Lisa and Dan caught up with Stine and Anders SG from Alphabeat for an exclusive interview ahead of their recent show at Oslo, in Hackney, London. We chatted about their current single, ‘Shadows’, their forthcoming album, obscure B-sides, Eurovision, and their musical influences.
Lisa – You used to live here in Hackney?
Stine – yeah we lived in Hackney, but on Hackney Road.
Lisa – so how did that affect your music? Like, Silkeborg, it’s not exactly London-sized is it?
Stine – We did move to Copenhagen before we moved to London…
Lisa – but stilllll….I’ve been to Copenhagen!
Anders – It definitely affected our sound a little, in the UK I guess – I’m sure of it – because you’ve got such a great history of pop music over here, and we felt like it was banned to play pop in Denmark, it wasn’t cool, we weren’t proud of playing pop, but when we got to the UK, we started saying at all our gigs, “well we play pop music!” We suddenly felt like we were a part of something new.
Stine – We felt a respect for pop in the UK.
Lisa – you were certainly welcomed with open arms over here. So – what is the secret to writing a good song?
Stine – Wow.
Lisa – Ha I just go in with the big ones! Because you’ve had some huge songs, like ‘Fascination’ was MASSIVE, and ‘10,000 Nights’ [Dan – and ‘Boyfriend’], and now you’ve got ‘Shadows’, which is again, it’s a really really good song, it’s really catchy – what is the secret?
Anders – It changes every time.
Stine – Often it has to be quite simple, you don’t think too much about it, if you try and nail a certain recipe to a hit, you’re probably not going to nail it.
Anders – And I think in our band the songs that we have made, like ‘Fascination’, happened because we were the 6 of us – Anders the guitarist wrote it in his bedroom, but if he didn’t have us as a band, it would never have happened, he would never have taken it anywhere, because he was too young, and ‘Shadows’, as you say, is an idea that I had, but I…
Lisa – you were like, “Let’s get the band back together!”
Anders – Sort of but I almost didn’t play it to Anders, but then I did and he said, we have to do this, as the band. Those songs would not have happened if we didn’t have the band, they would have been put back in the drawer.
Lisa – that just reminds me, it’s like Keane have just got back together, and the same sort of story; Tim [Rice-Oxley] had a whole bunch of songs, and was working on them, and Tom Chaplin came along and said, this would work really well as a Keane album…so the same sort of thing.
Stine – Yeah! We definitely felt like an Alphabeat song isn’t an Alphabeat song until you hear the six of us in it, and the energy that happens when we’re together.
Anders – We can just write the songs, and give them to some other artists, but the Alphabeat songs, they’re kind of special. It’s nice, but it’s not something that would work for another artist I think.
Stine – Probably not!
Dan – That’s true!
Lisa – You could write them and give them to someone else, but it wouldn’t sound like you guys.
Dan – Well it would have to be somebody else that’s a six-piece, because what makes your music quite interesting, is that it’s not just a male-female duo, there’s so many layers going off, in predominantly all your music. So it’d be really difficult for that to be done by someone else.
Anders – Yeah yeah yeah!
Stine – And we always try to put a bit of live energy into it, because we’re a live band, because it’s a kind of unique thing for us.
Dan – It would be weird to watch a solo singer do your music.
Anders – A lot of people think of me and Stine as a duo, but to us, we’re very equal in the band, and everyone’s got their role to play in the band, and we couldn’t do that if we were missing even one person. We talked about this, getting the band back together, and if one member didn’t want to do it, then we wouldn’t do it.
Lisa – Would you ever do Eurovision? Have you ever been asked?
Stine – We’ve been asked, by journalists we’ve been asked, when we lived here…
Lisa – Because there’s six of you! The exact number of people allowed on the stage!
