In a World of DJs, WhoMadeWho Prefers to Keep Things Live

WhoMadeWho's set is "completely tight."
WhoMadeWho's set is "completely tight."
Martin Bubandt

Live bands are a rare breed in the world of nightclubs — kind of like turtleneck sweaters or the words "I'm sorry I just stepped on your foot." WhoMadeWho vocalist and guitarist Jeppe Kjellberg noticed this fact and saw an opening. "There was a serious need for live music in the club scene in Europe," he says. "We started out as an instrumental band, playing live in nightclubs, even though we didn't have any songs, [only] cool groove-oriented jams."

These days, if you're partial to underground house and techno, there's a good chance you were introduced to WhoMadeWho through the song "Every Minute Alone" as remixed by Tale of Us — a breakout smash during the 2011 Winter Music Conference. WhoMadeWho's Knee Deep LP — which featured the original version of the song — was even released by Kompakt, the iconic German techno label.

But despite its ties to electronic dance music, the Danish threesome formed more or less in reaction to the growing cult of the DJ, delivering its dance-rock crossover sound to fill a live-music vacuum during the mid-2000s. "We learned to communicate with the crowd and play together intuitively, like a DJ to the dance floor," Kjellberg says. "Gradually, we developed into a more classic format, with actual songs, two singers, lyrics, and so on."

WhoMadeWho's sonic evolution traverses a whopping five studio albums to date, with the latest, 2014's Dreams, hailed by critics as a sign of the trio's maturation in its songwriting approach. The group itself, however, aims to dispel the notion it's taking itself too seriously on the album.

"There is a natural development from album to album," Kjellberg explains. "On our previous album, Brighter, we had more artistic things going on in the production. So Dreams was our humble attempt to make a more basic, classic, and directly communicating album — focusing on classic songwriting to make the songs communicate the maximum, lyrically."

Sure enough, Dreams eschews the art-rock of WhoMadeWho's earlier efforts in favor of a more accessible indie-pop sound. Think Joy Division transitioning to New Order when you compare the darker, brooding postpunk of "Every Minute Alone" with the sun-soaked electro-pop of the album's title song.

"We are on a long musical journey, and it feels like we have just started out," Kjellberg says. "We have so many ideas and visions on the table that it can be a little confusing at times. We are discussing the future plans a lot in the studio and on the tour bus. Full of different ideas — we just need to pin them down and start to focus."

Of course, WhoMadeWho has hardly severed ties with the house and techno scene. In fact, this summer saw the group drop its new EP, Ember, on the esteemed Berlin-based label Get Physical, picking up where Dreams left off on the electronic dance tip. Additionally, Kjellberg discloses, "At the moment, we are doing a Body Language compilation for Get Physical with a brand-new WhoMadeWho track — release will be worldwide in December."

But if you want to see what these three do best, catch WhoMadeWho throwing it down live at Grand Central this Thursday.

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"We tend to fire up the songs live, playing remixes of some tracks and making the live experience more physical," Kjellberg says. "We have been on tour since the release of Dreams in March of 2014 and finally made the live set completely tight."

WhoMadeWho, with Pompeya and Krisp. 8 p.m. Thursday, September 3, at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave.; 305-377-2277; Tickets cost $20 plus fees via Ages 18 and up.

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