Röyksopp's Happier Times

Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland gears up to release Junior, a considerably more energetic offering after The Understanding.

Text by Andrew Fenwick

Last year Röyksopp reached their 10 Year Anniversary, but the Norwegian outfit helmed by Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland didn’t feel much like celebrating. “We were embarrassed by it,” admits Berge. “We’d been together for ten years and only bothered to make two albums. We didn’t want to make too much of a big deal about it so we stuck a track called 'Happy Birthday' on our website, went outside to set off a few fireworks, then forgot about it.”

Sat in a lavish penthouse suite at London’s Centre Point building, Berge is discussing the band’s latest single, 'Happy Up Here', the irony of which is clearly not lost on him. Funny, self-deprecating and utterly charming, the self-styled ‘joker of the band’ is in good spirits as he recalls making the group’s comeback track and its parent album, Junior.

“We were in a much better state of mind this time around than we were when making the last album [2005’s The Understanding] and that’s definitely reflected in the music,” he says. “The Understanding almost drowned in this feeling of yearning and longing, so this time around we wanted to produce something that was much more energetic and youthful.”
Although the album sticks to this remit, from the endearingly silly 'The Girl And The Robot' to the overly dramatic 'Röyksopp Forever', Berge admits that Junior is literally only half the story. Later this year – presumably when their newfound happiness has subsided – the pair plan to release a companion album entitled Senior, which promises to be a much darker and introspective collection.

Röyksopp’s million-selling debut Melody A.M. made stars of Berge and Brundtland across the globe, but despite their international appeal the pair have always enlisted vocalists from their native Scandinavia. Junior’s no exception, with the likes of Lykke Li, Robyn and Anneli Drecker among the contributors’ role call. “I think vocalists from Scandinavia tend to have very unique voices,” says Berge. “There’s also a lot of really great things happening in that part of the world that don’t get widely reported. We’ve always felt as if it’s our duty to showcase this talent.”

An opportunity to do just this comes next month when the group play London’s Royal Festival Hall alongside Fever Ray, the new solo project from Knife frontwoman and longtime Röyksopp companion, Karin Dreijer-Andersson. Currently the only UK date scheduled, the band plan on making the show a special one. “We never know what’s going to happen at our gigs as we tend to change our minds at the very last minute,” says Berge. “But we’ll definitely be aiming to push the boundaries of what’s gone before.

Interestingly, though, Berge admits that comic books and movies influence the pair more than music. Their blog currently sports some utterly bizarre posts including ‘Röyksopp’s Top 5 Male Eyes Of The Silver Screen’ and ‘Röyksopp’s Top 5 Villain Names In Movies’. Witty yet entirely serious, visuals are clearly something the pair devote a lot of time to.
“We have days where we’re totally consumed with music – where nobody’s allowed to enter or leave the studio until a certain track’s finished, and then you have other days where you do nothing related to music at all,” says Berge. “Comics and movies are a big part of that, but also cartwheeling down the street, laughing, and doing the other things in life that make it worth living.”

Despite the likes of MGMT and Empire Of The Sun having recently colonised the dreamy dance sphere that Röyksopp could once claim sole ownership of, Berge remains confident about the group’s place in the ever-changing world of atmospheric electro. “I still don’t feel as if there’s anyone around quite like us,” he says. “There’ll always be different artists coming and going but we’re definitely here to stay.”

Junior out 23rd March. Röyksopp plays at Royal Festival Hall on 11th April.

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