Danish noise-pop trio Nelson Can aren’t a fan of the word ‘compromise’. If fact, the more you listen to their music, it soon becomes clear that word probably isn’t even in their vocabulary. Since 2011, Nelson Can have gone from a plucky, punk pop outfit into a fully fledged act blasting out goth-tinged confrontational pop noir on the regular.
Not only this, but the band are also firm footed standard bearers for the DIY aesthetic, producing and releasing their debut album Now Is Your Time To Deliver under their own label imprint, as well as taking control of their own press engagements and touring schedule with very little outside assistance. Safe to say, Nelson Can are a force to be reckoned with, and we were lucky enough to catch up with singer Selina Gin, drummer Maria Juntunen and bassist Signe SigneSigne to try to find out what drives Nelson Can to do what they do.
So, how did you guys get started doing what you do?
Signe: Well, it kind of started out as a lie (laughs). We had applied for some money from the Danish copyright organisation [KODA] to record some music and they actually agreed to give us [the equivalent of] 600 pounds. So we thought “oh, great” and then didn’t do anything with it. Then we got a letter from them saying that we had three months to use the money or we’re not getting it. So we called up a guy we knew with a studio and told him we had this really good band and loads of songs to record…
Selina: We didn’t, by the way!
Signe: Yeah, we didn’t have any songs. So, the night before, we sat down and wrote ‘Apple Pie’ and ‘Electricity’, which are on our first EP, and recorded them the next day. That’s basically how it started… a big lie (laughs).
Sounds like it was a bit of a haphazard start?
Selina: Yeah, it kinda was!
Your early stuff sounds a lot less confrontational compared with your recent material.
Selina: It’s more fun to play the songs we do now, but it wasn’t really a choice to change our sound. I just think we became better at writing songs and that’s the direction we’ve naturally gone in.
You’ve got an unusual set up in that you don’t have a guitar player, and this has sort of become a mission statement for the band. Any particular reason for this?
Selina: Basically, it’s because none of us can play the guitar (laughs). It’s not as though we hate guitars – we don’t – but now it’s become a kind of statement.
Signe: It’s become a rule in the band that enforces creativity. When you set boundaries for yourself it can create a space where your creativity can grow.
Selina: It’s a dogma. It makes us work harder and think about the sound more when we’re writing, so it can make you put more energy into the smaller things. It makes us think abut things more.
Do you enjoy challenging yourselves in that sort of way?
Signe: It can be really frustrating at times, but that makes it more rewarding when we get things right.
Let’s talk your album [Now Is Your Time To Deliver]. It’s been quite a long time in the making. How does it feel to get finally have it our there?
Maria: We just wanted to have an album out there to show people we could do it, and to show ourselves that we could do it. In general, it was very important to us to show people that we’re here and we’re not giving up.
Signe: It wasn’t all fun and games.
Has there been some negativity and resistance to your music?
Maria: Well, when we started there was a lot of hype and the people in the industry we spoke to didn’t seem to expect very much from us, like it wasn’t going to last or something. So we got to be better musicians and just made more music.
Signe: Yeah, we’re more than just hype.
It seems like you’re almost anti-hype in a way. The way you put out your music and manage yourselves is pretty DIY.
Signe: Sure, I mean it’s not like we don’t like major labels or mainstream bands. It’s just the way do things now works for us. We run the record label, we organise the tours. This is all we do and its a lot of work.
In the current climate, it’s not easy to be completely self sufficient and do everything yourselves. It’s obviously important to you, but how important do you think having a DIY approach is in general for bands around today?
Signe: We’re not saying that all bands should be DIY all the way, because it’s definitely not for everybody. But for us it’s really good to know how it all works. Like, it’s good to know how to set up a show, how to put a press release together and send it out. Sometimes, relying on outside people to do everything for you can be really bad for a band. They might have a shitty manager or a shitty label but they won’t see it because they might not have the experience of doing it themselves.
Selina: All musicians want to be successful and we do too. If the right label came along and it was the right time, we would say yes to a record deal. But it’s got to be right for us.
Signe: And we’re always speaking to people whenever we can and asking for advice. We’re always learning, and that’s the great thing about doing what we do.
What’s next for Nelson Can?
Maria: More touring!
Signe: Yeah, we’ve toured with some really great bands like Toy, The Black Keys and Royal Blood…
Selina: The Royal Blood tour war really good.
Signe: Yeah, we played the Copenhagen show and there were people in the crowd who actually knew us. We couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.
Maria: … and there’s is going to be another EP really soon.
Nelson Can are touring Spain before heading to the Skarø Festival. Check out the dates here.
Now Is Your Time To Deliver is out now.