1991.)

In listening to your first album, Yes, some of the songs remind me a bit of some of the new wave and maybe synth-pop bands from the 1980s. On Eggs I hear more 60s and 70s influence, like The Beatles and Electric Light Orchestra.
We were listening a lot to Talking Heads and Devo, and stuff like that. I think it (the first album) was alright, but I think it could have been better if we’d put a bit more time into it. We recorded for only two or three months, maybe. (The band spent considerably more time on Eggs, recording much of it on the Danish island of Møn over a period of nine months.) On Eggs I guess there’s some element of 70s, I don’t know if I want to call it prog, but like early Genesis. I don’t really know ELO that well [laughs].

I’m curious about the progression of the style from the first album to the second.
It was a while, like three years from the first to the second, and I think that we just wanted to do something else. Things just changed. If we’d made a record a year later, maybe you could have seen some kind of journey. But it seems a bit weird because we didn’t release anything for three years and then came something completely different. But I don’t think the next release will be like Eggs.

I recently saw a video clip of Oh No Ono performing The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which is the song that “Eleanor Speaks” tends to remind me of. Who in the band is the big Beatles’ fan, or is it all of you?
It’s all of us. Yeah, we played “Tomorrow Never Knows” for a long time, from our very first show (at the Pop Revo Festival in Århus, Denmark in 2004), until we started to make Eggs. Aske sang it. My three all-time favorite songs are “A Day in the Life,” “Strawberry Fields,” and “I am the Walrus.”

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Your first album was co-produced by Jesper Mortensen (of Junior Senior), but you self-produced Eggs. Why the decision to do it yourselves?
We did it ourselves because we could. We never really considered the option of having someone else produce it, though there was one point in time, maybe four months before we finished, when we were kind of lost and didn’t really know if it was too crazy [laughs]. We were kind of in doubt, because sometimes you don’t know what it would be like hearing the music for someone who didn’t know all the details going on. Then we did actually call Jesper and asked him if he wanted to hear some of it, and he wanted to, but it didn’t happen because the both of us were too busy. Morten Svenstrup from the band Under Byen helped with writing down some of the arrangements. We had a lot of the melodies, but he helped with organizing our ideas.

There are a lot of layers in the music, and we were a bit worried that it was a big mess. And it is a bit messy, but with headphones you can kind of hear a lot of the stuff going on. And that was kind of the idea, to make a whole big landscape of sound. Underneath the song there is always something going on, like a subconscious thing.

I have actually listened to it a lot with headphones, so I hear a lot of the layers. On the song “Beelitz,” there’s a sound that makes me think of the vibrating sound on my phone. Was that an actual phone, and what are some of the other field recordings you used?
No, I think that one was an electric screwdriver. There are a lot of things in that song – bats and cows, earthquakes, bees and crickets, a lot of insects. On the record we used a lot of field recordings – water, falling trees, broken glass, a lot of birds.

Where does the title “Beelitz” come from? I’m still not sure what that one is about, but the first time I heard it, I must have listened to it like 10 times in a row.
I love that! I don’t know what it’s about either [laughs]. Some of it is just… I don’t know, I guess I just like lyrics that don’t make sense necessarily. Like David Lynch movies! He’s one of my favorites and one of the guys who’s good at scaring me. The title comes from a place we went to in Berlin, an abandoned asylum for insane people. It was just a place we went to see, and we liked the name of it — it was called Beelitz [Sanatorium]. It hasn’t been used since the Russians were there, so it looked like… uhm, all the paintings on the wall were big squared Russian soldiers [laughs]. It was huge and kind of a scary place. It’s also a scary song, in a way, in a kind of Lynch-esque way.

“Helplessly Young” is one of the more straightforward songs, both the music and the words. “Internet Warrior” is my personal favorite. When I wrote it, I had a lot of faith in that song, I don’t know why, but I just thought it sounded new, because of the arrangements, whereas “Swim” sounds very old, like 50s maybe.

eggsI also love the artwork for Eggs — really cool and quite trippy. Was there a concept for the album, and where did the title come from?
The idea for the artwork came at the same time as the idea for the title. After we had done the record, we still didn’t have a title and were looking for one. And then when we were in Berlin, I was just sitting and writing a lot of O’s and putting our names in them. The booklet was done later by Malene Mattiasson, who is a friend of Aske’s wife, Pernille Nygaard.

How did you get the title, Eggs, from the O’s, was it because of the shape?
Yeah. The title for Yes was more like a word play with our name, but with Eggs, it was more like a visual word play. When you look at the white exterior cover, first you see a lot of circles, a shell, so then it made sense to kind of have the booklet be more like the yolk.

Musically, was there an intentional theme? It seems like the subject of water, in some form or another, comes up in a lot of the songs.
There’s definitely a water thing going on. But we didn’t write down a theme at the start. At first we kind of felt like we didn’t make Yes extreme enough, so with Eggs we wanted to take our ideas further out. So this time we spent a lot of time trying to combine different sounds and talking about the music with images. For instance, on “Swim” there’s water on the drums. With “Wave Ballet” we said this is like a submarine, and after the choir thing, you should kind of feel like you went under the surface.

I recently saw the video to “Swim.” How well do you think the video director’s concept suited the idea of the song?
It’s growing on me [laughs]. In the beginning I had some other ideas in my mind for a video. That video was actually shot for “Internet Warrior,” but after editing it, he found that it didn’t really fit that song, and he asked if he could do it for “Swim” instead. It was too slow and too realistic for “Internet Warrior.”

