Choir of Young Believers

coyb sqMy only thing, my only focus I’ve been doing and thinking about, has been playing and writing and listening to music

 

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Likened to Fleet Foxes, Copenhagen’s Choir of Young Believers has been touring for a few years now, but frontman Jannis states that he is just doing what he loves. COYB introduced their debut album, This Is for the White in Your Eyes, in 2008, and released follow up Rhine Gold earlier this year. They’ve had great success in Denmark, being listed as the “Best New Act” at the Danish version of the Grammy Awards in 2011. This is the second time COYB is touring with the Rhine Gold album; however, this is not the first time touring America. They played shows in March on both coasts, including a stop at SXSW. PLAYBACK: stl caught up with Jannis while the band was driving to Boston to begin their current tour.

How did you come up with the name Choir of Young Believers?

The way I came up with the name is the way to describe my relationship to music in general, as a music fan, but also as someone that plays it. It’s very intuitive, very intuitive based. I started writing some songs, I wanted to make a band and started thinking of words that were nice… I collected words and put them together and got “Choir of Young Believers.” In a weird way, it describes the music. I still really like the name a lot; it fills out its function.

In 2006, you left the band Lake Placid and began a solo project. What was the response from others when you decided to go solo?

The story is that I played in another group, but I wasn’t a songwriter, I was just a guitar player and the band broke up. The lead singer moved to New York with her husband. I really enjoyed it, but when the band broke up, I started Choir of Young Believers. It was very important to me, not that it was a solo project, but that me playing music didn’t depend on others. I wanted it to be flexible—a four piece, five piece, seven. After being in that band before and really enjoying it and then stopping because of someone else, made it very important to me, at least in the start, not to depend too much on others for playing music because it’s a very big part of my life.

What made you decide to go to Greece for inspiration in 2006 What did you find while you were there?

When I have to finish songs, get ready to go to a studio, especially when I have to write lyrics, I really enjoy it, but it takes a lot of effort. I need to get away and isolate myself to concentrate. On the first record, I went to Greece; on this new album I went to Los Angeles.

Does your religion play a role in your music or is it more of an ironic band name?

I wouldn’t describe myself as not religious, so I don’t really know about that avenue. It is not that concrete; it’s more of a link to the words.

You’ve performed as a duo, and other times with a seven-member band. Who will be performing with you at CMJ?

Five-piece at CMJ. In general, we are a steady group of seven people for the last three to four years.

What do you do when you aren’t touring or doing music? What are your hobbies?

That’s also a problem that I’m dealing with. For the last couple of years I haven’t been doing anything else but doing music. The other guys play in other groups—some people are teachers, piano players, studying medicine, illustrations. A lot of people have other things than music, but my only thing, my only focus I’ve been doing and thinking about has been playing and writing and listening to music. I’m not getting tired of it at all, but I’ve been searching for a hobby. It occurred to me that I really wanted something else in my life, as well. Recently, I was inspired by a sound guy and bass player to play chess, so I’m reading books about strategy.

What is your favorite song on this new album?

I, of course, enjoy all of them, but I think the one that I enjoy playing the most live is track four, “Paralyzed,” because it’s very long. It’s like 10 minutes, and the structure of the song is very loose so we improvise. That’s inspiring for me; every night we do something different. I really want to have more songs like that. I really enjoy writing and playing pop songs, but I’m really interested in mixing pop music and making it more improvised.

I know you have probably been asked this numerous times, but what do you most enjoy about making music?

I could give you a million answers. It’s just what I’ve been doing since I was 13 years old. For me, right now, it’s everything. I hang out with most of my friends when we are rehearsing or touring. It’s the center of everything I do and everything I think about. | Kristyn Potter

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