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The Wands interview with Christian Skibdal

© Jonas Bang

Ever wondered what a stripped down, less insane version of The Brian Jonestown Massacre might sound like?  I’m pretty sure The Wands are a good bet.  From the sitar feeding back into the harmonica solo on “The Door” to Christian Skibdal’s calm mellow vocal melodies, I mean there’s tastefully done backwards guitar on the title track for Christ’s sake!  Forget comparisons though, they’re crap anyways and The Wands are way better than all of sophomoric bullshit.  A twisted dirge of swirling guitars and surgically-tight rhythm section sweep you off your feet while Skibdal’s vocals transport you to another world of dripping colors and loud flavors.  Swallow the tab, eat the mushrooms and tumble down the rabbit-hole.  It’s a hell of a trip.  Brash and unassuming, The Wands debut album I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic on Fuzz Club Records joins a growing roster of intensely talented musicians and a catalog of mind bendingly great albums.  While the 10” might be sold out, The Wands are currently working on more mind-altering psychedelic experiences for an upcoming single and full-length album.  It’s been a long time since a four-track 10” garnered so much attention on my turntable and after two months I managed to get the 4-1-1 on what the band is up to and where they’ve been, directly from Christian Skibdal himself.  So put on some sickeningly sweet tunes with the link below, turn on, tune in and drop out; just make sure to read the article before you zone out in the easy-chair!
 Listen while you read:

How and when did you two meet?

We’ve known each other since we were kids but for many years distance kept us from starting up the band.

Are either of you in any other bands?  Have you released any material with them?  If so can you tell us about that?

Not really.  For both of us this is the first serious band we’ve been in.  But we do have other projects just for fun.

What led you to form The Wands and when was that?

After growing up in two different parts of the country we suddenly found ourselves living more or less next door to each other.  I always knew Mads and I would end up making music together.  We started out writing tracks and assembling a live band in the summer of 2011 and launched The Wands with a 4-song show at a house party in the suburbs.

What does the name The Wands mean or refer to?

It doesn’t refer to anything specific we just thought it had a good naive 60's ring to it.

Where are you originally from?  Where is the band currently located?

Mads is from a village located on the island of Funen.  I’m from the north of Denmark – Hjørring, North Jutland to be exact.  We started the band in Copenhagen and that’s where we’re still located, in a part of the city called Nørrebro.

How would you describe the local music scene where you are located?

Explosive!!!  There are a lot of really cool things going on in the Copenhagen scene, a lot of shows to go to all the time, new bands and collaborations coming out frequently.

Are you very involved with the local scene?

There are plenty of people setting up good shows around here.  So apart from playing ourselves and attending shows with other bands, we aren’t really involved.

Has it played a large role in the history or evolution of The Wands?

The fact that we’ve found ourselves surrounded by other musicians from the beginning has made everything so much easier.  There’s always another band to call if you’re in need of assistance for whatever.  To give you an example, when we did the live session of The Key we borrowed recording equipment from the two bands.  Broke, Troldmand and Jens from The Road To Suicide did the sound mixing.

© Jonas Bang

Why a duo rather than a traditional trio or something?

Why monogamy when you can have more wives?  Guess it just works best for us this way :)

What are the best and worst things about being a two-piece band?

For us it’s fantastic to be able to write a song from beginning to end without having to deal with anybody else’s opinions.  That being said the songs always changes a bit when we arrange them with our live musicians.  Being as poor as we are, the worst thing is having only two wallets when it comes to paying for stuff…

I absolutely hate to label or classify music, how would you describe your music to our readers who might not have heard you yet?

Well, we sort of hate it as well…  It’s red, yellow, orange, green, blue, indigo and violet.

You have an extremely interesting sound, a wonderful combination of hard and soft psych.  I’m curious as to who your major musical influences are? What about as a band rather than as individuals?

Thanks man!  We're both influenced by all kinds of music but we are especially into 60's stuff.  Our main influences are probably The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, etcetera.  I could easily mention something more exotic but these are important; you can’t be a rock band if you don’t dig Jimi.

Can you tell us a little bit about the songwriting process with The Wands?  Is there a lot of jamming or does someone come to the other with a more finished, polished product to work out with the other?

Usually I write lyrics and chords and bring them to Mads.  We work with it together and when the song is done, we arrange it with whomever we're going to play it with live.

You released your debut EP on 10” through Fuzz Club Records late last year.  What does the title Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic mean? How was it chosen?

It’s a love song.  It’s genius.

Fuzz Club Records contract photo

Can you talk a little bit about The Wands recording process?  I know there are an additional two members who perform live with you two, how do you handle recording with just the two of you?  Who plays what?  Or do you constantly switch that up?

We are constantly switching it up.  And it’s not so that it’s a dogma for us that we have to play all instruments ourselves.  We gladly invite people in as soon as we have decided how it’s going to sound. 

Can you tell us a little bit about recording Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic?  Where was it recorded at?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

When we started recording, we hadn’t played any gigs and we actually didn’t plan to record and release an EP.  It was recorded over a long period of time and the band changed a lot in that period.  The recording style and equipment changes almost from song to song.  We recorded it in a small studio, Life is a Beach studio, next to our rehearsal space.  Our friend Mads Bergland (Broke, Reptile Youth) did the mixing and the engineering.

Who released it?  Where’s the best place for our readers to purchase a copy?

