Jackie Charles: Berlin’s newest face of eclectic, sweeping, soul-gripping dream pop, edged with a healthy dose of nihilism. Their first album, “Future Fantasies,” is glittering and provocative, a gorgeous addition to this already fever-dream of a year.
Norwegian singer and songwriter Kaja Bremnes’ vocals are at-times whimsical and sweet, other times goth-y and charged, latching tentacles into you and tearing you back for a second round. I, for one, have played “Dominikas Song” a blissful number of times in a row, allowing it to flow over me like water, whilst “Time Travel” makes my stomach clench with a sort of unnamed nostalgia.
In fact, of this song, Kaja asks, “Have you ever wanted to travel back to a the when things were less complicated and you felt safe, even if that time maybe never existed?” I mean, what on earth does anyone think about, if not this?
“Next time around, drop your head on the floor. Don’t make a plan. What are you waiting for?”
And Kaja herself is a worthy guide: all flowing golden hair, with a sure sense of herself, of the words she writes, of the echoing guitars and affecting synths. Luckily, we nabbed an interview with her to discuss how this album came to be and how she views the Berlin beast herself.
Catch them at Fête de la Musique at the FluxFM stage on June 21, 2019, alongside Archie Faulks, Slackerqueen Ilgen-Nur, the Duo Children, and another special guest. Find the event here.
BLY: The nihilistic lyrics/bright aesthetic: has this always been the band’s MO? Are the nihilistic lyrics at all related to your time in Berlin?
Contrasts are just inherently interesting. Life is infinitely intricate and nuanced and there is seldom just the one side of things. We would argue that no emotions are pure. They are always a mix of things. In the midst of our biggest emotional times there is still mundanity. Being extremely heartbroken but having to do dishes for instance. Having had a huge fight and then walking into a lamp post like an idiot. Happy, sad, angry. These things bleed into each other and there is something so exciting about trying to capture that in songs.
Berlin is THE city of contrasts. Every corner you turn its a new and different vibe, you can never get sick of it. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a beast. It will swallow you whole and burn you just as soon as spit you out and comfort you and cuddle you until you die from niceness. You need to be a special kind of person to survive it. But you love it for exactly those reasons.
BLY: Could this music be written anywhere else? How has the city informed this album?
We would love for Berlin to be the main inspiration of our music purely for how awesomely cool that sounds. Unfortunately these tunes are the kind of things that happens in Kaia’s head where ever she is. And she travels a lot. She has been known to nip to airport bathrooms to record songs that have sprung upon her. Not that Berlin doesn’t play a part, but in some ways it is almost the other way around. A certain type of people seek Berlin and the general vibe we get from people around the city is that we all share a fairly similar worldview.
BLY: What do you think of Jackie Charles’ comparisons to Bowie, Ariel Pink, etc.?
All the comparisons we have had are very flattering and we feel honoured by them.
We definitely listen to both Bowie and Ariel as well as everything from classical to punk and soul and rap and bebop and jazz and blues and disco and metal and glamrock. Within each genre there are gems. Everything that is music with some sort of agency. Music with a message. Music that stands out. Music like deep wells with treasures at the bottom. A thing we are happy about as well is that the comparisons have all been refreshingly free from the age-old sexism of always comparing female singers to other females in music.
We are delighted that people seem to have accomplished listening to the music in and of itself, scoping beyond the gender of whomever is spouting the words.
BLY: What do you think of the music scene/art scene in Berlin in general? Have any bands or artists we should check out here in Berlin that we might not know about already?
The Berlin scene is magnificent and eclectic and free and so full of extreme levels of talent. It would be daunting if it wasn’t so much fun. Collaboration nation! So we have to mention Godmother, not just because we have worked with them but also because it is genuinely brilliant music. Tim Curry meets Marc Bolan with a dash of Kerouac-esque sentiments. Joey (the genius behind it) is just very talented and we really think more people should check it out.
BLY: What are your live gigs like? What can the audience expect?
We endeavor to connect. There seems to be a million strings tied between everyone in the room. Like a weird interwoven mess of our collective minds and hearts. We are a live band (no computers, like archaic grandparents) and being a live band, anything can happen! It’s never the same and we love that. You will have to be there, it will never happen the same way twice.