Stine – I get why you ask – I think we would have [Lisa – back in the day] but we’re probably not going to do it now. It’s not that we don’t like it – I like Eurovision…
Anders – I think it’s the live thing of playing? The live music is such a big thing for us – we love playing our songs live, and I think it creates a good balance, because you have these super poppy sounds made for the radio and all that, then it sort of balances it out because it’s sort of rowdy, and a total other thing than what you hear on the radio. That balance thing is so important to me, and to everyone in the band…
Stine – It wouldn’t fit into Eurovision, they would want it to be a bit more polished…
Anders – Yeah exactly, we need to keep that rowdy element.
Lisa – You’ve been working on personal projects, you’ve had a seven year hiatus [Stine – six!] ah six! Here at Essentially Pop we’re big fans of Jedward, who’ve just come back with a new album, ‘Voice Of A Rebel‘ after seven years – and everyone’s like, “where have you come from??!!” “Where have you been?!” blah blah blah [Stine – yeah], but they’ve been doing loads of different things, and still releasing music as well – and it’s the same with you and ‘Shadows’, have you had that thing where people come up and are like, “What!! Alphabeat! New music! When did that happen?!” Have you felt like, even you [Stine] have had solo albums, and you [Anders] have done other projects, are people like, you’ve risen from the dead?
Stine – Yeah! I think many people didn’t [expect it]…we didn’t announce we were taking a break [Lisa – It just happened] yeah, we knew we were taking a break, but we didn’t know if it was going to be two years, or ten years, so yeah, I think people were happily surprised, at least people who used to like our music.
Anders – And we didn’t tease people at all, it was just like *BOOM*
Dan – it really was!
Lisa – Yes! Oh my gosh!
Stine – It was a very hard secret to go around with, for a year…
Anders – …Yeah we started working on songs, it was a year and a half ago we started.
Lisa – I published an interview with you guys and Essentially Pop’s Twitter went [makes explosion noises] and “What the hell” “Oh my God Alphabeat are playing in London” And my mentions were just rolling and going mental…
So – I put the word out that we were going to be talking to you today, and Martina asks, where does your inspiration come from for your music? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Anders – it’s changed a bit, the songs we write now are from our own perspective…
Stine – We used to have a lot of specific influences when we wrote songs, but at the moment…it’s what we feel like…
Anders – Yeah it used to be very specific! And now we tell stories about our own lives that we have never done before.
Lisa – So it’s personal inspiration!
Anders – We use each other as inspiration now a lot more than we ever did before, like me and Stine, and Anders the guitarist, we write together a lot more now, which we didn’t do before, it was a lot more separated, if we had a song idea, we kept it to ourselves, and then kept working on it and introduced it to the band, but now it’s like we start songs together. It’ll be like, I’ve got this idea for a lyric, and then a couple of chords, and then we go.
Lisa – So it’s proper collaboration now.
Stine – That feels like a huge step for us, at least for us in the group, it’s such a big thing.
Anders – It’s such a boost, that’s why it’s so easy writing these songs, because everything’s real suddenly.
Stine – The energy is there too because we took the break, so everyone brings loads of energy into the room at the moment.
Anders – Yeah.
Lisa – Are you finding social media is useful these days? Because back when Alphabeat was happening before, it wasn’t a big thing. Twitter was around, and Facebook, but not really…
Anders – Yes! Because we can show people a bit more, we can invite people into our rehearsal space, and sometimes you don’t feel very attached to people playing pop music, because you don’t know a lot about them, and we felt that, people didn’t know a lot about us. And now we’ve got a direct connection with our fans. I love that!
Dan – I listened to your first album quite a lot recently, and there was a specific question on there that really, mind this terrible pun, but it really fascinates me. And it’s almost like a B-side on the album, it’s called ‘A Message’.
Stine and Anders – we just talked about this!
Dan – It’s really interesting, because it’s almost like three songs in one, fantastically done, it’s all over the place and it’s wonderful.
Stine – It’s my husband’s favourite as well!
Dan – He’s got good taste!
