Interview: Northern Lite

Northern Lite - Photo courtesy of Northern Lite

Northern Lite – Photo courtesy of Northern Lite

Though German electropop band Northern Lite was formed in Erfurt back in 1997, the members consider Berlin to be a city instrumental in their growth.

“The career of Northern Lite somehow started here,” said singer Andreas Kubat. “Our first gig in Berlin was in the Stern TV [and since then] Berlin is just our city.”

That show, which took place more than a decade ago, was in a small venue at Alexanderplatz. Northern Lite was the only group performing, and the place was packed, with 200 people inside to see the show. Now, when Kubat recalls that evening, he sees it as a sort of crucial moment for the band; from that point on, the number of people attending shows seemed to grow exponentially.

When Kubat first started the band with keyboard player Sebastian Bohn, it was immediately clear to him that it was what he should be doing with his life.

“It came naturally,” Kubat explained. “There was nothing else I ever wanted to do. We started this thing and felt really good, and people liked it right from the start.”

Since its formation, Northern Lite has released 10 albums, the most recent of which is last year’s “Memory Leaks.” After so many records, it might be natural to wonder how the band keeps things fresh, and Kubat insisted it’s because of his constantly changing approach.

“I try to not make it this predictable for myself. I try to write every song in a different way and to start from a different end,” he shared. “Sometimes I start just with the lyrics; it’s like a poem that I write down. Sometimes I start with a beat and write the lyrics right on that. I don’t want to be that regimented. I just don’t want to. I want to be free in that. And that could be a reason for the fact that every album sounds a little bit different, you know, that I always change my ways to write a song, or I find new ways.”

One thing Kubat noticed, however, is that often the songs that he likes the most are the ones that neither the rest of the band or the fans seems to care for as much. But he reasoned that it most likely has something to do with what the songs mean to him, rather than how much better they are musically than other tracks.

“I’m the creator, and so I’ve got my own way to see the songs that I did, because it’s something personal and private,” he said. “I put some thoughts that I had in some really black hours, and so of course when I write it down, I get it out of my head, and maybe that’s the reason I like those songs, and no one else can really know that.”

He also confessed that writing in English is a way to obscure the meaning, at least when it comes to German-speaking audiences.

“I can hide behind it, you know? Because I can say some much more intimate things, ’cause I know the audience doesn’t really understand every word. And so I can say things much more clearer than I could in German,” Kubat noted. “Of course, when you sing in German the people don’t have to think about it to understand. They understand it naturally, and so it’s a different thing. Maybe I will sing in German in the future, but not in Northern Lite.”

Now, as the band is closing in on two decades of playing together, Kubat admitted that a lot of things have changed, some for the better, and others not.

“I think you lose some of the dreams on the way, that’s one thing that changes,” he said. “I [also] try to protect myself from thinking of money too much, ’cause that really kills every band. But of course when you do it [17] years, like we do, you have to think about what’s the future, where does it go, does it have any future?”

Those worries aside, Kubat insisted that the band has also taught him how to deal with high-stress situations with the other members, which in turn has kept the band from breaking up.

“They are not your family and you have to handle the problems. Of course there are different opinions and all that, and sometimes it’s hard to keep the dream alive. Sometimes you just want to hit their faces,” he shared with a laugh. “[But] you know each other much better and you feel earlier when something gets complicated. You start to just close the door and get away before the band is done.”

And that’s what Northern Lite does, every time, because in the end, it’s about the music, and capturing a special moment on stage.

“It’s not only that we play good, it’s more kind of an atmosphere that you have in the room. Sometimes there is magic, but I don’t really know how to describe that,” Kubat said. “Something special that’s in the room, just as if you’re all on the same track and you have a special connection to the people.”

Northern Lite plays tonight at the A&P Summer Rave in Berlin. The set begins at 22:00.

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