About the band’s performances, Morgan Freeman, pirate adventures, veterans, Berlin-Copenhagen comparison and “the magical golden half-banana”!
Substereo headlined Basement Bash at Marie-Antoinette on January 19th.
Here is what they shared with indieBerlin.
indieBerlin: How did you get together as a band?
Chris Walker: Substereo is a bit special in the way it is built up. The band in Berlin consists of Nic Edinger (Drums), Lorenzo Odorizzi (Guitar), and Per Monstad (Bass) and myself on vocals and guitar. We all met while studying at The British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in Berlin. We have all played with each other in different bands, and clicked really well, so we decided to start a Berlin-based version of Substereo, where we play the exact same songs that Substereo has played in Denmark throughout the years. There is also a line-up in Copenhagen, which consists of Kaspar Kjeldsen (Drums), Mads Lindquist (Guitar), and Lasse Fernov (Bass). The Copenhagen-based Substereo has been playing since 2010 and has released two albums. We originally met at our practice space and through personal connections. Both bands are going strong and each performs in different territories in the world, making it easier for all of us to perform more often.
indieBerlin: How does the songwriting process work for you / in your band?
Chris Walker: When we write songs, we all participate equally in the process. I tend to write the lyrics, but I will always run them by the band first and will often make significant changes based on their opinions. Every time we practice we just jam for about 30 minutes in order for me to warm up my voice. These little jam sessions function to make us tighter as a band but also tend to be where ideas come from. Sometimes one of us will have a riff or a chord progression to start the jam. For this reason, we have hundreds of ideas stacked up in recordings of these sessions, and you would be surprised to see how much gold there is to dig up in old and long-gone recordings. For this reason, I doubt we will run out of ideas any time soon. Of course, some songs are also 100% individually written, but we have agreed to share all the rights equally at all times since we can’t help but inspire each other as we do.
I would say our songs are a rollercoaster of emotions.
indieBerlin: If you had to describe your music to a deaf person, what would you say?
Chris Walker: I would say our songs are a rollercoaster of emotions. Music to me has always been a form of communication. It has always been a unique way to share an experience with another person on a level that doesn’t necessarily need words. The magic happens when the words are only there to support that emotion, and not necessarily to describe it. Emotions are universal, deaf or not, and I would say that our albums strive to induce a sense of adventure, a sense of longing. It is a series of tension and release, a sense of safety, a sense of struggle. And just like in life, we need all of these emotions in order to really feel alive, so for that reason, we try to do the same in our music.
We still don’t know what actors would be best, but wouldn’t it be cool if Morgan Freeman could do some of the narration!?! We think so!
indieBerlin: If your music was a movie, which genre would it be in?
Chris Walker: Well, that’s easy. If our music were to be featured in a movie, it would probably be in a movie of our own making. Our latest album ‘Nowhereland’ goes hand-in-hand with our illustrated storybook about a young boy who becomes a pirate and goes on an adventure where he discovers who he really is and his place in life. Our ultimate dream for this project would therefore naturally be to one day be able to turn that story into a full-blown movie. We still don’t know what actors would be best, but wouldn’t it be cool if Morgan Freeman could do some of the narration!?! We think so!
indieBerlin: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Chris Walker: It’s hard to say where and when inspiration can strike. Sometimes it’s a band you just started listening to or a movie you just saw, but on the last album, we wrote we had a very clear-cut idea as to what we wanted to do. We had a meeting to discuss what direction to take the new album, and one of us suggested writing a rock-pirate album, which I think was meant as a joke. But upon thinking about it, we figured it might actually be a really cool idea. So we started jamming in a dimly blue-lit room with the sound of waves in the room, and immediately the inspiration struck. We were all in the same proverbial ‘boat’, and it just felt like we were on a journey. I locked myself in our studio while writing the lyrics for months, day in/day out, all in blue lights with the sounds of ships and waves in the background. As the songs started coming along, so did the sense that we were actually writing a story of sorts. We, therefore, decided that it would be awesome to try and write the album as if it were a book. Eventually, I started drawing pictures to support the songs, and that, in essence, turned into the Nowhereland concept album, where each song is also a chapter in a book about a pirate adventure.
Mads said: “What me?! Haha, no… I was lucky enough to get a free ticket from military service”.
indieBerlin: What was your biggest stage fuck-up?