Stine – I really like that song as well. We used to play it a lot live in the UK…
Lisa – Are you going to do it tonight? [Stine – no! We’re not going to do it! Lisa – NOO!]
Stine – I do like the RnB of it…
Dan – It’s like three different genres of music, like it’s choppy…not in a badly reduced way, but it’s choppy…
Anders – If you listen to ‘Sexual Healing’ afterwards, then you discover the resemblance.
Dan – I was going to say it reminded me of a Kate Bush song, and she covered that, so that makes sense!
Stine – And it’s also one of the few sexual songs that we’ve done, it’s got a bit of sexual angst to it.
Dan – How did that song come about?
Stine – Our guitarist wrote the main idea, and I think we kind of finished that one together, I feel like some of the words were mine as well. But as you can see we don’t remember much about it!
Lisa – Well it WAS a long time ago!
Dan – I don’t imagine you would! A bonus track from twelve years ago! I don’t imagine it would be top of your memories!
Stine – Well we did party quite a lot in those days.
Dan – When I was a little bit younger, maybe 12 years younger than I am now, your music came out and it was very popular with a queer audience. I don’t want to say you’ve always had a queer audience, because I don’t think that’s fair, but is that something that’s predominant for you that you’ve noticed, or is that something that particularly influenced your sound?
Stine – When we moved to the UK we definitely discovered that whole scene, and we played G-A-Y and stuff…
Lisa – Did it surprise you?
Stine – Yeah!
Anders – we don’t have that link in Denmark, between the gay community and music, it’s not linked in the same way as it is here, and we loved that! It was amazing to us.
Stine – quite euphoric!
Dan – I literally saw a boy with these massive boots on, lipsyncing to ‘Fascination’, and I thought, this is remarkable, and yet bizarre at the same time, and I thought, is that something that comes into your mind when you write?
Anders – To be honest, we’ve always had the approach…we don’t think about the consequences when we make it, we just do this and we act like we want on stage, we’re like a group of people, and it’s like, fuck the world, fuck what everyone thinks, because we’re just going to do this, we don’t care if it’s cool or anything, I think some gay people can relate to that. Just don’t give a shit and do whatever you feel like.
Stine – Standing up and being true to who you are and what you want to do. There’s some kind of energy there that fits well with the [music].
Lisa – Would you agree therefore, that’s why your music resonates with a gay audience?
Dan – I think it’s the music as well.
Lisa – Cos it’s upbeat…
Dan – Dancey, fun. But I think your message, what you’re saying is true, especially hearing how you guys work together as well, you’re like rock stars – you’re badass!
Lisa (to Dan) – I don’t know if you’ve seen the video for ‘Shadows’ yet, but they’re bouncing around this summerhouse…
Dan – It takes me about two weeks to watch things on YouTube…
Lisa – It’s only been out since around March…but anyway! It’s just such high energy, it’s amazing you didn’t bounce out the walls…
Dan – Are we going to see that on stage?
Stine – We’ll definitely try! It’s a small stage!
Anders – We actually wrote a lot of that album in the summerhouse, so when we were thinking about where to shoot a video it was obvious to us – it’s not the perfect location for a video, but let’s just capture a good vibe!
Stine – We just feel really good in that summerhouse! It kind of comes across in in the video!
Lisa – It does, it really does! Okay I’ll just ask one more question. I’ve asked this before in my email interview – what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview but nobody ever does?
Stine – it’s a very difficult question!
Lisa – You’ve got an album out right now?
Anders – Soon! In the autumn!
Stine – We’re working on it now! We’re proud of it!
Anders – We’re finishing up a new single, and it’s being mixed right now.
Lisa – Does the album have a title or are you not allowed to say?
Anders and Stine – We’re not allowed to say!
Stine – We are discussing the title at the moment.
Lisa – It’s been lovely to meet you Stine and Anders, thank you for talking to us!