Interview: Television Keeps Us Apart

Television Keeps Us Apart - Photo courtesy of Television Keeps Us Apart

Television Keeps Us Apart - Photo courtesy of Television Keeps Us Apart

Television Keeps Us Apart is one of those bands that just does things at its own pace. The shoegaze-y dream-pop duo, made up of Carl and Axel (who prefer to remain semi-anonymous by omitting last names), hails from Stockholm, and has been around for the greater part of the past five years.

The band’s debut (and to-date, only) album, 2009’s “A Slight Change of Light,” clocks in at just below 25 minutes, but that’s still enough time for the two to highlight their knack for composing profusely melodic tunes, rife with delicate counterpoint vocals, minor dissonances and hauntingly addictive phrasing.

Although the album, (which is available for free download on Lit de Parade), was released on Series Two Records, the two plan to self-release their upcoming EP. And part of the logic behind skipping the label route is that the band can do things at its own pace.

“We take our time both in writing and recording until we feel the songs are done, instead of having someone trying to tell us when it’s finished,” Carl explained. “[But] we have been writing and recording new songs since the day [the album] was released.”

The time since that release have yielded upward of 50 songs, but admittedly, most of them won’t see the light of day.

“We have now narrowed it down to a couple of songs that we’re both very happy with,” Axel said, referencing the fruits of the last two years of labor. “These songs will be released [on the] EP real soon, and we are also playing [them] live.”

The tendency for the two to take a long time doing things is something they’re well aware of, and both attribute it to what some might consider a perfectionist mentality. While they feel the life a song takes on can only be controlled so much, both Carl and Axel also won’t settle for anything less than what they feel is the best possible sound.

“It took us a long time before we were satisfied with how the songs worked out,” Axel said of the first album, which took three years after the band’s formation to meet the light of day.

And it wasn’t just about being satisfied with the sound of the songs; part of it also had to do with figuring out the instrumentation.

“Neither of us really wanted to use drum machines or synthesizers, but since it was just the two of us, we figured it was the only way to do it,” Carl explained. “It took us a while to figure out how to use these elements, which were new to both of us, to get us where we wanted.”

As for the live performances, those tend to vary, depending on numerous factors, including time, availability and money.

“We always try to bring friends with us on stage…so we don’t have to use pre-recorded elements, other than drum machines,” Carl said. “But sometimes it’s too expensive to travel with a full band, and that would make it impossible for us to do shows at smaller venues that don’t have the money to bring in a full band.”

In instances where it’s just the two of them, they instead rely on backing tracks to fill in the gaps, just as in the recordings, something which can admittedly be a bit of a hassle.

“It takes quite a lot from the sound technicians and the sound system at a venue to make the mix of backing tracks and live guitars/synths/vocals blend in well and sound really good,” Carl said apologetically.

But in spite of the tendency for their music to require a certain amount of exactitude when performed, the two certainly don’t compromise by catering their writing toward a sound that is easier to accomplish live.

“We don’t really aim for a [specific] sound; we go in to the studio with
open minds and let the songs lead the way,” Axel said. “I always write based on some kind of feeling and I never think about if it’s going to be performed live or even recorded at all.”

Carl agreed, explaining that the two “never let such aspects limit [their] writing.”

And while they both encounter a fair share of frustration when creating music, there are also many surprising payoffs involved.

“Sometimes the process of writing and recording is very challenging. It’s a horrible feeling to realize that a song you thought was great just did not work out the way you wanted it to. Sometimes the head hears aspects that we don’t always manage to catch on tape,” Axel said. “But sometimes those songs reappear in a new light later on. At the same time, it’s extremely rewarding to hear a song you have written sounding just the way you imagined.”

Carl agreed, sharing that the personal satisfaction is key, and at the end of the day, the music has to be something both he and Axel can be proud of.

“A lot of people seem to think the most rewarding part of making music is to have other people really like what you do,” he said. “[But] I have been in
several bands that no one likes, [and] I find that just as rewarding, as long as I personally like what I’m creating.”

Television Keeps Us Apart plays Friday (as a four-piece!) at Wasserturm Kreuzberg in Berlin, as part of the weekend-long Indie Pop Days. The show begins at 19.00.

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