Written by Al Mannarino
It’s safe to say that I am obsessed with alternative music. I usually try to catch a show every month and if I’m not seeing a band live I’m usually blasting their music on my way to work. A band that falls into that category is the popular Danish band New Politics. If you don’t recognize their name you may have heard their incredibly catchy single, “Harlem,” which has been all over the Top 40 and alternative rock charts. “Harlem” may have gotten everyone’s attention, but it’s their unbelievable live shows that have solidified them as one of the most exciting bands out there.
Between playing sold-out shows and getting ready for festival season, I was able to speak to lead singer David Boyd. We discuss the move from Denmark, the culture shock of living in New York, and headlining their own tour.
Pop-Break: When you received your record deal you decided to move to the U.S. What was it about Brooklyn that made you decide to live there?
David Boyd: I think it was a mix of things. We didn’t really have any idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had absolutely zero plans for anything. We had never been to New York in our lives. We did have a label, management team, and lawyer that believed in us. They all lived in New York. I think it was a mix of that, which helped us make the decision. We didn’t know anyone in L.A. We never lived there or anything. We were kind of like, “Let’s be where our team is,” which I think was a really smart thing to do. It was more comforting to have our team in one location.
PB: Was there a big alternative rock scene in Denmark?
DB: I don’t really know the Danish music scene that well. I know in Scandinavia and in Denmark there is a really healthy music scene. A lot of people do music and we are very experimental. We have an original sound, but it’s very inspired by the alternative rock scenes in American and England. But we have our own sound. I do have a few friends that are doing very well with music. One if them just got signed here in America…It’s sort of like [a] trend. We are kind of a hot topic at the moment and we are from Denmark so you start to see a wave of similar artist from similar areas start to emerge and become popular. There’s no real rock scene. The only other Danish band that I know that is alternative or rock are The Raveonettes.
PB: Who are your biggest musical influences?
DB: When I was growing up, half the music that I listened to I didn’t know who it was. I knew individual singles because I danced a lot and never really bought CDs. I always got mix tapes or mix CDs from DJs because my background was dancing. I had all these DJ friends they would always shoot me mixes that they did and they were like “let me know what you think of this DJ mix.” They would contain a lot of mashed up different styles of music and often I would never get into the same sound because it would be non-stop for like 90 minutes. I never really knew who I was listening to until I started getting into music and that’s what sort of fit. As a band we are inspired by any song that touches us. It doesn’t matter if it is pop, rock, metal, grunge, experimental, alternative, electronic it doesn’t matter. If it’s a good song then it’s a good song. You could always find elements that inspire you. The big influences are grunge, ’60s, and ’70s. Our era of music is Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine, but Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, Billy Idol, and Phil Collins also inspire us.
PB: What was your inspiration for your sophomore album, A Bad Girl in Harlem?
DB: The simplest way to describe that is basically the reflection of everything we went through in the period from moving from Denmark. That first album was pretty much done before we moved to the States. We did the album, then started touring so we never had a chance to really experience the culture shock. We were always on the road. When we released the first album we had no fans, it happened so quick, in such a fast cycle. We are on the road and we need that. We needed experience performing live. Touring helped us look at other bands that were successful. What were they doing? We toured with bands that also produced their first album and had huge success. We also toured with bands that had been touring for ten years and were huge. We also toured with bands that were half way through that sort of success. We just learned a lot. Learned a lot from our label and management.
Then when it came time to start our second album we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into because all we knew was this time we wanted to do the best possible album that we could. No more demos at home in a basement. We wanted the lyrics to be a reflection of something we were going through. It had to be our experience moving to America, our experience touring. We wanted to express the breakup with our girlfriends that couldn’t handle this new lifestyle or how do you approach a woman in America? Which is so different, just the culture shock that came in. Missing Denmark and falling in love with the States. There were just so many elements and those elements we wanted to put in our album. At the same time we wanted to develop and take the experiences that we learned from other bands, from our label, from our management, that success that we had for a short period, we wanted to take that and throw that overboard and see where it would go. But still keep our integrity as New Politics. It was a really hard challenge and I think we did a really good job because as artists we really developed and we opened up our minds to learning, and wanting more, pushing ourselves over the edge. Coming up with something that is so honest to the point where we were so nervous to release it. We released at the point of rock bottom. We were eating Ramen Noodles for four months because we ran out of money and stuff like that. We still wanted it so bad. We had zero idea because we were jumping into the black. So it was like all of us were all really nervous because we poured our hearts into this and we were ready to get judged and criticized for this album that we did. We released it and lucky enough it took off and we have had such an amazing run. We are just so blessed, it’s so surreal for us it’s incredible. We are so inspired now, all the acknowledgments and stuff is so great. But it’s really just a reflection of that whole sort of faith that we put in this album.
PB: You’re often classified as an alternative rock band. What genre would you say you most fit into?
