We Stood Like Kings
1) You refer to yourselves as a band that "play post-rock on silent movies", can you please describe what that means to you?
Back in 2011, when We Stood Like Kings was born, we were just a “regular” band. But we felt we wanted to experiment with something different. At some point, one of our fans showed us the silent movie “Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt”, saying our music would be a good match. From that day, We Stood Like Kings became a “band playing post-rock on silent movies”. It means that we play live while a movie is projected on a screen – it’s a movie concert. We had such a good feeling after writing that first soundtrack project that we wanted to continue.
2) How did you approach writing your previous albums "BERLIN 1927" and "USSR 1926"? Except for the musical parts, why did you chose these two "themes"?
When we started working on BERLIN 1927, we felt somehow blind. It was the first time we had to take anything but the music into account while composing. The movie had its specific structure, length, mood. We couldn’t just decide to go loud when it didn’t fit with the overall feeling of the images. Of course, we don’t follow the more “traditional” approach, musically mimicking every move on screen. We want the music to stand on its own and prefer to work with longer stretches, trying to express an overall atmosphere. We also love to question the images by not always choosing the obvious feeling that a movie scene might evoke. I would say it’s a kind of game between us and the movie. After BERLIN 1927, we felt we had more experience and could approach writing in a more mature way. I guess you can hear that on our second album USSR 1926.
We choose those two movies because we wanted to make a trilogy (the third part being USA 1982 – to be released later this year) on the subject of fallen/falling empires. BERLIN 1927 depicts Berlin just a few years before it would be destroyed at the end of World War II. USSR 1926 is a soundtrack for a Soviet propaganda movie – another empire with failed ambitions of world domination. USA 1982 (a soundtrack for the American cult movie Koyaanisqatsi) takes a more modern approach and is very close to our own contemporary world and way of living. We don’t know how long it is going to last if we carry on this way.
3) Your German label "Kapitän Platte", who also has Swedish post-rockers "EF" among their artists, is your "home"when it comes to releasing your records. How did you end up working with "Kapitän Platte"?
We met Pietsch, Tanne and Karl from Kapitän Platte at Dunk! festival in 2013. We had been invited to play BERLIN 1927 and they happened to be in the audience. They liked our project and came to talk to us after the show. That’s how we ended up joining this amazing label from Bielefeld in Germany. They host a lot of interesting bands and it’s definitely worth checking their releases.
4) So far you have been writing your compositions with an "city or country and a year" as some kind of reference point. Can you give us some insight to your new album-theme "USA 1982" and your future plans for this album?
We started working on USA 1982 in spring 2016. The movie is long (a little over 80 minutes), which means that’s a lot of music to compose. So it’s going to be a double album. It’s a soundtrack for the American cult movie Koyaanisqatsi from 1982, directed by Godfrey Reggio. The movie is so good and impressive that I am sometimes reluctant to describe it with words instead. It’s a work of art that has to be experienced, not told about. So I would say: come see us live! Musically speaking, it think we have gone deeper, opening new doors, allowing ourselves to go almost wherever we wanted.
5) You will tour alot in the fall of 2017. How do you prepare yourself and your compositions to fit in a live-environment?
The USA 1982 album was written with a live approach. We feel it’s important to keep that feeling. It’s only during the production stage that we’ve added quite a lot of extra things. We will prepare for tour by trying to involve as many elements as we can, but we only have eight hands! Of course, writing an album and touring requires a lot of band practice over a long stretch of time. We’ve grown very accustomed to being on stage now, after about 150 shows, but still, every concert means a new challenge, a new audience, a new setting. I guess we play in a lot more different venues compared to other bands: for example, more than half our shows are happening in cinema’s. We do get to play in venues where they don’t really book “bands”, but are interested in the combination of movie and music. Those are all things we need to take into account to give the best we have on stage, but over the years, we start to know how to adapt.
6) If you would compare recording in a studio versus playing live. What comes to your mind?
For us, they are two different things. We like to think that people who have come to see us play live and listen to our album afterwards will experience something different, discover new details, new layers in the music which the live setting doesn’t allow us to do. There is something special that happens when a band plays live on stage which you have to reproduce in a different way on a studio album. So USA 1982 will definitely be more produced than our previous albums, with more “candy for the ear”. Or at least, that’s what we tried to do.
