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Danish pop band When Saints Go Machine released their debut EP, ‘Fail Forever’ on K7, back in January. Five songs of quirky, clubby shininess, it seemed to point to the next big Scandinavian electro pop hit. What they’ve now returned with, however, is something that cuts deeper, and has the potential to take them further. ‘Konkylie’ (the Danish word for a conch shell) is an album full of sonic spiralling staircases, places to linger in, memories, echoes and skittering thoughts. Grit and guts have replaced the gloss: the textures are richer, less obvious; the sounds are stranger, yet more touching. Grief-laden bass tempers naive melodies, synth wobbles and searing strings. The overall tone is halfway between sorrow and hope, no more so than on final track Add Ends (listen above). It’s a feeling that lingers long after the distortion fades to grey. Spaces hold meaning in the same sort of way as sounds, so we asked singer Nikolaj to tell us about the places in the band’s hometown of Copenhagen that mean the most to him.
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1. A place that conjures up old memories?
Denmark’s Aquarium. Actually it’s 15 minutes from Copenhagen, but it’s an important place so I hope a few kilometres are ok. I always used to come here with my grandmother and this is the place where I first saw sea turtles and piranhas. I will always remember this as one of my fondest childhood memories. I went there a couple of years ago because I missed it, but I guess I really shouldn’t have. I don’t like it when things get smaller and lose their magic.
2. A place that has a strong influence on the music you make?
My living room, because that’s where I write almost everything. This is a hard question; I don’t think there is one single place like this for me in Copenhagen. Guess it’s a vibe more than anything else, but I will go with cemeteries. I like that they’re always so peaceful and neatly kept, gives you silence to think. The best one to go to is Assistens Kirkegården in an area of the city called Noerrebro. This is my favourite part of the city. There’s a lot of nice spots to hang out, good restaurants and a nice record shop called Route 66.
3. A place you like to go out?
I don’t really go out these days. Since we are gigging quite a bit, I don’t really have time but I would say the place to go in Copenhagen is called Dunkel. A small and kind of dodgy looking bar, with the nicest owner and best line-up in town. Come after 2am on weekends, nothing really happens before that time but the place is often open until 6.30am.
4. A place people who have never been to the place before should definitely visit?
All the secret spots where you can jump in the harbour for a swim and a load of sun. The large harbour pools are ok, but you will have to share with at least three hundred tanning teens. You need an insider to find these places and I won’t reveal ours, it took us a couple of years to find. The water is quite clean and you can dive in almost anywhere.
5. A place you live or used to live?
When I was born, we used to live in the Latin Quarter here in Copenhagen, but believe me there is nothing Latin about it. There are some cosy cafés and a few nice bars to go to. Back in the days it used to be kind of a rowdy neighbourhood with bar fights, brothels and a lot of action in general, but for many years now it’s been one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the city. We still call it by its old nickname The Urinal, but I guess it doesn’t really fit any more.
6. A place you spend a lot of time in?
We are always rehearsing or recording these days, so I don’t really spend much time anywhere outside our studio or rehearsal space. But when we are not, I usually spend a lot of time drinking coffee in a street called Blågårdsgade in Noerrebro. There’s a nice vibe and always a lot of people hanging out in the street in the summer, drinking, throwing picnics, listening to music on their homemade soundsystems. Everything sort of revolves around this part of the city, for us at least. Everyone in the band lives there except from me and I would really love to move there. There is nothing local about the area I live in. No grocery stores and no odd but reassuring bag lady telling you that you are still going to hell, giving you toothless smiles to light up your days.
7. A place you work/record?
I mostly work from my apartment in the city close to the Queen’s castle. It’s a very quiet neighbourhood and there are a lot of offices and a lot of really high profile art galleries and such. I would suggest you stay clear of this part of town, unless you’re into the Danish Royal Family. The only thing I really love about this area is that it’s close to the harbour and that it only takes 10 minutes to go somewhere else. And of course my apartment where I am staying most of the time recording and writing lyrics in my living room. It has five windows and it’s the most beautiful room in my apartment and it is only being used to make write music in, smoke cigarettes and drink a lot of coffee. So that’s where I spend every hour of the day when we’re not out gigging.