ABOVE: A SELF-PORTRAIT BY OOFJ’S KATHERINE MILLS RYMER (LEFT) AND JENS BJØRNKÆR
That Danish/South African duo OOFJ (Jens Bjørnkjær and Katherine Mills Rymer) calls Los Angeles home may come as a surprise, given the sensuous, dark songs of their debut full-length Disco to Die. Slung somewhere between a latter-day Portishead (read: creepy electronic elements topped with haunted female vocals) and a missing Godard soundtrack (otherwise known as “cinematic”), their work is one of shadows—a direct defiance of the Southern California sun.
We joined the band for drinks and a conversation at their East Side home. The animated couple told us about surviving immigration, finding their way from New York to Los Angeles, and why being compared to a “beautiful porno” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They also provided us with the exclusive premiere stream of Disco to Die track, “For You.” The album is out now via Fake Diamond Records and Clapyouclapme.
CURRENT CITY: Los Angeles, California
MEMBERS: Jens Bjørnkjær (instruments) Katherine Mills Rymer (vocals)
NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU (SORTA): Jens Bjørnkjær: I was a saxophone player. I was in conservatory in Copenhagen, where I was from. After two years of study, I went to New York to do a year of study. It’s a famous jazz program. When I was at the school, I realized it was a waste of money, because there was a lot of shitty classes and a lot of students who didn’t know anything, who were beginners. It’s a private school, so they’ll take anyone… I quit and stopped and hung out in New York. And I realized I didn’t want to be a saxophone player anymore. There was something wrong.
Katherine Mills Rymer: You feel bad to be depressed there. You realize the happiness thing; you go through six months of intense depression. You can be depressed there for a very long time. You’re on your own. Once you’ve been there for a while, you understand what the place is about. The place is about a whole bunch of people being there on their own. People are on their own, they don’t have a lot of cash, and they’re going home to their tiny apartments, and they’re on the Internet. That’s the majority of life. You’re on your own; you go out and meet friends. But you never hang out at a friend’s place because it’s too small. When you work that out, your loneliness becomes glamorous.
PASSPORT APPROVED: Rymer: When I went into the embassy to come back here, the person was behind the glass. I came to the glass and I had prepared all my paperwork. It’s a packet. It’s a huge thing. South Africa needs a visa for every country you go to. I go in and I’m like, “Oh my God!” He’s an American and he’s like, [adopts an American accent] “Oh great, so you’re an actor? Stella Adler? Oh, that’s a good school. So what’s the last thing you’ve done?” I said, “Oh, I’ve done a Shakespeare play in New York.” “Oh great, do some of it. Just step away from the glass and do it.” I was like, “Holy shit! Remember the Shakespeare!” I did it so fast, because in my mind it was like, “Do it fast, because that’s impressive.” He approved it!
LIVING THE DREAM: Bjørnkjær: My parents are very much into classical music. That’s my upbringing. That’s why it was very easy for me to do scoring. When I started writing for symphony orchestras, I had never thought of doing that. Suddenly it occurred to me that that’s what I wanted to do. I started doing it, and it felt like I had just had it since forever. I’ve grown up with listening to classical music.
Rymer: If you go into their standard Danish house, when you wake up at nine o’clock, the classical music is on. Music is on from there, and say “I think that’s Puccini’s first blah blah blah.” It’s exotic.
REBELLION: Bjørnkjær: When I was a teenager, I started doing jazz. It’s a bit the same. It’s brainy, and you have to practice a lot. But when you get into it, it’s the same. It’s museum music. It’s something that you reproduce that’s been done before. You have to do it better. You can buy a great jazz album that was made today, but it’s not going to be different than one made 40 years ago. A lot of people I know make jazz albums and make an album and say, “Great.” They’re very skilled musicians. But for them, or for anyone to move on for something completely different, it’s impossible. For me, trying to do something, trying to make an album that doesn’t exist, is more interesting.
PRONUNCIATION GUIDE: Bjørnkjær: It was my band, and it was called Orchestra of Jenno. When we started doing it together, we made it short. It’s a very strange word. No one knows what it is. It’s not a very sexy explanation.
Rymer: As I describe it, you can say it in whatever way you want. In some ways that’s kind of subversive. Who cares, it’s just a name. It’s like bang-woof-fizz! It’s a sound.
Bjørnkjær: My best friend, who is Copenhagen, he’s film director. He was like, “I love your music, it’s great. But you have to change the name. The name is ridiculous. Change it now!” I can understand that. I thought about it a lot. It’s kind of a paradox, because it’s called Orchestra of Jenno, OOFJ. But it doesn’t make sense. In someway, I like the thing that doesn’t make sense, that’s something else. His point was that no one is going to remember it. But on the other hand, you can argue that it’s so off-the-charts that you may remember it. It looks great.
MUSICAL CINEMA ACCORDING TO DAVID LYNCH: Rymer: I don’t think there’s one person in the arts that wouldn’t confess being into Lynch. Let’s put it that way. I like Lynch. He’s David Lynch. But we don’t watch a lot of David Lynch films. We are watching Russian documentaries on World War Two. That’s what watch. That and Bergman. We watch new Hollywood films, too. One thing that I like, Russian films are amazing. When we started digging into that thing, it was like, how did we not know that? The ’50s and the ’80s. Very good stuff. The David Lynch thing, I get why they say it. The creepy, “this is a bit off” thing. That’s the biggest compliment.
Bjørnkjær: As my very good friend told me the other day, “It’s great that you have that Beauty and the Beast thing going on.”
Rymer: [laughs] What are you saying about me, asshole? Another good friend of ours compared the “Pinstripe Suit” video to beautiful pornos. I was like, awesome!
DISCO TO DIE IS OUT NOW VIA FAKE DIAMOND RECORDS AND CLAPYOUCLAPME. FOR MORE ON OOFJ, VISIT THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.