RoD header


theforeignresort theamericandream
Artist: The Foreign Resort
Title: The American Dream
Genre: Post-Punk Revival
Release Date: 15th October 2015
Label: Moon Sounds Records

Conversation with Mikkel B. Jakobsen, singer and composer from THE FOREIGN RESORT on the band’s EP ‘The American Dream’

In the path of memory which has proven no beginning and no end, it is her daughter’s music who keeps her alive through lyrics and the combination of sounds and silences. Music tells stories, photographs moments, captures remembrance and triggers the many relationships between us and the world around us in a time that stays. Music through time has served lots of purposes, but even in her most naïve version of escapism, the link to her progenitor is unbreakable. What fluctuates are the stories from listener to listener, from composer to composer, from performer to performer… and the many relationships among them.

Thanks to many music lovers turned academics, researchers, musicologists, journalist and more, we have come to know her inside out and backwards, yet she is unattainable and capricious, ever changing, evolving and convoluting our senses and minds; hence why we incur into classifications, labels, ratings… we shred her into the smallest unit hoping to tame the unknown and frame the infinity… That infinity is inherited from memory. We listen to music and we feel memory, and we want to know more to enrich our experience, the sensations and emotions. Following this train of thought I set up a co-call with Mikkel B. Jakobsen, singer and composer of the Danish band THE FOREIGN RESORT to dig deeper into their 2015 EP ‘The American Dream.’

From Copenhagen to the world, THE FOREIGN RESORT is a band that, given our malady to classify everything, has been pegged as a mixture of Post-Punk, New Wave, and Shoegaze. From here, it becomes easy to judge, to express a shallow opinion, to compare and rate. I tell Mikkel a whole lecture on these genres which he listens patiently. I ramble about the idea of Post-Punk as a period of  experimentation, of breaking and bending the non-written rules of punk while perpetuating and extending some methods, and questioning the ideals or institutions. A time when art was funded by the dole, art schools became the seedbed for bands to get formed and pretty much everything to get questioned. And then I try to make the connection between music and memory citing Theo Cateforis’ explanation on the use of echo and reverb in THE CURE’s album ‘Faith’, as the result of Robert Smith’s emotional state at that time when he felt like dying; Cateforis compares the origin of the effect with the images in the music. Echo comes from hollow yet hermetic places such as caves, mausoleums, graves… and through ‘Faith’, the constant image is of depression and death.

And like that I want Mikkel to share with me the musings, the stories and memories behind the EP to which he makes the remark that I am referring too much to the music than the actual lyrics. He is right, but then he goes further “To be honest, and hope not to disappoint, the music is in no way connected to anything like ‘American Dream’ or a pessimistic view upon the world, or a mystic view upon the world. Is just the music I write, I like dark music and that's what comes out really. I just added lyrics to that that had some sense of meaning. Is not like we wrote suburban depression and thought ‘we have this baseline and is very suburban depressionish’ or whatever, the lyrics they always come at the very end. So first is kind of melody lines and vocal lines, and then us playing, and then eventually I’m in the studio stressing out ‘Oh I’ve gotta write those lyrics because I gotta say something’ but then it was a bit easy of course with ‘The American Dream’ because we knew we had the subject. I was like ‘let's talk about this cause… I don't know is something on my mind,’ not to speak badly about previous albums but yeah, I felt like I really had something on my mind with the songs we did for this one. But yeah… musically is… is what just came out at that time really so…”

I am intrigued and a bit stubborn, I want to find that connection with the facts about Post-Punk, New Wave and Dream Pop, so I go the way of the influences. A one too many a time for names dropping like JOY DIVISION, THE CURE, THE SMITHS to which he laughs and replies “I don't really like bands like the Smiths and everyone loves The Smiths,” me included and I feel a bit disappointed at first but then he continues “I don't really like that music, like I never listen to that and we are kind of amused by that by now that the people that like our music listen to all this music and we don’t really, we listen to a lot of Slayer and the like, heavy metal. I listen to a lot of shoegaze, it's more like bands like I don't know… ‘MY BLOODY VALENTINE and stuff like that, like very, very calm music. Well of course A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS and THE SOFT MOON I like those bands, I just listen to TYCHO right now, I like that. There is really no eh… what you call a red line in the music that we are listening. we are just listening to music all over the place” and then it hits me, like every time I talk to musicians, they are in here for the music, not for the classifications, or labels we use to staple them.

They have gone one step further when they love the music for what it is, and Mikkel knows that and frets about reviewers who tend to encapsulate them in comparisons but accepts that he has listened to a lot of THE CURE, not really JOY DIVISION but a lot of NEW ORDER back in the day. In the end he resumes, “I think one thing that put us in this 80s, New wave post-punk box is the effects that we use, like there’s the chorus effect on the bass, and the chorus on the guitar, and then just all the delayed effects and the reverb that kind of makes it this mushy or shoegazey post-punk guitar…” And that's it! each of these genres put out music elements as metaphors to what they saw, like the example of Cateforis or like Simon Reynolds on Dream Pop (Shoegaze) wrote that these bands chose to dream their lives away through the use of abrasive guitar rock, it is music to “rise above the drab confines of everyday life, by going nowhere fast.”

