20 Questions with Discodudes Lemaitre

20 Questions with Lemaitre Photo courtesy of vice.com

Norwegian discodudes Ketil Jansen and Ulrik Denizou Lund formed Lemaitre  in 2010, and have since firmly planted themselves in the electronic music scene, garnering widespread praise for their individuality and crisp electro-funk sound. The duo hovers somewhere in between Daft Punk’s electronic hooks and Pheonix’s electro-pop,  but never quite lands a true paralell to other electronic artists. Their music is uncharacteristically unique in an over-saturated genre. It may be because Lemaitre doesn’t typically use any samples in their songs, or the fact that they can absorb the musical musings of hip-hop producers like Q-Tip and J Dilla, right alongside  those of Daft Punk and Madeon. Whatever recipe they’ve cooked up is clearly working. In just a few months, the band saw more than 10,000 new Facebook fans and 1,800 new Twitter followers, a 256% increase from previous periods. Lemaitre signed with electronic label Astralwerks Records (home to the likes of Porter Robinson, Matt Zo, and Empire of the Sun) in January of this year, and have since embarked on a U.S. tour along the East Coast. Their new EP Singularity was released last month on July 22nd, and they’ll be working on their latest album in Los Angeles when they’re not on tour.  FDRMX sat down with Lemaitre before a show in New York last week to talk talk digital love, LA versus NYC, music business savvy, and… the scientific theory behind a Doppler shift. 

20 Questions with Lemaitre 3 Photo courtesy of arcadia.edu

FDRMX: How long have you two known each other? When did you first decide to make music?
Ketil:Since Jr. High, about 14 [years old], around there.
Ulrik: We were in the same gang and skiied and sh**. I didn’t ski professionally, but yeah while he was good, I was just joining in with my other friends who were bad. [laughs] We didn’t start making music till we we’re in Sr. High.

FDRMX: What did you guys do for fun in Jr. and Sr. High? Other than making music?
Ulrich: We were both making music-but not really at the level we wanted I guess.  I was in band and then I started producing hip-hop and Ketil produced house music
Ketil: I went to Norway’s school for top gymnastics-for skiing.

FDRMX: We heard that you recently relocated to Los Angeles. What do you think so far?
Both: I love it.
Ketil: When I’m in New York in the summer, like now, I wish I could live here. But I really like LA as far as it’s always nice weather, and we could afford to live in a house.
Ulrik: Yeah we love it there, it’s much more laid back too.
Ketil: People kept telling us when we first moved out: ‘you have to be careful of the assholes’ Uhh, and everyone kept telling me ‘oh New York is so chill, everyone’s so cool.’  And that might be the case, but since I’ve been here I’ve seen people yelling at street vendors because their hot dog costs like, 5 cents too much. It’s pretty intense. So in LA, people are chill.

FDRMX: So you’re working on a full length album there. Are you planning on collaborating with anyone?
Ulrik: We are gonna…We have a lot of people who we are in the talks with and who we wanna work with, but nothing set yet. We don’t know yet which songs are gonna need a feature, or we may start making music from scratch. We are working on some with Kygo at the moment. We don’t know what it’s gonna turn out to be…whether it’s gonna be a song on his album or ours. We’ll take whatever we like, and if they wanna work with us, that’s awesome. The Kygo song can be really cool, so we’ll see.

FDRMX:  Who would be your dream collaboration ?
Ketil: Ah too many people to say!  Feist?
Ulrik: Or Q-tip. Both producers and vocalists, like we tried to get Robert Glasper…We tried to get him to play a part on All I Needbut he was working on his album so it didn’t happen.

FDRMX: That’s crazy, we just went to a show of his. He was playing at Celebrate Brooklyn a few weeks ago. He’s pretty amazing, seems like he’s worked with everybody.
Ketil: The piano guy?
Ulrik:Yeah that’s him. He’s great. We wanna work with pianists..or trumpet players, or rappers, or vocalists, or producers…
Ketil: Whoever’s good at what they do, that’s the only thing that matters.
Ulrik:  Or people that’ve inspired us.
Ketil: Yeah, cause I think you can fit almost anything into our songs. As long as they’re great in their sense, we’ll find a way to work it into our music. Really anybody that’s good at what they do.

