Bittersweet Symphonies with Takykardia
June 2022 saw Luna, David, and Troels, of Takykardia perform ‘Rewind‘ (from their 2020 album Better), alongside the Novo Quartet at the Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen. Like many of their videos, the production is a dramatic, building, hypnosis. Shadows dance on huge stone walls behind the towering statues looming over David, Troels, and the Novo Quartet as they are led by Luna, who moves and enchants the scene with her haunting vocals. Seeing the performance second hand via YouTube is still an intense experience, and one that seems to epitomise the Danish band’s output so far: some raw, creative need is being tapped into here, one that transcends their music and leaves you with the definite sense that there is more to come, and that Takykardia are just getting started.
Since their first release in 2017, the band have earned a base of over 10,000 listeners on Spotify, nominated as “Hope of the Year” at the Danish Music Critiques awards 2021, worked with the likes of acclaimed songwriter, producer and musician, Dave Okumu, and had their tracks ‘Navigate’ and ‘Arrhythmia’ featured in the Danish movie Holiday.
Their music, which Luna describes as being “inspired by nature, fauna, other art forms, the sky with its mesmerising stars”, has an experimental, epic sense to it. Her lyrics, alongside layered, soulful, mesmerising progressions create a sensitive, confessional, yet also celebratory commentary of life.
Their 2020 album Better provides an opportunity for these sensations to shine, as it takes the listener on a rising, falling journey sprinkled with Luna’s expression and exploration of her life in the modern world.
Just as listening through Better, or watching (and re-watching) their performance at Thorvaldsens Museum has you coming away captured by a feeling – the sense that you are part of a moment in time, perhaps even history, with the band, talking with them you begin to understand a level of maturity and self-awareness that they hold. Not only as musicians, but as pioneers, and people as well.
Stepping back and looking at what they have achieved in 2022 so far, and listening to their ambitions on where they wish to take their music next, suggests not just a refusal to stagnate, but an inability to.
We caught up the band recently to find out more about what makes them tick, their journey and creative process so far, and what the future holds for them. The trio opened up about the challenges of the music industry beyond just writing and performing songs, how the hectic state and “single release kinda days” collide with their ambitions for bigger things, and about their recent collaboration with artists such as Dave Okumu.
Luna, David, Troels, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us at IAMUR. It would be great to start with a little intro. Do you want to introduce yourselves, tell us a bit about how you all met, and how you got into music?
David: Well I come from a classical music family, and I was basically my mom’s first piano student. Before age 15, I had played many classical piano competitions until I then dug into jazz in my late teenage years and later electronic music.
Troels: I have played drums since I was 5. During preschool I had some difficulties controlling my anger and the school psychologist actually encouraged me to channel my feelings through my drum kit.
Luna: I can’t remember not singing. I’ve always been singing, writing music and lyrics, and as a child I often “forced” my parents and their friends to witness my terribly long shows. As a teenager I was very shy on stage when singing, and I never thought I’d be doing it professionally – also because I was so focused on wanting to become an actress. Before Takykardia, Troels and I were a couple and he played in a hip-hop ensemble together with David. The ensemble split up, and Troels and David made an instrumental demo. When Troels was on tour with another band, I opened Troels’ computer, found their demo session and wrote what later became ‘Navigate’. And that was the beginning of Takykardia.
Since your first release in 2017, you’ve amassed over 10k monthly listeners on Spotify, nominated as ‘Hope Of The Year’ at the Danish Music Critiques’ Awards Steppeulven 2021 and gained support from the likes of BBC Radio 6 Music, BBC Radio 1 and others… what would you say have been the ‘stand out’ achievements throughout your career to date and, what has been the most challenging?
