Die Nerven are influenced by 1980s punk from both sides of the Atlantic, part New York hardcore and part Ätzer 81. Their music is serious, part-fuelled by frustration with their local scene, but also with a clear sense of humour – whether it’s the Kartoffel t-shirts they sell, or the Lana Del Ray cover version they put online last year. With a strong DIY ethic they’ve been largely self producing and releasing online. Their new album Fun (This Charming Man) captures some of the energy, but they’re a band to be experienced live – the three-piece play Monarch on Wed, 19 Feb.
Julian Knoth (bass): This is actually our first interview in English.
Kevin Kuhn (drums): It’s our second – we did one for a Chinese magazine that was conducted in English, too. That was pretty strange. But it’s okay for a band singing in German language, I guess. Kraftwerk did it, and Nena…
Exberliner: You came to a lot of people’s attention after covering “Summertime Sadness”.
Max Rieger (guitar): At that time I was often driving in a car from city-to-city with people, listening to radio, and German radio is the most awful thing ever. But there was this one song that was different to all the crap, and this was “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Ray. And when we were recording our last album [2012’s] Fluidum (This Charming Man), we thought of a cover version. I just translated the text very roughly, so it’s like word for word from English to German. You wouldn’t say these things like that in German, they just sound like “What the fuck?”
I tried to listen to the original and struggled.
MR: I’m also not a big fan, but it was just the contrast between the normal radio: this half-tempo song with these minor chords and stuff. It was pretty good.
JK: It’s not a parody, more of a homage. Just a love song, to this song, from us.
Did you ever hear anything from her side?
JK: Never. Hopefully, we will never hear.
MR: I mean, whatever, this was a non-commercial thing. We didn’t earn anything with this so it’s not going to be a huge thing.
KK: I’m really grateful that there’s no lawsuit. We should delete it and then some tiny label can do a bootleg of it. A digital collector’s item.
You don’t want to get stuck with being a cover band. It’s dangerous.
KK: We can’t even do it live, we always fuck it up. We tried it twice and then just left it.
MR: Too many lyrics for me.
KK: We don’t even practice, that’s the weird thing — we’ve practiced like three times since the band has been together. We play a lot of shows, and we meet to make up new songs. We don’t even write properly; it’s just like jamming and stuff.
JK: Yes, it’s just a little bit of magic.
You’ve regularly given tracks away.
MR: We’re a band with a very high output. I think it’s too easy to just make an album every year or two, because we are doing much more stuff than only the stuff we can sell.
JK: You can’t release everything only for people to pay.
MR: I think it was a very good start that we did these things as free downloads. If you just tell them “Yeah, buy something”, they won’t even click on the link. People will download your music illegally on the web, you have to find new strategies to…
KK: To lure them into spending money [Laughs].
How does being in Berlin compare to your hometown Stuttgart?
MR: I really enjoy being here, I mean Stuttgart is really outback compared to here.
JK: I can’t imagine living here. There’s too much stuff here.
KK: I think if I lived here I would really enjoy it, but it would be less inspiring. The most inspiring thing about Stuttgart is the feeling that there is nothing interesting going on outside of your door.
Is there much of a music scene there at the moment?
JK: We had to build up almost everything by ourselves, that was the fun thing.
KK: We didn’t build it but we’re part of it. It almost formed around us.
MR: Since the 1990s they have this super-boring rich-kid German hip hop, and we are like the anti-thing of this. You know Cro – the guy with the panda mask? Super-weird fucking bullshit. It’s the worst thing ever; it’s the enemy.
Do you think you’ll slow down any time soon?
KK: I think we’ve already slowed down because it’s more like business now. Before this whole business side, we would have come out with, like, two records a year, but now the record label won’t allow it because you can’t throw that many records out.
MR: We also want people to notice. People don’t notice if they don’t read it in every fucking magazine and every hour on their news feed in Facebook. They only click it after they’ve seen it 10 times.
KK: You have to shove it down their throats to get noticed.
Are you finding the change to a label difficult?
MR: No, actually not. I mean, that we do so many things on our own is only a matter of ideals, or personality. It’s just because it’s simple, it’s cheap, yeah, that’s how it started.
JK: We want to have it in our own hands. All the artwork stuff, and the shirts. Everything’s made by us.
Is it good to have some of these things taken out of your hands?
JK: All the business stuff should be! We are mostly talking about how we should sound, what songs we are going to make, what’s the artwork, and what t-shirt we should make rather than practicing. We are just a fake band.
KK: A lot of concepts and talking.
JK: We started as a concept band.
MR: Like Genesis.
KK: My next solo record is going to sound a lot like Phil Collins.
JK: People should see us live so that they get the whole experience.
KK: It isn’t that expensive, it’s cheaper than seeing U2 live.
MR: And it’s better.
Die Nerven w/ Angelo Fonfara, Wed, Feb 19, 20:00 | Monarch, Skalitzer Str. 134, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Kottbusser Tor