The Respirators

author PP date 05/01/12

The Respirators were a new entrant to the Danish punk rock scene in 2011 with a great EP titled "Neverending Days", a Midwestern-sounding, melodic punk rock album that recalls the Fat Wreck roster, and particularly bands like Banner Pilot and Off With Their Heads. It's a sound that we haven't heard from a Danish band before, and since The Respirators did an excellent job in bringing the rough-around-the-edges style into the country, we figured to sit down with them for an interview to find out more. The interview took place in a typical small Danish bodega in Christianshavn, with lots of regulars smoking and drinking bottled beers, so it was slightly louder than usual but fortunately the recorded could bear with it nonetheless. University projects and a heavy review-schedule meant that this review is about three months delayed, but better late than never, right? Also, The Respirators will be recording new material this year, so be on the lookout for that.

RF.net: Thank you for the interview. If you can just start by introducing yourselves to the tape?
Jakob: I'm Jakob, and I play the bass and I sing.

Tobias: Tobias, I play guitar.

Jacob: Jacob, I play the guitar and I sing.

RF.net: So maybe we can just start by you guys telling me a little bit about The Respirators, how you guys got started, and what you hope to accomplish in the long run, and that sort of thing, given that you are such a new band?
Tobias: Well, we started two years ago in November 2009, and me and Jakob talked about starting a band.

Jakob: Yeah, we just started rehearsing in this old container out at Østerbro, Copenhagen, with another guy who played drums, and it was really, really bad. The sound was so terrible, but then we got a new rehearsal space, and started rehearsing a little bit more. Then Jacob joined, I think it was January 2010, and then we just kept playing and playing, rehearsed and released a demo.

Tobias: Then we played the same boring songs for a year, and wrote some new songs, and recorded them. I think our goals are to tour some more, at least go and tour and release some new stuff.

Jacob: Play as many shows as we can.

RF.net: Are you guys hoping to tour around Europe as well or just in Denmark?

Jakob: It's really hard actually because at the moment it seems like no bands get gigs anywhere. You have to know certain people in the punk rock scene to get shows, otherwise it's pretty much impossible to do.

Tobias: At least to have release out helps, I think.

RF.net: Did you mention before that you had a demo before this new one?
Jakob: Yeah we had a demo that we released ourselves last year. Just before we played with Banner Pilot, that was our first show. And it was just four songs, I think, not that good quality, but it was alright. Really typical pop punk sound. We don't sound anything like that anymore, so it's the 'old' Respirators sound compared to what we play now.

RF.net: How did you guys decide on the band name?
Jacob: Basically, Jakob just sent out a list of names. I think there were some really bad names.

Tobias: What was the one we talked about the other day?

Jacob: Bottleshock. We could be a totally different band if we had chosen another name. Eventually there were three or four good names, so we went with The Respirators.

Jakob: It doesn't really mean anything, and it's generic and boring. It's not that good a bandname, but I don't know.

Jacob: But everybody's gotta a bad band name, so just stick to it.

RF.net: So as far as I can tell, you guys are pretty much the only band in Denmark who is playing this Midwestern melodic punk that sounds a bit like Banner Pilot, Off With Their Heads, Dear Landlord, and that kind of bands. Did you guys specifically set out to bring this kind of sound to Denmark, or did it just happen naturally?
Tobias: Well, we started, as we said, playing more Ramones and Queers styled bubblegum punk, but since we mostly listen to bands that you mentioned, I don't know, I just think that as long as I hear in my head and write the songs down, it sounds like the bands I hear.

Jacob: We started out by playing this typical pop punk sound, and it just got boring, too stereotypical pop punk. Then we just, I don't know, we wrote down one new song, and it was just like... "oh this is better, so why don't we just go with this instead of the old 1-2-3-4 pop punk". I don't think we try to sound like any other band, but we get inspired by a lot of bands that we listen to, so it's natural that we in some way sound like bands like Banner Pilot, etc.

RF.net: I'm guessing that the bands I just mentioned have been some inspiration to you guys. Are there any other bands that you guys listen to that are like "this is the band that got us to start this band" or this sound?
Jakob: I know that Tobias listens to a lot of Roxette, actually.

Tobias: Tom Petty and bad highway rock.

Jacob: I like a lot of Danish folk music, and just a lot of Danish music.

