Next Wave Special: Ja Ja Ja Festival

Profiling the best new Nordic music…

Nordic music currently has London locked in a bit of a pincer movement, much like the Red Army did to the Nazis at Stalingrad back in the freezing winter of ‘42. Well, sort of.  A few weekends ago was the inaugural Ja Ja Ja Festival, at Camden’s Roundhouse, featuring a diverting array of fine bands, odd foods and oppressively tall people.

And on Thursday night, November 28th, the regular Ja Ja Ja showcase celebrates its fourth birthday at their usual home, The Lexington (where the downstairs menu features rather fewer pickled salmon loins, thankfully). Aquavit in hand, Clash quizzes a selection of recent Ja Ja Ja selections – four from the recent festival and one, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, from Thursday’s birthday event – about what it means to be a Nord abroad.

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Broke

The Danish electronic duo is currently recording their new album in LA, with Ben from HEALTH.

How would you describe who you are and what you do? 
We are an electronic duo making noisy/dance-orientated music. In the songwriting we try to bring elements of different genres and in the mixing and producing of the songs we try to go very far into creating our own sound. We bring a lot of industrial sounds into our music and we do a lot of live recordings that we afterwards mix into electronic and clubby sounds.

How was the Ja Ja Ja Festival for you, and what was the best moment?
It was nice to play there ‘cause it was a really professional venue with some cool people working there. So we felt well taken care of and the Roundhouse is beautiful venue. But we are still just some punks who like to create a rave when we play live and it's not really working the same way at seven o'clock at a showcase festival.

Are there extra nerves playing a show like that? How important could it be to make it big in Britain?
We’ve kind of got used to playing showcases so it's not something that makes us that nervous anymore. We try to just do our shit like we always do it. The thing about playing live is that you have to get into a certain emotional state where you just feel the music and the energy. If you are too focused about having to impress a booker that your management told you was cool, then you are not able to get into this trance.

Are there definable differences between artists from the various Nordic nations? And is there something distinctive about Nordic music generally?
A lot of people are doing the same stuff all over the world. We tour a lot all over the world and meet a lot of people and, really quickly, you realise that everyone is digging the same shit everywhere. Of course some genres and subcultures make it bigger in different countries. For example, black metal is a really big thing in Norway and everyone always talks about how good the pop music is they make in Sweden. We would also say that a similar thing between lots of Nordic bands is the melancholic vibe in the music.

Which other new Nordic act would you recommend?
I think everyone’s already got their eyes up for our good friend , but of course we have to mention her. And also check out our brothers from Reptile Youth. There is a new album coming out with them that we helped them record. 

Find Broke online 

Listen to their ‘Lifestyle’ mixtape, also including their collaboration with Mø…

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Here Is Your Temple

This Swedish band released their debut EP ‘So High’ on Bolero Records earlier this year.

How would you describe who you are and what you do?
We are all a part of the experiment and play for the thrills we get. If it makes us into worse people than before, we might need an intervention, but so far we’re balancing out. We don’t have a straight answer I’m afraid. It’s all in the music we come together to play.

How was the Ja Ja Ja Festival for you, and what was the best moment?
We had a great time. We hung out, listened to the bands and drank beer, very nicely organised. All the people involved were stellar nice. Good vibes!

Are there extra nerves playing a show like that? How important could it be to make it big in Britain?
To break in Britain... Haven’t we already?

Are there definable differences between artists from the various Nordic nations? And is there something distinctive about Nordic music generally?
Everyone can make and release music these days. A lot of it’s moving towards backing tracks and it’s not so exciting live. There’s techno, metal, folk, rock, pop, dancehall, you name it: Scandi-land has it. It’s musical mashup! Total anarchy on the scene. Everyone’s a rock star!

Which other new Nordic act would you recommend, and why?
Black Lizard. They rock!

Find Here Is Your Temple online 

Stream the ‘So High’ EP here

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Kid Astray

The Norwegian indie-pop band released its debut EP ‘Easily Led’ a couple of months ago via Cosmos.

How would you describe who you are and what you do? 
We are the kids of the 90s. We are the generation of Pokémon, Digimon and Beyblades. These might not be our main influences, but being young gives us different perspectives and other lyrical and musical ideas. Our lyrics enlighten themes from a younger point of view, and we deliver music to match it. New, catchy and likeable indie-pop. Hip shit. Our goal is for the audience to leave our gigs wanting to dance, f*ck and cry all at the same time. You should try it once! 

How was the Ja Ja Ja Festival for you, and what was the best moment?
Needless to say, the Roundhouse is an awesome venue. Performing is always a hell of a party, but amongst the highlights of our London journey was experiencing the Nordic Sound Bite. Those guys had made food based on our musical sound. Evidently combining ukulele with a synth bass is like combining toothpaste, caviar and liquorice… We hope our music sounds better than it tastes.

Are there extra nerves playing a show like that? How important could it be to make it big in Britain?
No extra nerves. That being said, playing at the same venue that Jimi Hendrix and countless other big acts once played feels pretty cool. Concerning the British music market, it’s sort of the pop capital of Europe. So making it big in Britain is very important. The stuff that makes it big in Britain seems to blow the minds of people in the rest of the world. And we wanna blow minds. Blow them up.

Are there definable differences between artists from the various Nordic nations? And is there something distinctive about Nordic music generally?
Nordic acts have a habit of being all about mystical Nordic nature: fjords, trees and log cabins. We’ve often heard that a difference between us and other Nordic indie bands is that we have more of a positive and happy feel than the typically sad and melancholic Nordic indie music. Makes sense.