FDRMX:  You’ve been compared by many to French electronic band Phoenix. What do you think about this? Is it a compliment?
Ulrik: Definitely,  I’ve been listening to Phoenix since I was a kid. I listened to Daft Punk and Justice since I was little as well. Definitely music I grew up with kinda shapes how I write. Or whatever comes to my mind is probably subconsciously coming from a lot of those places… I’ve listened to them for a long time… I can recognize elements from a song, like oh sh**,  I got that from that song! You know, like that melody, I ‘stole’ that …from everything from Phoenix to Drake.

20 Questions with Lemaitre 2 Photo courtesy of Lemaitre

FDRMX: Since you started with hip-hop production, who would be someone who influences you the most in that genre?
Ulrik: Q-Tip. Q-Tip and DJ Premier and J Dilla. A lot of different producers.. like Fatboy Slim or Chemical Brothers or Basement Jaxx. All different types of electronic music.

FDRMX: (To Ketil) What about your musical influences?
Ketil:  A lot.. Uh, two songs per artist. I always find two songs, and then maybe the rest of their discography is on par. Like, The Meters have “Cissy Strut” and “Hand Clapping Song”.  Eddy Hazel is a really cool guitarist, but he doesn’t have have a lot of good material. He’s kind of a special case cause he’s only got, like 10 seconds per song that’s like really cool and the the rest is weird as hell. One of the songs, “To Live and Die in LA” is a 2-Pac song that lifted one of the melodies he played on his own song.

FDRMX: What’s it like working with artists like Porter Robinson and Matt Zo?
Ulrik: It’s really cool. Since we started out, we listened to Porter Robinson, and we remember really well…we heard Say My Name and uhm, he’s one year younger than us and he’s blowing up, and he’s so good f**k.
Ketil: Is he one year younger?
Ulrik: Yeah, and then Madeon  came right after and he blew up, and f**k he’s three years younger than us and doing so well! Yeah so now when we’re making a track, of course we were really stoked to do it. We sent the track back and forth and really loved the idea he had made, so we started producing some guitar and vocals on it. (Listen to Lemaitre’s remix of Mat Zo and Porter Robinson here.)

FDRMX: Did that happen over e-mail or did you guys have studio time?
Ketil: E-mail, unfortunately. It’s always more fun to work in person but he was in Pennsylvania I think so-
Ulrik: No he was in North Carolina, and we were in LA i think… It works, like we work together because we both understand what we want to do.

FDRMX: So you guys don’t use any samples in your music…
Ketil: Not anymore, we used to. We didn’t release any of it though. It started because we didn’t know how to clear samples, and it seemed like an ordeal so we just circumvented it.

FDRMX: Do you think that makes you more creative with how you make music?
Ketil: I don’t think it makes you more creative. I love  Digital Love by Daft Punk and that’s just lifted from the intro of a uhh George Dukes song. But they changed the track into a whole new thing, and it was so creative. I don’t look down on sampling at all.
Ulrik: I think sampling is an art.  Like hip-hop is based on sampling and electronic is based on sampling, yeah house music too. It all comes from the art of turning something into another. We also sample though, but we just sample our own stuff. We kinda did it because we thought we had to be able to release it, just get it out there without being sued. I think because we made the samples ourselves, it kinda.. doesn’t sound like we sampled any old record, so it maybe has a distinct sound because of that. You also have the freedom to create whatever kind of sample you need, or want to have.

