The 20Belows

author PP date 09/04/10

Apparently this is the first interview ever for The 20Belows guys, which I find difficult to believe considering that the band has a couple of US tours underneath their belt, they have supported bands like The Used, Rise Against, and Teenage Bottlerocket, and generally toured and played shows all around Europe. Despite initial shyness, the guys get into the interview quickly and tell us everything there is to know about The 20Belows, and most importantly, when the new, long awaited new album is coming out. Don't forget to support the Danish punk scene and check these guys out next time they're playing near your town. As this is the first interview we've done with you guys, so we'll go a little bit more in depth. So lets start with your history. How did you guys get started and how did you choose the name The 20Belows?
Ulrich: We started in 2001. And we just actually did the band because it was something to do for fun, we all played in other bands, but we just needed more bands, so we started The 20Belows. Just for fun, in 2001. And the name is because we couldn't decide on a name, and then we're all fans of a band called Teen Idols, and they have a song called 20 Belows. It's really good, and we were listening to it, and we were just like: "Alright, lets be called The 20Belows". That's about it! So if we move forward a couple of years from when you started, say, up until the point you released your previous album, "Headache & Moodswings", could you sum up those years?
Ulrich: Yeah. We started out by just doing a demo with 16 songs on it and just sending it around to everybody that we could find on the internet, and we got in touch with some guys in Holland, and went down there to play. We got to know a lot of people down there, and a lot of people from all over Europe, just by doing that demo. And...yeah, we did some 7 inches, yeah, played a lot.

Peter: Played a lot of shows around Europe.

Ulrich: It was just like getting to know people, and we got a pretty good network going. Then we recorded four songs, and we were actually on tour, and when we came home, a friend of mine called me and told me that a label from New York would be interested in those four songs for a split CD with three other bands, so we said yeah, do it, and that was Whoa Oh Records, and they ended up releasing our first full length in 2007. So I think that's basically it! What do you think have been some of the ups and downs of your career so far?
Peter: I think every up happens every time we play a show, because it always ends up, most of the time that is, being an incredibly great time. But we have had some incidents on tour where crazy people have been threatening us with bottles and stuff like that. But that happens and that's I guess what makes it all worth it. I think that where we had the really big show when we supported The Used, of all bands, here in Copenhagen. That was big, but it was also really strange because it was not at all something we had tried before, so all of a sudden we were standing in front of 800 people. I wish we had some footage from back then, because I would love to see what we looked like. Probably like four really scared teenage kids that didn't know what to do. It went okay, but it was a huge thing all of a sudden, being in front of this big crowd. After that, we got the chance to play Roskilde Festival, and support Rise Against. Of course, that's tremendous and we've been able to play in the US three times. So that's a lot of good things.

Ulrich: And we've toured all of Europe like a couple of times. And we've played with Volbeat in Denmark. So a lot of good stuff happened. Like you mentioned, you played Roskilde Festival last year, what do you guys think about that experience, the crowd, and everything? How was that?
Ulrich: It was a lot of fun. It was really professional, and it was kind of weird. I always feel a little out of place in all these big places. But it was good fun. We played really early, but the crowd was really good. A lot of people. So what did you guys think of the Soundvenue review of the show, I remember you guys made fun of it at a show in Lades a little later?

Ulrich: No, it's fair enough. It's his opinion and I respect that, it's cool. It was just such a bummer coming....we played on a Wednesday, I remember we all went down there on Thursday to see Social Distortion, and we were really excited about the show, and we come down and see the Roskilde newspaper, and the headline was just like: "not worth waiting for". It was like...[sighs]. I mean, it's fair enough.

Peter: I guess every critic or every review will divide people. Somebody's favorite movie will be somebody's movie that they hate the most. That's the same thing. I'm just glad it was like... Kerrang! or... it was just Soundvenue...and really.

Ulrich: I don't know. It's fair enough. I don't know why they even reviewed it, because I don't think I've ever read about a punk rock band in Soundvenue, so why even go to the show. Like, stay away, you know you're not gonna like it. But they said it was like three chords and just the same song. That's kind of like what we go for, so fair enough. Then you also played with Rise Against as well. That must have been pretty big for you guys, I mean they're a massive band. There were a lot of people at Vega.
Ulrich: It was. Really good crowd. Really amazing.

Peter: It was the first time we played in Vega, so it's a good way to start. All sold out. How was it from the stage in front of all these kids?

Peter: Awesome.

Ulrich: It was just really great, it was a really good crowd. I've also seen that you guys have been to the US a couple of time, which is a little bit unusual for Danish bands, especially for these smallish bands that aren't so big here. How come you guys go to the US so much? How do you get enough contacts to get there?
Ulrich: That's the cool thing about our scene, or not our scene, but the whole pop punk scene. It's like, everybody helps each other out, and everybody knows somebody that knows somebody. It's just such an amazing network, so it's possible to do. Of course we lose a lot of money, but it's just so much fun to travel over there, get a lot of new friends, and play with bands over there. It's because we can. We can do it, so we do it. So how is it playing in front of a US audience as a band from Denmark?

