“We love the freedom and attentiveness in jazz and the sense of vibe and creation of ambience in electronic music…” We asked one of the leading keyboard-drum duo of the northern jazz, electronic, ambient scene, Svaneborg Kardyb, about inspirations and creating their music.
Tell us a little about the formation of the duo. How did you find each other? When did you decide to form the Svaneborg Kardyb?
We met each other at the academy of music in Aalborg where we studied together. Already back then we had an idea of making a duo with only keys and drums, but we ended up being busy playing in a lot of different projects instead. Then 6 years later we finally decided to meet up in Jonas’ rehearsal room one morning for what we thought would be a casual jam-session, but the music came out so fluently and the simplicity in the setup gave us both so much room for creative and interesting ideas that we quickly found another date for a session – also in the morning. Six months later we had enough material to go to the studio and make our first record.
How did you get into music?
Nikolaj: In Denmark we have a big tradition for community singing and a whole repertoire of both modern and traditional songs that we cherish. At school, my father was accompanying these songs on piano so naturally I also had to learn to play. From the age of 5 I started taking lessons and ever since, the piano has been like a spiritual place I can go to reflect and process what’s going on in my life.
Jonas: I was just into the drum kit. In music classes in school, I was just sitting there staring at the shiny cymbals and drums. This just spoke to me and since I got my first drum kit when I was 8 years old, I haven’t stopped loving the drums. I listened to a lot of rock and punk music – I liked the energy of that, and then I also listened to songwriters like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
Your music is in jazz, electronic and ambient genres. What or who inspires you to create in these genres?
When we started out the band we didn’t really think about influences at all. We strived to create melodies and universes that we wanted to listen to ourselves. It’s all about bringing something new to life that is so strong that it has a life on its own. Obviously, we couldn’t avoid bringing in influences of artists we’ve been touched by through our time of playing. Artist like Nils Frahm, Esbjørn Svensson, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Brian Blade.
How often do you improvise at concerts? Do you only play existing songs or do you usually go into jamming as well?
Our setup allows us to have quite a free approach to concerts. We like to create a setlist with a lot of room for improv, but mostly in the sense that we’ll play the tunes from whatever vibe we are feeling in the moment. There’s no ‘right’ way of playing a tune in sense of tempo, harmony, form and so on, so having them open for interpretation forces us to really listen to each other’s choices and act on them. So every concert becomes different.
How do you create your songs? How should we imagine the creative process? Who comes up with the themes and ideas?
The ideas spark from a lot of different sources. Sometimes it’s the sound of water dripping from the gutter in a funny way. Sometimes it’s a melody formed from hours and hours of refinement in the middle of the night. Sometimes it emerges from soundchecks because the rooms we play in can be very different and therefore invoke different ideas. In one room the cymbal suddenly sounds so crisp that a whole tune evolves around it. In another it’s so intimed, that the high hats can play the melody.
Which direction are you more drawn to, jazz or electronic music?
We are equally drawn to a lot of different genres. We love the freedom and attentiveness in jazz and the sense of vibe and creation of ambience in electronic music.
Your music is instrumental. Have you thought about including a vocalist or some vocal features in you music?
We actually already did on our first record; ‘Et Liten Øyeblikk Bare’ features the amazing Eline Hellerud Åsbakk from Norway.
You recently released the album Over Tage Deluxe Edition. Why did you decide to expand the 2022 Over Tage album and not release a separate smaller one?
‘Vejen’, ‘Hav’, ‘Morgendvale’ and ‘Terrassedør’ was all recorded in the same sessions as the rest of the tunes of ‘Over Tage’. We wanted to keep the family together so we thought they fitted best on the same release than on a separate one.
How are instrumental bands received in Denmark by the audience?
It’s actually become quite a thing in Denmark over the years. Instrumental folk and jazz bands are thriving – but it’s undoubtedly due to the extremely high quality. Check out I Think You Are Awesome, Hvalfugl, Bagland, Henrik Lindstrand, Dreamers Circus and we could keep going.
For the success of a band, it is essential that the band members are also friends. How is it with you? Do you spend time together outside of band duties?
We definitely do. There is no point in having a band if it’s not with your friends. Sharing musical experiences is the whole point of taking a band out of the basement and into the world. That said, in periods we are spending more time together than with our families, so nourishing and taking the friendship seriously really is key to having a sustainable band – and friendship.
You can visit European countries with the support of Liveurope. How many places have you been so far?
We’ve been so fortunate to meet a lot of different people all over Europe. So far we’ve been to Romania, Hungary, France, UK, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Switzerland, Island and Austria.
What do you think of Liveurope’s initiative? How much does it help you to make your music known abroad? How useful do you think it is for a band?
For us, traveling with our music is just amazing. Being instrumentalists we don’t have a language barrier with anyone, so having been able to connect through music with so many different people has really been an amazing experience.
What are your plans for the future?
Our concert at A38 will be the start of our upcoming tour where we’ll visit The Nederlands, Belgium, Germany, Norway and Denmark of course. And then there might be a new album in the making.