Jakob: And then you listen to a lot of old school hardcore, too, sometimes? I think we can take all those bands and just mix them together, and maybe you get what we sound like, or try to sound like in a way.

RF.net: So one part Roxette, one part Danish folk music, one part Off With Their Heads?

Jacob: Not all of our ideas are brought to the table laughs

RF.net: You guys just released your new EP "Neverending Days", how was it to write and record it?
Jakob: It took a very long time to record, because we did in a way that we shouldn't do again in the future. It was like going into the studio, and it was not actually a studio but a rehearsal space, laid down some drum tracks, some guitar and some bass. We thought we were finished, and then had to come back again and re-do it, and then we had to lay down vocals. It was not good enough, and we had to go back again, and re-do the vocals. So it was quite a long process, I think. It has been done since May 2011, or something like that, so it has been a while since it has been done to its release.

Tobias: The songwriting was much easier I think. It came pretty fast, the new songs we wrote in a month or two. It's harder to make the vocal sound. The music took like a weekend to record, that wasn't the hard part.

Jakob: But I think me and Jacob had to get back into the rehearsal space like two or three times.

Jacob: Yeah, the vocals were the toughest part. I'm screaming really loud when I'm singing, and it was a really tiny room, so my voice kept going like back and forth, back and forth. So we had to put up jackets and an old sleeping bag - actually it was John Lewis' from The Dopamines, his old sleeping bag - to get a good recording.

RF.net: So now that it has been released, did it turn out the way that you expected it to turn out?
Jakob: In some way it did, but I don't think that you'll ever be satisfied with it, in a way. But I think it's pretty good actually, considering we just recorded it in a rehearsal space and not in an actual studio. And it cost absolutely nothing to record or do. So based on that, I think it's pretty good.

RF.net: So did you guys record it all yourself then?

Tobias: We had a guy, the bass player from The Hitchcocks, who recorded it in our rehearsal space.

Jacob: But it turned out pretty good. It's our first release, it's definitely not like an Abbey Road record or some other fancy fucking studio, but it's simple.

RF.net: I actually like that it has that little raw character to it. The texture on the guitars, and stuff like that, which sometimes on the big studios you just don't get. I'm not a huge fan of the super produced stuff, so.

RF.net: But what about the title, "Neverending Days", what does it mean?
Jakob: It's actually a line from one of the songs. I don't know. I don't think we decided to do a theme for a record, but it just turned out to be songs about being unemployed and being broke and something like that. So like 'the days just never end'. Everything keeps....you just keep hitting your head against the wall. We had some other titles, but they weren't that good, so we just decided to go with a line from one of the songs.

Tobias: It's a general theme on the record, like having some bad days and being in a bad mood and stuff. Danish winter depression. [laughs]

RF.net: What are your favorite tracks on the release and why?
Jacob: I think "Old No. 7", "Homecoming" of course, and "Settle For Less"...umm...

RF.net: You can't name the whole EP as your favorite! [all laugh]

Tobias: I would say that too, the same songs.

Jakob: I really love to play "Old No. 7" because it's just so short and it's so simple, and the lyrics are just so simple to sing. Probably my favorite because I just keep forgetting lyrics, because they are so all over the place. So when it comes to "Old No. 7", it's just really simple, so I think that's my favorite song to play, and I think it came up really good.

RF.net: I noticed that you guys are releasing it physically only as a vinyl. Is the CD dead?
Tobias: I haven't listened to a CD in two years, I think. I don't know. I don't think anybody buys it anymore. I don't know if anybody buys vinyl anymore.

Jacob: It just seems stupid. It's five songs. To put that on a CD, it's kind of a tease. The best format for five songs and an EP is a 7", and people can still download it. Maybe if we do a full length one day, we'll release it on a CD, because I guess some people don't have a vinyl player, and some people still want to buy some things. So that's where CDs come in handy. Or some people might want to play it on a car stereo or something.

Jakob: So if anybody doesn't own a record player, they can just write to us, and we can burn a CD. It's the digital era. Vinyl is still cool, but people download stuff anyway.

RF.net: You guys are also releasing it as a name-your-price sort of thing on Bandcamp. How's that working out for you?

Tobias: I think we made like 100kr in total. Much of it goes to Bandcamp in fees and stuff, so it's pretty stupid. At least some percentage does.

RF.net: What percentage do you get to keep yourself?

