liss is the boy band for people who don't like boy bands
It’s not often that a boy band comes along with awesomely catchy songs, a great look, and zero major label music mastermind behind them, but Liss, with its 80s production and crooning vocals, is doing just that.
Singer Søren Holm, bassist Villads Tyrrestrup, brilliantly-named guitarist Vilhelm Strange, and drummer Tobias Hansen are Liss. All aged between 19 and 21, they come from the small city of Aarhus in Denmark, a place better known for its underground punk scene than for harboring future pop talent. The foursome joined forces just two years ago when introduced by their girlfriends, and spent their first few practices communicating through music before realizing how similar they were and that this was probably meant to be. You could be forgiven for thinking that Dev Hynes had a hand in their music - their First EP features soulful pop tracks Sorry, Try and Miles Apart and tells of struggling relationships via steel pans, wonky synths and laid back charm.
While they clearly take their fledgling career seriously, the boys of Liss are just best friends making music. And as they laugh and finish each other's sentences, they are clearly grateful to have one another as they navigate the music world: good guys in an industry of too-much, too-soon formatted pop. Join them on their lo-fi music video adventures through the countryside, on nighttime drives and at beach bonfires. Listen to their Radio 1 love as they head off on a US tour before the summer of festivals ahead of them. Watch them live where they're just as real as in casual conversation; a little reserved, polite, humble and very talented - leaving us wanting for nothing but maybe a row of stools and a chorus full of step-clicking.
Ahead of their perfect headline show at The Great Escape, we sit on Brighton Beach and chat about the Danish music scene and the importance of communication over a backing track of intimidating seagulls and jazz piano drifting over from a nearby bar. It's breezy and Villads, who accidentally left his bag of clothes and pedals in Stockholm airport, is cold. "This is a strange town," remarks Tobias. "It reminds me of a computer game or something." Like Rollercoaster Tycoon? "Yes! Exactly."
Now that you've been in a band together for a couple of years, which fictional crew would you say you're most like?
Vilhelm: Maybe a cartoon or something from the 90s? I can't remember the name of the one I'm thinking of…
Tobias: Ed, Edd n Eddy?
Vilhelm: The same kind of thing but not them because they're really annoying…
Do you remember the Biker Mice From Mars? They had their ears pierced and went around being cool?
Villads: Oh yeah! That was a good show, okay maybe them.
Tobias: We have to get some motorbikes.
How do you think Liss fits into the music scene in Denmark?
Villads: Yeah, there's a lot of punk and rock.
Vilhelm: Especially in Aarhus, there's an underground rock scene and we play in the same venues and stuff but…
Søren: Yeah, we are part of everything but in an awkward way because we're doing something that's not that common.
Tobias: Exactly. But then I think the vibe of the band is kind of the same - not trying to be something that we're not. We're just playing music and hanging out with our friends, just like all of the other bands do.
Vilhelm: But I don't think the other bands know how to place this kind of music.
How do you think they view you?
Søren: Mainstream… I think the guys in the punk rock scene think that we've sold out.
Tobias: But we've not changed at all, so we can't have sold out.
Vilhelm: I think they're maybe a bit jealous.
Villads: We get played a lot on commercial radio in Denmark, which is a rare thing.
Vilhelm: It's not even close to how BBC Radio 1 works… it's just this one guy who decides what songs will be played and so just the same musicians who have been making music for years.
And do you care what the rest of the scene thinks of you?
Villads: Well a lot of them are our friends and it's important what our friends think.
Vilhelm: I think it would be too easy to say that we don't care, because of course we care.
Søren: We don't really think about that kind of thing… but we will do now. Thank you for that!
It is. Who do you think is the greatest boyband of all time?
Søren: The Beatles. That's a pretty easy question.
And a pretty good answer. So I know you guys typically work on your own production but sometimes call in a producer. When you first started out did you have a sound in mind?
Villads: At the very beginning we were just playing in the rehearsal room and then we got a bass guitar and synths and vocals and it was straight away how we wanted it to sound. We didn't even know was a producer was at first! We were just like, hmm… maybe a guy can mix this music and make it sound a bit better?
Do you guys know Dev Hynes? There's a definite similarity there…
Søren: Yeah, I think we've all been listening to him. It's very 80s.
Before you were born! What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were 16?
Villads: When I was 16 I wanted to go to music school to learn how to be a better bassist, but now I know that that's not important at all because I just want to make music; I don't want to be a technical musician. I don't think that's so important for me, but I suppose it could be for other people.
Do you guys still get nervous when you perform?
Tobias: Of course! But it's not that extreme anymore. I used be nervous a full day before a show, and now it's just for the hour before. So it's getting better.
Do you have a typical fan?
You're working on your second EP at the moment. Is it the same sound or have you noticed a development already?
Vilhelm: I can already hear the development but I think it's always gonna sound like us… but a bit different.
Tobias: A friend of mine heard one of the songs and said that she didn't think it sounded like a Liss song.
What's the last dream that you remember having?
Villads: I dream about our gear pretty often, because it's always a mess.
Yeah, it sounds like you lost quite a bit of it already today…
Villads: I always dream that we lose it too.
Vilhelm: I dreamt that we were playing the mainstage at Roskilde festival and we forgot to rehearse! We were about to go on stage and realized that we hadn't prepared anything.
Søren: I have dreams about shows too, and one of them I didn't know what to sing so I just started singing For once in my life, I have someone…. and the guys just joined in and played along.
Have you ever actually forgotten your lyrics on stage?
Søren: All the time.
And what do you do?
Søren: Just make it up or blame the crowd.
Text Francesca Dunn