FDRMX: You released a lot of your music for free at one point… There was even a feature of you on Forbes, about making money in music in a digital age where its very easy to copy music files online. What do you think about making money in the industry? 
Ketil: I think I see in a lot of new artists where they say, you know, hey buy my EP, and they only link to  iTunes. You can’t really expect people to buy your music. They’ll find a way to download it. Except if you’re coming up, people won’t bother to go to Pirate Bay or whatever to find it. You have to be able to do one-click and find it instantly, or people will be like f**k that and find another band.
Ulrik: I feel now it’s much easier to make the music, to get it out there. Before you needed someone to help make the music, to help distribute the music. that itself was a cost. Now that isn’t a cost, so of course you have to expect the payoff from releasing the music to be less. Uhh, we don’t make a lot of money streaming or selling music, but we make some. And the most important part is to get the music out there and to make your name heard. You just have to release it for free, at least in the start, or at least put it on YouTube, Soundcloud, everywhere so you can hear it.
Ketil: Honestly, I don’t really mind people not paying for music… Ad placements still pay you money, and shows make money.
Ulrik: Yeah touring, sync, and radio plays, and TV even. You can see today, a lot of credible artists sell their music to commercials and stuff. Who can complain, you get free music, you know. We may have to feature in an iPhone ad, but more people will get free music.
Ketil: The Black Keys  had a very good point on that cause at one point they said no to a huge [commercial] for a lot of money. And they immediately regretted turning it down. And really who cares if you use your music in an ad. You know, rather that than someone else’s sh*tty music. If you’re gonna show people music, it might as well be something you believe in.

FDRMX:  You’ve said before that you try to avoid making songs about partying and love. Do you think that’s overdone?
Ulrik: If it’s done in a smart way, or if in a way that’s…like James Brown.. or if it’s made in a tasteful way. But 98% of pop music is about partying or love. It’s hard to stay away from on all accounts, but we try to make it so it can mean something else…disguise it in something else.
Ketil: It’s like that stupid Dynamite song, which is so…frustratingly banal. It sorta ruins songs that are light for me. Songs about having fun or being in love… you can do it in a really cool way. But songs like ‘Wiggle’  just ruined that for me. Even though Wiggle is a fun pop song.
Ulrik: For example Daft Punk’s lyrics are really simple and One More Time is a party song but it’s tasteful.. It’s still not ‘bottles in the club’.
Ketil: It’s hard to do it tasteful though.

FDRMX:  Who are some of your personal influences?
Ulrik: Wes Anderson and Miyazaki. Like, the new worlds that they create, that inspires me a lot. Wanting to create an image or a new kind of universe. Or architecture, or cool places that are kinda unique. It’s kinda hard to explain… Adventures. With Wes Anderson and Miyazaki, it’s very out there, and you just get ideas from seeing something that’s so different.
Ketil: I watch a lot of interviews. Even if I’m not inspired by someone’s music, like their work ethic or.. I can find something in most people that I latch on to and identify with myself.

FDRMX: Who do you watch interviews of?
Ketil: Oh so many… It’s tough to be on the spot. I’m inspired by this producer we know named Nasty Cut, who produced that Am I Wrong single. The way he works is like 12-hour days, no procrastinating, just super-straight and really hard worker. A cool guy. I wanna be a cool guy sometimes.

FDRMX: Tell us about your band’s name. What inspires your interest in scientific theories and astronomy.
Ketil: I love Popular Science. I’m not exactly well-read in the sense you would think of, but I’ve read quite a lot of books and inspiring stories in history and science, from Greek philosophy to the present day. What people did to come up with theories, and how incredibly clever you have to be to think outside of the box in that sense. For example, people know how fast planets are moving to or from the earth by seeing their hue. So if they’re red, they’re moving away; if they’re blue, they should be moving towards you. Stuff like that is just ridiculous, how do you come up with that! So, you know what a Doppler shift is?

FDRMX: No, tell me
Ketil: Like when a train goes by and its like veeroooom- That’s because it’s waves coming at you faster, and then slower when it moves away… Anyways it’s just ridiculous to read about about and it’s a bit of mind trip. Yeah, it’s fun.

FDRMX: Would you stick with that theme for titling your future projects then?
Ketil: Science is a pretty big field.. we can probably get titles and stuff from there for a long time. [laughs]

Lemaitre is currently on tour in the U.S. For a list of their upcoming shows, check out their Facebook page. They’re still working on their latest album, but in the meantime you can buy their EP Singularity on iTunes, and stream most of Lemaitre’s music on their Soundcloud here. Make sure to watch their video for “Time to Realize”, featured on FDRMX Eyes.