Meet the band who’s playing some of the most exciting, dreamy, psychedelic indie pop.
The members of Fenster are driving in their van, playing the flute and a Gameboy. All is good until they get sucked into another dimension.
From the trailer to Emocean, a Sci-Fi movie the band made together, this scene serves as a good introduction to the quartet’s idiosyncratic humor and charming weirdness. Playing together since 2010, Fenster are still producing some of the most exciting, dreamy, and psychedelic indie pop today.
How did you come together as a band in Berlin?
For any human to come into existence on planet earth, a very complex array of statistically unlikely events have to occur. For a band like us, with members from Germany, France, and the USA, to come into existence, you have to take into account mystery, science, and indeed, geography. The important question is maybe not so much how—but rather where—and why? And that answer was already in the question: Berlin. It’s a special place in the Eurozone. All the rumors you’ve heard are true.
Yeah, we were born into a unique time of possibility brought about by dislocation. In one version of the story, we met at a party and just started writing songs together that very same night. In another version, we were lost in a park looking for other people but instead, found each other. In another version, we never actually met and this interview is only taking place in a “hypothetical” “dimension” of a “reality” “that” “doesn’t” “exist”. As Beck once said: “So let’s try to make it last. The past is still the past. And tomorrow is just another crazy scam.”
Since aesthetics can help cope with, like, reality, what are you guys into?
We are definitely part of a generation born halfway into the internet age. That is, most of us can still actually remember a time before that thing controlled and influenced such a significant part of our daily lives. So we’re a little bit nostalgic when it comes to aesthetics but we are also stuck squarely into our times. We all have different backgrounds when it comes to musical influences but there is a sizeable neighborhood of overlap. We love great pop songs with great melodies. We also love to find ways to take pop songs apart and put them back together. It’s the way you learn how anything works.
Please do feel free to drop some names here.
The Roches are these sisters from New Jersey—it’s super inspiring the way they sing together. Townes Van Zandt writes super simple but also very mystical lyrics. We all really love the ethos and music of Can and the solo projects that it sprung like Holger Czukay’s or Irmin Schmidt’s work. We love Alice Coltrane, people who play music from a really intuitive place. We made a feature length movie together in 2015 called Emocean and we were inspired by the VHS aesthetic we grew up with mixed with the too real HD reality of our times. We love and admire bands like DEVO that have a really coherent aesthetic but at the moment, we’re into a wild mix of things. Someone like Nile Rodgers is an amazing example of positivity and innovation in music, beyond ego, beyond all logic. Arthur Russell is also really inspiring because he didn’t limit himself—he kind of did a bit of everything.
“Evolution isn’t a linear thing, necessarily.”
Could you describe a bit where and how you recorded your new album The Room?
We left Berlin and sublet our places to enter a temporary bubble together somewhere away from home. First we went to Rotterdam to compose and then we ended up in a studio in a small house in Italy in the countryside of Tuscany, near to Pisa. The record was really process oriented. During the time we all lived together in that house we composed and recorded about 22 songs. The album is an attempt at distilling this thing we went through together—the challenge of composing like a four-headed creature. In brief, I guess you could call it something like an exercise in creative democracy.
Which evolution did you experience as a band from the beginning up until now?
The band started off as a thing we did for fun—just to make some songs to be able to go on tour and travel. And it sort of took off unexpectedly. I think we spent the first couple of years just trying to realize what was happening—and sometimes this thing felt like it was controlling us more than we were in control of it. But now, a few years later, it feels more like a vessel—a space we’ve created for ourselves that we can change and fill with whatever feels relevant for us in the moment.
How does that translate to your approach of making music?
One way we are currently trying to evolve is to stick more to one thing at a time and simplify—try to really go far in one direction rather than trying to go everywhere at once. I think our first record, Bones, was about minimalism—trying to strip everything down to its bare bones. The second, third and fourth records got more elaborate—exploring richer sound worlds, experimenting with rhythms, and ways of writing songs. I think now we’re trying to focus in again on arrangements—just making really good songs that work well even when you hum them or play them on a piano and trying not to get too lost in the layers. Evolution isn’t a linear thing, necessarily. It’s a process that integrates the past and the future into an ever-changing present.
Why did you chose these songs for the playlist?
These are some songs we’re into at the moment. No time like the present. Some friends, some artists we admire, and even one of our own songs 😉 Thanks for this interview and thanks to whoever is out there for reading it! We wish you all the best and maybe meet you out there in real life sometime.
Tune into Fenster’s recent album The Room and find out more about emerging and more established artists from Berlin and beyond in our Mixtape section. Every month, we invite friends to put together a selection of their favorite tunes.
Text: Fabian Ebeling
Photography: Fenster and Chini Hendrix