The Asteroids Galaxy TourThe Asteroids Galaxy Tour
It's a very rare and special thing when you fall in love with a band the first time you hear them play. So it is with The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
Are they a band or a collective? Difficult to say. Do they have a sound that is tricky to pin down, hard to define? Certainly. Are they unequivocally excellent? Absolutely!
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour have a groove to move you, a vibe to sooth you; an inspiring warm, authentic sound shot through with summer, light and colour. But they're keen to remain a little bit of a charming enigma.
ContactMusic caught up with Lars Iversen and Mette Lindberg - an endearing couple of band mates who often talk as one or finish each others sentences - before their gig at the Borderline in London to ask them to explain for themselves; who are The Asteroids Galaxy Tour and what IS this music they've created?
Well, this is music so soulful, joyous and brilliant it immediately pricked the ears of music industry veterans David Enthoven and Tim Clark, who have managed the careers of T-Rex, Roxy Music and Robbie Williams. Within minutes of hearing a demo, Enthoven was on the phone to band founder Lars Iversen. Within days he was on his way to Copenhagen to thrash out a deal. Why? Because the Asteroids Galaxy Tour are fantastic. That's why.
Lars has a more considered, modest opinion about their illustrious management. 'The whole thing about iemusic is; you would imagine that they could be very dominating and want to change things' But they leave you alone to do your own thing? 'Yeah, I think they realised that every idea we have come up with for artwork, collages or songs, they have said, 'Ok, it's actually really good. Why not just let them do it?' The artwork is a recurring and obviously important theme. 'The whole collage thing...yeah that's a general idea of how we want to project ourselves'
This is music conceived by the modest genius of Lars, often content onstage to melt into the background and play second fiddle to Mette's endearing, kooky stage antics and stunning voice. It's incredible that such an accomplished sound has been achieved in less than a year after first getting together. Surely the music had to come easy? 'It started out with me writing some sketches and ideas for songs and it was a bit more soul influenced than I used to do. Then I got in touch with Mette. We'd played together in bands before a few years ago. The lyrics were already there but also we'd have some crazy ideas together from time to time. Most of the songs are basically written by me but it'd never be the same without Mette's singing' It's obvious watching them live that she brings something unique to the mix. Lars agrees, 'From now on I think it might be a more collaborative effort because we have really gelled with each other'
This is music crafted in a one-bedroom flat in Copenhagen, then honed by continued rehearsals in an underground Cold War bunker. Perhaps this seclusion from the external influences explains why the Asteroid Galaxy Tour are so wonderfully hard to pigeonhole. However, the image of these guys practicing in such a grey, drab, Joy Division-esque place seems at odds with their happy, 'summery' music. Mette agrees, 'But it's so hard to find a place to rehearse and Copenhagen is really expensive, like London'. Cheap rent comes with its drawbacks though. 'It keeps you focused (working in the bunker) but it has no doors or windows...or air! And it's so damp the drums get all curly! And mobile phones don't work'.'And the worst thing is we've had two amps breakdown now too', Lars complains stoically.
This is music so laid back it belies the quiet determination of this disparate group of musicians to be utterly brilliant. They exude that quiet air of confidence that comes with knowing you've created something special. But after writing music as a twosome did bringing in more musicians for the live shows change anything at all? Lars, amusingly, looks a little sheepish and hesitates to answer, 'Ummmm...' inviting ContactMusic to take the p1ss a little. Are you in charge, Lars?! Are you like 'THIS is how we're gonna do it! This is MY vision!' Mette laughs, obviously amused, inferring some truth in the question. He smiles wryly, 'Maybe a bit, but I have to let it go sometimes. I'm working on it!' On not being a control freak? He gives up, 'Yes, I am like that!' Mette eventually comes to the rescue of her friend. 'You know, the songs are made and people put their soul and their sound into it, but their personalities don't change the sound'
This is music over which the deceptively simple lyrics subtly disguise the breezy Kierkegaardian existential flights of fancy with enough vagueness to leave the listener wandering around in the sunshine, smiling and trying to figure out their deeper meaning. It must be something they put in the water in Copenhagen...or perhaps the beer. Where does such lyrical inspiration come from; real life or escapism? 'You just said it! Escapism. It's partly little crazy episodes but it all has its roots in something real'. Mette picks up this theme and runs with it, 'You know, if it's a love song, it's a love song! But it's not an exact telling of what happened. It's a s*cret and you have to look for it' Lars, in turn, links this to one of his favourite concepts. 'There's a lot of bits of stories there, cut up'. And that fits with the whole collage theme? 'Yeah, you got it'
This is music where decades blur...perhaps into those we haven't lived through yet. This might be music for the bedroom, the beach or the disco, but it's certainly music that's meant for your record collection and the top 10. And definitely your heart. Asking them about their musical tastes solicits a perfect example of their ability to continue each others train of thought.
