see america through the eyes of danish foursome liss
Follow Lin Agnholt's lens as singer Søren Holm, bassist Villads Tyrrestrup, guitarist Vilhelm Strange, and drummer Tobias Laust, head off on their first great American roadtrip.
Leaving its small Danish city of Aarhus behind, a place better known for its underground punk scene than for harboring future pop talent, Liss is exploring the world. Since dropping the 80s production and crooning vocals of their First EP and signing to XL Recordings, the boys have been thrown into a whirlwind of action and expectation, but they keep a lighthearted outlook on the whole thing. The band has spent the last month hopping from one Airbnb to the next on its first US tour, developing a fascination for the shiny hopelessness of American cities and towns along the way.
For an American, it's probably a strange thought to imagine what it's like to experience America for the first time. For someone growing up in Denmark, it can feel already familiar, if only from watching Clueless and Beverly Hills 90210 reruns. "We feel a little nostalgic about it, because we've never been there before but have seen it so many times in movies. It's kind of like the center of the world," Vilhelm explains. "It's strange to feel like you have a relationship with a place you've never been," Villads adds.
The fact that they are still too young to drink here — the boys are aged between 19 and 21 — didn't seem to phase them much. Although the fact that everyone at their shows was older than them did seem a bit strange. "I don't think we met anyone our own age," Tobias says. "We actually didn't meet any young people in America. Maybe the youngest was 25," Villads adds. The Liss boys spent their sober hours wandering the city streets, shopping for sneakers, and eating Mexican food. "Generally, everything in America is about food, it's kind of crazy," Villads laughs.
While talking to the Liss lads, we're constantly aware of their insatiable curiosity for the world around them. Their conversations aren't laced with dreams of Instagram domination, pursuit of fame, or the latest radio hit. Instead, they talk about politics, food, and the pointlessness of driving cars in the middle of NYC. "Why are they driving around a big city full of people, why at least not have a small car?" Tobias asks. In addition to transport concerns, the boys have certain skepticism of the music industry that seems to have been lost in this desperate decade of fleeting fame, where the star with the loudest voice often wins. It is refreshing to hear a soft-spoken reminder of the way music could be. "I wanted to make music that I could vouch for, other than that I didn't really have any ambitions… It's a shame when you can hear musicians changing their sound in hopes of improving their career. Trying to make something new instead of making something they think is cool. It's okay to innovate but it's not cool when it's just to get more famous," Villads says. "And what do you gain from that?" Vilhelm continues. "It's an art form, a way to express yourself artistically. Then it doesn't make any sense to express yourself in relation to other people's wishes."
Watching Liss perform, one can't help but be struck by its members' boyish good looks. But it's the shy camaraderie of four close friends that is the most compelling thing to watch. They share more in common with 80s New Romantic bands like Spandau Ballet than any of the manufactured pop acts or rough around the edges indie icons of the moment. Although fully aware of current trends, Liss isn't influenced much by the external forces that derail artists. At the core, it is a band in the most classic sense: its members all play real instruments and write music together as a group in their minimalist studio in downtown Aarhus. But will they go more pop on their upcoming EP? "No, but maybe some tropical sounds…and a little bit of pitch…we used that in the song 'Try,'" Vilhelm says. In response to a joke whether or not they will make a song called Århus, Søren responds while singing, "Nothings is sweet like…always return back…and nothing is quite like…Århuuuuus." "Århus is the Danish New Orleans," Vilhelm contributes. "It's really not though. People would be so disappointed when they got here," adds Villads.
Text and photography Lin Agnholt