Apothek are an intriguing duo from Oslo, Norway. The duo’s debut single ‘Family’ has received incredibly positive reviews from music press the world over. Their debut album is near completion and the duo hit the UK for a string of live dates in support of Susan Sundfør, as well playing their own show at The Old Blue Last, this autumn.
I spoke to Morten (one half of Apothek) about their upcoming tour, Manchester vs. Liverpool, Brighton as LA and the art of Thom Yorkean flailing.
The name Apothek – does it translate into English as ‘Pharmacy’?
Kind of. It was actually the name of a bar in Berlin.
Oh right – I only ask because I was in a band in college that I wanted to call Pharmacy. I thought it was a cool name… everyone disagreed with me.
[Laughs] Nils [the other half of Apothek] texted me about the name so I said: “I’m in a bar called Apothek. Can we just call the band Apothek?” Nobody had any issues with it so I guess it stuck!
It’s a good name! It’s so hard coming up with a good band name.
Yeah, it’s something about matching the name with the genre, in a sense.
I think Apothek really suits your sound, especially your current single ‘Family’. It’s kind of ethereal and strange and sort of seductive. I can’t find much else by Apothek anywhere though.
We’ve just signed to Propeller in Norway and England, so there will be more coming out soon.
You’re playing with Susan Sundfør at KOKO soon (Camden, Oct 27) and as part of OEOE 2.0 at the Old Blue Last (Shoreditch, Nov 9). Will you have any more songs out before those gigs or will you debut them live?
I don’t think we’ll release another single before then, so we’ll be debuting them live!
Is this your first time playing in the UK?
We’ve played in London before and I’ve supported Sundfør at St. Pancras Church. That was one my favourite gigs. But we’re gonna do four or five in England this time then head over to Europe.
KOKO is a great venue too, people go crazy there. They get so wasted.
Even better! We can’t wait!
Have you been anywhere else in England?
My dad is a Liverpool supporter so we’ve been a lot. I think I’ve been to Liverpool about twenty-five times. I also grew up listening to The Beatles and stuff like that, but as I got older started getting more into Manchester. Suddenly Manchester becomes more and more important to me.
Of course, as it should be. I think Liverpool has The Beatles and that’s pretty much it, whereas Manchester has The Smiths, Joy Division, Oasis, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays etcetera. It’s way better.
I agree. I’ve been to Brighton once too and that was beautiful. It’s almost like a tiny LA in the UK.
Yeah, it’s kind of like a tiny Venice Beach. Like a kind of beach bum thing but prettier with all this crazy Roman architecture. I love that they tried to build a city on a hill, too. I wish we were doing more gigs in England.
Me too! So, can we expect the rest of the album to have a similar sound to ‘Family’?
I think ‘Family’ came out of the very first session I did with Nils for Apothek. The rest of the record has recurring sounds and it’s clearly the same songwriters, but there are tracks that try to get out of the monotony of being ‘poppy’ songs. There aren’t really any songs that sound the same. We did have a kind of ‘sound palette’ though – so you’ll hear some recurring vocal and synth techniques. Some of the songs sample the others and remix them too. It’ll be – what’s the word they use – eclectic?
Do you find a lot of the songwriting is done in the studio environment, mixing stuff up, or do you do a bit more traditional kind of songwriting?
My background is heavily singer-songwriter-esque, I wrote my entire first record with my guitar. Nils’ background is much more as a kind of composer, writing scores for movies, classically trained with a background in jazz. So when he started doing synth and drum machine work it was amazing. I’m interested in what he’s doing and he’s interested in what I’m doing. It’s very interesting!
So how does the Apothek record compare to your solo work? Is the ethos the same?
My last solo record was a singer-songwriter record, trying not to be a singer-songwriter record. I didn’t want to do that kind of thing where the drum comes in at the end with the strings. I wanted some friction.
Is there a lot of that ‘friction’ in Apothek?
Yeah there is. I don’t like stuff that makes itself too difficult for the sake of it. Taylor Swift’s last record is one of my favourite records of the last three years. It’s pretty amazing.
It sounds like between you, with your different backgrounds, you could do pretty much anything.
Yeah, here’s hoping! Live, now, I only sing. So I’m still trying to work out what to do with my hands.
Do you dance? Is it a kind of My Bloody Valentine, standing in one place, kind of thing or is there a Thom Yorke, Ian Curtis style shuffle going on?
It’s definitely at the MBV edge of the spectrum. Being immobile and holding my sweater. If there was dancing it would definitely be Yorkean.
I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t any Yorkean flailing at these London gigs.
[Laughs] Yeah, I’ll do a twirl or something.
Will people be flailing around at KOKO, do you think?
I hope so! It might not be a mosh-pit, but not that far from it either.
That’d be a great tagline for the article – “Not quite a mosh-pit, but nearly there.”
Yeah! I’ll put that in a song.
Apothek support Susan Sundfør KOKO, Camden on October 27th and The Old Blue Last on November 9. For additional dates go to apothekmusic.com.