WORDS BY ROBBIE DADOMO-EDGINGTON
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPH BY ED GUMUCHIAN
The Copenhagen ensemble Josiah Konder create timeless, reflective music that expresses life in all its disparate shades. They have released two albums, 2018’s Songs for the Stunned and 2019’s Through the Stutter.
I first saw them support Danish contemporaries Iceage in Brighton in 2018 and have been enamoured with their music ever since. They are truly a hidden gem, and it is a pleasure to introduce them to you.
Please introduce the band and tell us a little about your music.
Albert A. Hertz (guitar, accordion, etc.): We are a six-piece group operating out of Copenhagen and have been so since 2017. Josiah Konder originally started with just Julius, Anton and myself, but expanded to include Jens Konrad (drums), Valdemar Kragelund (keys) and Zeki Jindyl (saxophone) shortly after we made Songs for the Stunned.
Anton Funck (bass, percussion, etc.): Our music is grounded in the song writing of Julius Ernst and therefore Josiah Konder could ideally exist in many different shapes.
Could you tell us the significance of the name Josiah Konder?
Julius Ernst (vocals, classical guitar, etc.): I saw the name once a long time ago when my grandmother was showing me old pictures of our family, and always liked it aesthetically. It came up when we had to come up with a name, back when we released Songs for the Stunned and that was it. It bears no deeper reference to any real person.
How would you compare Through the Stutter and Songs for the Stunned? Did you consciously take different approaches with the writing and recording of the albums?
Albert: When making Songs for the Stunned we were very focused on how we could work with the songs without transgressing what we thought their essence to be. We did so by limiting ourselves when recording the album. Always narrowing down. Rather mute than add. Trying to explore what the songs could carry. Through the Stutter was different in many ways. One of them being that we had expanded from 3 to 6 people, which I believe you can tell if listening to the records back to back. I guess you could say the recording process of Through the Stutter was more conventional in the sense that we went to a proper studio to record the album whereas Songs for the Stunned was partly recorded in a country house in Sealand. I believe the surrounding shows on both albums, for better or worse.
Your lyrics have a decidedly literary quality. Are there any poets or writers you might compare yourself to, or perhaps any that have influenced your style? How do you think songwriting and poetry differ?
Julius: Writing the lyrics for Through the Stutter was quite different from the process of writing Songs for the Stunned and prior. Before I wrote more from a stream of consciousness, quickly and with little contemplation, often writing even while recording. With Through the Stutter, I sat down for two weeks, from morning to night, only writing, reworking and polishing the lyrics with a guitar to sort out the fitting to the melodies. I was hungry for a very straightforward voice in the beginning, but I arrived at a different place than I expected and they became what they are now. They seem like anecdotes of some kind to me now. I remember that for some reason I had The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran by my side, and I would read a page or two from time to time, which gave me a lofty place to start from as I was collecting the ideas that were swirling around.
I wouldn’t see it fit to compare my writing to anybody that I can think of as I feel like I’m just at the starting point of learning to write. William Blake was actually the first poet that got me writing, I would take his poems and rewrite them in my own way and make them into songs. Later E. E. Cummings had a big impact on me and recently W. B. Yeats really captivates me. When I read a good collection of poems, I never think of it lacking anything in the exchange from writer to reader. When a poem works on paper it grabs you and puts you inside it. That’s all you need at that moment. Lyrics are, at the end of the day, half the story. Just the sound from the voice singing can change the meaning of the words for the listener. To me they are two different operations that each have their own total realms.
You’ve released two tremendously accomplished albums in 2018 and 2019 respectively, can we expect anything new in 2020?
Albert: We have been on a minor break from performing (with a few exceptions) the last couple of months to work on new pieces. Whether these will see the light of day in 2020 is still uncertain.
If there was one song that you’ve released that you feel is the best encapsulation of who you are and what you want to achieve musically, what would it be?
Albert: We all have different favorites from the two albums and it differs quite a bit – also depending on whether it is the recorded song or the act of performing it live. I particularly like the strict arrangement of components in The Bastard Within from SFTS and pop-ish bulldozing vibe in Out of The Hazard from TTS. That being said, we aim to be in a constant state of transformation which influences our artistic likings, goals and whatnot. Material we’ve already made therefore does or should not encapsulate something we aim to be or what we are. At least I hope it never will.
Anton: Totally agree – favorite song from SFTS is The Bastard Within, from TTS it’s For What Faith.
Do you have any recommendations for our readers?
Albert: By my nightstand, I hold a copy of the 3rd/4th edition of Ny Jord – a yearly published Danish journal/anthology on nature – which is highly recommendable, but sadly only in Danish. I’m also currently reading Satantango by László Krasznahorkai and Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, kicking back with The Wire, and Dark Souls 2 when I feel a little magical.
Anton: Currently listening to Waver and A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica, reading The Noon Day Demon by Andrew Sullivan and Waking Up by Sam Harris, playing The Warriors (PS2) and Onimusha 2 (PS2).
Julius: I’m watching a lot of movies of course, due to the quarantine COVID-19 life, here in Athens where I am located at the moment, I recommend:
Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry, and The Wind Will Carry Us.
I just re-watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, such a masterpiece.
Il Postino is one of my favorite films, so touching.
Don’t Look Now by Nicolas Roeg, is also such a wild film, with proliferating creativity.
I Am Love by Luca Guadagnino is definitely recommendable.
Oh, and I just re-watched Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman… if you haven’t watched it you are missing out on a movie that will stay with you forever… find the TV version! Not the theatrical release.
FOR FANS OF
Iceage | Leonard Cohen | Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds