Red Lama’s Motions had just swept us off our feet, suddenly it turns out there is more music coming our way: Dogma, their latest EP, has just been released. It’s very interesting how Dogma and Motions are so consistent and different from each other even though they were released in the same year.
Dogma starts smoothly with Time, which hastens stealthily, sliding gracefully along stimulating twirls; there is a quiet danger to each spin though: it swiftly becomes a loop, and as we try to free ourselves from this recurrent process, our pace grows wilder. State The Art steps in right after, this one is warm and sensual like steam; it’s a dance, a conquest. A solid bassline flows along with a series of delicate stridencies that throw themselves about as they flutter flirtatiously around us; before you know it, our surroundings have melted away into a glistening melancholy. A hypnotic urge introduces RLP to our senses; the intoxicating effect of longing takes hold as it drives us into a hunt; a confrontation. Our yearning transforms throughout this pursuit into an immense and unrecognizable mirage; a glimpse into ourselves. Dogma comes to an end with Tearing Up The Snow, the weight that remains from that mirage is finally mitigating, confrontation is over. There is an optimistic turn to it, to their approach to repetition: they’re alchemists; it’s all part of the process. Dogma comes from a darker place; it’s beautifully devastating how they emerge from this turmoil into a soothing, yet frail tranquility. Motions is rather luminous and restless; in between its highlights we must mention Perfect Strangers (this is not your average start, this is HOW you start an album); its radiance captivates you at once. Post Optimism takes hold with a sharp blaze, it swirls, stretching and shifting from prism to prism. There is a playful taste of The Smiths throughout Motions, this combined with a krautrock haze makes quite the mix. The bracing Come What May its also a must. And just as it engulfs you into the night, Fular rides along, defiant, ravenous to dissolve into Wave, an unexpected jewel that settles in with a delicate reverberation that deepens as it striates this vast, black sea with a luminescent beat... It's alive!
-You’re so prolific! You’ve just released an album this year and now we have a brand new EP! What’s the story behind Dogma?
When we released Motions earlier in 2018 we still had some ideas that we couldn’t leave, so we kind of kept on jamming on them. Eventually, we felt an urge to get them out there and decided that we wanted to try something new. We wanted to finish writing the songs, record them, mix, master and release it all in just a few months. The dogma was to go with the immediate ideas all along the process, hence the name of the EP. We went to an isolated place at the north of Copenhagen and finished the songs, then shortly after booked time with Graham Sowerby to record the songs at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the week after we were already mixing with Tommy Kamp Vestergaard. The master was done asap with Rune Rask in his studio and we were done. Meanwhile, we met up with Danish artist John Olsen and we were allowed to use one of his many beautiful paintings that spoke to us as the album artwork.
-What is the story behind Red Lama?
The group was formed by a group of friends after being immensely inspired by a legendary concert by Danish psych group Spids Nøgenhat at Roskilde Festival in 2011. The bassist, Frederik joined shortly after and in 2015 the percussionist, Niklas, joined after being featured on a concert in the spring. Fun fact: the drummer, Marius, and vocalist, Johannes, are brothers! The aim has always been to get carried away by music. Jamming in the rehearsal space is a big part of it. We tend to lose ourselves in the process and let the music flow. There aren’t any specific rules, but we know that when what we jam moves us as a collective, then that’s what we go with. That experience: getting goosebumps in a build-up, is what we want to deliver to the audiences, especially when playing live. We want the energy that we feel as a group to be passed on to the audience.
-Your covers are very compelling; tell us about this psychedelic imagery you’ve built, have visual arts influenced your creative process?
There is always a strong link to the visual side of things in psychedelic music. It sort of fits well to connect that kind of music to visual aesthetics, whether inspired by drug-use or not. The cover for Dreams Are Free is actually a painting done by Marius and Johannes' grandmother. It was photographed and treated by graphic artist Nikolaj Hollænder. The Motions cover was done by Nikolaj Hollænder and fits well with the theme of the album: that everything is in motion – also our concept of reality. In general, the music comes first, and then we let the music inspire us and collaborators to produce something visual. You can say that the imagery grows out of the music.
-Please tell us more about RLP!
RLP is short for Real life picture, which is also the lyrics in the chorus. This song has been a few years underway. We have taken it up several times, but just couldn’t make it work properly. That’s the thing with many ideas, they need to find their right place and company amongst us all. Some do it instantly, and some we have to work with many times. We can become really fond of the ideas that are long underway though, because it is really satisfying when it all suddenly makes sense. The bass riff of RLP needed the right company from the other instruments, and when Oliver and Jonas played the two guitars on top of the bassline, we all felt that it found its place. It added an eerie feeling that opened up the whole thing.
-Which places are you looking forward to visiting with your music and why?
Uh uh, we want to go everywhere! There is something magical about when we go abroad and play, and we really want to do more of that, so please, book us! First of all, we would love to go to Norway where our label is located! Also, we would love to tour Europe and play especially Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal. It seems that there is a really strong scene for psychedelic rock in those countries. We have been to Germany and it was great, people are really dedicated as an audience which gives so much energy when you are on stage. And of course, USA. Who doesn't want to try out the States?
-What is happening right now in Denmark’s scene? How would you describe it?
Do you mean the music scene in general? Well, right now there is a campaign running on national radio about shutting up when going to a concert, which is great. Not that we feel that people are unfocused when we play, but it is nice to reaffirm that concerts require your attention and dedication for it to fully blossom and give you a high. Besides that, we have many really good singer/songwriters emerging and many groups that mix electronic music with hip-hop; and many nodding to the 90s trip-hop era. There is some really good stuff there. That is definitely what is mainstream popular, but there is also a solid rock scene where our rehearsal space mates, Fribytterdrømme, are doing really good. They play psych rock in Danish and have amazing and energetic live shows. I think, in general, that people want to be completely blown away when going to a show. That means that the sound should be right and loud and that the bands must give that extra in the performance.
-You released Dreams Are Free two years ago, where were you, musically, back then, and where are you headed now?
Back then we were really into the really psyched out stuff: long songs and almost trancelike music. We worked a lot with repetition and build-ups. We still do that, but we are definitely more outward looking these days. We want to try out more different approaches and sounds, while still having the mystic and psychedelic 'Red Lama feel'. We are really into playing with rhythms and a more 'in your face' sound. But we'll never lose the appreciation for repetition and the psychedelic soundscapes. We need to evolve and try out new stuff, at least to a degree, as a band. Otherwise, we would get stuck on making the same over and over.
-Perfect Strangers is quite the opening track! What inspired you to write it?
Repetitive music! This is the prime example of how we do it! We have been quite inspired by bands like Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips and krautrock in general, that becomes almost hypnotizing with repetitive beats and basslines. The bassline in Perfect Strangers keeps on going and a chord progression that harmonizes the melody on top of it in a forward-going manner. It came out of that, which two of us had recorded on a laptop. It was brought in to the rehearsal space and we started to jam on it, adding different layers as the repetition keeps on going. The lyrics are about contrasts, in yourself, and the song also has two quite distinct parts that switch and merge in the end.
-On that note, could you also tell us more about how you wrote Wave?
Wave came out of the idea to do a not-song. A sort of atmospheric interlude. We had a bassline and put a piano on top of it and felt that it should be kept almost at that. Sometimes it is nice just to let things be as they are. We don’t really think of it as a song, it is rather an intermission and a breather.
-Motions is a rather precise title, a sense of motion is always present, along with wanderlust. How would you describe Motions’ destination?
There is no destination. Destinations are in motion too.
Run along towards alchemy with Red Lama!