Luna: Support from taste makers like Gilles Peterson, Lauren Laverne and Jyoto feels like a warm hug, and being nominated as ‘Hope of the Year’ was a huge honour for me. It made me incredibly proud and happy. We have our own label and have always made all decisions ourselves. It’s very much about trusting my own guts all the time. The biggest achievement to me was to release our debut-album ‘Better’ – an album where I was equally in love with every song. That the Danish music critiques saw and acknowledged our talent by nominating us as Hope of the Year meant a lot to me. It’s very moving when fans contact me and tell their own stories. This Summer a fan came over to me at a Dua Lipa concert just to tell me that ‘Better’ helped her through her heart break and that she has since then found new love. Fans are always excusing themselves for taking my time when coming over to talk. They have no idea how much their kind words mean to me. I love to listen to their stories. ‘Better’ is very personal to me, so their stories can be quite personal as well. I love that putting words to my anxiety, OCD, heart ache, insecurities, sexuality, worries and dreams not only helps myself but also may help other people, because they can recognize themselves in my lyrics.
On the challenging side of things I sometimes find it hard to focus on writing music because I am taking care of so much administration, coordination, practical stuff, label work, visual identity, strategies and much more…. We have our own label and our team around us is chosen by us; PR, radio specialists, booking agents, distribution, visual artists, scenographers, costume designers, light designers and so on. It’s a lot of people to manage – and that is without counting the musicians, producer, and sound engineer for example. There is a lot of decisions to make and to be responsible for…
David: Yeah, that might actually be the most challenging thing about Takykardia – Many people don’t really realise that running a band is like running a business with a marketing and communications department, a PR agency, booking, production, finance, a visual studio and project management – all in a market that basically earns you very little money unless you do very well/are very lucky. Luna is definitely our main driver here and doing impressively on everything – I of course try to help out as much as I can with the practical stuff. Also being on a limited budget but at the same time wanting to pay people properly for their amazing work is just terrible – we’re so lucky to have some of the most inspiring people working with us for a long time now, creating music we would never be able to do ourselves! We pay everyone, but it could just feel really good to pay them more and also to be able to pay ourselves. All of this responsibility and hard work is challenging but it is also what makes it very rewarding in the end.
Luna: Obviously Covid has been veeeery challenging since we released our debut-album in November 2020 and haven’t really been able to tour with it. I think that the most challenging time is still ahead of us though. I fear the release pressure a lot. In these single-release kinda days it’s like if you’re only interesting in the eyes of the press and the bookers for 2-3 months after a release. Then they expect new releases. I’d like to make conceptual oeuvres rather than singles that stand alone. And that just doesn’t go very well with the hectic tempo of the music industry.
Troels: To me it was a stand-out achievement when we played a concert in a beautiful museum hall in Copenhagen last December. It was at Thorvaldsen Museum where we’ve also recorded and released the live video for “Rewind” (and the music video for ‘Ode To Angst’). That was a very special thing because we reinterpreted and arranged all the music in collaboration with a great Danish composer called Christian Balvig. We had a string quartet, a bass clarinettist, trumpetist and guitarist with us on stage, which was a very emotional and beautiful experience.
Luna: Yeah, that was incredible. Such a dream. I felt so good and comfortable on stage that night. Me and my voice was just having a blast in that huge museum’s hall with the longest natural reverb and carried by the beautiful arrangements played by some of the most talented people.
David: Yeah – that one was just amazing. So happy to have some of it on video. During the concert there was this huge anti-vax-demonstration outside so while we played ‘Ode To Angst’, they had these giant firecrackers with them that they lit literally just outside of the museum. While trying to play this quite demanding bass line in my left hand at the end I thought the whole place was going to blow up, (laughs). The whole experience was just incredibly intense on many levels.
It would be great to hear about your creative process; whether (and how) you think it has changed between your earlier releases and Better?
Luna: It definitely has changed a lot because we started out as a quartet in the very beginning, and agreeing in a trio was just easier, which we have been since early 2018. It also changed for the better when Troels and I spilt up in 2017. It was a weird dynamic in the band, that the two of us would discuss the things we were working at in the band at home and then come back to the studio with some kind of mutual understanding that the others weren’t part of. It was of course also challenging to make music together some time after the break-up, but when it got better it just got SO much better.
