Lower on Eating Disorders, Getting Robbed and the Meaning of “Punk”

Maria Sherman

By Maria Sherman

on 07.29.14 in Features

File under: Suffocating post-punk
For fans of: Iceage, Morrissey, Communions
From: Copenhagen, Denmark
Personae: Adrian Toubro (vocals), Anton Rothstein (drums), Kristian Emdal (bass), Simon Formann (guitar)

Born in the same Copenhagen underground scene that birthed the anarchic Iceage, Lower started as a punk band, then gradually lost their fury. On Seek Warmer Climes, they’ve shape-shifted into something best described as “romantic post-punk,” writing songs full of big, pealing guitars and topped with yearning, desperate vocals.

We sat down with the band at Radegast, a German beer hall in Brooklyn, to talk about their progression.

On the shifting meaning of “punk”:

Adrian Toubro: It seems like in America they love the word “punk.” They use it for everything. You could hear the sweetest pop music, and they’ll call it punk. I saw the front page of a magazine with Skrillex on it and it said “Punk is not dead, just ask Skrillex.” Ridiculous!

Kristian Emdal: It’s punk if it’s fast, if it makes noise.

Toubro: And I’ve become way less aggressive. I’m less angry. It’s the difference between being in your early 20s and being in your mid 20s. You become more adult, happy. Our first EP was more punk-inspired.

On eating disorders:

Anton Rothstein: We’ve developed a collective eating disorder. It’s like when women are together and their menstrual cycle aligns…

Emdal: That’s us with our digestion. Puking. Sometimes it’s good for you. In New York, the food is OK. Anywhere else [in America] you order a small salad and it’s huge. Then you just vomit.

Toubro: I vomited last night.

Rothstein: Our song “Lost Weight, Perfect Skin” isn’t about vomiting, though —

Toubro: “Lost Weight, Perfect Skin” is when you feel perfect in your body. You’ve trained, you’ve lost weight. Your mind is sharp. It’s a perfect feeling. That song is saying you can sweat out life’s problems. If you’ve lost weight, perfect skin, you’ll be satisfied with your exterior; you’ll be satisfied with your brain because you’re on level with everything. It’s a good thing. It’s the progress of going from one place that is bad to perfection. I would never write about bad things. I would never go down the dystopian path.

Emdal: It’s not about the ideals of society. It’s on a personal level.

Toubro: It’s a metaphor. The record is about progression. Seek Warmer Climes. If people get inspired, then that’s good. That’s not the goal. We are in no way a political band.

‘[Leonard Cohen] has a lot of humor in his music. It’s very sardonic, but it’s also music that if you feel that it could be sad, [he reminds you that] it could be worse. I’m very inspired by that approach to writing — writing about real stuff, but being tongue in cheek sometimes.’

On their first music memories:

Toubro: I heard the Oasis record Be Here Now — that’s a record that I remember from when I was a kid that I got from my father. I was very focused on hating that particular band in my teens. But truly the first music I listened to was the music my parents listened to — Leonard Cohen and stuff like that. He has a lot of humor in his music. It’s very sardonic, but it’s also music that if you feel that it could be sad, [he reminds you that] it could be worse. I’m very inspired by that approach to writing — writing about real stuff, but being tongue in cheek sometimes. Not being deadly serious — having some sort of reflection on what you’re writing.

Rothstein: I started playing the violin when I was 4. Me and my brother, at a very early age, were really into Irish folk music. My brother wanted to play fiddle when he was 6 or something, but the closest thing [we could find] was the Philharmonic for children, because then you could get a violin. It would look like we’re playing Irish folk music, but really we were really playing Beethoven. Then I wanted to play cello, but there was no cello small enough for me, so I got a violin as well. I did that until I was 12, I think, then I started to do rock music. I grew my hair out long.

Simon Formann: My parents didn’t really listen to music with me, but I fell in love with Michael Jackson.

Toubro: Same with me. Michael Jackson, he was almost like magic.

Rothstein: I was on a bus [when I found out Michael Jackson died.] I was working at a kindergarten in the city, like a daycare. It was in the city, so we would take a bus out to a cabin in the woods. I found out when I was on the bus — I got a text message from my mom saying that Michael Jackson had died, and saying that my friend’s mom had died, too. It was a really weird day. The guy I worked with, he wouldn’t let me take a break or reflect on it. It was more like, “Take care of these kids now.” Those kids were horrible.

On getting robbed and losing their passports in San Francisco:

Rothstein: We were playing a show at [a club called] Hemlock. It was on a sketchy street — a lot of crack addicts. We made sure to take all of our personal bags into the venue. We were supposed to go to another bar after the show and we thought we were taking the van, so we put our stuff in the backseat, but we started walking and forgot all about it.

When we got to the bar, the counter was covered with porn collages and [there were] water beds everywhere. It wasn’t a sex club or anything. We were just lying on those water beds, not thinking about anything. When we got back to the car I saw that it was broken into. We discovered our passports and computers were stolen. Kristian’s mom’s golden bracelet was stolen.

Formann: Before we got there, I thought San Francisco was this nice place with shiny facades. After our car got broken into, all the crack addicts came out and wanted to know what had happened.

Rothstein: The next day, we went to the Danish consulate in Sacramento. That placed sucked. We went to this old, tiny village with people dressed up like 18th-century, stupid Newfoundlanders. It was a tourist trap. There were a lot of kids walking around there with matching caps. Stupid.