Virgin Suicide: the Danes descend on Hackney
Anyone who’s been in the UK this year will agree that our summer ’16 has really taken the biscuit. It’s either been overcast and wet, or for one week only, far too warm. As I find Copenhagen’s new indie-rock sensation Virgin Suicide backstage at London Fields Brewery in Hackney, I assure them it’s not usually this hot.
“No, we know it’s not usually like this here,” lead singer Martin Grønne reassures me. “The weather has been really bad in Denmark all summer, too.”
Virgin Suicide have been making big strides of late. Their refreshingly vintage, clean sound is strongly influenced by the Smiths and the Cure; it recently caught the ear of the Guardian, who selected them as band of the week back in March. The five piece are all looking pretty hot and bothered this evening. Wisely, they’re not all wearing the matching white turtle neck jumpers seen in their first music video for titular track, Virgin Suicide. They do look the part in these East London parts though, between them wearing a mixture of vintage polo tops and patterned shirts.
I confide in the band that when I was told I’d be speaking to a group called Virgin Suicide, I thought it was going to be a metal band.
“No, we’re all fans of the film, Virgin Suicide,” Martin says. “We do get that a lot! But we quite like the contrast between the name and the music.”
The core of the group have been going for four years now. I ask them how the music scene in Denmark and particularly Copenhagen is faring these days.
“I think it’s really good,” drummer, Simon Thoft Jensen says. “Tons of good bands. There’s a big post-punk rock scene in Copenhagen and in Aarhus, the second biggest city in Denmark. There’s also a lot of electronic music, and pop, and indie stuff going on.”
Martin concurs: “The roster for Roskilde Festival this year is a pretty good image for what’s going on right now.”
Virgin Suicide have stepped up their touring game this year, on top of their usual writing duties.
“There’s been a big focus on playing live this year,” Simon says. “Touring in Denmark in the spring, and then the festival season has begun – we’ve played a few festivals back home already, and have a few more coming up. It will be good to be back in the studio and the rehearsal room to try out new stuff.”
In terms of their sound, Virgin Suicide are genuinely offering something different at this moment in time.
“I haven’t heard a lot of jangle pop bands in Denmark in recent years,” adds Simon. “Not that I would call us a jangle pop band, although we do have references to those kind of bands from the ‘80s. It’s funny because the P6 Beat Radio station in Denmark plays a lot of bands like the Smiths that really inspire us, but they don’t play many current bands that sound like this.”
I mention that their sound brings the Cure to my mind quite a bit also.
“Well, whenever some magazines or someone writes about us,” Simon continues, “they always reference these ‘80s bands, like the Smiths and the Cure. But then also bands like the Housemartins, and I’m like, ‘I’ve never heard of the Housemartins!’”
I assume that they must use a lot of vintage recording gear to achieve their sound, but that doesn’t turn out to be the case entirely.
“Technically, we’re not religious about using vintage gear or equipment from the ‘80s it’s more an aesthetic thing in the mixing and producing process," Martin admits. In fact, the studio that mixed the band's album used mostly digital over analogue. “But we did record it on an ‘80s mixer! We do really enjoying using older guitars and synths, it’s just not a religious thing [smiles].”
After originally making their name in Copenhagen, the guys have been becoming quite a European force of late. They have more London shows booked in the autumn, and also shows in places like Hamburg coming up. I ask what helped them break out of Denmark.
“We had a few support gigs with people like Glasvegas,” Simon informs us. “That was huge for us at the time, playing at big venues and reaching a lot more people.”
Before I let them get off to show London what they’ve got, I’m keen to know their ambitions as a band. They really want to explore markets other than the Danish one, Martin explains:
“The Danish scene is very cool, and we love playing there, but it is too small for our kind of music. We really want to come here more, go to the States, Germany, France, and Japan. So try these markets out and see which ones work best. We don’t want to be huge in just one country.”
“And just to keep doing what we do, really”, Simon adds. “When we formed four years ago and played in a shitty little rehearsal room, we were just trying this out and thought it was really fucking cool. But I never thought we’d be playing Roskilde Festival. You never know where you can take it, and I really hope we can take it even further now.”
Virgin Suicide really put their money where there mouth is on stage – if anything, they sound better than their recordings on the night. The energy is high despite earlier looking like they might pass out from heat exhaustion backstage. Before they start, Martin politely asks if everyone can come closer to the stage, and they certainly don’t regret it. Live, they’re a very tight unit, on top of all the jangly, melodic goodness of their songs. I quickly see that these guys are much more than a band of the week, Virgin Suicide are a band for life.
Words Adam Protz