Our very first releases were to me honestly mostly about getting concerts and making some kind of buzz. Writing and recording ‘Better’ a couple of years later was way different to me. It was about telling my stories through very literal lyrics and matching musical universes. To me it was also about making myself proud and proving my new identity. I used to be a dancer and performance artist, so creating ‘Better’ was how I wanted to cement me as a writer, composer, and singer.
We made ‘Better’ together with utterly talented producer Anders Boll (Lowly, Efterklang and more). We recorded the album in chunks of days every month over a year and wrote most of the songs before going to the studio with Anders. The last recording sessions were different. We’d only written drafts for the songs and shaped and arranged them in the studio together with Anders Boll. That opened a new world of creative energy and curiosity to us and our next album will be created very much in the studio rather than in the rehearsal space. 80% of the songs from ‘Better’ have taken their shapes during improvisations in our rehearsal space; Troels behind his drum kit, David behind his ocean of synths and me behind the mic. I write all melodies and lyrics, David his chords and Troels his beats. And then we arrange the rest. David is getting really good at writing bass lines and he is doing it more and more. I love to write lines for horns and strings and melodic themes in general. Our live guitarist Rasmus Oppenhagen Krogh adds his unique sound in the studio once we’ve settled on a form and structure and recorded our main roles.
We are in the middle of recording our sophomore album and as I mentioned before it is a very different process because of the fact that it is created way more in the recording studio than in the rehearsal space, but actually also because we are writing a lot of it away from each other. In this new kind of process, I’ve so far been very nerdy regarding writing melodies and to be able to dig deep into melody composition it’s not enough for me to improvise with the others. I need to be alone and write a bit, repeat the bit over and over, change, repeat, change again, adjust, delete, write again. It also takes me to new places harmonically because my melody is not necessarily based on David’s chords. And that changes David’s way of writing as well, because I’ve written something harmonically which he wouldn’t naturally have thought about.
David: After our first releases I began producing music myself – it means that I now use Ableton as a creative tool for more extreme synth design, resampling things, processing, reversing and doing things that are so normal in a production scenario but almost impossible on hardware synths – this also means, as Luna is saying, that I am increasingly shaping the sound design by myself, creating synths, sometimes also adding drum layers and samples, then sharing it with Troels and Luna, and then working on it from there. But many of the core ideas still come from improvisation.
Luna: The ideas still mostly come from improvisation, but where we before improvised a whole song we now do looooong improvisation sessions and record them. Then I listen to it all at home and choose the bits that are too good to let go of and start writing a song out of that. It can be a single melodic line, some intriguing chords, a massive beat or just a phrase.
David: Yeah, it can be so many things. I also love the lo-fi samples created when we record with a random room-mic or a phone in a summerhouse or in our rehearsal space. These samples used later can have so much character. What has also changed for me as well is that while the Dave Smith Prophet 08 synthesizer shaped the main sound of ‘Better’, I think the a couple of the main sounds of the new songs might be the harpsichord sample found on a Nord keyboard, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra Plugin – This amazing little (free) plugin is shaping so much of our new record. To me the penny dropped after hearing ‘Cleo’ by Shygirl for the first time and then we were all like: “holy shit!!! We need strings!”, (laughs).
Luna: I’ve been needing strings for a loooooong time (laughs). Just needed to become rich OR have the right plug-in. Now we have the latter.
David: (laughs), I think the safer bet was probably the plugin – thanks for that, Spitfire Audio! Sometimes we can do quite hefty sound design and arrangements before then going to the studio with Anders to record, rework and finish the tracks. Our guitarist Rasmus Oppenhagen Krogh adds a lot to our universe in the studio as well. To me being in a band is about complimenting each other and pushing each other in directions they otherwise wouldn’t explore on their own. That’s at least how we try to keep evolving our sound in Takykardia.
I imagine there’s a lot of music you’ve created that doesn’t make it to release – How do you go about sifting through your work to decide what makes the final cut?