It was quiet interesting, especially with the scenes moving back and forth from the kid’s fantasy scenes to the reality of what was actually happening.
It was actually an experience the director, Adam Hashemi, had when he was young and went along to work with his mother who was working at a hospice. He saw one of the nurses faint, and I think maybe she died. But the whole kind of sexual aspect of the video is something he added. I like it. It’s kind of taboo-ish to talk about kids having sexual fantasies, even though they do.

Yes, somehow I don’t think it’s the same in Denmark, but here we like to think that sex never crosses the mind until you’re 25 or 30 and married, even though it’s kind of all over the place, which is a bit hypocritical.
That’s not the case in Denmark, it’s a bit more liberal. We were the first ones to legalize porn! [laughs] I guess people are maybe not that religious in Denmark. But it seems different in New York than in Texas. Although maybe Aalborg, the town where we come from, is sort of like – I’m not suggesting that it’s the same thing – but if you look different you’re kind of in trouble. But it’s not like that in Copenhagen. Most people who are into art or music will eventually move to Copenhagen, or abroad.

That’s another thing I wanted to ask about. The lyrics to “Practical Money Skills For Life” seem to be about getting out of Aalborg.
Yeah, probably [laughs]. I don’t know where that one came from, but the lyric “In this town, in this town, town, town,” … the whole thing happened when I was jamming with a drum machine, for half an hour, and the words just came. So, I don’t know, maybe it was some subconscious thing.

When did you move from Aalborg to Copenhagen?
In 2005. Aske was the first to move. Instead of doing military service, he was working at this great venue in Christiania called Loppen, where he met Jannis Noya Makrigiannis from Choir of Young Believers, who was working there as well. Aske was taking the train back to Aalborg a few times a week for practice. So we decided, and made a deal, that if he came back for a year, then we’d all move to Copenhagen together.

I read that to get out of the mandatory military service in Denmark that you had to declare conscientious objector status and still do some other kind of service work for a year. So working at a venue counts? Did any of you do the military service?
No, I was rejected — they couldn’t see me in the army! [laughs] I was happy about that. The way it works is you first go to the doctor, and if he thinks you’re alright for the army, then you have to go take a number. If you draw one of the army numbers, then you can say that you don’t want to do it and choose another kind of job for a year. If you draw a free number, then you don’t have to worry about it. A lot of people in Denmark would like to just get rid of that (conscription). We have a professional military anyway, people who want to do it, so it doesn’t make sense to force other people to do it.

Have any of you, in addition to Aske, been getting involved in doing remix work?
I don’t really do remixes; I did one, but I don’t think it was used. The Zambri girls (Cristi Jo and Jessica Zambri) did a really good job of remixing our song “Eleanor Speaks,” which is coming out on vinyl with the Caribou remix and some others, with the single version of “Internet Warrior” as the main track, like a single with a lot of remixes.

What is Oh No Ono’s songwriting process, is it a collaborative effort?
I’ve done most of the songwriting so far, and then Aske, but often we’ll put together pieces jointly, where one of us will do a verse and the other a chorus. We’re not much of a rehearsal/practice space band anymore for some reason, so we didn’t really think about how to play the songs live until after the record was done. But that is sometimes a bit annoying, because it’s kind of difficult to make the live song sound like the record, and then you wish that it was more simple and easier to play live.

I thought the live shows were incredible, and that the music translated really well from the record to concert. Are you planning much more touring for Eggs?
Yes, we have a European tour in May, some festivals in the summer, and maybe we’ll back here in August for a U.S. tour. But it’ll be more like playing the coasts, not all 50 states [laughs].

Touring the coasts makes sense! It seems that your audiences here, at least at the shows I’ve been to in New York, are usually a core group of fans who are really into the music. How do your audiences in the U.S. compare to those in Denmark?
I like that fact that people are a bit older here, the ones that go to our shows. Normally, in Denmark, the first rows would all be young girls, which is great [laughs].

For the concerts, the band members are always in quirky, colorful outfits. Are you working with a stylist at all?
No, we tried a few times to have a designer make some make some clothes for us to wear onstage. For instance, the second time we played at Roskilde, we had some kind of matching clothes, not exactly the same, but similar. But for this album, it hasn’t been a conscious decision. I don’t know why, maybe we just got tired of wearing matching clothes. I think we all just like finding interesting clothes – it’s not like there’s a national outfit for everyone in Denmark, though some people may think that [laughs].

It’s funny, not in a bad way, but a sort of cute coincidence that everyone in the band has big, curly hair, except Kristoffer, who has big straight hair (though now it’s a little less big).
In the beginning, it was just me and Aske with curls, and people were calling us the band with the curls. Then Nis came along, and we were a bit worried that it seemed like we were only choosing him because he had curls. Then Nicolai came along! We didn’t know him before. We’d asked friends if they knew anyone who could fit our band as the new keyboard player, and it was actually Jannis (COYB) who introduced us to Nicolai. When he came to meet us, we were kind of surprised that he also had the same sort of haircut and curly hair [laughs].

I find both the shows and the albums kind of uplifting, and they always put me in a good mood.
Yeah, that’s a good word, exactly what I feel about all of our music, from the first EP to Eggs. I just want it to be uplifting in a way. And sometimes something surprising or unexpected can be uplifting, like a chord change even. It’s essential me that our music makes me smile.

Eggs is out now on Friendly Fire Recordings (in the U.S.) and The Leaf Label (worldwide). –Teresa Sampson, top photo by Amanda Bashida, others courtesy of Pernille Nygaard

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  1. [...] latest from Danish psychedelic indie rockers Oh No Ono is the Internet Warrior EP, featuring a variety of remixes of tracks from the 2009 album, Eggs [...]

  2. [...] surreal and brilliantly trippy, the sophomore album from Denmark’s Oh No Ono is one of those records that quickly becomes addictive as it demands repeated listening.  The [...]