Chris Walker: We were once invited to play for Veterans-Day in Copenhagen. They had set up a giant outdoor stage in the plaza in front of the Danish parliament building with camera people and giant screens on each side of the stage. The plaza was full of military veterans who were all there to celebrate and honour the people who have served. Danish national television was there as well, and to host it all, they had a famous TV personality known as ‘Bubber’. Before the concert started Bubber asked me if there was anything he could mention to the audience. I told him that I had been an officer in the army and that I also am a war veteran from Iraq and Africa. I also mentioned that our drummer and bass player had done service in the military as well. Once we got on stage, we were putting on our instruments, and as we were getting ready, Bubber started interviewing us in front of an anxious crowd. Out of the whole band, Bubber managed to go STRAIGHT for our guitarist, Mads, who was the only one who had NEVER been in the army. Bubber then proceeded to interview him and said “Soooo I understand you have been in the army as well!”, then Mads looked at him strangely, and with his face projected on giant LED-screens, in front of thousands of veterans, and live on national television, Mads said: “What me?! Haha, no… I was lucky enough to get a free ticket from military service”. There was a slight gasp, an awkward silence, and I believe that is when the hotdog stands suddenly became more interesting than our band for most of the veterans. We still have a good laugh remembering all those shocked faces at Mads’ response! The gig turned out ok despite us inadvertently offending almost everyone there!
indieBerlin: How do you think the audience in Berlin is different to the audience in Copenhagen?
Chris Walker: Since Substereo has two line-ups, one in Berlin, and one in Copenhagen, it is actually really interesting to see the differences in how the audience reacts differently from place to place. In my experience, Berlin has a really strong culture for going out to listen to music in general, regardless of whether they know the bands that are performing or not, whereas in Copenhagen people have a tendency to go out to gigs in order to support their friends who play in the bands. This is especially prominent at showcase gigs with multiple bands, where you will notice that the crowd almost completely changes between acts. In Berlin, it seems like people stay and listen to the other acts as well, despite them knowing the band-members or not. Also in Copenhagen, we have what we like to call ‘The magical golden half-banana’ (We may have made up that name!). It is a magical area right in front of the stage where people do not dare to go in and is usually a banana-shaped area, which is void of all human life. We have no explanation as to why they do this. But it is there every time we perform in Denmark. In Berlin, it seems people like to get as close to the stage as possible. It’s kind of funny when you think of it, and it would actually be interesting to find out why this happens.
indieBerlin: Do you prefer to play big festivals/stages or smaller club gigs?
Chris Walker: I suppose every type of concert has its own kind of charm, and it all depends on where in your career you are as a band. The exhilaration of putting yourself in a park or a street corner and performing for passers-by and the small crowd who just stops to listen to a few songs brings with it sheer terror, but also a sense of ecstasy when people respond positively to your songs. There are few highs that beat that feeling! On the other hand, we have also performed in the complete opposite extreme at festivals, charity concerts and military homecoming concerts where the crowd just seems like one big body. This is especially interesting because while playing for a small number of people connects you with the individuals who are watching you, the big ones connect you more with yourself as a performer in a sense that is almost comparable with a kind of meditation. You are so concentrated and on ‘auto-performance-mode’, that the outside world almost shuts off. Both extremes are an incredible experience and a testament to why we do what we do for a living.
indieBerlin: In ten years you look back to today and think:
Chris Walker: Hopefully the same thing I think of now when I think of the past. Circumstances may change, places may change, but in truth we, ourselves are still the same. We are just a bunch of guys who enjoy playing our songs. As long as we listen to our dreams and wishes, we will have our integrity intact, I think! I would like to think that this will not change in the next ten years!
indieBerlin: Do you see your songs in colour or in black and white?
Chris Walker: Haha, I absolutely love this question. Surprisingly I tend to talk about this a lot, mostly in feeble attempts to explain our songwriting process. I definitely see music in colors and shapes, there’s no doubt about it. It can be hard to explain sometimes, but it’s almost like the sound is rewired and short-circuited in my brain to include all the senses. The music takes on a kind of personality of its own through its character, which in my mind manifests as imaginary shades of color and shapes. Maybe it’s a bit like when meeting a new person. Their personality can sometimes bring with it the same sense of ‘sharpness’, ‘softness’ or ‘darkness’ or whatever just feels like that person brings with them. Songs to me are very much also personalities in a way. They come to life through the performance, and with them, they bring that same sense of presence, which manifests itself when meeting a new person.