We were lucky enough to meet Casper Dee of Fuzz Club Records who released it as a limited-run 10” vinyl that is now sold out.  I know that there is a record store in Chicago* who sells it online, don’t remember the name of it, though, but they might have a few copies left.  In case you can’t track one down, go pick up a digital copy in Fuzz Club’s webshop.
*That would be Permanent Records Chicago and they do have copies left as of my writing this

Do The Wands have any music other than Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic that you’ve released?

The EP is the only release so far.  There’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t been recorded yet and a few unreleased demos.

I know that you are working on a full-length follow up to Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic.  How’s that going?  What can our readers expect from the new album?  Are you trying anything radically different as far as the songwriting or recording process of this album?  Who’s going to be releasing it?  When can we anticipate it’s release?

Well it’s going really well, and people can expect the unexpected.  We don’t know who’s going to release it.  We’ll definitely keep close contact with Fuzz Club Records and hopefully release through them again, but we are also in contact with other interested labels.  It will be out sometime next year.

Are there plans for any other releases this year?

We’re planning the release of a 7” single that will give people an idea of what to expect from the album we’re making.

Do you enjoy recording?  Some bands love to get in the studio and document their ideas and it drives other bands crazy ha-ha!

We love recording.  When you record and mix a song you get to paint the final picture, to us it's an extremely satisfying experience.

I mentioned it once before, but there are two additional people who play live shows with the two of you.  Who are they and what do they play?  Have you always performed with four members?  Have they always been the same other members of the live band?

The current members of the live band are Kristoffer Balle Hvidberg on bass and Jakob Langkjær on drums.  Kristoffer has only played five shows with us as of now.  Jakob was there from the beginning but last year he went to South America and we had the pleasure of playing with Jens Aagaard, the drummer of The Road To Suicide, for about fifteen or twenty shows.  Before Kristoffer we had three other bassists, Magnus Westergaard from The Woken Trees, Andreas Fuglsang and Kristian Alexander Pedersen of Balloon Magic and The Road To Suicide.

What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?

We just returned from this awesome Belgian festival, Yellowstock.  But we still got three more festivals to play, Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, Phonofestivalen in Bergen, Norway and Aarhus Psych Fest in Denmark.  Apart from that we have a Scandinavian tour coming up in September.  Sure, we’d love to tour more but we need to focus on the new album after playing the last scheduled gig in October.

© Peter Storm

You have played some amazing bands, who are some of your personal favorites that you’ve shared a bill with?

We’re happy and proud to be sharing the bill with Moon Duo, Dead Meadow, Night Beats, Jacco Gardner and many more at this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest.  In the past we’ve had great experiences supporting bands like Psychic Ills, White Hills and had the most awesome time with The Telescopes, The KVB, The Underground Youth, The Blue Angel Lounge and many more at last years Reverb Conspiracy Festival in London.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows that you’d like to share with our readers?

Stop by Copenhagen sometime!  We can go out for a beer and tell each other stories about sex and African food.

© Elodie -
© Pawel Walkowicz

Where is the best place for our readers to keep up with the latest news, like upcoming shows and releases, from The Wands at?

That would be our Facebook page.  We’re trying to keep the website updated but we’re a bit lazy when it comes to these things I guess.

I must admit to loving digital music.  I like to listen to music wherever I’m at, whatever I’m doing, and I sure can’t haul my record player around with me ha-ha!  While I do like a digital copy, there’s something magical about a physical product to me.  Having something to hold in your hands, artwork to look at and liner notes to read, it makes the listening experience more complete; at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physical releases?

Yeah we pretty much feel the same way.  It's about the complete experience and it’s also close to the highest recognition you can give to an artist’s album.

Do you have a music collection if so can you tell us a little bit about it?

We both have a decent collection of vinyl.  It's mostly second hand, 60's and 70's stuff.  It's cheaper and they really knew how to record music back then.

Digital music is rapidly changing the face of the music industry to say very least, and for whatever damage it’s done to the industry it’s also exposed many of us to a whole new world of music that we would have otherwise never been privy to.  As an artist in this day and age, this digital era, what is your opinion on digital music and distribution?

People need to start buying vinyl so things are moving in the right direction.  Charging people money for digital files feels kind of wrong, but on the other hand we need money to make a living out of this.  It takes time and effort to make a good quality product.

I try my very best to keep up on the best music from all over the planet, it’s a losing proposition but I try anyways!  Are there any bands from your local area or scene that I might not have heard of that I should be listening to?

There are some really good bands based here in Copenhagen: Iceage, The Woken Trees, Shiny Darkly, The Road To Suicide, Papir, The Telstar Sound Drone, Halazan Bazar, Waldo & Marsha, Complicated Universal Cum to mention but a few of the best.  But you always forget the best ones when you start namedropping I guess…

What about nationally and internationally?

We recently discovered some great new American bands that you might not have heard of, The Paperhead and The Spyrals.  The emerging European underground psych scene holds some great treasures as well, such as The Underground Youth and The Lucid Dream from England, Jacco Gardner from Netherlands and The Blue Angel Lounge from Germany. Also make sure to check out Electric Eye from Norway and Orange Revival from Sweden whom we are touring Scandinavia with in September.

Is there anything that I missed or that you’d like to talk about?

You missed my birthday last year…  See you around, peace!

© Peter Storm

(2013)  The Wands – I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic – 12”, digital – Fuzz Records (Limited to 300 hand numbered copies: 100 on orange vinyl and 200 on clear vinyl with red haze)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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