Interview: Wake the President

Wake The President - Photo by Mark Mainz

Wake The President - Photo by Mark Mainz

Wake the President isn’t your typical indie pop band.

For starters, the group, which hails from Glasgow, is all about doing things for and by themselves, as more of a personal desire than a necessity. Add in the fact that the two core members, Erik and Björn Sandberg, are brothers – and twin ones no less – with Scottish accents and Swedish names (both of which represent their background), and what you have is a band that is just a bit unconventional, but in all the proper ways.

“It’s a fairly complex relationship we have,” said Björn, the younger of the two. “I mean, Erik and I are the best of friends, however we live together and we’re in a band together and we’re self-releasing the album and sort of effectively running a label together,” Björn said. “We manage the band together, so as you can imagine, there’s plenty of opportunities for conflict and arguments. But…we have a very straightforward way of communicating with each other which I think is good for the group.”

Although they grew up together, the Sandberg twins’ foray into playing music first took place in the late 90s, when they were teenagers.

“We picked up our first guitar when we were about 13 or 14,” Björn said, explaining how the two were – at the time – obsessed with the Beatles, Oasis and various other bands that fell under the umbrella of the Britpop genre.

“We loved music, but I think at that point we decided that we wanted to do something about it,” Björn said. “And we took our first, kind of, steps into kind of songwriting and, you know, jamming.”

But while the two share those musical interests, and are indeed identical twins, the similarities between them end there.

“We’re very different individuals,” Björn shared. “I tend to be quite outgoing and kind of quite a socialable person. Erik [is] not a loner but he’s a slightly eccentric character who enjoys his own time.”

He went on to explain how their distinctive personalities work within the context of the band, and how they, in a sense, fit the roles the two have.

“Erik will have a very basic skeleton of a song [and] my job is really to kind of mold and shape the music around that and help him structure it,” Björn explained. “[He] can be very vague at times about the way in which he imagines a song being, and so it tends to be my role to [flesh out] that vision for him.”

But the one thing that doesn’t include, Björn said, is contributing to the lyrics – a role which distinctly belongs to Erik.

“Lyrics are incredibly important to Erik…and he reads a hell of a lot of literature,” Björn said, explaining how words are his older twin’s forte, while the music part of the creation process belongs more to him. “And it’s important that the music doesn’t intrude too much on the lyrics.”

Thus far the band has one album to its name: 2009’s “You Can’t Change that Boy,” with a second full-length, “Zumutung!,” due out in October. In anticipation, the two have toured over the summer and will return to the UK to do a more extensive tour in September.

The time between the two albums is something Björn said was necessary, functioning as the instigator in determining the next step in evolving as a band.

“You need [downtime] to kind of reevaluate things and start writing again,” he said. “After the first album, we felt that we wanted a bit of a harder, more mature-r approach to the way we were writing the music, and obviously that requires listening to new music and kind of, like, having to align ourselves with what we were listening to and how we envisaged this album should sound.”

And although he described it as a challenging process, Björn said he and Erik both feel that they absolutely succeeded in what they set out to do.

“I think that the problems and the things that were going on in our lives at the time really [come] out on the record,” he said, explaining how life circumstances affected the end result. “It’s quite a dark and quite an edgy kind of paranoid-sounding album.”

This direct reflection of the tension from the time of writing and recording and the way it turned out is something the band is proud of. In particular, working with producer Paul Savage is an experience both Erik and Björn consider invaluable.

“Paul will completely reshape [our songs], and his imagination and his creativity is absolutely second-to-none. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience…he takes your music onto another level,” Björn said. “I think I speak for both of us when I say that that’s certainly the most rewarding experience of the process.”

Now with the new album set to come out this Fall, the two will focus on promoting it, a task that requires a lot of legwork, but ultimately pays off in the end.

“It’s been a lot of stress and it’s been a lot of work and late nights but we’re subtlety enjoying the DIY kind of route,” Björn said.

Wake the President plays Sunday at Wasserturm Kreuzberg in Berlin, as part of the weekend-long Indie Pop Days. The show begins at 15.00.

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