Lemâitre: Masters in Command

Interview by Emma Clare

If Daft Punk and Justice fell in love and made a baby, Lemâitre would be its name.

Meet the two Norwegian twenty one year olds, Ulrik and Ketil, also known as Lemâitre. A band currently known to few, they will soon be unknown to fewer – especially if they stay friends; keep on making sophisticated European electronic music; continue to reach the top of the charts overnight; and move out of their parents’ house…

Lemâitre: We’re actually moving out right now! It’s about time.

FAULT: Did you run out of pocket money?
Ha ha, no, we make our own money. We don’t really spend a lot of money anyway, just on equipment for making music. Clothes, for instance, we get for free because we’re sponsored by Junkyard.

How did you guys get to know each other?
We went to the same junior high school, and we each played in our own band. At one point we met up and jammed to see if we could work together. We did. And then we just decided that we wanted to give a music career a shot. It appealed to us.

Because of the groupies?
No, hah, because it was fun.

Tell us more about your musical background.
Ketil is from more a house and electronic music background, while Ulrik did more indie-rock and hip-hop in his early days making music. We have both been making music from our early teens, but started working together as Lemaitre in the summer of 2010. We both got a love for electronic music, growing up with artists like Daft Punk, Phoenix and Basement Jaxx and decided to mix our influences and find a middle ground in electronic music.
The last year in high school we made a few songs and uploaded them on Soundcloud and YouTube, and suddenly one of the songs was top on a site called The Hypemachine. It was literally the day after we released them. And then, a day after that, we got a phone call from Modestas Svoba (radio host on Zip FM in Lithuania, one of the biggest radio stations) who wanted us to go to Lithuania. At that point we had played one single gig at a club in Oslo called Fugazi. And suddenly we were talking about our music on the radio in Lithuania with 180 000 listeners. It was pretty cool.

I heard you had to get talked into getting signed. Are you afraid of not being indie any more?
Well, we are still indie, we have our own label, Substellar. But we are collaborating with Sony in Norway. They don’t “own” us or anything, it’s just a licence deal – basically they help us spreading the music, but they don’t have any say on the creative side of things. At the moment we are just focused on working and making a name for ourselves. If we don’t release most of our music for free, we won’t reach as many people. We want to give out our music for free forever.

Who or what initially inspired you to start making music?
We are both very eager to create, be it music or anything else. The feeling of creating something you yourself deem beautiful, even if no one else thinks so, is utterly amazing. This to us is a great inspiration. Your songs are kind of like your children: some start out a bit rough around the edges, but go on to do great things. Others start out with great potential, but end up being a disappointment.

How would you describe your sound?
A mix between pop, electronica, funk and indie. Sometimes it’s kinda dreamy, and usually very upbeat and happy. We make music that you can listen to first and foremost, but it can also be very dance-y and sometimes pretty heavy. We have more than once had unprovoked mosh pits. The goal must be to make music that really makes people go nuts when they hear it.

What is your working process like when you make music? Who does what?
Ketil does the detail work. Ulrik is the singer.

Do you argue alot?
There are some discussions about how things are supposed to be, yeah, but that just makes our music better.

So how do you work?
We often record samples ourselves with both real and computerized instruments. We create vintage-ish funk, jazz and soul tracks to sample them, either as a starting point, or as an addition to an existing idea. The reason we started making our own samples was because we had no idea how to and didn’t have the money to clear samples with the copyright holders. There is a whole buttload of red tape all across the music business that makes it really hard for unestablished acts to sample other songs. A lot of the music we enjoy, like most hip-hop and a lot of electronica, like Daft Punk, is based around sampling, and it’s a shame to see it being held back the way it is.

Are there any artists that inspire your song writing?
Hm. Honorable mentions would be Julian Casablancas, Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and John Mayer. There are countless others as well. It’s not that we wish to copy their music, but more take in bits and pieces of their philosophy on music.

What are the important aspects you think about when writing new songs?
There are two really important aspects: the art aspect (feelings and such), then there is the technical part. One does not work without the other. You can know all you want about music theory, but still write the most boring piece of music, or conversely have all these intense emotions you want to convey, but no clue as to how you can convey them. The artists that inspire us usually have the best of both worlds. Just like a language: you can have all these great things to say, but to move people, you have to know how to say it in a convincing manner.

What are you currently working on?
We just finished our new EP “Relativity 2“, so now we are gonna work with our director -and third member of the gang – Johannes Greve Muskat, on making new music videos. He has been working with us from the start, and was the one who first got us out there through videos on YouTube. He travels with us everywhere and captures our concerts and shenanigans on tape. Pretty soon we’ll start working on new material as well.

Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
There are loads of people we would love to collaborate with, too many to mention, really.

Come on.
Working with Feist would be a dream come true. Her voice must be the most beautiful thing to ever hit this earth. To do something with Julian Casablancas would be great as well. He truly is great at what he does. We haven’t quite gotten to the place where we feel it’s natural to do collaborations yet, but that also probably stems from the fact that we haven’t actually sat down with anyone we would like to work with yet.

Do you have any current musical recommendations for us?
Toro Y Moi: he makes really chill electronica -kind of in the same alley as us. Kendrick Lamarr: because he is one of the best rappers we’ve heard in a long time, and he mostly keeps the beats jazzy. Chilly Gonzales: an amazing pianist and electronic producer. Noisia: brutal electronica from Holland. And of course Beastie Boys, because they have made us want to do music for a living since we were kids. Rest in peace, MCA.

Your name, “Lemâitre”, actually means “the master” in French. Is that hard to live up to?
Ha ha, no, we actually didn’t know the meaning of the name until sometime after we chose to use it. Ketil had just read an article about a man called Lemâitre and thought the name looked and sounded nice. Have you heard of him?

Georges Lemâitre, the first person to propose the theory of the expansion of the Universe A.K.A The Big Bang, or the French actor and playwright Frédéric Lemâitre?
Georges Lemâitre, the scientist. It was quite random, really, but we both liked it and held on to it.

So you’ve focused more on making an actual concept around the name, Lemâitre, and the fact that it is science-related? Off the top of my head, there are tracks like “Blue shift”, “Strobes” and one of your biggest ones, “Relativity”?
Yes, we use the science expressions and the science concept for what it’s worth, and we are also working to improve our stage show, which consists of three light constructions with 3D projections on them.

And last, but not least: what is your FAULT?
It’s our fault you feel like an idiot when you try to pronounce our name.

Lemâitre’s new EP ‘Relativity 2’ is out on May 25th.

Photos by Dag Knudsen
Styling by Erica Pettersen
Styling assistant Karen Elieson
Makeup by Moa Engström
Special thanks to MQ for the suits, Krogh Optikk for shades and Galleri Ramfjord for lending us the space.