Mew’s Jonas Bjerre

Standing on Skyscrapers

Sep 01, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Most fans know Jonas Bjerre as the dewy-voiced frontman of Mew. Since their inception in 1994, Bjerre’s show stopping falsetto has become a band trademark, soaring above the trio’s often-complex prog arrangements.

Currently between albums (Mew released their ambitiously titled third album, No more stories/Are told today/I'm sorry/They washed away/No more stories/The world is grey/I'm tired/Let's wash away in 2009) Bjerre stepped away to compose the delicate soundtrack for the Danish coming-of-age comedy, Skyskraber (aka Spyscraper). It was an ideal project for Bjerre, who—before becoming a full-time musician—previously worked in postproduction, and has always found himself fascinated with the intersection between visual art and music. Under the Radar caught up with the Danish composer to talk film, music, and going it alone. And below you can stream the full Skyskraber soundtrack, which is also available to purchase here, and you can also watch the trailer for the film.

Laura Studarus: Was Skyskraber your first project as a solo artist?

Jonas Bjerre: I did a song for an American film. I did one song for that. I’m not sure if they put that on the soundtrack. But this is the first time that I tired to make it into an album, and the first time that I did that on my own. So it’s kind of nerve-wracking! But I’m quite happy that the album is coming out because, you know how it is when they finish the film. “Oh this song didn’t fit here. It messes too much with the dialogue.” So they take it out. I had a lot of stuff like that, that I just wanted people to hear. So I decided to put it out. So we’ll see what people think. [laughs] It’s not like Mew at all! It’s a lot more sparse and kind of drier. It’s just more simple I guess. Less buildup.

Was it difficult to work without your normal band and normal support system?

Yeah. We have a very high level of quality control in Mew. So in that respect it’s actually more freeing in a way. I did what I wanted and there was less filtering. At the same time, it actually made it easier that each song, I already had a lot of material for the lyrics. The story [of the lyrics] is based on the story of the film. And also there was a framework for it. I couldn’t make something weird and experimental. It had to fit the mood of the film, which is like a dark comedy, coming of age, teen film. It wouldn’t have worked if I had done something edgy or weird. What attracted me to the project is I wanted to do a really simple acoustic guitar, and vocals, and tambourine kind of thing. It ended up being a little more complicated than that. Still, that’s what drew me to it, the idea that I could do something really simple, and that would be a different challenge for me. I worked on it on and off as we were touring. I worked on it for a long time! So I’m glad it’s coming out now.

Given your experiences with visual arts and film, do you think your past experiences made it easy to understand how the music would work with the film?

Yeah, I think it has helped me. And also I had—not initially—but when I was getting into the process of it, I had the film, a precut kind of thing. I could sit and watch it and listen to the dialogue and kind of compose around that. So that was very different than anything I’ve done before. It was quite a good tool to be able to look at the characters in the film and see what the themes needed [musically]. It’s quite interesting to work like that.

Are film soundtracks something you’d be interested in pursuing more of, either on your own or with Mew?

I think that would be amazing if Mew could do a soundtrack at some point. That would be really incredible. I think that would be really something. But a lot of what I’ve done within the last few years is scoring for short films. It’s very cool to do that, but it’s not as rewarding as making a proper album, I think. Well, it’s rewarding in a different way, you know?

You’ve always had a visual aspect to your career as a band.  

Definitely. It’s how we initially envisioned the band, and I hope we’ll stay that way.

It almost feels like a filmmaker should make a film based around one of your albums.

That would be even more interesting I think! I would like that, because it’s almost always the other way around. One of the biggest influences on me as a kid was watching Yellow Submarine—The Beatles animation film. Just the impact of having those fantastic images and the music at the same time, I just knew I wanted to do something like that. Maybe that will be a future project—an animated musical film.

Is there a filmmaker you’d love to work with who fits Mew’s aesthetic?

Yeah I’d love to—I think the whole band would love to—work with people like David Lynch. Or, wow I don’t know. There are so many possibilities. A mission like that would be really fun, just to try to compose something for a film in a normal band setting. It’s different when you sit at the piano and try to make melodies yourself. It’s different when you’re in a group. I think that’s a whole different approach. But, I think it would be amazing.

Looking ahead, is Mew starting to think about the next album?

We’ve talked about it a lot. We haven’t started. Actually that’s not true. We have sent a few ideas back and forth. The biggest challenge is discovering what kind of record we want to do; because we agree that we’ve followed a certain direction to the extent that we want to follow it. We want to do something different. Whatever different means, we want to do it. We’ve talked about it a lot. I think that we will get there. I think we’ll make something very different. I think it’s going to be good. But it will probably take awhile. I’m hoping that we’ll put something out next year. But looking at my experience with this band is that it tends to take a long time. But I’m hoping for 2012. That’s what I’m hoping for.

Listen to the full Skyskraber soundtrack:

And here's the trailer to the movie:

(www.jonasbjerre.com)

(www.mewsite.com)



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