Danish experimental-indie band Efterklang have taken to the air to promote their latest project An Island, an idiosyncratic take on the performance film made in collaboration with the au courant French music-oriented director Vincent Moon. Klangers Casper Clausen and Rasmus Stolberg discussed the film before one of several small screenings in Berlin, the next occurring on Sunday March 13 at Volksbühne, accompanied by a performance by the band itself.
Where’s your interest in film come from?
RASMUS STOLBERG: Well, of course we have a lot of music videos, and most of them we are involved with creating. We have had several film projects before An Island, particularly Performing Parades, in which we performed our second album from beginning to end with a classical orchestra. It was all filmed, and was turned into a DVD release. Although after making this I declared that I would never make a film again. Then, less than a year later, we were working on another one.
CASPER CLAUSEN: There was also another project with Vincent Moon, called Temporary Copenhagen – a half hour long experimental piece in which nine local acts came together in one apartment and performed one song each.
How did you end up working with Moon?
CC: We met him at South by Southwest festival in 2009. At that point he had already become known for his shorter films and Take-Away Shows, [a series began by Moon for online of mostly American indie bands playing in alleyways, elevators and all manner of strange locations], but he has done some really nice longer films, too.
RS: There is obviously his work with The National and Arcade Fire, but we have been impressed with some of his lesser-known projects. There was his film about a couple from the Czech Republic who both play cello, Little Blue Nothing, that was a real art-performance-experimental style piece. Also, one about a really crazy Japanese woman which was called La Faute des Fleurs which is has more of the traits of a traditional documentary.
RS: I think we were lucky to get involved with him around this time as he was getting more ambitious and we had already made a connection of sorts.
CC: I think after his initial work doing the Take-Away shows, what he is really interested in now is doing longer projects, more like movies.
But you’re not actors.
RS: I think it is fair to say that we are pretty comfortable working with Vincent Moon. He creates an atmosphere of, rather than him filming you, you are just a group of people trying to get something to work, like performing a song in a way that we never have before and he just happens to be documenting that.
CC: Also, a lot of Vincent Moon's work revolves around his preference for doing things in one take, so there is less time to really prepare or think too much. In terms of An Island that project was so packed in a logistical sense. I mean all in all there were 200 people involved, it was all shot just by him on one camera, and we did this over only four days so we knew we just had to roll with it.
RS: He has basically invented a new kind of music video. Although there would be music, the idea was to document the island itself. Als [the Danish island where the film is set] is where the main guys in the group grew up and we wanted to use it as a focus of the film and really show it to Vincent. We came up with a short list of songs, as well as a list of places and interesting things to do. The forest scene, for instance, is shot on one of my favourite places on the island. It’s a very long forest and we would often go for rides around there when we were younger just as we do in the film. The scene in the water also, that is literally right at the spot where we grew up, so these are places that we love and have been going to for our entire lives.
The film is being distributed in a unique manner.
RS: Although it was our idea, to be honest it is a thought process heavily inspired by Vincent, because he shares all his work for free and when he works with us he doesn't even want us to pay him! It is kind of a mystery to me how he survives – he doesn't have an address and he travels around constantly, having people host him while he films. The basic concept is that, until An Island actually premiers, anyone can host a screening. You can apply through our website and the only stipulations are that your venue must be able to host at least five people and that entry to the screening is completely free.
RS: I actually got the idea when we were driving on our way to play at the Green Man Festival in Wales, and really it is essentially born out of exasperation with what had happened previously and a lack of knowledge of how the film industry works. When we were getting a distributor for our film Performing Parades, it was a nightmare. Although our fans liked it, it didn't really grow and has only been screened, I think, three times. Temporary Copenhagen also, because that involved so many bands, with their own networks and record labels there wasn't any kind of unified effort to promote it, although it was released on the Internet.
RS: The internet is perfect to tell your friends, “Hey, check this out,” and it's only five minutes long, but people's attention spans simply don't extend to a 30 minute experimental piece if they don't know what it is about and don't already have a lust to watch it. We knew that we have a lot of fans, and Vincent Moon has a lot of fans, so we got the idea of screenings that would already have an audience. Now that is growing as people seem to like the concept as well as the film itself. At first we thought if we really activated our fan base we could get 100 screenings, maybe 200 and after just checking today [at the time of the interview] over 640 people have signed up so it has far exceeded our expectations despite there being about a month and a half until the film is officially released.
RS: So, for instance, if you are an Efterklang fan in Indonesia, you can check and see if there is a screening in your town. And if there is then you can go along for free and maybe even make a connection with some people. There are just so many cool aspects to this project that weren't really apparent to us when we first came up with the idea. We want to somehow document what has been happening because of this idea. It’s a completely community driven movement at this point. We never had a “street team” like other bands have, but now all of a sudden we have this list of over 640 people. It's not like they are just completely anonymous either, we know firstly that they are definitely fans but also that they have the wherewithal to autonomously put on an event. This is a pretty cool and a situation with a huge amount of potential!