When it comes to defining their sound, Neànder prove to be a complex proposition.
Applying a single label when attempting to describe Berlin based outfit Neànder and their instrumental sound is likely doing them, and their music, a great disservice. To merely ascribe Neànder as a metal band is failing to get to the bottom of their list of associations when it comes to other genres of music.
Without doubt, the influence of metal is present throughout the band’s eponymously titled debut album, but it remains a subtle influence at best. Therefore, with that in mind, the task of trying to explain the experimental, driving noise stemming from the amplifiers of Neànder’s first lengthy foray into the world of music is no easy task.
Bleak, desolate, dark and atmospheric are some of the adjectives that can be applied to Neànder’s debut long player. With the album’s front exterior also suggestive of such descriptions, with its arresting image of mountainous sky-scraping pillars draped in shades of black and grey, finishing with the narrowest of openings by way of a natural stairway that suggests more questions than providing answers, Neànder remain a band difficult to pin down and therefore one of many reasons why their compositions are so appealing.
Despite the immediate coldness and harsh surroundings of the previously mentioned album artwork, coupled with a sound that possesses crunching guitar riffs will lead some to formulate an opinion that Neànder is concerned with nothing but an apocalyptic doom metal sound. This may be true, but it is only a part of their musical vision because first impressions of Neànder can certainly be misleading as there is far more going on under the covers of this German four piece than appears on the surface.
In fact, Neànder’s influences range far and wide with some reference points being stoner rock, alternative rock, shoegaze and post rock. For example, their sound is full of intensity, leaning on heavy crushing riffs as mentioned and creating a sense of claustrophobia as identified by such tracks as ‘Møder’. However, optimism is never far away as guitars tune their way to great melodic passages as those heard throughout ‘Aăs’ and, ditto, close companion ‘iimago’, both bringing to mind a combined effort of Explosions In The Sky and Russian Circles.
By creating such a complex beast that is the album ‘Neànder’ where it is not unusual to find tracks showing great stamina by lasting some considerable distance, and with songs open to interpretation due to this being an instrumental affair, Neànder give the impression of a band without any constraints. Such a notion is admirable and something worthy of further investigation.
With the band fresh from a series of live dates in Europe, and with lead guitarist and elected spokesperson, Jan Korbach providing the insight into all things Neànder, Famous Last Words (FLW) decided to dig a little further.
“The tour went very well,” Jan Korbach begins regarding the band’s recent live dates. “We`ve played approximately 20 dates, and we will return for another week this October. The reactions in the audience range from simply listening, to headbanging. What I really appreciate is that nobody’s talking too much between the songs. It seems that we’ve got a good and respectful crowd.”
That’s good to hear. However, if we can rewind a bit here, and obtain some details in terms of where this all began for Neànder because there will be a few people unaware of your music considering the band has released one album to date.
“We started about 3 years ago as a duo,” responds Jan in relation to the beginnings of Neànder. “We started out jamming, exploring what we wanted to do musically. Some months later, we recorded our first demo, which later became ‘Møder’. At this time, the guitar tuning was in C, but we tuned down to A to make it sound heavier. Some friends told us that the music works out without vocals, so we went on and wrote more riffs. We included two more members, who we knew from earlier bands, and therefore completed the line-up. In March 2018, we entered the Hidden Planet Studio in Berlin and recorded our first-born [‘Neànder’]. We made a connection to the Hamburg based DIY record label, Through Love Records, who’ve released stunning records from artists such as God Is An Astronaut, Fjørt, Wayste, Lirr and Svalbard. In February 2019, our self-titled debut album was released, and that’s the story so far.”
How would you describe your sound as FLW thinks that it can be tricky to define?
“In my mind it’s monumental, instrumental music that draws on musical elements of doom, stoner, post rock and black metal.”
Who do you regard as influences in terms of your music?
“I guess my taste in music is widespread,” says Jan. “Besides being a musician, I also work for a label called Glitterhouse Records, so I’m enjoying music the whole day. Speaking of heavier music genres, I consider bands like Mercyful Fate, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult and Thin Lizzy as big influences.”
What inspires Neànder when it comes to your song writing?
“We’re always searching for a certain atmosphere and this one riff that keeps it all going. Not too harsh, and not too technical. Maybe like a machine that needs oil. When we wrote our latest song, ‘Mãlven’, I was thinking of a funeral. The guitars in the beginning sound like church bells. The whole intro sounds very bleak (But also beautiful, FLW). Then this guitar riff steps in and the funeral march begins. The song has a lot of mood changes. What can I say, maybe the dead arise in the end? Ha-ha.”
When and where was the album ‘Neànder’ recorded?
“The album ‘Neànder’ was recorded in March 2018 at Hidden Planet Studios, Berlin.”
How long did it take to record and complete the album?
