By Adam Conner-Simons on March 5, 2012
Some bands toil for years playing in dingy dives for rum-and-Cokes before they’re ever noticed. Others pull together a few retro-soul ditties, get a call from a famous pop starlet and start selling out shows before they’ve released a proper album.
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour had only existed a few months when they were invited to open for Amy Winehouse in the summer of 2007 on the strength of a demo tape. The one problem was that singer Mette Lindberg and multi-instrumentalist Lars Iversen didn’t have a band: they had to rope in some friends and squeeze in a couple of rehearsals before their set in front of 1,500 fans in Copenhagen.
The buzz grew exponentially after that first show. Within weeks of the second gig, the Danes had been signed by Robbie Williams’ manager. In September of 2008, one of their tunes got the iPod ad treatment. And by the time their debut LP, Fruit, was released the following year, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s indie-funk freak flag had been firmly planted.
Iversen and Lindberg had been kicking around in Copenhagen working odd jobs before success smacked them in the faces—he was taking classes at architecture school while she washed dishes at a hospital and bartended. Though the musicians had collaborated before, there seemed to be something different in the air when Iversen sent over a few song sketches back in 2007.
“That’s when I realized that the tunes in Lars’ head were the same as the ones in mine,” Lindberg says. “Everything down to the sound of the vocals and the crispiness of the drums—it all clicked for me.”
Where Fruit was a nonstop caffeine pill of soul-infused pop, its follow-up, the band’s new album Out of Frequency, is tenser, fuzzier and a tad more topsy-turvy, marrying spooky psychedelic harmonies with marching-band horns, spy-movie instrumentals and a melting pot of exotic lyrical themes.
“We live in a small European city, so we dream of big buildings and nice cars and gangsters, of drama and romance and fame and money,” Lindberg says in her endearingly clipped English. “We create characters from what we see in our lives and make this soundtrack to our imagination.”
After producing the first record in a one-bedroom flat in Copenhagen, for Out of Frequency the band upgraded to a new studio in the city’s red-light district, where prostitutes and crackheads prowling the streets proved unlikely inspiration for the album’s darker undertones. “Everyone tells us how happy our music makes them feel,” says a bemused Lindberg, “but there’s a lot of loneliness there, too.”
And while the debut was written entirely by Iversen, the group’s sophomore effort represents the first time they actually composed material together, with Lindberg penning many of the lyrics and other bandmates chipping in throughout the process. “Usually I have a foundation [for songs], and then Mette comes along and brings fresh ideas to the table,” says Iversen. “She’s got these quirky random melodies and a strong sense of what works.”
“Quirky” is right: Lindberg’s spunky, love-it-or-hate-it baby-doll rasp channels the adolescent energy of the B-52s’ Kate Pierson and occasionally even the high-pitched preening of Cyndi Lauper. More attitude than aptitude, the frontwoman tosses off party-starter lines like, “We gonna hip shake escape!” with an off-kilter lip-smack, as if she’s chewing bubblegum between phrases.
“I’m a tiny white girl—you would never confuse me for a soul singer. I really like to be primal and straight rather than curly,” Lindberg says, before breaking into an exaggeratedly melismatic American Idol impersonation. “That’s just not me.”
Since that initial Apple-induced boost, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour have been riding the waves of a prominent Heineken spot for their smash “The Golden Age,” which has exposed them to frat boys, basketball fans and, most likely, your parents. For many listeners, they may forever be known as “the band from the commercials,” but Lindberg’s not making any apologies. “We would like everyone to hear our music,” she states matter-of-factly. “And you need money from somewhere or you can’t pay your rent!”
That shouldn’t be much of an issue. Given their recent 15-city North American tour, which included a record release party at Irving Plaza in New York, it’s clear that the group is done playing the role of scrappy underdogs. “I’m on my way / Gonna make it big,” Lindberg sings presciently on “The Golden Age.” “Gonna make these songs for the chicks to dig!”
Don’t forget the soccer moms. F
3 albums that inspired The Asteroids Galaxy Tour to make music
Instant attitude, chopped-up beats, slap delay and distortion everywhere—we get filled with this great sense of rebellion every time we hear the Beasties. It’s so simple and raw.
This is some of the greatest songwriting ever. And Bowie still sings like a little boy, which is creepy and totally awesome at the same time.
With their spaced-out, surreal-UFO-Funkadelic-fuzz-craziness, George Clinton and his supergroups taught us it’s OK to mix the genres any way you want.
This article is from FILTER Issue 47