Peter: It's a whole different experience because here at home, in Denmark or Europe, it's very...not professional in the sense that you get loads of money, but you get usually a good venue and you might be lucky enough to even get some money here and there. Over there, it's just really different. A good deal is if somebody gives you a hundred dollars after a show. Then you're absolutely excited because that's a lot of money to make over there for a show. But everything is door deals and it's 2 or 3 dollars to get's local kids doing shows at a coffee bar at four o clock on Monday morning. So that's kind of like a give and take situation.

Ulrich: Yeah, it's a lot different over there, because one day you'll play a coffee bar, the next day you play in some guys basement for all his friends, and the next day you'll play like a normal venue, and then you play a dive bar that has strippers. It's just so much fun because you experience a lot. Yeah, I guess you don't really get those basement shows here in Europe at all.

Ulrich: No, it's too bad. We played a basement show in Washington last time, and it was probably the best show we had. It was a tiny little basement that could fit like 20 people in there, and there were like five bands on the bill, it was so much fun.

Peter: Somehow there were 50 people down there when [some band name I didn't recognize] played, it was crazy.

Ulrich: And then everybody was just hanging out in the lawn afterward. It was just a good party. So they know how to do it over there. You guys have also played with a lot of great bands in the past. I looked at your resumé, obviously you had The Used, Rise Against, Teenage Bottlerocket and whatnot. So who has been your favorite band to play with? I guess you guys might have different opinions, I don't know?
Peter: [clears his throat] I don't know, who's listening?

Ulrich: We played with Groovie Ghoulies, I love playing with them. They were really cool people. And Teenage Bottlerocket was a lot of fun. Some of the bands we played with in the states were totally amazing, such a good party. So there's a lot of different bands.

Peter: Yeah I'd say Teenage Bottlerocket also, because we've seen those guys a bunch of times afterward and gotten to know them, and I guess we consider them friend, and I think they do the same with us, and that's nice. But of course playing with Volbeat was great because they're also really nice guys and we had a great time on those four dates in Denmark. They're really nice guys. If I could also just say that a band called Tit Patrol from Delaware...they're great guys, and I really think they make great music. We played with them a couple of shows in America this summer. That was great too. A few years ago you released the album "Headaches And Moodswings". What do you think about it today?
Peter: Kinda old.

Ulrich: It never really sounded the way I wanted it to, but I like it. I think we sound a lot harder live, it's still really catchy songs, but I would've liked it to be a little harder soundwise. I think it's good songs, I like it.

Peter: I agree! You guys are finally putting out the new album, I think it's called "For Better Days", unless you've changed the name. Well, I've had a copy for a long time, and I've been wondering: how come it has taken this long for it to come out, if it is coming out?
Ulrich: It is coming out. I don't know, we just sent it out to a lot of labels, and apparently that's not the way to do it anymore, because I think like one label replied that they wanted to do it, and then they ended up going bankrupt. So they couldn't do it anyway. And then I was just like... so we ended up putting it out with our friend in Holland. He plays in a band called The Apers, and he has a small little punk rock label called Monster Zero Records, and the thing is that he just loves this kind of music. And he actually wrote me a year ago that he wanted to put it out, but we've just been waiting for it to see if we can get some cool deal. Apparently not... that's actually The Apers playing on the stereo [Ed. note: background music at the venue]. It has taken forever. I don't know, if we just started out by putting it out with our friend, it would've been out for like years ago. So is it gonna be in stores in Denmark, or do you only have to order it online?

Ulrich: We hope that it's gonna be in stores, but you never know.

Peter: That would be in the shops of Copenhagen. The small record shops.

Ulrich: We're gonna try and get it around. Maybe if we can get some kind of distribution deal with someone. We haven't talked about that yet, but it's gonna be available online. I really think that the album can make you a lot of new fans, because it's very good.

Ulrich: Yeah, people seem to like it! What inspired you to write the album, and how did you write it?
Ulrich: Actually... how did I write it?

Peter: You ate a lot of green pills.

Ulrich: I just wrote a lot of songs. Well, there's songs about being on tour, and there's songs about...I came up with a lot of lyrics while walking home after being out drinking. I used to walk home even though it was like a 40 minute walk. It's just a good time to think. After drinking?

Ulrich: Yeah, well, if you remember anything the next day, it might've been good! So yeah, long walks and being on tour, and just random stuff like that. So what should be the fans be expecting from the new album?

Ulrich: A little harder album.

Peter: Not in the sense that we're all of a sudden a hardcore band.

Ulrich: It's still really catchy stuff.

Peter: But there's some more up tempo songs, and like Ulrich said, the lyrics have a darker perspective, which I think we all really like. It's not just sugarcoated shiny little hearts. But it's cool. So tell me a little bit about how you chose the title for the album?

Ulrich: I don't know. I actually did it. I wrote a song called "For Better Days", which is about like when we started out playing music back in the late 90s. It's just about hanging out in your rehearsal room, and just getting drunk and playing for fun. And that was a lot of fun, I thought, and that song is called "For Better Days", so I kinda figured we'll call the album "For Better Days". A little reminder of the good old days. I guess you guys must be pretty pleased with the record based on how it sounds?
Ulrich: Yeah. Would you say it is your best record yet?

