Scandinavia has an impressive track record of bands treading a clever line between dance and pop. Danish four-piece When Saints Go Machine — Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild (vocals), Jonas Kenton (keyboards), Simon Muschinsky (keyboards) and Silas Moldenhawer (drums) — are the latest.
The four members were childhood friends who met through their parents, who all lived in the same neighbourhood in Copenhagen. They formed the band in 2007. Nikolaj explains: “Our initial goal was to make something that would work in a club environment, but we kind of got tired of the whole four-on-the-floor thing. We wanted to make music that would transcend the borders of Denmark. I guess what we do now is pop with a lot of electronics.”
When it comes to the songwriting, Nikolaj pens the lyrics and the melody, then the band, in various combinations, work on turning them into finished tracks. “There’s actually not really a method to how we do things other than it’s a democracy,” says Nikolaj. The subject matter, meanwhile, has real depth. For example, ‘Fail Forever’ is about how people never say what they think. “When you meet someone and they say, How are you doing?, you always say, I’m fine. It’s never OK to say, I’m depressed. But the most human thing is failure. Everyone pretends to be superhuman, but they’re not.” ‘Pick Up Your Tears And Run’ was written as a lullaby, something that you can fall asleep to. “I guess it didn’t turn out as originally intended, like a lot of other things,” says Nikolaj, ruefully. Perhaps the most poignant track is ‘Pinned’. “I try to hide stuff that’s happened to me in songs, not that I really want to, but things just sneak in there somehow,” explains Nikolaj. “They aren’t biographies, but that song in particular is kind of about my dad. It’s about lying in a hospital with tubes coming out of your body, like you’re pinned there.” It’s heart-wrenching, yet beautiful too.
Looking to the future, Nikolaj says the aim is to release an album next year. “It’s not finished yet, but we’re nearly done. We’ve used more classical instruments this time, although some of them don’t sound classical, because we mess with them because of our electronic background. The arrangements are bigger and better. It’s more evolved all round.”
Bigger and better: it sounds irresistible. When Saints Go Machine are poised for great things.