Making their live comeback at this year's EIF, we speak to the Danish indie rock band about their upcoming fifth album and their emphasis on togetherness
It's been seven years since Efterklang released their last proper album, 2012's Piramida. And ahead of the release of fifth studio album Altid Sammen in September, they've picked Leith Theatre for their live comeback, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. It will also be their only UK date of the year, ahead of more in early 2020. For the typically devoted Efterklang fan – thrilled by a band whose intricate and emotive compositions place them somewhere between Radiohead, Sigur Rós and Max Richter – this show is a very big deal.
'When they asked us to do it, it sounded cool,' says the band's vocalist Casper Clausen. When we speak it's almost as warm in Scotland as it is in his home in Lisbon, where he says he's 'eating berries, drinking orange juice and then having a coffee.' He still doesn't know quite why he's in the city; he and bandmate Mads Brauer lived in Berlin together, before Clausen moved for a time to Switzerland with a woman he was seeing (the core trio is completed by bassist Rasmus Stolberg).
'I was curious about leaving Berlin and living in the south of Europe, mentality-wise,' he tells us. 'I had a good friend in Lisbon who said, "come, it's going to be great", so I tried it and I'm still here. It's undergoing a big change in many ways, but there are lots of good people in this city.'
What about Edinburgh? 'We've been aware of the festival for many years, Rasmus' cousin [the jazz musician and academic Haftor Medbøe] has been living there for many years, and when we were young Rasmus and I went on a teenage trip there in the midst of the festival, I remember it vividly. Plus, the show is just one month before the album is released, and we were looking for a way to start the band and get the machine working again for the rest of the year.'
Formed as a quartet in Copenhagen in 2001, Efterklang released their first album through the Leaf Label in 2004 but came to wider attention when third record Magic Chairs arrived in 2010, with the band now signed to 4AD. Next month's release Altid Sammen, whose title translates as 'Always Together', is predominantly in Danish. The album began life towards the end of 2017 as a separate project of the same name, a concert with the Antwerp-based baroque ensemble BOX.
In composing the album, Clausen says the trio worked on the 'bones' of the song, and as the baroque instruments were added, he began to recognise that the music was coming together in the way it had on past albums. Yet with 2014's The Last Concert in their hometown of Sønderborg on the Danish island of Als, they signalled their intention to move away from the old album-tour-album cycle, instead working on their radio station The Lake Radio and their new band Liima with drummer Tatu Rönkkö.
'We were trying to come together and make an album after a long time,' says Clausen, by way of explaining the new album's title and intention, 'but we also realised the strength of this collective that we have together. There's a togetherness that we've somehow developed over the years, even when we bring in other people we've learned to filter it through what we know we all love. [The last five years] have given us schooling. We learned a lot from experimenting; about how to embrace the moment of intuition and improvisation, and not overthink things too much.'
Lyrically, the use of Danish throughout the album also stems from the collaboration with BOX. 'They're from Belgium and they speak Flemish, which to a Danish person sounds like a strange version of our own language, like maybe we can understand five percent of it,' he says. 'I had been thinking about singing in Danish anyway, and this helped me decide. I was talking to a Portuguese singer who speaks in many languages the other day, and she said it was because she was curious to explore her instrument, her voice. For her it was like a new colour or a new sound, every time she uses a new language.'
Clausen can't explain what we might expect from the show's stage set, partly because it's still in the planning stages when we speak, but for Efterklang the theme of togetherness stretches beyond the music and into the physically communal. 'There is togetherness in a relationship,' he says, 'even when you break up, because your memories are forever.
'At the same time, there is the political situation today, with cultures having trouble living together, even though we're the same species and have to come together under the same roof. For us, making music and singing together is an act of spirituality in some way, a way of being together. There's nothing in the lyrics with is religious or political, but we draw inspiration from all of these things.'
Returning from a six-year hiatus, the Danish indie rock group from Copenhagen play otherworldly, ambitious, exceptional pop songs. An innovative and evolving trio, Efterklang have created an album based on sounds from an arctic expedition, produced films, co-founded festivals and a radio station, and they have performed…