“We recorded the album in only four days, then another two days for mixing and mastering. The mix was done by Jan Oberg from Earth Ship. Magnus Lindberg from Cult Of Luna did the mastering.”
Did you encounter any problems when writing and recording the album or did the whole process go to plan?
“In the beginning there was no plan at all,” admits Jan. “It all emerged very naturally. For all of us, it was the first instrumental album, so it was a big learning process. When you’re writing your first album, you’re under no pressure, you’re just trying stuff out, which is huge fun.”
Do you have a favourite track from the album, and if so, what are your reasons for this choice?
“If I had to pick one song, I think I would choose ‘Aăs’. This was the song that took the most time to write. The song reminds me of a very slow rollercoaster ride, or even more a ghost train. ‘Aăs’ has a lot of different parts, but the first 8 tones underlie every part. Sometimes you can hear them and sometimes not, like ghost notes.”
What were the reasons to avoid writing lyrics for your debut album?
“When you don’t have lyrics, it makes the writing easier from a guitar players point of view. You don’t have to think about if someone can sing on a riff or on a chord pattern. A singer would reduce us into being either a Metal- or a Post-Rock band. I think that the sacrifice of lyrics will keep our musical vision open and will help to intend on the music. Speaking of the writing process, we do some jamming to find the heavy riffs. We track a lot of ideas at home and then we put them together. We don’t spend too much time in the rehearsal room.”
Who decided on the artwork, and is this image taken from a real location or is it purely fictional? (It’s a very striking and impressive image by the way!)
“Well thanks!” replies Jan gratefully. “The artwork was done by our drummer Basti Grim. He took this picture of The Prachov Rocks while he was on vacation. It’s a rock formation in the Czech Republic approximately 5 kilometres west of Jičín.”
Is your music conveying any sort of message and/or emotions and, if so, what sort of things are we talking about here (e.g. social, political, environmental issues, relationships, etc)?
“I can’t answer this one, I’m sorry. All I can say is that there’s no message, the music speaks for itself. Everyone should listen to our music in the way that works out best for him or her. The interpretation is free.”
Is there anything you would do differently now in terms of the album ‘Neànder’?
“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” replies Jan. “We had good reactions from fans and in the media too, which kind of surprised us. Of course, there are a lot of things I would change now but that’s normal within every creative process. It’s just learning. You try to make it better with the next song or album. You have to give your best, but you should finish things so something new can come up.”
Where do Neànder see themselves, musically, in the wider scheme of things in Germany?
“I think it’s fine not to fit in a genre 100%,” Jan confesses. “You don’t have too. We all started playing music to do something kind of alternative. Why should we think about genre rules too much? Nowadays I consider myself as a music fan. I’m not like, “I’m a metalhead, punk rocker or hardcore kid”. Of course, there are all these influences socially and musically, but I think the main thing is to put out the music you love with good people!”
New record ‘Mãlven’ is out soon. Therefore, what can you tell FLW about this forthcoming release?
“It is already released digitally. We received very good feedback, so our label decided to put out a small pressing of 300 LPs. The song popped up some month after the album release, so we decided to record it and play it on our tour. The picture was taken by our drummer, Basti, while he was travelling Norway. The image just fits the music greatly.”
Are there any albums that you’re currently listening to?
“Well, we just came home from touring and the records I listened to the last few weeks are YOB ‘Atma’, AC/DC ‘High Voltage’ and ‘Thrice Woven’ by WITTR. Some bands you should check out are Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, Die Nerven, Teksti TV 666 and the upcoming record of DØM.”
What’s next for Neànder in terms of recording, live dates, etc?
“We’ll be touring Germany, Austria and Switzerland again in October (This week in fact! FLW). Then we would like to write new songs so that we can release the second album in 2020. We would love to play tons of shows around the planet. That would be fun.”
Do you have a final few words?
“Well, thanks a million for having us to do this interview and thanks to all the people involved making things happen for Neànder. Up the irons!”
‘Neànder’, the album, and new single ‘Mãlven’ are available from Through Love Records
In my mind it's monumental, instrumental music that draws on musical elements of doom, stoner, post rock and black metal."
Jan Korbach, Neànder
FLW - From the Tapes
Travel seems to be an integral part of Neànder’s image and sound, or at least for the band’s drummer who just happens to have a talented eye for striking visual imagery as guitarist Jan Korbach explains in relation to Neànder’s debut album’s artwork and forthcoming single ‘Mãlven’.
“The artwork for our debut album was done by our drummer Basti Grim. He took this picture of The Prachov Rocks while he was on vacation. It’s a rock formation in the Czech Republic approximately 5 kilometres west of Jičín. With regards to our new single ‘Mãlven’, the picture was also taken by our drummer, Basti, while he was travelling Norway. The image just fits the music greatly.”