Back in 2007 the NME posed the following question: “What would happen if WhoMadeWho got serious?” It was around this time that the Danish trio of Tomas Høffding, Jeppe Kjellberg and Tomas Barfod – having released just one album – were drafted in as very last minute replacements to open that year's Benacassim festival after the Klaxons were delayed by a grounded plane. Bounding onto the stage sporting skeleton outfits, they shouted, “Hello, we’re the Klaxons! From Denmark!” Hence the question. Fast-forward six years and it all seems completely moot – their forthcoming fifth album, Dreams, is not only the sound of a band getting very serious indeed, it's also one of the best indie-dance albums to emerge in years.
The truth is, WhoMadeWho realised they needed to get serious after their 2005 self-titled album propelled them into a seemingly endless bout of touring, with their 2009 follow-up, The Plot, suffering from the burn-out that left behind. “Our first album got great reviews and a lot of stuff just happened from nowhere,” explains singer/bassist Tomas Høffding, “then our second album was kind of not so good and we felt that we'd been carried rather than having to work for it.” For singer/guitarist Jeppe Kjellberg, it was vital that the band take the template of those first two albums – the inventive instrumentals, the vibrant melodies – and craft them more into actual songs, and not just rely on them as a reason to play live. “I think it's important for a band to develop,” he states matter-of-factly. “We are all very curious characters and we are adventurous and so therefore when we started out it was fun to have this project where we just played around and just did instrumental music that was made for playing in clubs, and it was just a lot of fun. But then when we'd been touring for a number of years, it seemed like it started to become a loop and something we don't want to do is just do the same thing over and over again. Now we spend more time on the album process – making the songs, working on the songwriting, recording the vocals properly, doing it all over and over again. Usually we'd be more like 'we have a great instrumental' and then we'd add some random lyric and do a quick vocal and then we'd have a great song.”
That's not to say they've grown boring (“You can't say that about us” says Jeppe), with their live show still a riot of undulating and experimental pop music, but since 2011's mini-album Knee Deep through 2012's critically lauded Brighter, to the forthcoming Dreams, the band have been working to their own strict dogma, entitled Double Or Die. “Basically, with each album we always want to double everything – Facebook followers, YouTube views, album sales and everything, and if we didn't do that in a year we would stop the band. We were that serious about it. That was a good way to get it on track,” explains drummer and producer Tomas Barfod. It also helped with the creative process, leading to the band recording and discarding songs that they felt weren't good enough. “If we start doing the same thing over and over again, we'll get bored and then we start getting boring and it will just go down,” says Jeppe. “When you're not enthusiastic you don't perform very well, so we try to keep each other energised.” Also, essentially, they just wanted to start making songs that touched people and were fully rounded, rather than continue to be labelled as 'kooky' or 'leftfield'. They wanted to be a band that you could love for the songs and melodies, and not simply for the wackiness and weird costumes. “After four albums, we agreed that it was so easy to be the leftfield, cool, indie band because you can just do stuff and if you do things that are weird they're automatically seen as good,” explains Tomas Høffding. “Pop music is not like that because it's so much harder to make it cool. It's so much easier to hate it.”
Thankfully, it's impossible to hate anything about Dreams, an album that takes the template of 2012's Brighter and refines it still further. “It's more luxurious,” laughs Høffding. “There are more guitars, but it also feels more relaxed. We always try and put our live energy into the recordings and with this one we thought 'fuck it' we'll make songs that are nice to listen to on headphones and in your everyday lives but if you want to party you can some and hear them live.” For Jeppe, it also meant he got to indulge in some more guitar playing. “I think the main difference is that Brighter had a lot of keyboards in the production, but on Dreams I spent a lot more time playing the guitar. We come from a dance background and that's the core energy of the band and always will be, but this album has a different energy to Brighter and it's not so clubby in the mix – it's more warm and loving. It's still very sexy and funky, but it's not intimidating or aggressive in sound.” This sense of serenity can be heard on the beautiful lilt of the deliciously catchy title track, the soft thrum of the closing United and the delicately percussive Another Day. Nestled in amongst it all, however, is the album's highlight in the shape of the house-y, lyrically melancholic Hiding In Darkness, a song that betrays the band's Scandinavian roots. “WhoMadeWho has always been about defying the Scandinavian love of the melancholy but I guess during the last three albums it's sneaked in,” explains Jeppe. But the song is also influenced by their dance background, in a slightly more round about way: “Hiding In Darkness was inspired by a one off trip to Berghain, the legendary techno-club in Berlin that opens very late and goes on for the whole weekend. I just remember dancing and there was this dark energy and I was thinking about all these destinies and what they were thinking about. Hiding In Darkness is reflecting specifically on that situation and trying to grasp the thoughts and feelings of that moment.”
The acceptance is just one part of WhoMadeWho coming to terms with who they are as a band and feeling more comfortable in their own skin. Perhaps that's why Dreams works so well. Or maybe it's the scalpel-sharp production and songwriting nous? Maybe it's the way each song – from Traces' synthetic mesh of keyboards to Right Track's low-slung funk – seems to slowly bore its way into your head on repeated listens? So, and this is important, if Dreams were a car what sort of car would it be? “An exclusive vehicle of some kind,” laughs Jeppe. “It would be very pretentious to say it's a Rolls Royce, but I'd like to. It's luxurious,” says Tomas Høffding. “It's a limo,” adds Tomas Barfod, before Jeppe counters with the ultimate definition: “It's not flashy like a big limo. It would just be a small one – like really high quality but when you see it in traffic it's not screaming for attention.” Seriousness never sounded so good. Read more