Scarlet Chives release their second album, ‘This is Protection’ on Monday. We sat down to talk to lead singer Maria Mortensen, about feeling cosy in a freaky way, a cabin in the Swedish woods, and naked people.
Here Today: So the new album ‘This is Protection’ is about to be released. Excited?
Scarlet Chives: Yes very much. It was very easy to make, but the finishing process has been very long. Now we’re just excited to find out if people like it.
HT: So where did the name of the album come from?
SC: Well the theme of the album is just about admitting that there has to be other people around you, or else nothing’s worth anything. So it’s very simple, but that’s why the album is called ‘This is Protection’, because other people are your protection.
HT: So where did the album start? Was it one particular song or event that triggered it?
SC: Well we’d been playing our old album for a very long time because it came out in Denmark, and then came out in Norway almost a year later. We started touring the old album again after it had been finished for almost two years, so we didn’t really have too much time to make new music. As soon as we got time to see each other again to just write music, people started doing sketches [of songs] for the band, and we just got together and made the album very fast because we had been so excited to make new songs for a very long time. It wasn’t like we wrote one song and it made sense to write songs just like it. We got together, sat down and wrote them.
HT: So I understood from your Facebook that it was written in the Swedish woods?
SC: Yes it was. As I told you, we had a handful of sketches, and all the boys sat down and did sketches by themselves, so they all had little sketches with them when we went to Sweden. We borrowed a cabin in the woods for one week, in Spring last year. I listened to the sketches through my headphones all the way in the car, writing text ideas. As soon as we got to Sweden we installed different studios in different rooms in the cabin and we just started finishing the songs together. This little vacation was all about trying a new sound, playing together, and finding out what we would like to do with the new record. But we didn’t really have to. We just worked with the songs. Separately, actually. All of the boys sat with their own sketches in their own little rooms, and I could go visit them making melodies for all of the sketches. In the evenings we got together and started recording ideas, and actually finishing the album that way. When we got home one week later we had ‘This is Protection’.
HT: So there wasn’t one person in charge? That’s interesting.
SC: No, everybody was bringing something. It was always a dream for us that we could make music that way, but it’s always harder than you think. We would always like to have a little democracy where everybody is just as important as the other. The only way to do that is just to accept that everybody’s bringing something. If you just sit back and listen, or shut up and play… We didn’t have to talk too much. We could just work with each other’s songs and be inspired by the ideas that somebody came with. And that was really cool. We’re all very different, we have different references, we can do different things… I don’t even play any instruments so I just like to respect the ideas of somebody who knows some techniques. That way you can focus on the things you do best. That was how we worked all week because we just wanted to be productive with getting a lot of ideas recorded that we could work on when we got home. So yes, it was very interesting, and we are very happy with the result.
HT: So was the environment important? The Swedish woods…
SC: I don’t think we knew it at the time, but listening to the record I can really hear that it’s cosy in a very freaky way, just being on your own. Even though there were six of us, there were not a lot of people around. It was a very small village, maybe four houses, and of them was ours. In the other cabins there lived men and their dogs, by themselves, just wandering around the house and looking to see what these hippie Danes were doing. They could hear us recording music. It was a very nice experience, but also a bit freaky, and I think that’s also how the record sounds. It’s cosy in a very dark way.
HT: So it’s quite solitary then?
SC: Yes, very much.
HT: Is that one of the themes that comes out in the album?
SC: Yes, I think it is. When I got home and listened to it it kinda freaked me out, and I think that’s when I got the idea that it should be about other people, because I was far away from them. The sound of the record too, is very solitary. Even the very pretty songs, where the vocals are in front, there’s always something very spooky underneath.
HT: So would you say it’s a record to listen to on your own?
SC: Yes. I think it is. I never thought about it, but I think it is, because there are many fragments there, many different stories. I think I get many pictures from it. I think it would be a good idea to listen to it on your own at first, but there are also many easy songs on the record, and songs that you can even dance to.
HT: So it sounds like it was quite an easy process to put it together. Were there any challenges that you faced when you were writing the album?
SC: Yes, a lot. I think the biggest challenge with the album was that it felt like it made itself. We had been very hungry to write music for a very long time. We were six people at the time, and I don’t think it was quite stimulating enough for some of us. We never really got to play that much, because it sounded good before we thought it was finished. We had been looking forward to working together again, the boys had been looking forward to doing all of those nerdy things with all of their effects, recording a hundred different ideas, choosing the best of them. And we never got to that, because we felt it was finished before we felt done working with it. That was a big challenge because it doesn’t really feel fair telling people not to play. So of course we had some discussions about that.
HT: What are the changes from your debut album?
SC: Many. First of all because, like I told you, it was made in a very different way. With the first album we all got together writing songs, even from scratch. The new album is also more diverse as everyone had ideas. It was not like that with the first album. It’s also not as noisy, but I think it’s more dramatic, colder, in a way. And then of course, we have all developed and got new inspiration.
HT: So you’ve released two videos from the new album so far, for “The Timber Will Fall”, and “Some Days Stay”. They’re both quite… striking? Maybe a feminist edge?
SC: Yeah, I guess you could call them that! The first video we released, for “The Timber Will Fall” was made by director Aske Bang. I came up with some of the ideas, but it was his video. I’m not a feminist at all, but we definitely wanted somebody to make a video for us that would work with the boundaries of what is accepted when you make art today. Especially as now things are virtual, and boundaries are not as wide as we were once used to in Denmark. I think that censorship for grown ups was removed in the sixties or something, and then it’s of course very sad for artists today to feel locked to certain rules when they make art, if they want anyone to see it. The video was removed from Facebook and YouTube. That was not at all what we wanted. We didn’t really think it would happen. We didn’t know the rules. We just knew that you didn’t see it that often, now we know why. We hadn’t really looked that much into modern censorship but we wanted to move boundaries for what was acceptable and normal. It was on purpose that we made a controversial video, but it was not my intention to be feminist. I never really saw it that way, I actually saw it like the opposite, mocking women for using their sexuality to get power. We really liked the result though, we thought it was very beautiful. The only thing I talked to Aske about was that I wanted normal naked people. If you want to see normal naked people, and it’s not in porn, it might be in movies, or in an art installation, not trying to reach a wide audience. We just thought that you would like the thought of beautiful, naked, all natural, normal skin, somewhere where everyone’s got access.
HT: Compared with where I come from, England, being so free and liberal about your body seems like quite a Danish thing. Could the video and your art be considered a celebration of that Danish freedom?
SC: Very much. That’s pretty much all it is, actually. I think it takes many years for boundaries to move in what is accepted, and we should be very proud to be in a country where you can just make art and nobody gets insulted. People wouldn’t. They might think it’s interesting, maybe they don’t, but nobody dies from seeing naked people. We all know it’s beautiful.
HT: But then again, you show a much more realistic representation of the female body in your video, compared with, say, the video “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke.
SC: Exactly, and I think we live in a time when it is important to remind each other of what is beautiful. We were shocked when we released this video, to find that some people actually find it scary. They’re afraid of looking at naked women, looking all natural. That scares me, quite a bit.
Scarlet Chives’ second album ‘This is Protection’ is released Monday 16th in Denmark, and Friday 20th in Sweden and Norway.