According to the United Nations’ annual happiness survey – yep, that’s a thing - the Danes are perennially the most contended people on earth. And you can well believe it when stumbling across Liima, pre-concert.
Clash bumps into the freakishly relaxed and suavely moustachioed Rasmus Stolberg - bassist for both this offshoot band and the excellent collective it sprang from, Efterklang – minutes before their Hamburg gig, at an enormous World War Two ‘flak tower’ with 3m-thick walls, turned cracking gig venue. Shouldn’t he have the pre-gig jitters? “I’m less nervous in here,” he shrugs. “If nuclear war happens outside, we’re safe!”
It’s a fair point, and such a fine gig that we check back in with Stolberg and Liima’s lead singer, Casper Clausen, a week later. The three-Danes-and-one-Finn quartet bring their impressively epic-but-intimate psych-prog to the UK from the 30th (Bristol) onwards. You can also hear it on their latest album ‘1982,’ produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. Before you surf away to track those down, though, let us take you behind the Liima curtain.
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It’s a week since I met you all in Hamburg, how’s the tour been since then? Ups and downs?
Casper: I loved our show in Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin, my first time in their new venue - it was such a warm vibe with a ton of friends. The next day our show in Leipzig got cancelled, because of this humongous storm over Germany. Nobody was allowed to leave their houses for three hours - exactly when we had our stage time!
I saw you in the dressing room before that Hamburg gig, all tapping on laptops – is that your regular rock ‘n’ roll pre-show routine?
Rasmus: It was me sitting there with our lighting engineer and our front of house/tour manager: they were going over the technical details for upcoming shows, I was most likely answering my emails or trying to make us famous on social media. Sometimes being in a band feels like running a little ad agency with all these platforms for communication.
Your stage outfit is funky, Casper, quite ‘Ghostbusters’. Can you wash it, with those lit-up panels, or will it be pretty unpleasant by the end of the tour?
Casper: Well thanks, it’s actually quite easy stage clothing compared to things I have worn on stage in the past. The jumpsuit is practical and perfect for work - I can recommend it. It makes me feel like I have a proper job. I haven’t worn it three weeks straight yet though, so I dunno, it might turn into a stinker.
Flak towers aside, what’s the most interesting place you’ve played, over the years?
Rasmus: With Liima I think it was this one show we played on the island of Ruhnu in Estonia a couple years back. The island is tiny and some friend of ours organized a tiny festival there. We played between two goal posts on the football field. There was just one lamp and during the show we had it turned off and we played in the natural light from the moon and the endless stars above our heads. It was summer and it was beautiful.
Afterwards we got extremely drunk with the locals. Tatu [Liima’s drummer, and their one non-Efterklanger] burned his shoulder on a wood-fired hot pot and the rest is a blur.
You do live ‘residencies’ to write and test material for albums – how did that come about?
Rasmus: It was the idea of Pekka Kuusisto, a world class Finnish violin player who also curates a little festival in Finland. He asked Tatu and the three of us in Efterklang if we wanted to do a residency at his festival. He gave us a place to work and food and equipment and said come back in a week and premiere what you create in front of our festival audience.
We had no idea if this would work out for us or not, but it did. We were positively overwhelmed by the whole thing and immediately decided to continue with this working method. We’ve done eight residencies so far. The first four resulted in our debut album ‘ii’ and the next four in our new album.
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What was the best thing about 1982 - the year, not the album...
Casper: I was born.
Rasmus: I believe that was the year the Commodore 64 was introduced to the market? Any Giana Sisters fans out there?
What’s the best thing about ‘1982’ - the album, not the year?
Casper: ‘People Like You.’
Rasmus: That we as a band feel good and content about it and that we can share it with other people who also find joy in it.
I read that you were performing in schools just before hitting the studio – did that affect this record?
Casper: We went on a tour in the very northern part of Norway, last year in January, and at that time of year it’s icy cold and dark most of the day. We were playing shows for a bunch of teenagers in small countryside schools, usually in the early morning.
Rasmus: We decided to only play the new songs on this school tour - to test and develop and to get really good at playing them. It almost worked out after the plan. The thing was that we hadn’t really taken the kids into consideration.
Casper: Besides a few bright exceptions, those teenagers were mainly using our concert as an excuse to take a nap. Looking back I don’t blame them, it was just too early, too dark and too cold, I would probably do the same, but in the moment it was a pretty depressing experience for us. Preparing the songs for the studio in front of a sleeping crowd kind of put down our self-esteem to a reasonable and vulnerable level, which turned out to be pretty helpful.
Rasmus: I think it worked to our advantage. When we hit the studio we were very humble and open-minded whenever our co-producer Chris Taylor would suggest stuff.
It sounded like Chris had quite an impact – would it have been very different without him?
Rasmus: It would have sounded less coherent, and less like an album. He raised the bar of ambitions and did a great job on so many levels. It was really a pleasure working with him. There would probably also have been a song on the album called ‘Jamaica’ about making out. We felt it was a hot sexy, track but I think we can all thank Chris for helping us understand that there was no need for recording it for eternity.
You’re two albums into Liima’s career now – will you soon need a side project for this side project? What will THAT be like?
Rasmus: Ha! To us Liima doesn’t feel like a side project, it just feels like we have two bands running parallel doing different things. But to answer the question, there might be some solo action happening soon.
Casper: Sometimes I imagine Liima was a choir instead of a band, we’d come up with some kind of rituals performed with strange voices.
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Words: Si Hawkins
Liima play Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh and London on their UK tour, from 31st Jan to 2nd Feb – visit www.liima.net for details. Their second album, ‘1982’, is out now.
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