If 14th century Dutch painter Hieronynous Bosch had depicted a bleeding edge, underground night club in one of his triptychs, the soundtrack likely would have been Danish producer Vera's new EP Sketches For Trommer (the latest release from venerable indie label Pelican Fly). Though perhaps an unfamiliar name for some readers, Vera has worked with P&P regular MØ and more recent favorites LISS, producing the latter's singles "Sorry," "Try," and "Always."
Every second of Sketches For Trommer is packed with kinetic ear candy, restlessly colliding familiar sounds from hip-hop and electronic music with the sorts of unusual textures only an endlessly obsessed sound architect. The EP culminates in perhaps Vera's most focused moment, "Eeva," an energetic capstone that packs all of the explosive sonic dynamism of the preceding four tracks into a frame marries melody and mood with frantic motion.
To coincide with the release of Sketches, we spoke with Vera via email about his home, his eclectic influences, his current favorite music, and his undying love of Sade. Stream the EP and read the interview below. Buy Sketches here.
What's the electronic scene like in Denmark?
I'm not sure that I see myself as an electronic artist and I can’t even say if there is a certain electronic music scene in Denmark, but I feel strongly connected to the general music scene I Copenhagen right now. Its boiling!! There are so much great stuff coming up right now. Take Vasco, he is my partner in much of the stuff I do—we were in the same band when we were teens. When the band split we moved to Italy where we sat every day and produced and wrote weird Katy Perry-ish pop songs—just for our own pleasure and to get better. Then you have Off Bloom—they just dropped their first single and are doing so well in both songwriting and producing. We work together in the studio a lot and they've been writing top lines on some of my new songs. For us it's all about working together and helping each other as much as possible.
And speaking on totally new/upcoming stuff you have School of X—he’s one of my favorite drummers (he’s the drummer of MØ) and this is his newly launched solo project. I really love his voice and songwriting - its sounds pretty different from what there is right now, really refreshing.
Then there is another thing I have to mention. I'm not sure that I understand the music perfectly but that's a good thing I guess! Its a techno-duo called Helen. They did a track called "Ave Maria" which is just amazing. For some reason it's a hit in the LGTBQ community—maybe its because it is so emotional.
How did you initially connect with LISS? What was the vision behind your work with them?
I went to a family dinner and was talking to my sisters boyfriend who I didn’t know that well at that time. He told me that he just started a band with three other guys and had made a one song and he asked me if I wanted to finish it with them. I didn’t have any expectations but when I heard it i was like “holy shit.” When we first started, I don't think they wanted me to do any more than just mixing, but I got the tracks and started to produce a bit on it. Later we met in their heavy trashy rehearsal space and got it all together. When they got signed to XL everything went a bit more pro and we went to a proper studio an recorded some of the instruments again with Rodaidh McDonald, who also contributed to some of the tracks from the First EP.
I'm not sure what my vision was behind my work. I think the main thing is just that I really love and respect the band deeply, so I just wanted to keep the rough vibe of a real band playing and then I just tried to emphasize the greatness of songs and then I mixed it with a hint of my productions and sounds just because I couldn't help it. Everything happened quite natural. I've heard some of the tracks from their upcoming EP and I think its some of the most inspiring music I've heard for a long time—they have become brilliant producers themselves now. Creatively they are growing so fast and they are so good to each other and people around them.
What are your earliest musical memories?
Oh that's a hard one. My father has always been listening to so much music, so I guess it has been some of his favorites playing from the speakers in our living room. Probably John Coltrane or Jimi Hendrix. When I got a bit older I would go upstairs and sit in my older sisters room and listen to music on her stereo—she had all the fresh CDs and music magazines at that time. Hanson and Spice Girls were our favorites. I had so much Posh Spice merchandise!
How did you first get into production?
I think it was when I was around 14 years old. We had a school project in history and music and I decided to make a project about Kraftwerk. I made a Kraftwerk style song in Garage Band on my mother's computer. It had an extremely simple arrangement and I was singing so bad and with an extremely silly English pronunciation—it matched the Kraftwerk esthetic very well.
Who are your biggest recent musical influences?
I guess for this Sketches For Trommer EP my main influence has been Richelle and DJ Slow from Pelican Fly. They have showed me so much crazy stuff and all the great artists like Cashmere Cat, Sinjin Hawke, Mister Tweeks and Lido that they have put out on Pelican Fly have had a big impact on the music. Also more directly Richelle and DJ Slow have been big part of the making of these songs. We have sent sooooooo many demos back and fourth and we have met a few times in the studio in both Copenhagen and Brussels working on tracks. That's also why its called Sketches for Trommer—it has more been about getting to know each other personally and musically and just bouncing ideas than it has been about making a final product. It's really been a pleasure to get to know the Pelican Fly guys.
The EP has actually been in its current form for more than a year now so a lot has happened since I did these songs. Lately I’ve listened a lot to regular singer-songwriters. John Mayer, Lisa Ekdahl, and of course Sade who is my life partner. I think I'm the number one Sade listener on Spotify over the past years!
What's one song you've got on repeat right now?
Oh there is so much great stuff out there right now and I'm always having various of tracks on repeat. I think just as we speak I have one demo for my next project on repeat—it's called "Signals" and it's not done yet, but I'm so happy about it and I really showed me the direction for my next project. It's quite another thing than this EP. It has vocals and a smooth saxophone hook. I imagine that its what taxi drivers listened to in the early 2000’s in Copenhagen while they where driving around in the night picking up weird drunk posh party people.