Mette: We both like soul, Marvin Gaye...
Lars: Otis Redding...brilliant...
Mette: The Four Tops...
Lars: The old Stax sound...
Mette: Lots of Motown...
Lars: I'm getting into the more dry kind of soul sound; the early Stevie Wonder stuff. It's Motown but it's a bit more...real, intimate...
This is music complemented so completely by Mette Lindberg's beautifully unschooled, kooky voice. A voice that in turn beguiles with a whisper and charms with its soaring sweetness. Really it's no surprise that a voice so emotive and smoky should emanate from someone so undeniably gorgeous. Whether smiling a cheeky smile or stood, hands on hips, brow furrowed in mock-seriousness; it's a simple fact that she's a star who shines brightly in the Asteroid Galaxy, but is Lars - as 'main man' - ever bossy? 'Never!' she replies, without missing a beat. Never? Really? No arguments? Lars sticks up for himself. 'Yeah, it's because we're together all the time. It's like a little marriage'. You have that kind of connection? 'I can say something and Lars knows exactly what I mean. If I'm singing and he says 'show me that face, show me that face!', and you can hear it when I do and really give it that feeling. So if I'm not giving it that feeling he'll say 'Show me that face!' and I know I have to mean it more!' With that she dissolves into a of fit giggles.
So, are the Asteroid Galaxy Tour a band? Possibly. Possibly not. Lars is keen to explain without actually shedding any light on the issue. 'It's not like we're a band...or a group either. In one way we are not a band...but then we are 'cos we're all friends and they're not just hired guys. And we like their style. But we don't want the strict band image because that's not really what we are. We're more like a class of people that fits together. It's not traditional. It's not like we're a garage band.' Mette as always agrees and elucidates further. 'And we have a good time when we play together. The other guys are not hired for the money because...ha! For the money!'
What we do know is that they are a beautiful audio-visual collage of music, personalities, influences, artwork and a laissez-faire attitude to conforming to any rigid preconceptions about what being in a band means.
Finally, when playfully asked to describe each other in five words, silence ensues. They stare at each other smirking; too polite or shy or charming to pass comment. I suggest that Lars is quite methodical, meticulous, plans everything carefully. After giving this some thought he says 'Ok, yeah, I'm methodical. (to Mette) What am I?'. 'I don't know!' she laughs.
Later that evening, taking the stage as the support act, the Borderline begins to fill to capacity, their winning sound slowly draws the crowd towards them. Mid-way through the set people are beginning to move their hips with ever increasing vigour and the volume of applause and whistling raises tens of decibels after each song. This is a band who have the rare gift of writing songs with an immediacy to charm an audience on first listen, but the soul, the essence, the depth of the songs is retained even with repeated listens.
You can hear it in the horns that honk throughout the sexual shimmering 'Around the Bend' or feel it in the bass that drives forthcoming single 'The Sun Ain't Shining No More', a kaleidoscopic pop epic that updates the best of the B-52s and demands you shake your hips on the first hearing.
Earlier Mette had expressed mild surprise at the great reception they were receiving. 'Last night when we played the reaction was really positive. People were dancing!' ContactMusic suggests that this is because of the kind of music they play, it has an infectious groove. Lars' take on this is as modest, understated, nonchalant and quietly confident as ever. 'Yeah the music is inspired by soul stuff, so it gives people some kind of invitation to dance. We were always told a London crowd would be a hard crowd to please' They are Lars, they are, but who could fail to be impressed by such fantastic tunes.
Ultimately, the enigma of what The Asteroids Galaxy Tour are (a band, a group, a collective?) remains. But if musically you want to go somewhere that sounds simultaneously familiar and yet utterly different and new; somewhere to make you move and think and smile, then take the Asteroids Galaxy Tour.
One listen is all it needs. If you've taken the time to read this...then in five minutes from now you'll have fallen in love with them.
As the song says, good times are just around the bend.