BEST NEW SONG: DOG ORCHESTRA - CLUB FRAGIL
Dog Orchestra sprang to life for the first time on February 1, 2010. The Stockholm electronic dream-pop collective of Niklas Malmborg and Daniel DePierre had previously met in high school. But that encounter didn’t count. “The first real memory I have of us bonding was when were at a club. Niklas got thrown out, and his mom came and picked us up in her car,” Daniel says. “I slept on a small couch in his room and dreamt of a nuclear holocaust. After that, we were friends.”
DOG ORCHESTRA - CLUB FRAGIL
Dog Orchestra’s debut track, “CLUB Fragil” – visit the Soundcloud here for a Free Download before the EP comes out in July
Desperate to escape the doldrums of boring day jobs and Swedish suburbs, they grabbed their burgeoning compositions and moved to Berlin. That date—February 1, 2012, exactly two years after Dog Orchestra came to be—marked their creative rebirth. It would just take them a few weeks to realize this. ”We left all the music we’d done so far behind and started from scratch,” Niklas says. ”Actually, that’s when we first came up with the name Dog Orchestra, and started adding songs and meaning to it.”
They arrived in Germany to a gloomy, bone-chilling winter and to a claustrophobic studio apartment with bare-bones accoutrements, a mattress and a kitchenette. When they did emerge from their hovel, they were confronted by an insurmountable language barrier and empty wallets. Yet Dog Orchestra, undeterred, searched for inspiration in the newness. That exploration can be heard throughout the tranquil Meow EP, their warm debut about making peace with that which you cannot control.
“We did not know what we were doing with our lives,” reasons Daniel, “so we were just trying to have as much fun as possible with the resources at hand.” That included sipping on cheap beer and Caribbean drinks while recording each evening, after working freelance jobs. To blow off steam, they would watch marathons of The Office and hit dusk-till-dawn DJ nights. “Since then, we have learned the meaning of fernweh,” says Daniel, of the German word that refers to the sense of adventure that comes from leaving your comfort zone.
Meow EP vibrantly retraces those steps, from alienation to fernweh, beginning with the melancholic ”CLUB Fragil”. “When I listen to songs like ‘CLUB Fragil,’” Daniel says wistfully, “I vividly remember the apartment in disarray, trips home from Berghain in the taxi with ’Heroes’ by David Bowie playing on the radio, the snow sailing down slowly outside, and eating €1.50 kebabs every day for two weeks straight until we could never touch one again. Each day, balancing between perfect hope and bellyaching anxiety.” These songs are aural snapshots of their lives. “For me, it’s a feeling of achievement, that we managed to capture a particular moment in time.” Adds Niklas, “No wall between the band and the listener—that’s the goal.”
It is easy to escape into the swell of their beguiling collaborations. The quivering “CLUB Fragil” frames the cherubic chorus sung by Linnéa Martinsson of the indie-pop act Lune. Meanwhile, the spacious “Feb 1” features shape-shifting vocals from Johanna DePierre, of the Swedish metal band Amaran. Though a levitating atmosphere wafts through the EP, no two songs sound the same.
“Usually, we go into the studio or living room and start writing from scratch. Sometimes we develop ideas individually, but the best ones are always written together,” Daniel says. “We rarely bring in any ideas from the outside. But once we get going, we both have fragments of lyrics that we’ve written on a bus somewhere that we throw into the mix.”
Once the EP was completed, they recruited producer Bram Inscore (Troye Sivan’s “YOUTH,” JR JR, Allie X, Mayer Hawthorne) and Grammy-winning engineer Darrell Thorp (Radiohead, Paul McCartney) to build on their spacious creations. “We wanted it to sound like the music in our heads,” says Niklas. “If you hear a brilliant pop song for the first time, and you’re not allowed to listen to it again…it’s what that song sounds like in your head after a week.”
And at this point, the duo practically shares the same thoughts. Before Dog Orchestra, Niklas and Daniel had joined a few uninspiring pop bands, which ultimately imploded. Says Niklas, “It wasn’t until me and Daniel moved in together that I felt the music begin to sound as good as it should.” The new roommates wrote four songs in just one weekend. Says Daniel, “We forgot about going out, partly because we had beer at home, but mostly because every time one of us recorded something, we just kept building on it, with no obstacles or friction.” The two alternated between laying down the musical groundwork (on the guitar or keyboards) and writing lyrics—a practice they continue today. “It was effortless. We were inseparable after that,” Daniel continues. “I remember my sister telling me that my dad thought we were a couple…”
They both agree that the songs on their debut EP could only have come to life by relocating to Berlin. “It’s less restricted than Stockholm, where everything is clean and at a right angle—even the crooked ones are calculated,” says Daniel. Berlin’s grittier culture represented possibility. “It’s a city in shambles being rebuilt. The opportunities felt less policed. Like, the whole city needs a good paint job, and no one is looking over your shoulder telling you how to paint it.”
Settling into Berlin during one of the city’s most harrowing winters, Niklas and Daniel remember having to burn coal to keep warm. “I’ve read that if you fast, your brain goes into survival mode and you become more creative since you need to come up with new ways of finding food. Maybe it’s something like that,” says Daniel of their bare-bones setup. “A lot of our songs start out as a dream of a better place. We’re always talking about all the things we’re going to when we can afford stuff.”
Not that they technically want stuff. “Something had to happen,” says Niklas. “While most people found proper jobs and settled down, that was not for us.” Call it venturesome or boredom, but Dog Orchestra would much rather keep throwing themselves into an expanse of uncertainty. “We make music without much intellectualizing,” Daniel says. “There’s something inspiring about moving into an empty space. You see endless freedom of possibilities.”