DB: The real question is what’s alternative rock? I don’t even know what that is. Because when we write music we just sort of listen to it as music. For us it’s not more complicated then that. It depends on what alternative rock is. You could just take the words. It’s alternative. We do music, but we don’t do a style of music. We have elements of different music. Which is shown in our personalities because we love everything. We love pop, we love rock, and we love electronics. All those elements are part of music that we love. We combine it one way and you could hear mass appeal, but you could hear the guitars, the grunge, and the raw attitude in the style of singing. We record our vocals at home in our own booth; we have a mini studio set up so there is something really honest and raw about the music as well. That sort of gives it the rock and 60’s & 70’s sort of appeal. We also like the energy of the 90’s, which is a huge inspiration for us. There is no way around that. So I guess it’s alterative in the way that it’s rock, but it’s different and has other elements then just 100% rock.
So I think alterative rock and we are really proud to be apart of it because I think it’s honestly the healthiest scene at the moment. Once you get into it, it’s amazing music. It appeals to a wide range of people. Just the bands in the last two or three years that have crossed over and have gone number one on the pop or other charts; its like really great music. It’s a healthy scene. I think we are in a place where rock isn’t as active as it use to be, but it’s adding these other elements of music to it makes it new and refreshing. We are really proud to be apart of this scene at the moment and being able to crossover as well. It’s a big thing to represent. We see it as a responsibility to be apart of this scene. There is so much great music coming out of it. Hopefully it continues will grow with these other bands and just saying it aloud is so surreal. We started in a basement in Denmark! It’s great man.
PB: You’ve toured with some of the biggest names in alternative music. How does it feel to headline your own tour?
DB: I mean this is amazing. Every night we are so humbled and it’s such I gigantic acknowledgment. We don’t even know how to express it. We are so genuinely grateful for it. We have been working so hard for have and to experience this. We have toured with so many bands. We always thought it would be so amazing to pull up the bus to a sold out venue. It must feel so great to sell merchandise because your fans want to and are apart of this dream that you have. That’s what really happens. Coming to these venues we were so nervous because we mastered how to do a forty-minute set, now we have an hour and twenty minutes and it’s only about us, and everyone is there to see us. A lot of these individual shows were to promote the album, but have now become our world. They are just so excited and it’s incredible to hear the crowd sing along. It’s also incredible also to see people that just know our single Harlem, that watch us and just become hooked on us as a band. It’s all different ages and it’s just so wild. We have these meet-and-greets after and all these compliments and the love that we get is so humbling and inspiring. We really worked hard and it feels good to know that if you put your mind to something, you work for it, and you believe in it then things happen.
We have been through a rollercoaster with ups and downs with this whole thing. From moving here in the past four years with hardcore struggling. It’s not like we are in the perfect place, but we are in a area now that we got over this bump where “wow we are actually officially a band now”, not just like we are like a hype, or a talk, or a single, or a great opening band. We are actually a band that could sell out medium size rooms, which is the first sign of that kind of attitude that we “made it.” There is still a long way to go compared to other bands that we toured with that sell out thousands of capped rooms. The band is on its own feet now like a baby that’s just learned to walk. It feels incredible knowing that so many of the places are sold out and have been bumped up to bigger rooms that are selling out. To finally see and experience that and to see that 70% of the tour has been sold out already. There are a few places that we haven’t played before and the radio is a big part of that. It’s been a huge part of this. We couldn’t have done this without the radio. All of those elements are just making the experience incredible. We are totally blown away by it.
PB: Are you playing at any major music festivals this year?
DB: We are going to be playing Firefly. In Europe we are playing a few festivals. We are getting ready to release our album in Europe in March. Once we are done with the tour here we are playing a few of the radio festivals then we fly over to Europe they totally jumped on board the album and loved it, which is great. Hopefully everything that we went through this year in America we will get to experience again in Europe, starting from scratch again, but it’s great. We are getting ready to do that in March, then we go to Australia as well, then we will go back to Europe for a few festivals there, then we fly back to the states for few more radio shows leading up to our tour with Paramore and Fall Out Boy on their Monumentour. Which will be huge because it’s just over 30 cities across America. It will be the tour of the summer, 100% for us at least. Paramore and Fall Out Boys scene is just a wild scene they have amazing fans. I’m so excited for that. Then we don’t have anything after that. This was all the work off a single song and we have a second single out now, which is doing great. We have a great follow up of good songs on our album, A Bad Girl in Harlem. We are really excited and ready to work.
PB: What does the band do for fun when you’re not recording new music or playing sold out shows?
DB: I really like to go out and walk through the cities and go places. Try to experience things. I always enjoy taking walks alone and try to find something traditional, eat something in the area, or go to a museum; I’m really into that. If I made friends in the city I like to hang out with them. I also like to write music on the guitar and hang out with the guys and crew. I love to dance. Søren (Guitarist) is similar as well. He’s a bit of a gamer. He plays a lot of World of Warcraft with his friends; they have a guild and all that. Louis listens to a lot of music and watches a lot of movies. We are really laid back and have a lot of fun. We don’t take life too seriously. We are enjoying the experience. We like to go out to eat, drink, and meet people, which is part of it as well.