Alcoholic Faith Mission: …Do They Really Need a Quirky Subtitle?

I recently discussed with my students of Intellectual Heritage the notion of psychoactive plants being present at the creation of numerous of the world’s religions… A sentiment not so...

I recently discussed with my students of Intellectual Heritage the notion of psychoactive plants being present at the creation of numerous of the world’s religions… A sentiment not so far off from what Danish lo-fi outfit, Alcoholic Faith Mission, were pondering when they came up with their lovely moniker.  Friends Thorben Seiero Jensen and Sune Solund were walking by Brooklyn’s  Apostolic Faith Mission while discussing alcoholism and they joked about swapping the “A-olic” in the church’s name… And the band was born.  (While they are from Copenhagen, AFM have had some prominent moments here in the states.  Their sophomore effort, 421 Wythe Avenue, is named for the Brooklyn address which housed them during its recording process.) Just six months after they found a title for themselves, they released their debut, Misery Loves Company, which the two recorded with a laptop in Thorben’s bedroom.  The recording process was accompanied by a rather intriguing (and possibly brilliant) set of rules:

“Only record at night. The only light source could be that of candles. Consumption of alcohol was integral. And lastly, once something was recorded it could not be changed.”

The recording of their sophomore effort was also accompanied by another interestingly strict set of guidelines: “Everything used to record had to be found in the confines of their dwellings.”

After the release of 421 Wythe Avenue, the duo enlisted four more musicians for their collective.  Since then they’ve released two albums, 2010’s Let This Be The Last Night We Care, and Ask Me This, which dropped stateside March 27th, courtesy of Old Flame Records.  Their sound is a pastiche of folk artistry and a high-minded, postmodern appropriation of the cultural and theoretical significance of those traditional practices.  Their sound can be difficult to characterize, but they seem to not only recognize the beauty in antiquated forms of music, but also the power in knowing how to utilize contemporary methods.  The band kicks off their US tour tonight in DC, and tomorrow, Thursday, April 26th, they will find themselves on the local stage of Kung Fu Necktie.  I recently got a chance to chat with Thorben about their recording process, Denmark in general, and my very favorite Dane (and nearly favorite person), Lars von Trier.

Izzy Cihak: Although Alcoholic Faith Mission is Danish, you’ve done quite a bit of touring in the US, quite a bit of recording in the US, and you even technically began in Brooklyn.  What are your thoughts on the states, the US music scene, and US audiences?

Thorben Seiero Jensen: We love playing in the states.  The audiences are very attentive, making it easy to want to play every night.  However, the deals sometimes really suck!  We haven’t paid to play but we got damn close in the beginning.  However meeting the people and hanging out afterwards makes up for it.

IC: The US is largely ignorant of the Danes.  How would you characterize Denmark, from the viewpoint of a contemporary indie band?  Do you get annoyed that American pseudo-intellectual “hipsters” regard the country entirely based on the commentary of Lars von Trier (I must admit, other than Morrissey, he’s pretty much my favorite person in the world.)?

TSJ: No, that doesn’t annoy us – von Trier is a bit of an oddball, but he does make some amazing films.  Every once in a while he takes a stab at stand-up comedy, failing big time.  Latest bit he did was how he wanted to be a Nazi or whatever at Cannes… Not that brilliant, considering you’re at a press conference – Even though it was a joke!

Anyway, Denmark is a little fairy tale country. We pay many taxes and get free medical care and schools, etc, etc – and here’s the kicker, most Americans outside of the big cities don’t understand, let Alpne believe – We are not communists… yeah.., put that in your pipe and smoke it!  We love green energy in Copenhagen alone (250.000 people within the city), we bike 1,2 million kilometers a day. We’re huge on biking – we bike everywhere.  Also, we dig windmills – and have many companies worldwide leading in their field.

The hipster wave has gotten its annoying little stranglehold on Denmark as well and there are many skinny dudes with tight jeans, dumb hats, and ugly scarves.

IC: While von Trier is in the air, I must say that the quite conservative restrictions under which you recorded your debut, Misery Loves Company (and its follow-up, for that matter), mirror the rules of Dogme 95 to a pretty un-ignorable degree… Is there anything to that?

TSJ: Well, when we recorded that we honestly had no idea it would turn out the way it did. Sune and I had just gotten a recording studio set up and we just wanted to mess around with it.  It happened one night when we started up a session that would eventually turn out to be the song “Silly Songs.”  We only did one takes and were quite pleased with the lo-fi result. And from then on out we just kept on with that M.O.

IC: You’ve recorded quite a handful of albums in a relatively short period of time.  In a time when full-lengths seem to by dying out, in favor of shorter digital releases, what is your take on “the album?” (I’m yet to succumb to digital music, despite being a “critic.”)

TSJ: The albums still serve a purpose for us. It’s not that we don’t like EP’s, etc, but it’s always nice to dive into an album and get tangled up in its moods and feelings.  It’s difficult, for me at least, to get under the skin, so to speak, of an EP with fewer songs.  That being said, many bands only have the one EP in them, which, in that case, makes it fine for them just to release a non-album.

IC: In the US you’re signed to Old Flame Records.  Any thoughts on the label or the artists that you share it with?  I’m a huge fan of Twin Tigers and Mean Creek are actually good friends of mine.

TSJ: We’re super excited about working with Rob [Mason]. Hopefully this will be a partnership that will only continue grow.  Twin Tigers has been a recent discovery of mine and I really like… Really looking forward to tour with You Won’t… Still don’t know them that well but the few songs that I have heard sound really interesting…

IC: We’re already a decent way into 2012.  What have been your highlights of the year thus far and what are your hopes and goals for the rest of the year?

TSJ: It was amazing being back on the road through Europe – we hadn’t been there for a while and getting to tour in support of the new album was nothing short of perfect. We’re looking forward to going back to the states in a couple of days to do our first extended tour there. So far it has “only” been the North East, Toronto, Montreal, and SXSW. So getting to travel the whole country is sure to be delight

IC: What can fans expect of your upcoming US tour and how would you “sell” your aesthetic to potential fans?

TSJ: Bedlam and mad fun! We like to play each show like it was our last, giving it full throttle from the get-go.  Also, we brought a certain type of merchandise that fits and suits us rather well – Flasks…


Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.