Download "Space For Rent" by whomadewho.
Danish trio whomadewho are one of those rare bands that weave together the threads of dance and rock tastefully, while maximizing the bounce and bombast of both. Their elastic bass lines and high energy live shows have paved the road they travel - a road leading steadily up from the underground. I spoke to Tomas Barford, their DJ/electronic producer and drummer, about their record, their live shows, the Internet and the power of the bass line.
Formed in summer 2003 by Barford, Jeppe Kjellberg (guitar and vocals) and Tomas Høffding (vocals and bass), whomadewho released a string of 12”s and remixes throughout 2004 and 2005 that crested with the release of the WHOMADEWHO full length on Gomma last September. Riding the zeitgeist like a nimble bass slinging cowboy, WHOMADEWHO is lean, yet lush and moves crisply through continents of stylistic territory. “We like smooth, beachy songs, weird disco rock and everything in between. That's why our album has everything,” says Barford.
He’s not exaggerating. Tracks span the realms of instrumental party funk (“Happy Girl”), Lodger-era Bowie (“Rose”), beatless, pop-ambient synth bliss (“Shake Your Boat”) and more difficult to pin down corners of the pop pantheon. Each element of each song sounds absolutely essential and meticulously placed while still being in the pocket and dirty.
“Space For Rent” is a mid-tempo creeper that tackles the most un-rock ‘n roll of emotions—post-20s angst. Riding on the back of a loping motorik bass line (and a whiff of the drive time classic, “Draggin’ the Line” by Tommy James) Høffding croons “Your thoughts are dirty / And your clothes are too / Just past thirty / And you don’t know what to do.” “Hello, Empty Room” is a no wave meditation on loneliness until the chorus, when it morphs into a classy new wave heartbreak jam. “I’ve got nobody now / You got somebody.” But, for every introspective moment on the record, there’s an instrumental groove throw-down to counterbalance it.
On “Happy Girl,” their first Gomma 12”, whomadewho succeed at one of the riskiest songwriting maneuvers - the cut that announces from 0:01 that it intends to rule. Fail and a band risks sounding like they’re writing track 11 (at their A&R man’s request) of their debut major label release. Succeed, and they’ve written the next “Louie Louie.” The cut drops with a fuck-off, four-on-the-floor kick drum and a collective unconsciousness stirring, simple funk bass line. At 45 seconds, the first chorus, cowbell and distorted guitar come in, immediately followed up with a “Wild Boys”-esque percussion breakdown that lets the listener catch their breath before being swept into the final chorus, via a (yes it’s possible) very tasteful bass solo.
Whomadewho are never guilty of taking themselves too seriously and Barford is clearly unimpressed by those who do. He describes, but does not dismiss fellow Danes Mew as, “a bit pretentious and not as art-rock as they think, but they look good.”
This sense of whomadewho not being too cool for school is endearing and unexpected from a band whose associations clearly give them the right to cut class. They are remixers of James Murphy and Munk, remixees of the Rapture, and their past touring schedule reads like a metadance essentials playlist. “We have been touring a lot with 2manydjs/Soulwax, and we really enjoy playing with them. We also really connect with Hot Chip, who we met during the Mylo tour.”
On these tours the audience is rocked. Efficiently. “We skip all the slow ones and play the more up-tempo songs with more attitude. The live versions have much more energy.”
If the Chic-flavored bass lines on stage don’t catch your attention, the chic attire will. “The Skeleton suits are something we wear sometimes. We have also worn women’s dresses and '70s German football gear.” Whomadewho give the audience something different than the standard Strokes-stonewall routine. Instead of having the audience watch the party on stage, their boisterous and irreverent attitude virtually invites the audience to be part of the party.
Their Web site features a photo of an overcome female fan who stormed the stage in Dublin to throw some ad-hoc vocals on the jams. I asked Barford if he lends credence to the old Renegade Soundwave axiom, “Women respond to bass.” “I'm sure girls respond to bass. Dancing is all about the bass. That goes for both r'n'b chicks and nasty raver girls.”
Though they’ve played everything from Sonar to the Isle of MTV festival in Europe, whomadewho have yet to play in the United States. Here, the band have not yet achieved the acclaim they’ve earned in Europe and are largely a favorite of Internet denizens and lurkers of respected crate excavation sites like bumrocks.com (where I first heard the band).
When I finally checked out Whomadewho.dk I discovered one of the most beautifully designed band sites on the Web. It’s also chock full of music. You can listen to the full album and live performances including a storming version of their 303 tweaker-track, “The Loop.”
Barford holds the appropriate musician’s reverence for and frustration with the Internet. “Being a Danish band with a small German label, touring Europe would have been impossible 15 years ago. On the issue of illegal downloading, I’m divided. On one hand I can see the legitimacy of being a music freak and downloading loads of stuff and then only being a heavy supporter of the music that really touches (you). On the other hand, I'm tired of download-djs and teenagers not contributing economically to the music scene because 'it's free on the internet anyway.'”
Whomadewho are currently set to start recording the follow up to their debut and hope to have a “real” record deal in the United States by the time it is released.
I asked Barford about their creative process in the studio. “The sound in whomadewho comes from the three individual people that we are. We don't think in terms of 'real' song writing vs. electronic songwriting, we just use what's necessary. That means both a lot of programming and editing in the computer and a lot of jamming and classic songwriting on real instruments.”
This open mindedness and adept tonal integration is what makes whomadewho so refreshing and essential for 2006. In these jaded times of hyper-targeted sub-genres, they embody the twin imperatives of inclusiveness and commitment-to-the-party that ushered in both the psychedelic rock and psychedelic dance summers of love.
“We bring three completely different approaches and musical references. Tomas H is from the more classic rock/indie scene, Jeppe is from the Danish avant-garde/jazz scene, and I'm from the electronic scene. Even though we are from such different scenes, we all have the same vision about our common band. That vision is of course to make good music, but we want to do it with karma (I hope this doesn’t sound too cheesy). We want to be happy making music together and hope that people will be happy or inspired by listening to us.”
For more information visit their website, www.whomadewho.dk
By Gabe McDonough