Ulrich: Oh yeah, definitely.

Peter: But it was also a lot of work.

Ulrich: Not a process we're going to repeat, that's for sure. How come?

Ulrich: It was just the whole recording process. It just took forever, cause we had to find time to record. Then we'd take a few hours here and go in studio, record a couple of guitars, and then wait for three weeks, and then we'd have time again and go back in. It just took a really long time. I've noticed a lot of people saying that The 20Belows is the best Danish punk rock band. What do you think about that?
Peter: It's hard to argue with facts. [all laugh]

Ulrich: It's really cool, I'm glad that people like it. Yeah, we get good response when we play live, and it's really nice. There's not that many punk rock bands in Denmark. Who is your favorite then?

Ulrich: Of Danish punk bands? What's my favorite Danish punk band....I like Hjertestop, they're way harder than we are. There's a lot of good stuff I think.

Peter: Luckily there is still a scene in Copenhagen where there are shows every now and then. There are bands like Stars Burn Stripes..

Ulrich: The National Shut Up.

Peter: We've played with them and seen them. Is there any more bands? There's Kasper's other band The Hitchcocks.

Ulrich: They're really good, I like them. I've seen you guys hanging out at the local punk shows quite often, I guess you guys must be keeping up with the scene somewhat. What is your opinion of the Danish punk scene, and then the Danish music scene in general?

Ulrich: I think that the Danish music scene is horrible. Not the underground scene, that's really cool, but all the stuff you go into the store and buy, it doesn't really appeal to me in any way. It seems like all the bands sound the same. I think the underground has a lot more to offer. I like the way that Volbeat did it, they just did it their own way and made a cool album and got a record deal in Holland or something, and got to be the biggest band in Denmark. Kind of like without the Danish music scene. So that's why you're putting out your album in Holland! [all laugh]

Ulrich: Holland seems to be the place to go!

Peter: But it's such a hard question to answer, because you can easily sound like you're this angry band group guy who is basically angry because you haven't made it big yourself, and you can complain about all the reality shows. Like Ulrich said, I'm not a big fan of a lot of music you hear on national radio and stuff like that, but luckily I don't have to listen to the national radio if I don't want to.

Ulrich: You have to pay for it, though!

Peter: But I'm just happy with the way we're doing things, and we get to see the world. It might not be in an upscale level with big fancy casinos and hotels and snorting cocaine and all that, but we're having a lot of great times traveling and playing in Europe and Denmark. That's really what I think is the best thing about what we do.

Ulrich: I just think that with a lot of Danish names coming out, it seems like such a big deal. It's like, just go out and do it. Just go out and play, god damn it, instead of just building it up and then the album comes out and then all the interviews, and then "oh now we're ready to go out and play shows", come on. Just go out and play shows. So do you think we'll be hearing a 20Belows song on P3?

Ulrich: Oh it's been there! Oh no, they played it on their internet radio. It's been there... but maybe some day.

Peter: I think it's really tough if you're on a small independent record label from Holland. You don't get anyone from any Danish radio station to take you seriously, because I don't think our good friend Kevin [the record label owner] has a lot of say in that. I think you have to have a lot of people working for you and pushing it. Of course we're gonna send them an album or two or three, but I think it's a shot in the dark.

Ulrich: I don't know if they do request shows anymore, but that might be a way to get it played. Okay, I have two more questions left. One of them is from Peter from The National Shut Up. He wants to know how it feels like to be really, really, really ridiculously good looking?
Peter: [everyone laughing] Who is he asking it from? The band in general, I guess.

Peter: I thought it was for Kasper.

Ulrich: It must be Kasper. He's not here so I have no idea.

Peter: But we DO consider Kasper to be the greatest looking guy in this band. What are the future plans for you guys. I see you guys are playing with Banner Pilot in April?
Ulrich: Banner Pilot on April 25th at Lades Kælder, Sunday, it's a free show. It's gonna be a really good show. It's free, because it's a Sunday, and we just want people to come out. Banner Pilot is playing for free?

Ulrich: No, they get paid, but nobody else does.

Peter: You don't have to pay to see them.

Ulrich: So Banner Pilot on the 25th of April, and then on 27 of May, we start a short European tour for like two weeks with a Canadian band called The Roman Line. And then we come back home.

Peter: And somewhere from now to then, hopefully the album is out, so we can bring it on tour. And then in September we have another European tour with a band from New York, which is actually a guy and whoever he finds to play with him called [a band name I didn't recognize], which is amazing pop punk somewhere between Matt Skiba solo and The Queers. So that's gonna be in September.

Ulrich: And then, who knows? I guess in between lots of shows in Denmark and Copenhagen?

Ulrich: Lets see if anybody wants us to play, we'll be there! Thanks a lot guys, anything to add?

Peter: Stick for the show.

Ulrich: Thank you for doing this.

The 20Belows on Myspace

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