meet chinah, the sound of new copenhagen cool

As CHINAH release its debut EP, 'Once The Lights Are On,' we meet the Danish three-piece to find out more about what goes into its luminous music.

by Luna Cohen-Solal
17 February 2016, 1:42pm

CHINAH's music sounds so familiar you could easily mistake it for just another young band emulating the softly-sung alternative electronica so typical of the zeitgeist (we're thinking The Weeknd, FKA Twigs, Frank Ocean). Yet to engage them in conversation or experience their live show at Copenhagen's popular venue Vega, it becomes clear that the Danish threepiece are gifted, singular talents. Singer Fine Glindvad, guitarist Simon Kjær and synth player Simon Andersson released Once The Lights Are On last week, an EP that effortlessly connects the dots between synth pop and minimalist R&B. CHINAH explain though that ideas of genre don't necessarily fit their approach to music: "It's easier for us to think about music in terms of contrast and dynamics, or how it makes you feel, rather than defining a genre." 

When they met at folk high school -- a typically Scandinavian kind of boarding school based on creative arts and self-development -- it wasn't immediately obvious that they would end up making music together. Glindvad and Kjær were into folk music and studied songwriting, while Andersson was "a nerd trying to become really good at making click sounds." 

"That school wasn't the beginning of CHINAH," they explain, "but it was the beginning of our friendship." Back in 2013, Glindvad was singing folk songs under her own name with backing from Kjær on guitar. It took a couple of years though for CHINAH to fully emerge.

Glindvad still pens all the lyrics but the rest of the writing process is completely collaborative, and far removed from their folk beginnings. "Our creative process doesn't happen in the rehearsal room, it's very much about the production happening within a music program." The result is a piercing combination of warm and cold textures, oscillating between melancholic melodies, smooth guitar riffs and bright synth lines.

CHINAH's members prefer realism to the over the top in their music's emotions, but like to keep their distance from straight-forward outpourings of sadness: "If a song is very emotional in its lyrics, we have a tendency to not present it in a very emotional way melody-wise. We don't try and overdo emotions, we like to make it subtle."

This balance between emotion and detachment, vulnerability and strength is a vital dynamic for singer Fine Glindvad. "When we play our songs live, it's very liberating to use melodies that are often lighter than the lyrics; it's easier to cope with our music's themes when the production stands in contrast to them." Pop is both a means of keeping melancholy at arm's length and a sign of growth. Andersson recalls his time, as a glitch music artist, when his goal was for his work to be as inaccessible as possible. "I wanted to be conceptual, cool and independent." All three members went through a journey to learn how to let go of "restrictions" and accept that "it's okay to like [a song] the first time you hear it."

CHINAH's goal is now clear; they want to create music that is experimental and challenging, but that is also sonically pleasing. "Catchiness is no longer a bad word for us, we want to challenge people within the boundaries of pop."


Text Luna Cohen-Solal
Photography Ursula Hesnner Marcussen

music interviews
one the lights are on