Wine bar/restaurant, Castenskiold, by Aarhus’ river is where I meet the Kentaur guys, Marc and Mikkel. Sadly, I narrowly miss their gig, but they understand. It’s Saturday afternoon at Spot Festival and another concert is just starting at the venue, so we sit on the quite noisy terrace and jump on the back of the mythical centaur.
Interview & introduction by Teddy Au Top. Main photo by Jonas Fogh (email@example.com)
Teddy/Conor: Hey Kentaur
Kentaur: Hey Conor
I have a confession: I missed your concert just now. I was with Liss, two of them were late and then they wrote their name on my t-shirt. Sorry about that, but I’ve listened a lot to your live stuff, which you’ve released as well. Why did you decide to release live material?
Mikkel: We had a session with a studio technician and he was studying the differences between doing a studio recording and doing a live recording for his bachelors degree. We did a live version of some tracks and we really liked the vibe, so thought, why not share them?
A lot of what we’ve done has been experimentation. When we started Kentaur, Marc was doing a degree in songwriting. The first songs originated from experimentation, just finding a sound that we liked. It just clicked. We tried to catch that live vibe: something that people could listen to at home, which sounded so good that it wasn’t an issue that it was live.
Marc: I’d like to see more full live records from artists, like in the old days like in the 60s and 70s. It’s like seeing a live concert. Artists back then were so good and so interested in their instruments. I think too few bands have super good synergy, where they can play anywhere, anytime. not that we’re there yet.[separator type=”space”] [separator type=”space”]
I think you’re close.
Marc: It’s about being on your A-game. It’s hard to capture that in the studio process. You can work on a track for like a year, focusing on the small things, but that’s not what moves people really.
Last time I was in the studio, my producer, Anders Lagerfors, and I watched some YouTube videos where Beck did a series of live takes of tracks with other artists. Is that something you’d like to do?
Marc: Yes, that would be nice. It’s a level of mastery you really have to aspire to, being fully present with your instrument and your… you can call it spirit, or consciousness.
“Music is by nature community-based.” – Marc, from Kentaur.
You guys are proper music nerds, right?
Marc: We are a bit nerdy, yeah. Haha. We have both studied song composition. I mean, with music you can spend a lifetime fully immersed in it. What inspires me about it is the never-ending layers.
What about your music pre-Kentaur?
Mikkel: Both Marc and I had been sitting on our laptops having fun.
You’ve had other projects where you’ve released stuff?
Mikkel: Yeah, but just on Soundcloud.
Did you have any success with that?
Marc: No, haha. It was a path. It was mostly about learning what not to do, but also what to do. You need to make so much shit before you can make something that can move other people.
I’ve heard you use the word authenticity before. When I think of you guys, I think of a nice hand-crafted piece of furniture, nicely waxed. Where has this warm, textured, layered sound come from?
Mikkel: Very much from the moments where we’ve making these tracks. We also work with a guy called Søren, a profoundly talented producer. I think it’s primarily the symphony between the three of us and also the location.
Marc: Location is so important. It’s like if you trip on any kind of hallucinogenic: setting is the most important thing. You get moulded by your environment. We had a good time. It’s very organic, even though it’s been made on a laptop bought in a supermarket. Haha.
So I imagine the music comes before the lyrics?
Marc: The words mostly flow from the music, yes.
What do you write about?
Mikkel: Mostly metaphysical experiences, and of course love (the eternal subject of art).
Personally I very rarely write about love. I get frustrated when it’s the only subject an artist deals with.
Marc: True story.
Mikkel: I mean… there are lots of ways to write about love. Some of our songs lean more towards the normal kind of love-themed song, but a lot of our material is more about a natural state of being; being loved or being a loving person. I mean love is such a powerful thing and it doesn’t necessity always have to be like two people in a relationship
Marc: Like ‘I miss you… I love you… Where are you?’
Mikkel: You could probably argue that all our songs somehow deal with the theme of love.
Marc: But more like the spiritual part of love; the being the embodiment of love, often in a more altruistic meaning of it – let’s be on this planet in the best of ways.
I feel like you guys could start some kind of sect or church. I would join.
Marc: Yeah, thank you Conor. That’s nice to hear. You’d be the first member.
Music is such a pure medium. In my mind, most spiritual religions or churches are centered around people playing music together… You don’t have to use the word God, it’s more about wellbeing together. The other path is boring and filled with friction.
We have to cultivate the group mentality in these times, otherwise, maybe we’ll perish. It comes from the empirical side of the brain, but calls for a response on the other side – the altruistic, loving side.
How much do you guys care about what people think about your music? You mentioned that you wanted your mothers to like your music.
Marc: If I have someone who’s dear to me that I can place in the song, or write it to, it’s easier to share or transmit the material. Music is by nature community-based.
It’s not just masturbation.
We’d been experimenting, making stuff for ourselves. I think when you realise that you’re making the music just for yourself, you feel pretty egocentric.
Mikkel: It’s more about making music that’s community-based than about pleasing people, so that rules some stuff out; there’s some stuff you can’t do because cause you’d scare off your listeners.
Marc: There’s a word to describe that in Danish, ‘benspaænd’ (tripping).
I think it’s important to have certain dogmas, because there are endless possibilities. If you’re nerdy, you’ll like idiosyncratic stuff that hits only you just so, but if you want to have a community around you, you need to have a range of emotions etc.
Mikkel: We’ve played for large audiences, and we’ve been able to feel this love in the room – not romantic love, but a connection between the audience and the artist; a shared emotion.
Mikkel: Yeah, that was an amazing concert.
That was probably the first time a lot of people heard you as well. I was introduced to you guys in my kitchen, by my housemate, Amalie, who knows your drummer, Matias, and honestly, I had an instant connection to your stuff. It really grabbed me. I definitely felt some kind of emotion, that something had touched me. What is it you think you guys have that does that to people? What is it that helps you to move people?
Mikkel: I think it’s the openness; it’s music that people can wander into, which was a dogma from the start. It’s music that people can relate to, without it being shallow. We wanted to create a space where’s there’s room for the listener, without it being dictated by the artist too much.
Do you feel that too much music nowadays is shallow and one-dimensional?
Marc: I think it has an element of age-old manipulation. There are tricks of the trade, and I think there is such a thing as knowing your tricks too well, which has a manipulative shade to it.
For me ‘sincerity’ is a very important word. We come with the best of intentions, from the authentic self. We don’t want anything bad for anyone, and we try to hold that vibration while singing, writing, producing. For me that’s kind of a spiritual part.
You’re on a label now?
Marc: Yes, it’s called No3.
How have they been? A lot of focus on record sales?
Mikkel: Our hands have been free to do what we’ve wanted.
Marc: Because we said so. There hasn’t been too much focus on record sales. I mean, there has to be a whole team to present it to people. If people don’t have the means to listen to it, it’s pointless.
How much do you think your team identifies with what you do?
Marc: We’re very particular about choosing who to work with. It’s more about the person being calm, open and relaxing to be around, rather than being well-known in the industry. We choose with the heart. That side of the music world is a bit weird, but it has to be there.
You don’t see yourself getting into that side later on?
Marc: It would be with the scope of letting people do what we’re doing right now, if we were to.
Is there new Kentaur material coming soon?
Marc: We’re writing an album. It’s a long process. We’re perfectionists, so we want it to be really good, ‘both wide and deep’.
(I chuckle at this choice of adjectives)
Mikkel: We hope to have something ready next Spring, and maybe push something out before the end of the year.
Mikkel: Yeah, or maybe some live stuff. It’s a kind of in flux right now.
Can we expect a change in genre? Or is more about using real instruments and having rich sounds than being in a particular genre?
Mikkel: We’re not really genre-fixated, but it might be totally different.
It’s not going to be a trap album though?
Mikkel: Probably not.
Marc: I’d like to make a trap album. Haha.
We’re very open. To me, making a song is like birthing a being, rather than creating it outside of myself. It can become a Frankenstein kind of thing, where there’s one arm there, ‘we need a leg! Let’s make a leg’. If the child comes out and it wants to be whatever…
It comes out of your vagina?
Yeah exactly … it wants to be whatever… I’ll try to be a good parent. I’ll try to listen to my kid, feed it, nurture it, give it love, give it sincerity.
It has authenticity already.
That’s about all we have time for. Tune in next time.
Thank you very much guys. That was really enlightening!
Marc: Thank you. We had a really nice time.
The intensity and wholeheartedness that the Kentaur guys put into their craft leaves me smitten. Their articulate nature and sensitivity comes across beautifully genuine, and they inspire me to transcend (or at least attempt to) myself and create highly authentic art. Watch out for their future birthings.