“I think success is when you have something to be proud of. And I am really proud of Go Go Berlin,” says Go Go Berlin’s lead singer Christian Vium. Following the release of the new EP “Lyfe”, we revisit ups and downs, sound experiments, inspirations and influences that make the band who they are today.
Though the 2020 lockdown has inspired many projects, “Lyfe” wasn’t one of them. Go Go Berlin started working on it way earlier. “We wanted to release a whole album a year after “The Ocean”, on the same day. But then corona came and we had to change plans,“ explains the drummer Christoffer Østergaard. “Nevertheless, the songs were ready and we wanted to bring some of them out. They speak of the times in Go Go Berlin, our current state of mind.“
“Lyfe” is another step in the musical direction paved by “The Ocean”. In their music, you can hear a balanced combination of rock, pop, electronic, and even jazz elements. This variety of genres doesn’t mean that the artists don’t know what they want — quite the opposite. Christian Vium explains that Go Go Berlin’s sound reflects the music they are inspired by. “Phoenix, Tame Impala, WhoMadeWho… You can hear all those bands in our music but it is not a copy of them. Maybe that’s the confusing part of identifying the genre we belong to,” he says.
He calls Go Go Berlin “a rock band not afraid of a pop melody,“ accurately pinpointing their place in the scene. Indeed, lately they have embraced the best of both worlds: uptempo and loud, percussion-rich rock melodies as well as prominent vocals and catchy pop motives. The desire to experiment and find the sound that they “have in their heads” has been there since the days of Go Go Berlin’s 2013 debut LP “New Gold”. That is why the constant change and gradual departure from the classic rock homage, which we notice from album to album, is something natural and not dramatic.
Vium shares that already in the “New Gold” era, they wanted to make “something that was not only retrospective.“ Citing the French electronic duo Justice as one of the inspirations, Go Go Berlin wanted to bring a modern twist into their music but didn’t have the right skills yet. “We didn’t know how to produce it, put it into our music. We liked the whole energy of the ‘60s-’70s music but we were at the point when classic rock and the environment behind it became boring,“ he adds. “If you look at a classic rock magazine, you step into a museum. All those magazines, they don’t change. They have Led Zeppelin or AC/DC on the cover. It started boring us.”
The singer recalls that when Go Go Berlin started experimenting with the genre, their fans and critics labeled it as “not rock anymore”. He points out that rock music started with Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd being experimental, changing the sound all the time. “But now, in order to be considered rock, you need to sound and even dress in one specific way. And I think that’s wrong, that is so wrong!” he exclaims.
The 5-track “Lyfe” is a melancholic but in no way depressing reflection about life. The band stylised the spelling, implying that the letter “y” sounds exactly like “why”. “This is a symbolic way of saying that we all need to ask questions,” Vium tells me about the title. “You can’t be totally satisfied all the time, keep exploring. We did it as a band, we are not standing still. Everything around us changes and life changes.”
Life changes indeed. In April 2020, Go Go Berlin’s guitarist Mikkel Dyrehave suddenly left the project. Daniel Potts replaced him on stage but not in the studio. Christian Vium, Anders Søndergaard and Christoffer Østergaard remain the masterminds, the creative core of the band.
“Nick [Lee, bassist] and Daniel are part of our family but they don’t write songs,” clarifies Christoffer Østergaard. “There’s no need for that because the three of us are so much in sync, we don’t need to talk about how music sounds in our heads. It is a long process to introduce a new member, and we don’t want to get heartbroken anymore,” he adds half-joking, half-serious.
Dyrehave’s departure was “a huge dynamic change’ since he had been in the band from the start and was an integral part of the songwriting process. “25% of the band jumped out. But the main thing was that the focus of three of us was enough for 100%,” reassures Christian Vium. “So it gave us even more energy in some weird sense.“
“And maybe also some themes for lyrics,” adds Østergaard. It makes me wonder about the meaning of the song “Changes (U Want It)”.
“I know that you want it / You were once a brother / And I cannot fake it […] Cause it changes.”
This song is another example of Go Go Berlin’s thirst for experimentation. The saxophone solo in the end immediately drew my attention and piqued curiosity about the band’s hidden saxophonist. “It’s a secret. You will see when we will play it live,” tells keyboardist Anders Søndergaard, only fueling the interest. Christian Vium adds that the idea for a saxophone solo started with the jazzy guitar; “I was like, ‘is this stupid?’ and Christoffer said ‘no, this is fucking cool, I love it!’”
For Go Go Berlin, lyrics are more than just an accessory to music. Relatable and evoking a whole spectrum of emotions, taking you into the world of your own experiences, their songs can really create a mood. But how much of themselves is in those lyrics? “We cannot write lyrics if we don’t feel the described emotions,” says Christoffer Østergaard, who also writes a lot of the band’s lyrics alongside the lead singer. “It doesn’t have to be something that happened to us, but we have to put ourselves in that emotion.”
“Welcome To The Hills”, perhaps, has some of the most risqué lyrics Go Go Berlin ever wrote. What is that about the “thrills of the cheap pills” that “you need to keep it going all night”?
“We were in Los Angeles, and some of the band members got really fucked up. We wrote a song about it,” confesses Christian Vium. “If you don’t know the story, I don’t know how much you can get out of the lyrics. But all of it is true.”
Go Go Berlin seem to feel completely comfortable with the current contour of their career. After releasing the “Electric Lives” LP in 2015, the band took a four-year break. Their quest to find “the sound in their heads” materialised in the form of “The Ocean” LP, which required Go Go Berlin to regain full control of the creative process. The songs on “The Ocean” and “Lyfe” are recorded in Go Go Berlin’s own studio in Aarhus and self-produced.
At the same time, regaining control came at the expense of certain rock-star privileges. When the Aarhus collective just started, they were rocking the world: playing Roskilde Festival, touring Europe, USA and Asia, performing at the top TV shows in Germany. Now they are more local and down-to-earth. I wonder if they had always longed for more freedom and a less hectic career.
“There is something about the term ‘hype’, which is underrated in the music business,” explains Anders Søndergaard. “A lot of bands get this hype and they’re everywhere for a year and suddenly disappear. I wouldn’t say we have disappeared but of course the hype will eventually drop.”
Nevertheless, Go Go Berlin believe that it is not the fame and money that make a band successful. “We have so many fans who write to us on Instagram or Facebook and say that our songs helped them to get through a bad breakup or some tough time. This is success in my opinion,“ considers Christoffer Østergaard.
Doing what you love is another facet of success, from Anders Søndergaard’s perspective. Before releasing “Lyfe”, Go Go Berlin played several socially distanced seated shows in Denmark. “We had some of the best concerts in a long time. We are still here, we are still making music and we love doing that,“ concludes the keyboardist. “I don’t know if it makes us successful but for us it does.”
And if success means having something to be proud of, then Go Go Berlin absolutely have that something.