Interview: Der Elegante Rest

Der Elegante Rest - Photo by Ralf Hauenschild

Der Elegante Rest - Photo by Ralf Hauenschild

Jörg Wolschina just wants to make music.

The soft-spoken frontman of German indie-pop band Der Elegante Rest can’t be bothered with the logistics of being a musician, because the business details take away from what he loves to do.

“I have always liked pop music [and] I just want to make music. I just want to play and record,” he said. “I’m most interested in the creative part of this.”

Unfortunately though, the devil is in the details, and it’s something every artist must come to terms with.

“I really like being a musician, but I really hate to organize all this stuff, the band, or to [book] concerts,” he said. “Most of the time it’s very hard to get good concerts or to even get the money to [travel].”

When Wolschina first began playing music, the behind-the-scenes aspects were the furthest thing from his mind. He got his start at the tender age of five, beginning with the piano, and then adding in the violin, and eventually guitar. From the age of 16 onward, he was in bands, but it wasn’t until he was attending music school in Leipzig that his current project, Der Elegante Rest, came about.

The lineup includes Wolschina on vocals and guitar, and from time-to-time, he will play keyboards. Timo Klöckner plays guitar as well, and Andreas Schwaiger fills in on the drums. As for a bassist, Wolschina said there has been a rotating cast of bass players, although Phillip Rohmer is the most recent addition.

Now with three albums in as many years – the most recent of which, “Ungeduld,” came out in May on Problembär Records – Wolschina said his approach to songwriting varies, depending on his mood – sometimes he just lets it come to him naturally, but other times he will stick to a recording regimen.

“I have some phases. Maybe three months [I’ll] write every day or record every day, or improvise something,” he said.

But he admitted there is a downfall to forced writing, in that not everything that results is something he considers good.

“Out of these hundreds of recordings there are maybe three good songs,” he shared. “[But] there always comes something out, and I really like that. And when I do that I’m quite happy, so this is absolutely not frustrating.”

And when it comes to the albums themselves, Wolschina feels that they are only partial representations of the music, like pieces of a puzzle.

“It’s all…a fragment, a mosaic,” he explained. “It’s not very finished, I think, what I do. All the songs, they are not finished.”

By this he means that each song is constantly being reinterpreted and rewritten, and live versions can vary from those captured on recordings.

While the band is primarily his vision, Wolschina said he relies on his bandmates and friends to help him flush out song ideas, by presenting them with arrangements or pieces of songs and asking for suggestions.

“I really like to be with…friends who make music or have ideas and maybe inspire you,” he said. “Because sometimes you’ve got maybe a good idea but you [need help to] develop it.”

As for what inspires his songwriting, Wolschina said it is any kind of change that prompts him to write.

“I don’t know if it’s the sadness, but when you miss something – it doesn’t have to be a person – [when] there’s something missing in your life, I think this is always a good point,” he said. “Or with me, when something is changing, my life situation is changing, I change the place where I live or I have a new job, or something like this, or something happens…then I’m very creative or I want to articulate the situation.”

Yet he prefers to keep lyrical content slightly at arm’s length, in order to avoid giving away too much of himself, and to see the situation from a different perspective.

“They are personal. These are my opinions and how I see things, but there’s always a kind of distance,” he said. “Maybe they are kind of cinematic. I really like movies…and there’s always…in some songs, a kind of landscape where things are happening or I am moving.”

This movement is a common theme, both in the music Wolschina crafts and in the kinds of music he is attracted to.

“If it’s intense in all kinds of ways, then it’s good,” he said, of music that interests him. “Or, if it moves me, then I move.”

In terms of where Der Elegante Rest will move next, Wolschina is uncertain, but feels no pressure to define or determine what the future holds.

“I see this band as a big project,” he said. “I don’t know how it will sound like next year…[but] I will always be a part of it.”

Der Elegante Rest plays Friday at Wasserturm Kreuzberg in Berlin, as part of the weekend-long Indie Pop Days. The show begins at 19.00.

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