Photos by Tom Spray
Hiding underground in a hill-covered bunker is a place where haunting vocals, noisy guitar riffs, hypnotic bass lines and pounding drums live and breathe alongside sinister songs with titles like “He’s Suicidal”, “Dead Stars” and “Bury Us”.
The bunker serves as rehearsal space for the young post-punk trio Shiny Darkly that came into the consciousness of the Danish music aficionados with their self-titled debut-EP in the spring of 2012.
Since then Kristoffer Bech (vocals/guitars), Oliver Matthew Voltz (bass) and Mads Lassen (drums) have kept the well deserved hype-kettle boiling with a string of high-profile gigs at SPOT Festival, Roskilde Festival, Iceland Airwaves and South by Southwest.
These concerts have both made Shiny Darkly a tight musical unit and also served as a solid ground to continually develop their sound that graces the debut album Little Earth which will hit the record shelves in spring 2014.
”We’ve been really aware in the writing process that we wouldn’t want to repeat ourselves”, the trio firmly proclaims as we catch up with them in the rehearsal space underground.
This development is evident in the lead track on the band’s new EP, which serves as a teaser for the album.
Ticking in on 9:35, “Dead Stars” sees Shiny Darkly aiming towards a more epic scope, while still keeping the boys’ sinister dark and twisted soundscapes intact. Actually Kristoffer Bech’s vocals are more desperate than ever as he wails like the apocalypse is at hand during the song’s different crescendos, alongside an army of cacophonic trumpets buried in the layered sound.
The decision in giving the song that long a progression arose during an evening in the studio where the band was just playing the song for fun:
”’Dead Stars’ has been developed throughout live concerts since the band’s inception and has therefore always been part of our history. We didn’t really intend on recording it, but one evening in the studio, we just played it in a sort of freestyle jam and that actually ended up being the final track. It was basically just done in a one-take. Somehow it seemed like something new and refreshing to us in contrast to the short punky stuff, we’ve already made. And also to give people a teaser of what’s to come.”
The recording sessions for the debut album Little Earth was also quite different from the process of making the EP and shows the band’s progression and their vision for a more broader sound. Whereas the EP was recorded and mixed in a week with Jens ‘Benz’ Søndergaard at the controls, Shiny Darkly wanted to have more time at their hands to experiment and explore new stuff for the album. They found the perfect ally in Crunchy Frog label boss Jesper ‘Yebo’ Reginal who serves as producer on the album. Having him on board played a big part in the atmosphere of the recording process:
”Working with Yebo was a blast! He has an incredible amount of energy which oozed into us, and a sheer, almost childish joy when he works in the studio. That was really great for the atmosphere of the recording. Also during the moments where things weren’t running smoothly, he was good at boosting our confidence and getting the spirits back on track. Yebo was also an asset in regards to the final adjustments of the song arrangements. In some of the songs he could see that they would benefit from longer instrumental parts, nurturing the groove we had going in a particular song and letting the instruments breathe.”
Little Earth was recorded in the esteemed studios Gula and Tambourine in Malmö, known for their warm analogue sound and arsenal of vintage equipment. Elements that also made their way onto the album, where xylophones, synths, vibraphones, congas and brass instruments fuse with Shiny Darkly’s signature post-punk frenzy of guitars, bass and drums.
The decision to record in Sweden was a deliberate choice for the band after spending intense periods in the rehearsal space for six months leading up to the recordings, they needed to get away and to create the album in an environment where they ”lived with the recording sessions” and thus prevent the breaks of concentration if they went home every night. This outing proved to be efficient for Shiny Darkly as they travelled ‘hinsidan’ just after the summer holiday. The recordings were done after only six days, four spent in Gula (recording the basic tracks) and two spent in Tambourine (overdubbing). The process was very intense at times, sometimes working 20 hours a day. But with Yebo’s good spirits raising the mood when things went awry, the trio came through and they’re very satisfied with the result:
”It has been important for us to achieve a sonic expression that hopefully shows our development. The sound of the EP is pretty lo-fi with a compact and somehow narrow scope, whereas the album has a broader sound where the details in our music are really allowed to shine through. That’s also the reason why we made the album in a high-end studio, because we wanted to give our sound and expression the best conditions. We had a pretty strong vision in regards to a really high-end well-produced drum sound against a dirty and distorted wall of guitars and vocals. The best of both worlds: something dark and beautiful in a great blend.”
The current Dead Stars EP was also mixed abroad, in a studio in Berlin, but Shiny Darkly felt they needed to have more hands-on focus during that vital phase, so the album itself is being mixed by Jens Søndergaard, so somehow the circle has been completed. Shiny Darkly’s forthcoming soundscapes ending up in the hands of the man who first brought the band’s music to life.
And the boys are pretty much on top of things as to how the mixing will turn out and are eagerly waiting to share ‘their baby’ with the rest of us:
”The fact that Jens is mixing the album gives us a good feeling, ’cause he knows our expression and has an idea on how we want the songs to sound. And right now the collective band spirit is really high, in terms of the album turning out exactly how we wanted it. There are several moments where the dream scenario has been achieved and other moments where the music has been brought down new and exciting paths.”
These confident words are the closing remarks from the young men and as we’re getting ready to leave the bunker, Kristoffer, Oliver and Mads grab for their instruments for an impromptu rehearsal.
After the final notes ring out, they smile at each other: ”Wow, that sounded great. It’s awesome rehearsing again. Let’s do another one.”
And this is how we leave the band, fully submerged in the thing that they do so convincingly: making dark and appealing music and loving it.
Little Earth is out on Crunchy Frog in the spring of 2014 and will see an immediate release in Scandinavia, GSA, Benelux, UK and Canada.