But does that apply to the music of THE FOREIGN RESORT? It might, but is not necessarily on them to discover that but on us when we listen. Let’s take the way of the lyrics then. Indeed we can hear and infer the message, we can be reductionist like some that have treated the album as a mere comment on the American society, but we can also go deeper into what the composers want to say, so Mikkel opens up and allows me to pick his brain about some songs. I want to know what is the idea on ‘The American Dream’? “There wasn’t like a specific idea, I think it just came up with subjects for each song like, I think it was mainly just a comment on what we saw, how I experienced America. Everything on ‘The American Dream’ is based on things that happened in America really.”

Ok, then let's get into the songs. I start with the earworm in my head ‘Suburban Depression’ how did it became to be? “That is funny I took a pic out the window at one of my friend’s place in Michigan. I just took a picture out and you know the American, what you call it the suburbs they all look the same, how can you even know your own house? like, you can't tell the difference, there’s like hundreds of houses and they all look the same and… I just took this picture out the window and there was these few houses out there and I posted it on Instagram and wrote Suburban Depression and then I just thought ‘that’s a pretty cool… that’s a cool title.”So actually the title came from me just you know sitting at a friend's place taking out a picture out the window and I… I just wrote down the lyrics around that.

Not only does the song has created an earworm in my head but also the video has made me wonder why using a woman as subject matter or symbol for it and not a man? “I'll be honest with you, we were working with, and I am not gonna blame him entirely because I thought the idea was good too but we worked with this director from LA, he was the one that did the 2 previous videos, for ‘Flush’ and ‘Alone’. He came up with that idea and I was like ‘sure let's do it’ sometimes we make some quick decisions. I thought myself ‘hmmmm that’s your purge, you go out as a stripper and you meet your fellow neighbour at the strip club.’”But what about the music? “To be honest like because I'm a guy I always think what other guys think, so when I wrote suburban depression I was thinking of a guy buying a house or just you know getting depressed out there cause everything looks the same… or maybe I just didn't think too much about gender.“I explain to Mikkel I am not judging him but I definitely wanted to hear his side of the story, after all not only women are prone to depression but also men, particularly when they have reached their 40s and realise they are not nearly where they have thought they would be at that age and that they might never will… middle age crisis term rings a bell.

Then he continues “’Skyline / Decay’ is a song about New York City. The first couple of times we were there and played we were like ‘ohh it’s New York and what a massive skyline! and ohh wanna play on Manhattan’ and whatever, we are really drunk and everything but then we started touring all over the US, we toured the west coast first but when we toured the east coast and the Midwest we could see like ‘hmmm people are more appreciative of the music of us coming to play in these other cities.’ The last nail in the coffin for NY City was for this tour when we played. It was a Sunday show but even the first band that booked the entire night they left before we played! they left, they played and they pretty much left! They didn’t see the second band, and the third band, and the fourth band and that's kind of… that’s NY in a nutshell: everyone has something to do, everyone is too busy either working because they have to pay their sky high bills because is so expensive to live there or they just have some other friends playing at another place, and everyone is like… no-one has time for anything and no-one has time to appreciate anything. Our friends that came out to see our show, you could just tell they were already moving on to the next show and they told us like ‘yeah well we have some other friends playing in town tonight’ so… nothing matters really … and that's why is ‘Skyline / Decay’. It’s a city that's falling apart if you ask me,… I bet if you ask the people who live there they are like ‘no! how can you say that!’”

And this feeling extends to Under Bright Neon Stars, which makes me remember what Lydia Lunch stated recently at a Post-Punk conference about the current state of New York. She furiously lamented the way the city has changed from the late 70s till today when, in spite of the danger on the streets, it was a place to live, to create and experiment, and where rents were 75 dollars. Today she finds New York repulsive and she goes back just for artistic projects and denounces the exorbitant prices of rent and how that has killed the city. To which Mikkel concedes and also laments “Everything is just moving out, like when we started playing there was Manhattan, Lower East Side, there was Williamsburg in Brooklyn and then we came back and suddenly venues like Death by audio, Glasslands, those are really cool venues Coco 66, they all like shut down because of the housing prices! The rent just going up and then they're just moving further and further out and that's actually another song, ‘Onto us’ is about exactly that, it’s about the gentrification of cities, and that's worldwide. It’s kind of written looking at New York but Berlin is exactly the same, you saw Prenzlauerberg, you saw Kreuzberg, prices go up and then it pushes out the creative element which is exactly what people moved there for, because is a creative area, you have a lot of artists doing like music or just installation art and things like that… interesting stuff! and then people move in with their money, prices go up and then the artists have to leave, and then is just another boring place with condos… it's the story of the world.”

And indeed are the cries of the world that have found a venting point through the plangent music of THE FOREIGN RESORT to which we should approach like we do to paintings. We open ourselves, we see and we might not get an emotion triggered, but if we do,  we can intertwine our stories to it, add our knowledge and live memory...


01. Skyline/Decay
02. Under Bright Neon Stars
03. Onto us
04. Suburban Depression
05. The New Blood


Mikkel B. Jakobsen – Vocals/Guitar/Bass
Morten Hansen – Drums/Vocals
Steffan Petersen – Guitar/Bass



Cover Picture

theforeignresort theamericandream

Comments powered by CComment