David: Yes indeed – we have so many tracks and ideas that don’t make it to the release. But to me it’s actually not that difficult to decide on, as some tracks just feel more right than others. That might be why we also disagree once in a while in the band, (laughs) – I’ve definitely been saddened a couple of times by not letting the world hear some of the songs we’ve finished but not released, but most of the time we all agree.
Luna: Yeah (laughs). I would never release a track that I’m not a hundred precent satisfied with. So I find it really easy to choose though sometimes hard to break the news to the others, when there is a track I want to trash.
‘Better’ definitely has the feeling of a concept album. It takes the listener on a hypnotic, rising, falling journey. The introduction The Time I Waste Alone on My Phone, and interludes ‘F1’ and ‘F2’ really enhance the epic, dramatic sense that you create. With this in mind, and the recent release of your live concert video at Thorvaldsensmuseum, your creative output transcends music and becomes something more. Luna, how much has your background in dance and performance art influenced this?
Luna: A lot. As a performance artist in Amsterdam I got rid of the judgmental thought that something can be too weird or too private to bring on stage. I learned how to create out of intuition, fantasy, inspiration sources and personal taste without judging myself in the process. Almost every idea was possible if I took time to figure out how to pursue and realise it. As a contemporary dancer I’ve worked so much with improvisation, space awareness, body awareness, performance and musicality. It’s impossible for me not to incorporate in my work in Takykardia. I always visualize music videos or live performances when creating new songs. I can’t help staging everything, (laughs).
David and Troels, outside of music, what other creative pursuits do you each enjoy?
Troels: Music is my everything I must admit, so that’s what takes my full energy and creative output.
David: I think I generally like to keep myself busy doing many different things, not all creative… Although I spend so much of my awake time in an Ableton session I know how to write code so I try to do apps and different small programming-ideas that I have from time to time – in the past I’ve been messing with robotics and sensors and I would love to program a Raspberry Pi or Arduino to do something very specific in our live set, I just haven’t found the idea yet… (suggestions are definitely welcome!). I’m also quite the plant-fanatic – and during the last few years I’ve really gotten into art and especially paintings and lithographies. I have a couple of lithographies by Farshad Farzankia and Mischa Pavloski hanging on my wall – both geniuses in my opinion.
Many (if not all?) your songs are written in English. Was this a conscious decision, given English is more of a universal language than Danish? Or do you just find it easier writing songs in English?
Luna: I’ve never written in Danish. It just seems way more natural to me to write in English. I mostly listen to music in English as well – and I’ve been talking English since the age of four when I was travelling the world with my mum and living in a beach hut at Sri Lanka and at a Honduran island.
Your latest release, the ‘Better Reworks’, saw you collaborating with other musicians, including Dave Okumu. How did that come about? Have the reworks changed the way you look at your own songs, and what you can do with them?
Luna: Dave has been a really good friend and life mentor to me for years. We secretly make music together, him and I. He has also mixed and played on our track ‘Ritula‘ from 2018 and his voice features in a phone memo on our track ‘Better Times’. We are all huge fans of Dave’s work and really wanted him to do a rework of one of our songs. It is always such an honour to work with Dave and experience his endless sources of musicality, creativity, generosity, empathy and wisdom. Jeppe Wolmer and Debbie Sings are some of the most talented people we know in Denmark and we are so happy that they also contributed to ‘Better Reworks’. The idea behind the reworks release was to give a little more life to the songs of ‘Better’. We released the album during the pandemic, so there hasn’t been a lot of live activity since and therefore we felt that we kind of owed these songs a bit more time in the limelight. It was very emotional for me to listen to the reworks for the first time. It felt like getting a deeply personal present from one you admire a lot.
As I mentioned, your music builds into such epic, dramatic places, it sometimes feels like the soundtrack to a movie. I know a couple of the songs from your EP Takykardia featured in the 2018 movie Holiday, is this something you guys would consider doing in the future, perhaps even specifically crafting a soundtrack? Are there any filmmakers who you’d be especially interested in working with?
