Sup Magazine, 2009
From the Archives.
Words by Connie Tsang
Photos by Diana Wong
The steps that led to my interview with Bo Madsen of a three-member band called Mew, were filled with a bit of anxiety. (I heard from a friend, Mew had "legions" of fans that had tattooed lyrics of "Am I Wry?") Consisting of lead singer Jonas Bjerre, drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen, and guitarist Bo, Mew hails from Denmark. Describing them in a few words would be hard. With the release of their third album, “No More Stories,” they are more than legit. They have the ability to create songs that are epic without seeming forceful. They’re moving and cinematic.
As I neared, I saw him. At the top of the stairs, Bo stood by the doorway smiling. His left hand, with a small tattoo of star, raised to a wave. And I was greeted by comforting sounds.
I always wanted to know how bands get cool names. I’m doing a blatant implication of "How did you end up with Mew?"
Well not many bands have cool names (laughs). I wouldn’t call our name cool but there aren’t many things that sound like it. That’s good about it. But our name isn’t shitty. There’s a lot of shitty band names. But there are shitty band names that are great. I mean the Smashing Pumpkins. What kind of crap is that. But people get used to it. And if you think about it what’s in a name.
Mew. Why not Meow. Is this a cat thing? Ha-ha yeah but it was a long time ago. I mean we came up with Mew when we were baking a cake.
Baking a cake, really?
Yeah, you know just sitting.
What kind of cake was it?
It was a very buttery cake. I remember we put three times as much butter in it than the recipe called for. We dumped a lot of crap into the dough, zithromax sale. (laughs) Yeah it was a buttery cake and then we just decided on a band name. We’ve been called all these things, many strange and stupid things. Our first gig was coming up; it was a big day so we had to figure this out. We were talking and looking through different things, books and stuff and this name just struck out to us. It was a cute name.
It’s very distinctive. I feel like you guys have a knack for names. Exhibit A: the titles of your albums- it’s kind of a mouthy syntax.
Yeah. Hah! But whatever you do kind of have to stick out and that being said that’s what we tried to do.
Is there ever a structure for this? Or is it more an organic process?
It’s definitely something we’re aware of but it comes naturally. But there is a part of us that knowingly tries to go against clichés and stuff.
Of course, no one likes clichés.
There’s just so much of it in the world.
I agree, especially with music. It’s easy to get caught up.
Yeah. I feel with a lot of music, there has to do a lot with fashion. And I don’t really feel that those two have much in common. You know like the Pixies, they looked completely ridiculous. (Laughs a little) I mean no offense and I feel bad for saying this but what does looking cool and dressing up have anything to do with music. I think the coolest thing you can do is by not dressing up. With them it’s always dressing up but singing the same old shit.
But you guys do set a mood with the music when you perform the music.
That’s the thing. You put on a show and stuff but don’t get too much caught up in the whole “look” of it. It’s about the music.
So what is your all-time hated cliché?
I didn’t like the whole garage-rock, rave at all. I thought it was so fucking boring. It had energy and I appreciated that; it’s a good thing to have energy, but you get over that quickly. So you’re left with a lot bands that are like fish out of water, nothing really to offer. That was just depressing. But I think now is a time where there’s really good music. It’s a lot of interesting bands that try to do their own thing. It’s the best in my adult life that I’ve been exposed to. It’s like falling in love with something, which happens really rarely. I think that I’ve been surprised with the quality of the bands I’ve encountered when they play during festivals and such. It’s pretty good.
You guys definitely have your own sound. Though certain bands must influence you?
Yeah. Of course to some extent I think it’s all a big melting pot. You take a lot of things.
What are the deciding factors to such an incorporation of sound and such?
Well usually we only take from our own music. (Laughs) We’re so inspired by ourselves.
Hah. Tell me more.
But we were teenagers when we came out and we listened to like My Bloody Valentine and the Pixies and stuff. Those were the inspiring acts because we came out of a time Prince had dominated musically. It was amazing but it needed some sort of edge. But then Nirvana came out and it showed that everything kind of change. So for our first record we threw everything off and we listened to a lot of African music, like funkier old stuff. We had this “fuck you” to the music and started mixing different things even like classical music and stuff.
There’s a lot of dynamism to your music.
That’s the point. It’s hard when you can start in a three-member garage band. We got a good foundation when we made this record but it took a long time. It’s not easy but it’s fun.
How do you guys reinvent yourselves?
I actually think that’s the hardest part in being in a band. Every time we make a record there are elements of change. The process is that we have a part of it but I mean we stray a little bit. We come up with little parts and suddenly we’re like ‘Oh, this is a new side of us.’ But you find out that it’s a just a little small step in the way. Then you keep adding a hundred more and things, then another hundred more things and then it becomes something new and fresh.
It becomes a reach to something you’re happy with.
Yeah. It becomes a mixed emotion of creativity. You need to get adjusted to that and that’s why it takes a little time to get to where you want. When you think you’re new all the time you’re not. You need to get to a certain point where you feel like this song-I love it, it’s got it’s own feel and sound to it. It’s like a little kid that holds his own ground. We’re like the kid that knows what he wants. I mean we’re just very much ourselves.
What was it like starting off and making music in Denmark?
I mean we never considered ourselves a Danish band. We have a very universal sound and that’s the way music is. We’ve known each other since we were six years old. So we’ve been with each other for many, many years.
Oh man. Childhood stories?
Well me and Jonas became friends when we made a film in the seventh grade. He had so much stuff in his house. We made commercials and stuff.
What kind of commercial was it?
It was about the destruction of the earth (pause) or something like that. Very chaotic.
That sounds like intense material for a seventh grader...
Yeah it was we had vases that were falling to ground and blood and everything.
I’m a little scared right now.
Don't be! We also made other films together without blood.
Did you want to make film?
Yeah. We tried it out and I would definitely want to do film in the future.
Do you have a favorite film director?
Yeah of course, I think the one that masters everyone best is [Stanley] Kubrick. He has very esoteric movies and they’re so well made.
Diana, the photographer, chimes in to this interview and thoughtfully states….
I always felt Special had a very cinematic quality to it.
Yeah it’s a Bergman kind of quality.
Wild Strawberries: Hate or love?
Yeah I never really like Wild Strawberries. I watched it many years ago thinking it was a little boring but I should watch it again.
But Fanny and Alexander….
Now that’s the Bergman stuff I really like. It’s a very tough movie but it’s so great.
I’m guessing you watch a lot of movies during the week.
Four, five times.
Let's talk animals. Mew has so much animal imagery...
Well, the zoo is a different story. It’s a cool place. When we were in Taipei we went to this zoo. I was actually there twice in three days. Everyone always goes to the pandas but I really like gorillas. I go for the gorillas.
Those things are huge.
Yeah but they’re so great.
So what about the panda bears?
Of course you know I like panda bears, who doesn’t. They’re so cute. But everyone always goes for them. Actually the strange thing was that penguins were big in Taipei. I guess ‘cause being from Denmark, a northern place, you don’t pay much attention for them. But in Taipei, kids were going crazy for those things.
I go crazy for those things. Well, wrapping up, what do you think when you hear the word ‘SUP?
It’s a nice, little concise ‘sup. Like a what’s up but better, it’s ‘sup.
You know you have to raise your head a little when you’re saying this. And the eye raise, of course.
He raises his head, raises his eye and says….
Mew's latest release No More Stories / Are Told Today / I'm Sorry / They Washed Away // No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I'm Tired / Let's Wash Away is out now on Sony BMG.