Up Next: Dinner’s Hypnotic Darkwave

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 09.22.14 in Features

‘Up Next’ is a series in which we interview up-and-coming bands we love.

Members: Anders Rhedin
From: Copenhagen, Denmark (and L.A. and Berlin)
Sounds like: Arch, Scandinavian electro-pop
For fans of: The Magnetic Fields, Phil Spector, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Simple Minds

A former member of the dream-pop act Choir of Young Believers, Anders Rhedin has spent the past couple of years focusing on his own project, Dinner. Where Choir’s sound is billowing, optimistic and heart-on-its-sleeve sincere, Dinner is a much more cryptic proposition. Sonically, his murky, multi-tracked pop miniatures scan as a gothic spin on ’60s girl groups or a John Hughes soundtrack staple (Simple Minds or the Psychedelic Furs, say) dripping with codeine. His syrupy baritone, meanwhile, evokes Stephen Merritt’s doleful delivery.

It’s hard to know how much his subject matter has to do with self-expression, and how much it’s a kind of documentary look at young bohemians in Copenhagen, Berlin and Los Angeles, the three cities he calls home. Sex and psychogeography are intricately tangled up in song titles like “You Are Like LA,” “Girl” and “Do You Feel Like Going Out Tonight,” an earlier version of “Going Out” that appeared on his debut EP.

Here Rhedin talks about the differences between L.A. and Berlin, commercial songwriting, moonlighting as a hypnotist, and more.

“I always find it much more demonic in L.A., somehow.” L.A. has a much different energy. It’s much more energetic and there’s just a darkness in Los Angeles that I feel. I mean, there’s a darkness in Berlin too, but it’s different in L.A. It’s like two worlds, or several worlds, several realities colliding, in a way. Whereas Berlin is that old, cold — dare I say Germanic — darkness that’s somewhere there, just buried deep down. It isn’t like I want to paint a picture of Germans as being more sinister than any other people. Obviously, that’s not the case. What you find in Germany is much closer to what I’m used to — this northern European kind of dark undercurrent. It’s so much more exotic in L.A.; I always find it much more demonic in L.A., somehow.

“It sounds silly when I say it, but I felt that commercial songwriting was dark magic.” My ex moved [to L.A.] to go to CalArts, and I moved with her, so I decided that I would try my hand at commercial songwriting. I did really, really commercial songwriting sessions, which didn’t turn out particularly well. It sounds silly when I say it, but I felt that commercial songwriting was dark magic. In my experience, the creative process is like a magic ritual. You want to channel something, you want to invoke something, you want to do certain things within a given timeframe; you have certain ritualistic things you do and hopefully something will come through you. When you leave the circle or the room or whatever, something’s there that wasn’t there before. And with this pop stuff in L.A., I always felt that it was some kind of dark entities we brought forth.

It really wasn’t my cup of tea. I hate this expression, but the producers are called “track guys,” and then you have the topline writers, and then you have lyricists, and it’s like an assembly line. Some of these really disciplined people from Nashville, it’s their custom that they write two songs a day, one before lunch and one after. And even with my Scandinavian work ethic, that was insane. So maybe it takes one day, maybe it takes two, to write a song. And then you have someone who’s kind of pitching it to various artists. It was strange. If it isn’t love that’s the driving force, then it gets a bit sinister to me. But that’s just me. I’m just a softie.

“I was sitting on this balcony in Copenhagen one summer and my life was a mess…” Choir of Young Believers is a strange outfit, because basically it’s kind of a band and it kind of isn’t. The main guy, Jannis [Noya Makrigiannis], he writes all the songs and it’s his project. I encouraged him to play songs to me, and I produced the first EP. I kind of helped him to start that, and he built that up, and the moment it started getting successful, I decided for some weird reason that this was the time for me to exit. I was sitting on this balcony in Copenhagen one summer with Jannis, and my life was a mess, because the woman in my life at that time had left me and I didn’t know what to do. I had all these songs, and I asked him for advice, and he said, “Allow me to produce this. Let me make all the decisions.” He took on the role of making every major decision, including deciding that I should be the person to sing. I thought I would get a girl with a nice voice, because I like female vocals much better. But he insisted that I should sing this stuff.

“I played a show in Berlin a few years ago, and before I got there, I decided that I wanted to try to hypnotize the audience.” When I got there, I thought, this is the worst idea I have had so far, because no way is anyone going to take you seriously when you propose them all to sit down and close their eyes. But they did. I had this big group of people sit down, close their eyes and I did this hypnotic induction and took them a little bit under, and people came up after the show and told me they had had all these weird experiences. I still do it sometimes in live shows, and then I decided I wanted to make a little release with that. So anyone out there who is stressed out and you want to get into a little light trance, then they have a Dinner tape to help them with that.

Then I ended up in this big German newspaper called Die Welt, which did a one-page article where I hypnotize one of the journalists. Afterwards, the photographer came up to me and told me that he could feel his legs going wobbly when I was doing the induction thing to the journalist — you know, “Take your thoughts down to your feet and feel them go soft,” and so on. The photographer said he was actually worried he would go into a trance and fall over, just fall on his face on the floor, and so he had to put down the camera and start checking his emails on his phone, just to stay awake. And he was very impressed by that. I think he thought that I had some powers over him if I could make his legs go soft. Of course, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, but still, it’s some very interesting stuff, because again, it’s all about the ritual and the transcendence, right? You know, concerts and hypno-sessions, it seems to be very related.