Today, Danish alt rock band, Mom & Bear, have released their debut record, Bury Your Dead, on Celebration Records. Jens Rahbek Johansen, the main man behind the band, helped me get a closer look at the record by answering some of my questions (full list of contributing musicians: Jens Rahbek Johansen, Torben Guldager Rasmussen, Morten Findshøj, Jacob Abildgaard, Ian Gregersen, Nina O. Christensen, Stine Steendorph Petersen, Veronika Krøll Voetmann). Check it out!
MFL: I understand this record has been somewhat in the making for six years. Music, and in a bigger sense, the world, have changed in the last six years. How has Mom & Bear evolved over that time both in a songwriting sense and as a band?
Mom & Bear has never been a band per se. It has been more of an ever-evolving music project. It started out as something I just wanted to do for fun, but at the core of this was a sense of staying true to the music – a no compromises kind of thing. The music and lyrics I wrote were to be my best – and in the beginning, it was just me experimenting in my studio. But there comes a point when you need the input and opinion of others. And that’s when I started to look around for musicians in my network that I held a high respect for – and I asked them if they wanted to join in and help me on this project.
I hesitate to call us a band in the classical sense, though – with 4 or so guys (or girls) contributing equally to the musicmaking process. In that sense Mom & Bear is still a music project revolving around my music and lyrics and thus, ultimately, a solo project. The other members bring sheer quality by their talent – and hence my music would definitely not have been the same without them.
MFL: Along those lines, are there common themes in Mom & Bear that have held together over the past several years? If so, what are they?
I don’t know… That would probably be the shared love of music and the constant urge to pour it out.
I went through a personal crisis during that period – I had a daughter and she turned out to be sick, and that was quite the fist in the face of former dreams of parenthood.
I have always played music and it has always served as kind of a place to vent whatever demons I was struggling with. During this period, I became aware of an urge to make something for my daughter – something she could pick up and say ‘Hey, my dad made this – this a kind of reflection of him’ – in a way to show her who I am. So, this record kind of grew out of these facts put together.
MFL: Where is Mom & Bear based out of and does the music scene and general culture surrounding the band influence sound and content?
Mom & Bear is based in a relatively small town (by American standards) in the middle of Denmark. The music scene in DK is relatively small by comparison, and I believe that there is no longer such a thing as a true original – everything is influenced by something else. But the way you choose to mix up the various influences could make it original. And I think that’s what I’ve aimed for – that the sound was original in its own right, but recognizable – struck a core of recognition.
MFL: Bury Your Dead has a considerably dark undertone overall. However, I wouldn’t call the collective sound of the record dark. The content and sound are in contrast it seems. Can you discuss this?
The contrasts are very much on purpose. I love to play with contrasts and the emotions those contrasts awake in the listener. Dark and gloomy is my thing, but at the same time, this was not the only thing I wanted to convey. That even though times may seem dark, there’s almost always a flicker of light somewhere, too.
And then contrasts are just fun to play with – it can confuse you and make you curious, and annoy you too – exactly as I am in person!
MFL: If not addressed already, is there a particular message you would like to convey to your listeners through Bury Your Dead?
I don’t really work that way. The music is king. But if I had to say something to that end, the message of the album would be not to fear what might seem dark and gloomy so much. The album is in that way a reflection of my personal journey – a rite of passage – from insecurity and frail attempts to the freedom in the acceptance of who I am, dark, contrasted and not perfect – but no longer striving to be anything but what I am.
MFL: What are some of the oldest tracks on the record? To you, do they sound different than tracks that were written closer to release?
Some tracks have been under way for 6 years – and obviously my songwriting has evolved during that time so that now I’m more concerned with what I think of the song and not what my surroundings think. Guess that’s part of getting older too – not relying too much on the words of others. I seem more fearless now in my writing somehow. If you compare Talking to Zee and How I Lost Your Respect the former is the oldest – and to me that track seems a bit more fearful both in writing and arrangement than the latter.
MFL: Now that the debut record is out, do you feel like you’ve gained momentum? What’s next?
The next album is already very much in the making – preproduction’s in progress and we expect to start recordings this winter.
And to look for new and exciting liaisons, new collaborators and to forge new musical boundaries! Yeah, pretty much..
Big thank you to Nicki Bladt of Celebration Records for facilitating, to Jens for taking the time to answer my questions, and to the band as a whole for making music ❤
Photo Credit for all images: Bobby Mandrup