7) Many listeners of the now well-established "Post-Rock-genre" finds you quite unique and fresh. What do you think is your strength when it comes to not sounding quite like other instrumental bands?
As time goes on, we find it more difficult to define our music as “post-rock”. Everyone has their own definition of the genre. Of course, when we started, we were totally into post-rock and started the band because we were so fascinated by the genre. But today, we tend to explore other musical horizons, because it’s a way to open up to new approaches. It’s hard to say in what way this influence our own music. The line-up changes and the arrival of new musicians have also contributed to enrich our sound. In fact, we try not to limit ourselves to the post-rock standards as we write music. This might be why people experience our music as fresh and unique, as you said. Probably, the use of the “classical” piano is also an element that makes us stand out from more traditional post-rock music.
8) Obviously one of your strengths are your excellent skills as musicians. One piece that comes to my mind is the fourth track on the album "Berlin 1927" called "Akt IV". There you explore many themes including"neo-classical" pianos, jazz-drums, pumping bass and also in the end of song, something that perhaps could be described as "Symphonic Goth-Metal" with heavy guitars. Is it hard and time-consuming to write these long andhaunting pieces?
The writing process is hard and time-consuming. Even more when you have to synchronize the whole thing to a movie. But it’s worth it, and we love it, otherwise we wouldn’t have the strength to carry on. There are days you feel the magic is happening, everything runs smoothly, then other days where it’s almost like torture. It’s hard to explain why and you can’t control these ups and downs. But when everything is finished and you stand together on stage, the feeling is worth all the hard times.
9) When describing your music to someone who has never heard you before I usually bring up terms as "listen with patience", "hear the excellent compositions" and "Be aware that it might be musicians’ music". How do your fans usually describe your music and is it important for you to hear other people´s labels on your music?
That’s a tricky question. In fact, I wouldn’t know how to answer it, really. Labels are needed, because there is so much music available these days that people need a way to categorize it, if only to explain it to other people. But labels can be limiting. I remember talking to the booker of a venue and mentioning the adjective “progressive” to describe our music. Turned out that he heard some progressive rock on a radio station and didn’t like it. I had to convince him to give us a chance. Most of the time, we associate labels with stuff we’ve heard before, and it might fool us into judging a band before even hearing it.
10) Can you please tell us some of your not-so-obvious influences, which perhaps the listener wouldn´t think that you listen to and see as an influence in your music?
Each of us listens to different kinds of music and our tastes are very wide. Genres aren’t important to us, the only thing that matters is that we enjoy the music and that it makes us feel something. To name a few personal discoveries of the last year which have played on repeat, I would cite Animals As Leaders (Joy Of Motion), The Algorithm (Brute Force, Octopus4) and Agent Fresco (Destrier), in which I found a very inspiring approach of the piano in a rock context. Personally, I realize that what attracts me most to new artists is when they are able to combine different musical universes in a way that I did not think was possible. In fact, I’m always more into stuff that I wouldn’t be able to come up with myself. Even if it reminds you of your own limitations, it still gives you the energy to keep looking further and to experiment beyond what sound obvious to you as a composing musician.
11) If you could choose whichever movie that exist and make the music for it, which one would you chose and why?
Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio) has definitely become one of our all-time favourites, and the more we watch it, the more we like it. But of course, we’ve already written a soundtrack for that one. We don’t know what the future will bring. We have already talked about wanting to collaborate with a director to work on a modern-day movie. We’d love to write a soundtrack for a movie that’s going to be released now, instead of rewriting soundtracks for older movies. That would be a great and enriching experience.
12) What kind of question would you like to be asked, and could you please answer it for us now?
Do you want a massage? Yes!
13) Is there any last words that you would like to say to those who listens to your music?
Thanks for taking the time to listen to our albums, coming out to our shows, keeping the cultural scene alive. It’s what we need so this crazy world makes a bit of sense at least.
Thank you very much "We Stood Like Kings" for taking the time to talk to us at "ICIT Webzine".
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