The Jakarta Post
Alternative rock is indistinct terrain ' itself a catch-all term for genre-defying music. However, Danish indie band Mew's penchant for pleasing the masses (the band was selected MTV Asia 'Buzz-Worthy' as of January 2006 and toured with the Nine Inch Nails in 2009) justifies guitarist Bo Madsen's tagline for Mew as 'the world's only indie stadium band'.
Founded in 1994 in Hellerup, Copenhagen, and enjoying initial commercial success with Frengers (2003), the band is still going strong with their brand of 'dreamy thunderstorm pop': simple piano and guitar chords 'textured' with studio-produced samplers and Jonas Bjerre's feather-soft vocals. The other members of the present trio are Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen on drums and guitarist Bo Madsen. (Bassist Johan Wohlert left in 2006).
Each track's 'mood' ' and many of them are quite temperamental ' is determined by a tempo that can vacillate between lounge music-slow and hard rock-fast.
These vacillations permeate the band's entire approach to music: Mew's subsequent release in 2005, And the Glass Handed Kites was said to have a dark theme of fear; meanwhile, 2009's No More Stories'¦ brought a more upbeat, pop-y vibe. Instrumentation for the single 'Beach' off the album bore a strong resemblance to Indonesian gamelan, which Bjerre said the band has experimented with.
Now producing their sixth studio album, the band, whose sound is inspired by 80's artists such as the Pixies, Radiohead and Queen, promises a hip hop, African-inspired feel for their early 2014 yet untitled release.
'We're trying to sort of reach all the corners of what we can do in our world,' Bjerre said in a telephone interview.
Question: What can we expect from your upcoming album?
Answer: There are a few songs on it that are very sort of precise and driven and it's a little more focused than the last album. I feel like the last album was very kind of blurry in a good way, but this is very focused and sharp. We're always trying to reinvent what we do and ['¦] during the writing process we had a lot of friends come over, different musicians that we know, and that has actually proven to be quite helpful and inspirational.
And The Glass Handed Kites sounds like one long song because of the tracks' unnoticeable transitions. Why?
We wanted each song to glide into the next to sort of give this feeling that it was one whole body of work. It's kind of like something we just had to try and do and we're quite happy with the result.
What does the title No More Stories'¦ mean and what inspired the album's happier sound?
The songs seemed more uplifting, especially as And The Glass Handed Kites was very dark and cold-sounding to me. But No More Stories'¦ is more ethereal and hopeful, I guess. So just to sort of juxtapose that and provide a counterbalance to that, we wanted the title to be a little bit bleaker because I think both facets of life are in the album, so we wanted that to be represented.
Bo Madsen once described Mew as 'the world's only indie stadium band'. What does this mean and is your vision still the same today?
I think it's the ambiguity of being a band like us who always make things very difficult for ourselves, we are ambitious about music and trying to be inventive but at the same time we want to reach a lot of people and we're not like your typical pop band.
Why did you decide to release your new music independently of Sony Music Entertainment?
Sometimes you have to look at 'What do we really need?' and 'How difficult do we need to make it for ourselves?' In some ways it's just nicer and more liberating to be in charge of everything yourself, you can be in control. And if things go wrong, you have no one but yourself to blame and it's more of a learning process.
How do you manage to stay in the alternative rock genre when the music industry is always changing?
We're not being conservative. We developed our musical language from playing together for so many years and a lot of that will always give away who we are, but I think that we do take influences from the outside, maybe on the unconscious level, maybe there's some Korean pop on the new album [laughs].
You've been to Indonesia several times. What do you like most about Jakarta?
I've had the pleasure of meeting some of our fans a few times and they're extremely nice people and super friendly and that has been sort of the biggest impression I've had is meeting our fans there.
And also obviously all the stuff that they're doing online and this song competition they had with Mew cover songs (via fan club Indonesian Frengers) and it's just really amazing. So I'm looking forward to being welcomed back.
The band will perform at Guinness Arthur's Day on Oct. 26, along with One Republic and Swedish group Club 8, at JIExpo at 7 p.m.
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