Luna: One day it might feel like a huge relief for me not to write from my own point of view but from a character’s. Right now I really enjoy letting everything inside me out through my lyrics though. But I think it could be incredibly good for me as a person and as a musician/composer to make a soundtrack. I’d love to do it! A film by Xavier Dolan or Sofia Coppola would be a dream. Having a song featured in Euphoria could be really, reeeaaaaly wicked.
We love discovering new music and artists we may not have heard of before… What’s your current go-to record, and if you had to choose – what would you say are your top 3 records of all time?
David: My current go-to record has to be Little Simz ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’. Simply one of the best records I’ve heard in a long time… but of all time? Oh my god that is difficult… I feel it changes but at the same time I have so many records that inspire me endlessly and that always let me discover something new in them, depending on what I am practicing myself as a musician or producer.
Probably my three all-time favourite records are the following: Kendrick Lamar ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ – inspiration from this is just ongoing, and so many of my heroes (Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus etc.) have sprinkled their sound onto this masterpiece. Jon Hopkins ‘Singularity’ – This was just an instant hit for me. I simply can’t fathom how he produced this by himself and created these masterful lengthy electronic symphonies. It’s rare that a week goes by and I don’t reference this record in some way when creating music or sound design. Massive Attack ‘Heligoland’ – I guess many people probably would pick Mezzanine over Heligoland but to me this is just one of the biggest records out there. I heard it at a time when I was deep into studying jazz, and Heligoland just kicked off a (I expect) life-long passion for trip-hop music, which was all new to me at that point. I was definitely late to the game on this one! It taught me that less is more – this was so vastly different from the Coltrane solos I was transcribing at the time. I remember having ‘Psyche‘ on repeat for months and months. Also Heligoland is one of my favorite album artworks – Looking at it is just so satisfying to me!
Troels: My current go-to record is the latest album from Max Cooper called ‘Unspoken Words’. My top three (this one is one of the hardest questions ever) would be: Portishead – ‘Third‘. Talk Talk – ‘Spirit of Eden’ and Radiohead – ‘In Rainbows’.
Luna: Terrible yet so intriguing question! My go-to right now is probably Chinah’s ‘Feels Like Forever’ – fits all of my moods and I never get tired of exploring the productions of these songs. But when Caroline Polachek’s new album hits the shelves I’m sure that’ll be my go-to for a looooong time. My top 3 of all time?… IMPOSSIBLE… Björk – ‘Debut.’ First time I fell in love with an album and first time I remember having the feeling of wanting to be part of the music and creating – I was 4 years old. Still love everything about that album. Thom Yorke – ‘The Eraser.’ First time I fell deeply in love as a teen with the sweetest boy who was a huge fan of Radiohead and also produced music himself. Thom Yorke released his solo and we just snugged and snugged for hours. I was 16. Lowly – ‘Hifalutin’. Endless inspiration to me. I’ve listened to this album 4000 minutes the year it came out, (laughs). Anders Boll who produced the album (and also produces us) made such a unique and beautifully detailed work that never stops revealing new secrets. This album feels like my best music-friend. It’s always there to hold my hand.
You seem to be fostering your own unique sound and style, I’m excited to see where it goes! Do you have any radical new sounds/ ideas you want to explore? What might listeners expect to see and hear from you in future?
Luna: Thank you so much <3 I guess it’s kind of expected of me to do the unexpected. To me it’s just that I’m restless, energetic, highly ambitious and responsible for my own joy and curiosity. I will not let my self get bored. You can expect a maxi-single only in French (my Father’s language) to be released this Autumn. Cannot wait to share that one!!
David: First of all, thanks so much, I am excited as well! Whereas Better was more hypnotic and calm, I really want the next record to be more of a punch in the stomach – in a good way of course, if that exists… Looking forward to people hearing our next releases for the first time!
Luna: Yeah definitely more punchy. I’d love if our next releases shoot right into the listener’s stomach… and hips!
Huge thanks to Luna, David and Troels for spending time with us, and we wish Takykardia all the best for what’s to come! Readers can find more about the band on Instagram, Facebook, and all the major music streaming platforms.