Interview: Solemn League

Solemn League - Photo courtesy of Solemn League

Solemn League – Photo courtesy of Solemn League

Next month marks the seven-year anniversary of German post-hardcore indie rock band Solemn League, a group that was born out of Hamburg in 2006.

In the time since its founding, the band has been through a lot, including releasing a couple seven-inches, moving to Berlin, and recording and rerecording an album, among other things.

Yet in spite of all the change, one thing has remained the same, and that’s the lineup, consisting of guitarist Marius Hanft, drummer Arne Lange, guitarist and vocalist Nico Zengerling, and bassist Lars Nissen.

The four first met through the music scene in Hamburg approximately a decade ago, as they all played in various hardcore bands that knew one another. Still, Nissen admitted that when they began playing together, they weren’t very skilled musicians.

“When we started out, we weren’t really that good at our instruments, except for [Zengerling, so] we were kind of limited,” he said with a laugh. “[But] it quickly kind of became something quite else entirely.”

Shortly after forming, the band then relocated to Berlin, first with Zengerling moving in 2007, followed by Nissen and Lange, leaving Hanft in Hamburg.

Hanft admitted that living in separate cities put a strain on the band, but at the same time, the situation also forced them to make Solemn League a priority if it was going to work out.

“But I think we’re all quite happy with what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s quite a good motivation.”

In 2008, Solemn League released a split seven inch with Kids Explode, followed by a live tape in 2009 titled Secret Knowledge, and another seven inch, 2009’s The Beach / The Burden. Naturally, the next plan was to put out a full-length but that process took much longer than initially expected due to another roadblock in the way.

“Of course we kept, like, writing songs, and had old ones lying around,” Nissen said of the time after releasing the seven inches. “In 2009…[the songs for our LP were] basically finished. But then we weren’t satisfied and we, like, kind of, we did some extensive demo recordings, put a lot of work into that, and then [discovered] that it doesn’t sound so good.”

The band members all had varying reasons as to why they weren’t pleased with the sound, with explanations ranging from the songs being recorded on a four-track in a rehearsal room, which affected the quality, to the fact that the music itself was written without much thought put into the process.

“I think it was mostly that the overall sound of the music was not exactly what we wanted,” Hanft said. “So we just said, ‘let’s put it away and try it again.'”

But of course, it wasn’t entirely a walk in the park. More specifically, Zengerling shared that it was a moment that could have broken the band simply due to the stress and the necessity to start over from scratch.

“It was really a tough time to find motivation to go on and to rewrite good songs,” he admitted.

But go on they did. Only this time, there was a more solid game plan in place.

“The thing was, [before], we were just collecting songs. Whenever we got together we, like, wrote a couple songs and we didn’t really put much thought into the songwriting process itself,” Nissen said. “And then when we decided to scrap, like, the sessions or the planned recordings, we sat down and said, ‘What do we want this to sound like? What do we want to like put into these songs?’ And I think that really worked out well. Personally, I’m really satisfied with how the recordings and the record turned out.”

In the end, the band created Different Lives, an eight-track full-length that finally came out in 2012 on Kids in Misery, something which Zengerling referred to as “a great relief.”

But more than coming out with a new album, the band shared that they also came out of the experience with a new lesson. And while they direction of the next release is up for debate, all four can agree that they want it to be much more intentional than they have been in the past.

And in addition to this new aim, the guys in Solemn League have adopted a much more laid-back approach to things in general. After all, if it took more than half a decade for them to make an album they were pleased with, then the next step, however far off it may be, is nothing they should rush toward.

Instead, they hope to let the record speak for itself and play some shows while having fun and forging onward.

Solemn League plays tonight at Kili Club in Berlin. The show begins at 22.00.

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