Premiere: O Future - 'Smell You'
How did you get into music?
Jens: I grew up playing classical violin. When I was 12, I switched to the saxophone and started studying jazz. Later, after I graduated from the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen and The New School for Music, I started producing a lot of records for other bands. Eventually, my record label split up, and that was when I met Katherine, and we fell in love. Literally, when we met, Katherine was going to move to LA and I decided to just come along.
Katherine: I never used to do music before I met Jens. I was graduating from the Stella Adler Actor Conservatory when we met. Then my dad died and I knew that if I left the US, I couldn’t get back in, but I had to leave, anyway. Then our European adventure started, and we started making music. So, this whole thing—the last six years—are my only experience with music.
Did you ever sing when you were younger?
Katherine: If you had asked me in my whole life, if I ever thought about being a singer and being in a band—it wouldn’t even have crossed my consciousness; it wouldn’t have even been a thing that I had thought, ‘Oh this could be fun.’ Life is weird in that way.
So, how did you actually start doing it?
Jens: Back then, I was basically just making my own instrumental stuff. But then I had written a song, and I asked Katherine if she wanted to try sing on it, and at first, she was like, ‘Hmm...nah.’
Katherine: I thought it was the most embarrassing thing that a girl could do. I was so embarrassed about the whole idea of it, but I did it anyway.
Jens: Yeah, and I was amazed by her voice and how good it was. So, we kept doing more work together and made the rest of the songs for our first album. Our skill set is really different—I have a crazy, very particular musical training since the age of four, and I have basically studied every genre of music from 500 years ago until now. And Katherine had no training, but was just a natural talent.
You two are married. How do you separate your personal and work life when you’re making music? Or do you not?
Katherine: We don’t. It’s quite an extreme lifestyle, I’d say.
Jens: Well, all the work that we put into this band is something we do together. Of course, we have different tasks in terms of that. Like, right now, we are finishing the video for “Smell You,” which is supposed to be out shortly after the single. We are color-grading at the moment, and that’s Katherine’s job, because she’s really good at that stuff.
Katherine: In some ways, it’s really helpful to be in a partnership, because it’s very lonely being a creative person, and being your own boss all the time. To always have to motivate yourself to make creative choices on your own is hard. In that way, it’s definitely a plus being two. I guess the downside, in general, is that you can never switch it off because it just continues. You wake up at six and think, ‘Well I may as well start to work,’ and other days you wake up with no ideas. It can cause a whole lot of anxiety.
Jens: Also, what we’re doing with our music, our songwriting, production, the mixing of genres and all the imagery—in everything, we are trying to do something that no one else is doing and find a way to filter the insanity of this whole society of culture and art we are living in. We want to try to make something that no one else can. We have our own little niche of whatever that is. So, I think being together in that sense, makes it a lot easier. If you want to make something very good and special, you want to see if it holds up after a while—to put it away and then take it back out and see what you feel and what the other person feels before showing it to anyone else. Being two in that situation is very helpful—to get a better view of what it is that you are actually doing.
What was behind your choice to mix so many different layers and genres?
Jens: It’s basically about digging into yourself and finding out what it is that speaks to you—what is it that I have that is special to this world and that no one else can? For me, in particular, I decided to play classical music, jazz and later on, electronic music. I have been through all genres, and I like to try to push boundaries. Since I know how to write symphony music, and I know jazz, and I also love stuff like Radiohead, the best way for me to do that is to mix it all together.
Katherine: We kind of live in a nostalgic machine. People don’t mind if they hear a band that they like sounding like a ‘60s band or an ‘80s band—no one will judge you for enjoying that. But I think that Jens and I have a problem with it. It’s like, why would you make something again, if it has already been made, and if the original is better? That’s why, for us, the blending of genres or the blending of music, is the only way to try to make something that is completely new.
How would you describe your style in three words?
Jens: Endingly mixing genres
Katherine: I would say: cinematic, avant-garde, terrifying, pop—that’s probably the most pretentious thing I have ever said.
Jens: Yeah, and you used four words.
What’s the story behind the new single, “Smell You?”
Katherine: It’s about desire. But it’s also about deep, heavy flirting—the kind where both people know what’s going on. There comes a point when the flirting either stops or crosses the line into actually getting physical. That moment—just before you have to do something about it because if you don’t, it’s more awkward than doing nothing; that moment where the unsaid attraction between two people is going on.
What feeling do you want the listener to take away from the song?
Katherine: Anticipation, that flushed feeling you get in your cheek. There’s a line in the song, ‘I will never be bored when I am near you.’ When you have a crush, every time you are around that person, you are going to feel a bit more alive, like, ‘I am alive! Are you?’ It’s intoxicating.
What’s your collaborative process like when it comes to actual songwriting?
Jens: How we make most of our songs is that I start making some kind of beat and then I will send it to Katherine in an email. She will basically be sitting in our bedroom listening to it, then she will try to make some melodies and we’ll discuss it together afterwards. Eventually, that will turn into a song. We do spend a lot of time on the production, to make it exactly how we want it to sound. With “Smell You,” we wanted it to be a mixture of disco, techno and Earth, Wind & Fire.
If you could choose anyone—alive or dead—who would you want to collaborate with, other than each other, of course?
Katherine: Thom Yorke—or Prince.
Jens: I would probably choose Mozart.
If I say sacrifice, you say:
Jens: Being an artist. There are so many sacrifices. First of all, you don’t have real jobs, so you don’t always know where the money is coming from. You have to understand how to maneuver your life in terms of the insecurity of not having a job that pays the bills every month.
Katherine: Yeah, and you sacrifice stability. I am from South Africa and I have lived in America for seven years now, which means I don’t get to see my family except for once every year, and sometimes not even then. Also, we don’t put money into a mortgage, we put them into various artsy things. On good days that feels very glamorous, but on bad days it’s like, ‘Why did I ever decide to be an artist?’
Complete this sentence: Never have I ever…
Katherine: Shaved any part of my body—and that is the truth! My mother never would allow me a razor. She used to say, ‘If you ever have to remove your hair, you have to get it waxed.’ So, I don’t even know how to use a razor—I have never shaved in my entire life.
What would you do right now if you knew that the world was going to end tomorrow?
Katherine: First, I would go buy a dozen of donuts. I am a huge fan of donuts—I really like the crème brûlée donut from Donut King—oh my god. Then I would eat that and spend all the money I have by jumping on a plane to Hawaii. We would fly first class, stay at a five-star hotel, smoke a joint watching the sunset, and then we would all die.
Jens: I was going to say that we would get together with friends and have our last meal together—but now I’d rather go to Hawaii.
What’s next for O Future?
Jens: We are going to release our next album, but in a bunch of different drops. “Stay” was our first single and now “Smell You.” We have other tracks in the making and a video for “Smell You” coming out soon, as well. Other than that, we have some shows to play.
'Smell You' is out now.