Tobias: Maybe 90%. I think so. It's on my Paypal account, so I have to spend it on something for myself [laughs]

RF.net: You guys are signed on Peabrain Records. What does that record deal mean, what does it involve...if anything?
Jakob: Money under the table!

Jacob: Yeah, it's like money earned in our own pockets, in a way, because he owns the record label.

Tobias: Me and my friends started it three years ago. We put a lot of money in it, and lost all the money. There was the flood during the summer, and we had some boxes with some albums in them, and they got destroyed by the water. We got some insurance money. So then we got enough money to release this 7 inch. But I think we didn't really bother demoing it around and sending it. And then we can keep the profits ourselves [laughs]

Jakob: Probably in the future, if we do a full length, we'll maybe send demos out to labels, and stuff like that. But it just seems so...not pointless, but it's like, why don't you just do it on this label, it's pretty obvious.

RF.net: So are you guys already working on a follow-up record? Have you got some new songs written?
Tobias: We hope to have enough songs for a full length within, I don't know, hopefully not too distant in the future.

Jakob: When we got the money, too.

Tobias: We haven't really decided if we want to record the songs we have and just put them online.

RF.net: So how do the new songs sound like? Is it still pretty much the same style as the EP?

Tobias: Yeah, I think so.

Jakob: I think they are pretty much the same. But, I think they are...I don't know, we just took the songs on the EP, and then just worked through them, and started writing new songs in the same vein.

Tobias: I think there's some new stuff that doesn't sound exactly the same. They differ a bit.

Jakob: We have a really slow song called "Cracking Up, Caving In", and it's way slower than any of our other songs. It's a little bit different, but it's still got the catchy chorus and stuff.

RF.net: You're playing with Off With Their Heads and The 20 Belows later this month [Ed note: interview was conducted long time ago], what do you feel about that?<
Tobias: Aside from The 20 Belows sucking, we're looking forward to that [thinly veiled sarcasm]

Jacob: No, it's great. I could die after that show. You're playing with Off With Their Heads. They're one of my favorite bands. Of course The 20 Belows....not so good [laughs].

Jakob: They're gonna kick our asses for saying that.

Tobias: We were lucky to get on the bill.

Jacob: We just feel really humble and really lucky.

Tobias: They're one of my favorite bands too, I think. I don't know about Magnus, our drummer, he likes weird noisy music.

RF.net: I have two more questions. First of all, how do get the rest of the Danish public to start liking punk rock, because right now the scene is just so small, even in just Copenhagen, let alone the whole country?
Jakob: It's been this way for so many years now.

Tobias: It seems like which kind of punk you play...if you play like iceage or De Høje Hæle, or Gorilla Angreb, and those bands. They got huge in the States too, and toured all around the world. I think for melodic, Fat Wreck, whatever punk rock. It's kind of hard.

Jakob: It seems like there are a little bit more people at the shows now than there were one year or two years ago. So maybe it's getting better, I don't know. But it's pretty cool, because you know everyone at the show when you go to a concert on a Wednesday night or even on a weekend. I would like to see it get a little bit bigger, because there are some good bands out there.

RF.net: Being that you guys are a punk rock band, this question kind has to be asked. So we have a new regime in Denmark, what do you guys think about that? The power changed from center-right to center-left.
Tobias: I don't know. They seem to be stuck in the right wing policies in the economics. It's a broke-ass country, so I don't know. They seem constrained by the whole economy, and stuff. But then they still try to do some left-wing things. Like they put a gay person in the ministry of culture. And an old hinduist in the ministry of church. It's progressive in some ways, but right wing in some other ways.

Jakob: Actually, I don't know who invited him to our release show, but Villy Søvndal, from SF, is on the invited list in Facebook. But he hasn't answered yet, so I don't know if it's just like "I don't like the music" or if it's just like "I can't go because I have too much work to do", but I don't know. But he is invited. [all laugh]

RF.net: Okay, well that was all the questions that I had. Do you have anything to add?
All: Nope [laughter]

Jacob: Go to one of our shows.

Jakob: Support the scene!

Tobias: Buy our release!

Jacob: Buy our shit! Send us money! Just it in an envelope, we need 'em. To buy like...beer and bacon snacks.

RF.net: And MAYBE record an album?

Jacob: Yeah, maybe.

Tobias: I don't know about that. [laughter]

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