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Interview: Martin Rehof from Communions


Believe it or not it’s pretty hard work being in a rock band in 2016. You’ve gotta meet like-minded musos, find a space where you can make a racket, and live in an environment that supports and nurtures your creativity. However, Copenhagen quartet Communions have managed to breakthrough to worldwide acclaim after overcoming obstacles that would ruin most young bands.

Brothers Martin and Mads Rehof spent most of their childhood and early teens in Seattle. But everything changed when they were uprooted back to Denmark and put in high school in an area called Freetown Christiana in Copenhagen, an infamous hippie-commune. The brothers and high school friends Jacob van Deurs Formann and Frederik Lind Köppen formed Communions in 2014 through jam sessions in a creative warehouse space called ‘Mayhem’, known as the base of the Danish underground scene.

Just two years on from being uprooted geographically and culturally, Communions are just months away from releasing their highly-anticipated debut album ‘Blue’. We asked the 4-piece’s frontman Martin Rehof more about the band’s incredible origins and what inspires their charming Britrock tunes.

You’ve just released the album’s second single, the electric yet brooding Got To Be Free, what’s the story behind the track?

We built the song off of the opening guitar riff, which sort of ties the track together. Thereafter came the verse and the chorus. With this song I think we wanted to make something that sounded simple, bold, and liberating. I think the song has a nice hedonistic feel to it, and the lyrics sort of fit that state of mind. The song is also quite blues inspired, compared with the other songs on the record, and I think you can hear that!

After moving across the world at a young age, how have you found your experiences in both Seattle and Copenhagen influence your writing?

I don’t think moving around has influenced the music in a very direct way, but it has probably had some indirect impact. The first thing that journalists usually wrote about us when we were starting was our sound stood very much in contrast to the other kinds of ‘bleak’ music coming out of Copenhagen and ‘Mayhem’ [rehearsal space], which might have something to do with the fact that Mads and I were coming from a slightly different background, but it hasn’t really been directly intentional.

Being moved around against your will as a teenager is hard for anyone, and the strong exilic feeling of rootlessness, associated with the cultural change that my brother and I experienced upon moving back to Copenhagen, has probably manifested itself in ways that we are no longer even conscious of. But one of the effects of having experienced such a transformative change is that you automatically feel alienated, and lose your sense of belonging anywhere.

I think Communions’ songs kind of begin from that ‘nowhere’ perspective, in the sense the lyrics usually lack any sort of story or linear narrative told from a specific point of view. Most of the lyrics are written as juxtaposed images and scenic impressions, rather than as coherent stories, and the music has a strong universal quality to it.

What have you found are the benefits to having brothers and two long-time friends in a band?

I’d say there are mostly benefits, there aren’t really any particular disadvantages that come to mind. Having a brother in the band is great because you have someone that thinks the same way that you do, and that keeps you grounded.

Playing with your friends opposed to hired musicians makes relationship in the band more natural and less forced. Everything works on a more subconscious level, in fact we rarely talk about or discuss how we want something to sound, it just kind of happens!

Talk us through your writing process as a band, and what went into your upcoming album?

I write all of the lyrics, but as far as the music goes we usually we start with a specific riff which then inspires a whole song to manifest itself. It’s always a very structured and controlled process…we rarely ‘jam’ our way to a song. The album’s 11 songs are very much a testament to where we are as a band right now, and where we have been heading throughout the past two years.

As you mentioned before, we’ve heard the four of you first formed in the rehearsal space ‘Mayhem’ in Copenhagen, tell us a little more about that process and the venue?

Mayhem consists of some warehouses that were turned into a venue and a rehearsal space by people who began hosting events. It’s not at all a traditional venue, so there’s a lot of creative freedom in terms of hosting concerts and parties. When we started Communions, Frederik and Jacob were already rehearsing at Mayhem and knew the many of the people involved in the scene there. So Mads and I just sort of joined.

It feels like your tracks focus on melodic and Britrock guitar work, especially in the album’s lead single Don’t Hold Anything Back, what has inspired that?

Well, it’s got to have melody! Melody is a very important element in our music, if not the most. It just feels like the most crucial ingredient in writing good songs. We’re frequently compared to British guitar groups, which makes sense, considering that we mainly only use guitars, and obviously it’s hard not to be inspired by some of the big ones like the Smiths, The Cure etc. But it’s not really something we think about too much!

Communions’ debut album ‘Blue’ is set for release in February, how do you think it evolves from your past two EPs?

The first ‘Cobblestones’ EP was basically a demo recording that we made within a day using a USB microphone, so I don’t really consider it an integral part of our sound at this point…even though it did draw some attention to us. I feel like the moment we became a ‘real’ band was after making a releasing our ‘Communions’ EP, and I feel like the debut album is sort of a natural continuation from that release, in terms of song writing, even though the production and overall ‘sound’ has matured.

Lastly, what five things would you recommend Australians do when visiting Copenhagen?

Hmm, well there are the obvious attractions like Tivoli, The Little Mermaid, Christiania and so on. Other than that, there are some good museums like SMK, Louisiana, and Glyptoteket, and various old castles that are worth checking out. There’s also the botanic garden, which is one of my favourite places! Remember to bring a jacket…

Communions’ debut album ‘Blue’ is set for release on the 3rd of February 2017.