Drummer Poul Amaliel, singer David Boyd and guitarist Soren Hansen.
Photos courtesy of Crush Management
Plugged In: New Politics
Written by Chrissy Mauck
What do you get when you mix a jazz drummer, a grunge guitarist and a hip-hop singer? New Politics, a rock trio from Copenhagen, Denmark, that is living out the “American Dream” in a day and age where the promise of prosperity and success hollowly rings, making their story all the more remarkable.
At the start of 2009, New Politics didn’t even exist. Disillusioned music friends David Boyd, who was making a living dancing in theater plays, and graphic designer Soren Hansen were simply getting together in their spare time to write songs as a hobby. Less than two years later, they find themselves in a full-fledged band on a major record label, living and touring in a new country where the lead-off single, “Yeah, Yeah Yeah,” from their debut album climbed to the top 45 on Billboard’s rock songs chart.
“It’s extremely surreal to think about all that has happened,” Boyd tells Fender News over a cell phone call from a park somewhere between Houston and Dallas. “We really had no idea of any of this. Maybe unconsciously we thought it would be a good idea to live out this dream of living off music, but we were just writing songs for three years back in Denmark for fun. It had never occurred to us that we were going to be in a band.”
|Watch the New Politics video for “Dignity,” and see what Soren Hansen (left) had to say about his Fender gear here.|
But then Boyd happened across an ad promoting the Danish National Radio P3′s Karriere Kanonen competition in the newspaper.
“I ran this crazy idea by Soren about how we should enter just to try and get some kind of acknowledgment as to whether our music was worth anything,” shares Boyd. “I figured we had nothing to lose so why not?”
Although 972 other bands had the same idea, Boyd and Hansen wound up being one of 42 bands chosen to perform at a club for the next round of competition. It was then that “why not” became “oh sh-t.”
“We entered the competition a week before deadline and we had one song for it, no name, no drummer and no idea who we were going to go onstage with for the next round,” remembers Hansen.
With the clock ticking, Hansen thought to call an old acquaintance he had once jammed with, drummer Poul Amaliel.
“It was about eight years ago, but I still remember the very first time I heard Poul play,” says Hansen. “I just couldn’t stop smiling because I was like, ‘This is a really good drummer.’ When we got together to jam there was just this kind of magic that you always hope for in a band.”
Sick of scraping together food and rent money, Amaliel had given up on his music career and was about a month deep in his classes to become a professional bricklayer when Hansen hit him up with the invite to join the band. Still, he readily agreed, thinking it could be a great side gig. However, after actually checking out the material on MySpace, the self-described mellow rock/jazz drummer regretted his commitment.
“Their music was more electric funk music back then and I just didn’t feel like it was really me,” he admits. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, but I was not going to bail out of a deal. So we met up to rehearse and once I played with them it was instantly like, ‘I need to do this with them.’”
Among the top four winners in the contest, the new trio made quite a splash when they next performed at Denmark’s Spot Festival in May 2009. Although they were heavily courted by labels locally, the Danish outfit elected to move stateside, where they inked a deal with RCA in November.
“We’ve all been through the chump side of music so when we finally had this opportunity to go for it and move to America, it was like, ‘F–k it, we’ve got nothing to lose,’” says Amaliel. “I’d rather play drums than lay bricks any day. For me, it was pretty easy. I had nothing to lose.”
Given the string of noise complaints already filed by Denmark neighbors due to their frequent all-night marathon songwriting sessions, Hansen and Boyd likewise felt that moving to America was a win-win situation.
“Worst case, we’d end up where we started which was writing music because it was fun,” says Boy. “So again, why not go for it?”
“F–k it” has become their official motto; not in the apathetic sense of giving up, but rather from that perspective of taking a gamble and chasing their dreams full throttle.
“We have that mentality that we don’t need a backup plan because we have faith in ourselves,” explains Hansen. “We felt like we have the power to make this happen and that it made sense for us so it was completely, ‘F–k it, let’s go and take a jump into the big world and see what happens.’”
So the trio holed up in a loft in Brooklyn, N.Y., where they wrote, recorded and produced their debut effort, meshing their individual music sensibilities on an eponymous album that’s drawn comparisons to the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, the Pixies and Nirvana.
“David is a breakdancer so he comes from that hip-hop environment and I’m a crazy grunge head so most of those bands make sense to us,” says Hansen. “Like Poul said earlier, we definitely started out as more of an electronic band but once we wrote ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah,’ it had more of a grunge edge to it. Our lyrics also started getting really serious and more political as we went along.”
In both leadoff single “Yeah Yeah Yeah” and its follow-up “Dignity,” New Politics share their observations on war, crime, the police and corporate evil — serious subject matter that is lightened, however, by their driving dance beat, upbeat choruses and ferocious energy.
“We are inspired by our time and age and what we follow and go through,” sums up Boyd. “I can definitely say I’m a fanatic for history, politics, banks and corporations and the way things work in society, but I think it’s kind of corny if you try to be too political and serious. In writing the album, we tried to keep it fun and as general as possible. The color should never be too distinctive because I think it’s best to let people interpret our creation for themselves.”
Boyd is particularly curious about how people perceive the album cover, which was inspired by Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary film directed by British graffiti artist, political activist and painter Bansky.
“I was out in New York and had time to burn and so I caught his film,” recalls Boyd. “I love his artwork because it is so ironic and cool and done in such an awesome way. While I was watching the film I was like, ‘This is what our statement should be. It should be ironic; it should invoke mixed emotions, and it shouldn’t be too black or too white or whatever.’ I went home and was online looking for inspiration and at 3 a.m. I came across an image and an idea that I thought could work.”
Boyd took his idea to the record label, which designed a cover that features a nuclear explosion that, depending upon the eye of the beholder, could also appear as a bouquet of flowers.
“It’s that contrast between good and evil or what’s beautiful and what’s not,” shares Boyd “And they made it out of newspapers which is so contradictory because you never know what is true and what is false in all of that information. It’s interesting to hear people’s opinion of our cover though because some only see one side of it.”
Fans who have already “plugged in” to the debut album or caught New Politics live during their fall run with 30 Seconds to Mars can undoubtedly attest that there are many sides to this Danish trio. By fusing frantic rapping and danceable melodies with minimal arrangements and unbridled energy, New Politics makes for a contagious and unconventional rock band. Consider too, how much more is yet to come for a band that’s really just getting started.
“Our development has just been so quick,” notes Boyd. “You can already hear a difference from our old to new stuff and it’s only a year old. Having a drummer and playing live made our sound a bit harder and our energy continues to push us. I think we are still laying the bricks to what we will eventually become.”