Monday, 10 February 2014

Northern Portrait Interview

Northern Portrait were named 'one of my favorite bands' immediately after their first single. They are smart and delicate and they translate pop in a deeper and tasteful way. I also love the fact that they are Danish and that they are kind of obsessed with releasing singles and EPs. Stefan Larsen, singer of the band, gave me a lovely interview!

You recently released a collection of non-album tracks (including songs from sold out EPs, vinyl-only singles, and compilation appearances). How come you haven't released a second album yet? 
Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, I am personally quite fond of the single and Extended Play formats - the way I see it, there'a a bit more emphasis on the individual songs, and it still feels like an entity in its own right just as an album is. One quite bewildering thing for me is the continuous focus on the album format. However, I am not saying we won't record an album ever again, but right now we just have a growing collection of songs, that we work on with no particular type of release in mind. Might be an album, might be something completely different. As you mention, our new release 'Ta!' is an album collecting single and EP tracks that are either sold out or haven't been available on CD before. A number of the songs have been revitalized for the release, and we are really quite pleased with the result.

Your music is elegant, and romantic, and retro and powerful. It reminds me of bands like Gene and Strangelove, with a modern feeling. Which words would you use to describe it?

Oh, thank you! I think we used to describe it as Sophisticated guitar pop music, which I guess is still valid. Gene is a group that I didn’t discover until somebody pointed out similarities between my voice and the guy from Gene’s. All of which is very flattering indeed - their music is really beautiful. Drawn To the Deep End is probably my favorite record of theirs. So I must say I’m glad we remix you of them.
As for our own music I think we try to balance an obvious inspiration and appreciation for a bunch of mainly English pop groups from the past sixty or so years, add a dash of freshness and whatever is on our minds around the time we write and record.

You are signed to Matinee. You mentioned in one of your interviews that "going into the Matinée office was really like entering the treasure chamber of Indie pop" How did you sign to the label and was that your first choice?
The Matinée Recordings office is most certainly an Aladdin's Cave of great music. Jimmy Tassos who runs the label is a man with a most astonishingly impressive collection of superb music. We are indeed very happy and feel very privileged to be part of the Matinée family. Jimmy handles everything with such great taste, attention and friendliness. Things went pretty quickly in signing to Matinée - I think we had a deal within the first two weeks of publishing our first track on Myspace (does anybody remember that place anymore, and what’s happened to Tom?). I cannot really say that we even got to a point where first, second or third choice of label was an topic, but the way things turned out seems perfect for us.

I love your artwork! Who is responsible and do you think that sound and image should have a common vision? (if so, whats yours)
Again, thank you very much, I’m glad you like it! For the first two Eps we released, we pretty much had an idea of what we wanted. It was a kind of the Beast and the Beauty - and Matinée made sure they both turned out so nice. For our album ‘Criminal Art Lovers’ the initial idea with the Villa Savoye came from Michael (drummer and songwriter). We all loved the modernist coolness and strange appeal of building. By the way both Michael and Jesper (lead guitarist) are architects, and Caspar (bass player) is son of two architects, so we have lots of architecture in the band. For the 7" single ‘Life Returns To Normal’ and our latest 10” vinyl EP ‘Pretty Decent Swimmers’ we gave Jimmy Tassos free hands to design the artwork. Both turned out very very nice indeed, and I must say holding a copy of ‘Pretty Decent Swimmers' for the first time was quite a special moment. Really a beautiful piece of plastic and cardboard. All those sleeves have used photos, and we thought it would be a nice diversion to do something entirely graphic for our new compilation ‘Ta!’, and as both a tribute to and inspired by Danish underground experimental magazine ‘Ta’’ (notice the difference?) we made this check pattern, which with the magic touch of Jimmy turned out very nice indeed. I wouldn’t say we have a vision per se, but we do have taste and pay attention to the graphic side of our band.

There is a copenhagen popfest but still, there is not a well-known indie pop scene in Denmark.. home come? Are there bands that we are not aware of?
I am not really sure what the reason for this is. There are some very nice Danish groups indeed; Sock Puppets, Ampel, and Balloon Magic for instance, but the live scene doesn’t seem to function very well for some strange reason. There has been some nice initiatives with club nights and live acts coming over, but right now the community, scene, fan base, or whatever doesn’t seem to be at it’s best. Hopefully this will change.

Through your interviews I’ve seen your love for Pulp, Lightning Seeds and Suede. A phrase for each band?

Pulp is absolute intimate excellence. Lightning Seeds is pure perfection, and Suede was guitar magic.

I read that you have published a book in Denmark. Is that correct and what is it about?
Well, that’s sort of true - but it’s just something to do with my work. It’s not like I’m an author or anything like that. It’s a book combining art and certain everyday problems.

Which would be your dream fest to perform?
We have been playing at so many brilliant festivals - last year Madrid Pop Fest was an enormous thrill for us. I cannot really say what our dream fest would be. People are always very nice everywhere we go, and over the years we have come across some incredibly talented bands. So I think a dream fest is just impossible - but please bring Holiday Crowd and Math and Physics Club.

I think you should come and play in Athens. I can give you a grand tour and take you to places with amazing food! What do you think?
I think so too! I love Greek food, and would love to go on a grand tour of Athens with you. Please send an invitation. 


  1. you keep the pop alive...!
    check out the new The Death of Pop album.
    keep the spirit alive.
    kisses from the Tropic of Cancer

  2. thank you!! I love Death of Pop :)

  3. Thank you for this interview, I was worried that Northern Portrait had become inactive! one of my favourite bands of recent years!!