ABOVE: LISS. PHOTO COURTESY OF SIMON BIRK.
As the Danish band Liss was listening to the final press of their debut EP, First, at XL Recordings, the four members received news that hit them right in the gut: Prince died. The quartet’s neo-funk sound has been compared to that of The Purple One, which just about anyone would find flattering, but means even more to the group because “all of us really looked up to him as a musician and role model,” singer Søren Holm says.
There is an undeniable tinge of Prince in Holm’s pitch-bending vocals and the occasional pluck of Villads Tyrrestrup’s bass, but Liss arguably has more in common with arcane XL label mate Jai Paul. The band’s distorted slow jams resulted from working with in-house producer Rodaidh McDonald, who also helped shape the sound of The xx, Savages, and King Krule. With top producers in their liner notes and a recent stint supporting electronic musician Låpsley, could Liss be Denmark’s next big export? “It’s a bit scary to contemplate,” drummer Tobias Hansen says. “I just hope people will pay attention.”
Liss is, by definition, a boy band. However, instead of being focus-grouped together on a reality show, the four met naturally in high school. “We are all Zayn,” Tyrrestrup jokes, suggesting each of them share a reticence that could bring younger fans to their knees. “We’re the same person, but who’s the mysterious one?” adds guitarist Vilhelm Strange. “We’re going to have this image of us…” Then Holm cuts in, laughing: “Like a real boy band.”
Just before the release of First (out next Friday, May 20), we spoke with the band over the phone.
NAMES: Søren Holm (vocals), Villads Tyrrestrip (bass), Vilhelm Strange (guitar), Tobias Hansen (drums), each somewhere between 19 and 20 years old.
HOMETOWN: Aarhus, Denmark
THE NAME: Liss is a Danish girl’s name, chosen last minute because Soundcloud required a name before they could upload a demo. The only Liss they know, they concede, is “a friend’s mom.”
ON BEING LÅPSLEY’S SUPPORTING ACT: Tobias Hansen: The toughest thing is people don’t really know you. People don’t pay so much attention at the beginning of the concert. But if you’re good, then you can get people’s attention and they’ll be surprised.
Søren Holm: Outside of Denmark, people are really bad at showing up early. But they were really good at the shows we played with Låpsley, so that was nice.
Vilhelm Strange: The best thing [about being a support act] is that you don’t have to put your gear up. [laughs]
CLASSICS ON REPEAT: Holm: Growing up I was exposed to all the classic stuff. All of our parents have really good music taste. We all listened to The Beatles and Stevie Wonder and Prince, of course. David Bowie. It was pretty different what [our parents] played for us when we were children. I don’t think I heard the same stuff that everyone else did.
SIGNING WITH XL RECORDINGS: Holm: Most of the artists on XL are ones we look up to and listen to, so we see it as a really big compliment. It gives us confidence. It’s nice to be around those people. We got signed the day we played in London, which was like four months after they came the first time.
THE PROCESS: Strange: Søren shows us the lyrics and we finish it together. When we make new songs, we always start in the rehearsal room, like a stand-up band with drums, guitar, bass, and keys. Søren makes a melody, sings a bit, and we build a song. We record it on an iPhone, then we take it—we have a little home studio set up—and start producing it. Then we maybe go to a studio, but it all happens in the rehearsal room first.
Hansen: For this EP, we started “Sorry” by ourselves in the rehearsal space. After that we went to a summerhouse and recorded it on a computer electronically. After that we spent some days with a producer called Vera. We produced some of it with him, then we went to a private studio with him and Rodaidh McDonald. We did mostly live stuff—live drums, bass, and guitars.
LO-FI MUSIC VIDEOS: Villads Tyrrestrup: The music video for “Sorry” was pretty spontaneous. We went out into the woods and made a video, so there wasn’t really a plan.
Strange: We wanted to make something that was ‘us’. We wanted a vibe or a mood.
Hansen: We’re going to stick to the same vibe. We’re probably going to build it up a bit, make something a bit more professional at some point, but right now we should just be honest. It doesn’t really make sense to make a video that looks expensive when we’re just hanging around so early in our career.
THE WORST SOUND IN MODERN POP: Hansen: You know the snares that kind of sound like snot? Or when people use a children’s choir, like when the children sing? We hate a lot of things.
Strange: The boogieman snare. Is it called “boogieman,” the stuff you have in your nose? Like a booger snare.
FIRST WILL BE RELEASED VIA XL RECORDS ON MAY 20. FOR MORE INFO, VISIT LISS’S FACEBOOK.