One does not know much about you, usually something like “a duo from Sweden making synth-pop” - which does not sound absolutely true to me. Can you tell us a bit more about how you came to making music? Have you been in bands before, did you start with home-recording or djing - or are you are even “classically trained” musicians? How much of your sound is based on electronics/computer? Plus: At least when playing live you are obviously more than a duo…
Anders: Haha, “a synth-pop duo”! We do have an old Moog but most of our keyboard-sounds actually come from an organ that we’ve used extensively on our recordings so far. We don’t see ourselves as a “synthpop”- or an ”electronic” band at all.
Our sound is not really based on electronics. We don’t use any soft-synths or computer-generated sounds or stuff like that, but we do sample sounds that we use as loops and then play something over the sample. All the instruments we use are vintage and analogue from the 50’s – 70’s like tape delay, organ, vibraphone, Moog, electric guitar, zither etc. We use a Mac Mini with Pro Tools to record our stuff, and we do a lot of editing in Pro Tools. We record and mix everything by ourselves.
Marleen: We’ve both been in other bands before but none of us are “trained” musicians. We actually met through another band some years ago. I was joining the band, just before it split up. We kept in touch and soon started Death And Vanilla together as we discovered we shared similar tastes in music. We’re just passionate music-fans who can’t help but to make music ourselves. The main thing for us is to create sounds we like and write good melodies to those sounds. We really are all about melodies, but we love to work with sounds, so we're after the perfect mix of the two.
When we play live we expand to a 5-piece band. Often we have to re-arrange the songs a bit to make them sound good being played by 5 people, and we try to expand the songs, perhaps add some improvisation and dynamics to make it interesting.
You are doing live gigs and will be touring Europe later this year, but you are rarely seen much in your own videos or on your covers. Does this relate to certain aesthetics or is it more a question of not giving too much away (yet), at least not until you have found means to make it look like you want it? Is there a special love for artwork/design as well?
Marleen: We like to keep a low personal profile as we see Death And Vanilla as an entity of it’s own. The music, the sound and the graphics we use are a lot more important than what we look like. We also like there to be a bit of a mystery and not give everything away. We’re no trying to sell anything by trying to be sexy or cute or whatever, it’s the music that is important.
Anders: We think the graphic representation of Death And Vanilla is very important and we do make the record covers by ourselves, and also some of the videos. We’re not that good at it but we rather it looks a bit amateurish and homemade but have the right feel to it, than pay lots of money to have someone just come up with some “nice” graphics that has no feel to it. We like to take the listener on a trip and it’s starts right with the graphics and videos.
Generally there is a certain 60s and psychedelic vibe somewhere, as can be heard in the mix you did for Six Ton Armor, too, which leads us from Ennio Morricone via Strawberry Alarm Clock to Peaking Lights, among others. I can also sense that you are very conscious of today’s music as well. (I am guessing some more now, as a way not to categorize, but to contextualize your music in present time.) Do you maybe miss a certain sense of style in what is happening in today’s music from witch house epigonists to laptop enthusiasts, industry-shaped bands and one-person-hype outfits? When you look at the usual “female fronted band”, maybe in the tradition of bands like Broadcast: How do you relate to that “front person thing” (as a band)? Are you consciously avoiding some clichés in your public appearance (see question above) or do you more positively relate to certain genres and try to combine this with your own attitude/music?
Anders: Psychedelia is an important ingredient in our music. Perhaps maybe not so much the flower power/Grateful Dead-kind of psychedelia though, it’s more about sounds and moods that can take you to other places in your mind, a kind of escape from reality. You know, you switch off the lights and turn the music up loud and just drift away. We really like the 60’s sound of tube amps, spring reverbs, tape delays etc and also the kind of naivety of experimentation that went on back then. Everything was new at that time and had to be done by hand, not just by pressing the button an a computer.
Anders: We’re not aiming to sound like a 60’s retro-band at all though, we just love the sounds of those old instruments and reverbs and try to create our own sound with them.
Marleen: We do keep en eye/ear to what’s new but we’re not really interested in what’s the current hype or trend. Some of the more recent stuff we liked are Shabazz Palaces “Black Up”, Karen Novotny Xs “Nothing Here Now Than These Recordings 78-79”, X-TG’s “Desertshore/The Final Report” and Peaking Lights “936” to name a few.
Anders: Otherwise, The Six Ton Armor-mix is good place to start if you want to peek into our universe. And if you want to dive in deeper, check out or blog Dunwich Radio for more sounds.
We don’t really think about that we’re a female fronted band, but since when we play live there are four males and one female Marleen probably stands out, and also the fact that she’s the lead vocalist of course. But we’re not really thinking about that, it’s just other peoples perceptions. Marleen would rather be at the back of the stage, or on the left/right side, instead of in the front, and sometimes that is how it is too.
Just in case I totally missed the point with the former question a quick and easy last one: What are your plans for this year and what places in and people from Sweden (or elsewhere) would you recommend as “to watch in 2013” - apart from yourself, which we obviously will.
Marleen: Our new single on UK-label The Great Pop Supplement will be out in late January/early February! It feature two new tracks: “From Above" and “Lux” and we’re very happy about it. It will be released as a square shaped red vinyl 7” with insert and stickers. 400 copies for the world so don’t miss it!
Marleen: Last year we did a soundtrack for the silent film “Vampyr” from 1932 which we performed live to the screening of the film at a film festival in Lund, Sweden. The performance was recorded and will hopefully be released this spring. It’s 72 minutes of Death And Vanilla-music not heard elsewhere before.
Anders: We’ve also started working on our second album and we’re very excited about what we’ve done so far. It’s hard to say when it will be finished but hopefully during this year.
Marleen: It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Malmö-based label Kalligrammofon as they no doubt will continue to release some great music in 2013.
Anders: Otherwise, the Hands In The Dark- and Moon Glyph-labels have been releasing some good music for quite some time and will probably continue to do so this year.
(Originally published via DJ Mag Germany in March 2013.)
((Here is a quite new video. Sorry, of course it is brandnew, super-exclusive and absolutely fresh and just for you only. Well, of course not, this is pop music, isn't it?))