Swede sensation: Deer Tracks duo inspired by nature's sounds
Multi-instrumentalist pair bring their rich and complex soundscapes to Hong Kong as part of a Swedish showcase
Other than their upcoming Asia tour, there's nothing much planned about Swedish electronic duo The Deer Tracks. Much of what they do seems to be some kind of experiment — and it's been working very well for them so far.
David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors have been making music together since 2006 and have released three albums of uptempo beats mixed with folksy lyrics. And all of their music — which has been compared to other Nordic acts such as The Knife and Sigur Rós — stems from their shared curiosity.
"I put some backup vocals on a solo project by David many years ago, and it was so easy in the studio working together," says Lindfors. "We are very curious about playing with music, and finding rhythms and melodies that we normally wouldn't do. We have just been exploring a landscape of music together. It wasn't intended to be a band or something big. In the beginning, it was very free because we didn't have any pressure to be commercial or make music for someone else. We just did it for ourselves."
This freedom is an important part of their creative process. They create and record the songs bit by bit, adding pieces — a melody, a couple of drum beats — here and there. "We just sit there and someone starts to make a drum beat or play something on the keyboard or maybe just write a poem or something. We start from nothing. That is exciting," says Lindfors. "It's fun — you never have to prepare anything, you just have to be there and just take your time and something will come."
And when The Deer Tracks are recording, it's just them, their instruments and as little else as possible. "We usually travel to a cabin in a remote location," says Lindfors. "It takes a couple of days before we start making music. We set up the studio and then paint or do something, and then the music starts coming by itself.
"The location also adds something to the music because we have no idea in advance what we are going to make. For me, it's a lot about what we see at the moment that we record. When I hear the music, I can see what I saw when I was writing it."
For example, their 2010 EP, Eggegrund was created on an island, and is indicative of these soundscapes. "A lot of the lyrics and the melodies [on that album] were inspired by the ocean and the coast," says Lindfors. "It was the view from the window, or the surroundings where we took a walk or something. That's where we wrote Bless the Waves and Ram Ram, and a couple of other songs that have been very successful for us."
Lindfors says the lyrics and melodies for their newest album — which she hopes will come out at the end of this year or early next year — were also inspired by the view from that location. "It's a very beautiful island. It has no trees. Just a lighthouse and a couple of small cabins. We were totally alone there. It was very mystical. That environment inspired us a lot."
The Deer Tracks don't just create music in unexpected places, infusing their surroundings into their sound, they've also performed gigs in some unusual spots as well. "We once played in an old, abandoned mine. It was 100 metres down below the surface. We played for maybe 30 people and it was magical."
At The Deer Tracks' upcoming gig at Backstage Live on June 13, fans will have to make do with a more standard venue. But while Backstage may be small, we can expect big things from the band during the show. "It's going to be intense," says Lindfors. "We have a lot of rhythms and percussion. The density of the music is large … There will be three of us on stage, but it's going to be three people who are very busy."
As a member of a band often described as multi-instrumentalists, Lindfors is undoubtedly telling the truth. And while The Deer Tracks hail from a country known for minimalism and simplicity, their sound is full of depth and complexity. With static and synth combined with folk-like lyrics, it's not easy to categorise their sound.
And if they're not busy on stage, they're busy off it with their recording and production. Says Lindfors: "We do most of our videos, most of the photos and social media. We run everything ourselves."
While this will be Lindfors' first time performing in Hong Kong as The Deer Tracks, her other band, Twiggy Frostbite, who will be joining them on the upcoming tour along with Swedish singer-songwriter Adora Eye, played in the city last summer.
Given their free-spirited, elemental approach to production, it should come as no surprise that the band's name was also unplanned. The Deer Tracks was actually more of a concept than a name — as Lindfors describes it — a product name for the songs they were making at that time.
"It was easy to pick something because we didn't intend it to become a band. We just picked a name that fitted what we were going to do and what we were making. I think it would have been harder if we knew that it was going to be a band and we knew that we were going to keep doing it for this amount of time.
"It was David who came up with the name. He felt that our first album, Aurora, was very careful and calm. But there's something you can't put your finger on. He explained it to me very well … Like a deer in the woods. You can just see how it stares. It might be still, but it just stares, and there's something there — something mystical and magical. That was the name that spoke to us and to the music we were making at that moment, and it has become us over the years."
Swedish Showcase: The Deer Tracks, Twiggy Frostbite and Adora Eye, June 13, 8.30pm, Backstage Live, 1/F Somptueux Central, 52-54 Wellington Street, Central, HK$200 (advance), HK$240 (door). Inquiries: 9709 2085