Which other new Nordic act would you recommend, and why?
Mikhael Paskalev. Great music, legendary moustache. ‘Nuff said.

Find Kid Astray online 

Watch the video to ‘The Mess’ below…

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Sakaris

Metronomy-like electro-pop from the Faroe Islands, recently relocated to Copenhagen. Sakaris has released one album so far, the excellently titled ‘I Have Beautiful Eyes’.

How would you describe who you are and what you do?
My name is Sakaris Emil Joensen and I’m an electro producer from a tiny northern country called the Faroe Islands. I use my Christian first name as my artist moniker, because I figure it sounds pretty absurd to foreign ears – even if it’s a pretty common name around here.

I write, produce and perform electro-pop music. I take my cues from the nostalgic soundscapes of retro video game soundtracks, the dramatic and epic ‘80s pop productions and the beats and high fidelity of the contemporary club scene.

The music could be described as very melody-oriented, bright, optimistic, nostalgic and very, very produced. The lyrics on the other hand are pessimistic, anxious and neurotic for the most part. So it’s quite a cocktail!

How was the Ja Ja Ja Festival for you, and what was the best moment?
Once we got started, our Ja Ja Ja performance felt really good. Just before the performance, however, I was biting my nails off, trying to keep up with the British professionalism of the Roundhouse and the tight schedule and setup times. We had 20 minutes to do a very complex setup, with USB and MIDI cables flying all over the place. But yeah, once we got started and got over the initial stress of the whole thing, we could really enjoy ourselves.

The highlight was definitely when I – in the middle of the performance – could introduce a team of white-clad chefs to hand out the Nordic Sound Bite. It was a very fun project that involved Nordic food designers concocting some sort of taste bite – “sound bite” – to be enjoyed with the performance. In my case, it was a bunch of white balloons on sticks covered with pink cranberry meringues, which the audience would pick off and pass on. It made for quite a show.

Are there extra nerves playing a show like that? How important could it be to make it big in Britain?
Well, as I said, the whole schedule in such an event is very tight, so naturally that’s bound to rattle some nerves. Aside from that, I had spent a lot of time preparing and gathering funds for the trip to this gig, so it all became dependant on this 30-minute performance. Add to that the whole Nordic Sound Bite concept depending on the performance, a lot of media attention surrounding the event, and you've got one shaky Sakaris.

But once the music started rolling, I forgot all about that and just performed and enjoyed myself. Not much more one can do. Making it big in Britain is a very big – albeit faraway – dream of mine. Most artists want to make it big there, but seeing as you already have massive amounts of great bands of your own, it’s very hard to make a significant entry into the UK market. It definitely feels like an over-saturated market. But Ja Ja Ja is doing a great job of giving foreign, unknown Nordic acts a fighting chance over there.

Are there definable differences between artists from the various Nordic nations? And is there something distinctive about Nordic music generally?
Off the top of my head, I would say that ‘Red Alert’ by Basement Jaxx is probably the most un-Nordic song I can think of right now. We don't do that kind of overblown, massively produced, hectic, larger-than-life production. Intentionally or not, we have a more humble and grounded approach to music production, where you can always hear an actual person behind the music, no matter how hip and cool the music is. You wouldn't see a Katy Perry or Nicki Minaj coming from the north.

As for definable differences between the various Nordic nations, I think we’re pretty much all over the place genre-wise. Judging from the biggest names from the Faroe Islands and our Icelandic brethren, you could play around with words like ‘melancholic’, ‘cold’, ‘epic’, ‘depressing’, ‘grand’ and so on. Sweden, Norway and Denmark I have a harder time trying to define, though.

I myself look up to the overblown and larger than life music of Basement Jaxx and Katy Perry, so I try to incorporate some of that into my music. Some sort of anti-Nordic mentality, where you want to steer away from the humbleness and create music that's slightly arrogant and way bigger than you.

Which other new Nordic act would you recommend, and why?
Well, from my native country I would definitely recommend this new electro duo called Byrta. It’s dark, seductive, atmospheric electro pop music with Faroese lyrics. It perfectly embodies probably everything you would expect from Northern pop music. Well produced and well written.

Find Sakaris online 

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Jaakko Eino Kalevi

Helsinki-based Jaakko releases his debut EP, ‘Dreamzone’, on 2nd December via Weird World.

How would you describe who you are and what you do?
I am an artist and I do art.

Are there extra nerves playing a show like Ja Ja Ja, with lots of industry people there? Do you approach it differently?
Usually it’s not a natural party so the feel might be a bit ‘cleaner’, but I always try to keep my heart open.

Is it important for you to make it big in Britain?
Britain seems to rule things in many ways so it wouldn’t do any harm.

Are there definable differences between artists from the various Nordic nations? And is there something distinctive about Nordic music generally?
To be honest, I don’t know that much music from other Nordic countries other than Finland. Nothing distinctive in general, I think, just in some genres like skweee and jazz maybe.

Which other Nordic act would you recommend, and why?
Melting Hearts because he is such a good songwriter, performer, friend and I am going to release his music on my JEKS Viihde label as soon as possible. And he has problems. 

Find Jaakko online 

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Words: Si Hawkins
Thanks to Debbie Ball

Broke photo: Rasmus Weng Karlsen
Here Is Your Temple photo: Boe Marion
Kid Astray photo: Ferdig
Sakaris photo: Heidrik A Heygum
Jaakko Eino Kalevi photo: Harley Weir

Ja Ja Ja’s birthday bash is at The Lexington, London, on Thursday 28th November. Click here for details.

Read about more great new acts at Clash’s Next Wave section.

The new issue of Clash magazine is out now and is so very lovely. Take one home today

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