Originally hailing from Sweden, the now London-based Junodef have honed an entrancing dark ‘post-death’ rock sound that serves up plenty of mystery and intrigue – and they’re a bit of a watershed moment for us as our first ever non-British New Band of the Week. Their intrigue isn’t limited to music either, with their mission to improve opportunities for women working in the music industry and actively searching out women to work with, as well as an exciting art project coming later this year.
The quartet of Tyra Örnberg, Norea Persson (drums) and siblings Karin and Rode Grönkvist (piano) first met in the same music community growing up in Malmo and played in various different kinds of bands in the same scene.
As the band explain: “It came naturally for us to start bands when we were kids. We listened to a lot of punk bands and wanted to do the same thing. We’ve all more or less been in the same band as someone from Junodef in previous bands, Karin and Tyra played in a band together before Junodef, Rode and Karin are siblings and have played in the same band before, and his sound was a really cool element to Junodef..”
Karin, Tyra and Norea made the move from the small Swedish city to London in September 2016 to broaden their horizons. As they tell us: “We wanted to challenge ourselves and get other perspectives. Some may say that London is a stupid city to move to due to the high competition, which is in a way true and it was a bit overwhelming to come to a new city 50 times bigger than our hometown, knowing very few people in the industry and basically starting from scratch.
“But London was exactly what we needed; it’s diverse and gives us perspectives that we could never get in Sweden. The music scene is on a completely different scale, which is both a good and bad thing, and it’s been important for the band. We have probably never worked as hard as we do now.”
Their sound is dominated by engaging vocals that at times linger over a dark instrumental background, which is portrayed best on the wonderful Tricks, from last year’s EP Ocean. They describe it as “dark, wavy and suggestive,” drawing influence from a range of genres, from trip-hop, techno, doom and pop to punk, metal, garage rock and post-rock. Building on that, they explain: “It is a soup with a lot of ingredients, and that has been brewing for a long time. We are four people with different tastes in music, and we all bring our piece. We come from backgrounds in other bands, none of which sound very much like Junodef, so it’s a mix of everything with a little piece of each of us in it.”
The latest offering of this is an alternative version of Gold, from last year’s EP. It’s a moody, sombre track that opens slow and atmospheric, then a cool, laid-back guitar riff creeps in and jumps out in place of the atmospheric background noise. Then bigger, layered vocals come in over laid-back guitars and more atmospheric noise. Take a listen here:
It’s an interesting take on the original, which is equally moody and dark, but comes in a full three minutes longer at 8 minutes long. The original is bigger and heavier, with the same atmospheric, creepy sounds underlying it. Check it out in the video below:
On the alternative version the band they told us: “The reception has been great so far! It feels like people really understand what we were going for with this alternative version of Gold, and it’s been fun to hear people’s thoughts on the track. Someone described it as ‘dark electronic post rock mania,’ which we think is a pretty accurate description of the musical direction we’re going in right now.”
And the video for the track stars Swedish actress Amalia Holm Bjelke, on which the band tell us: “We share mutual friends with her and we thought she would express the feeling we wanted to communicate with the video in a cool way. She’s an incredible actress with that original feel, which was perfect for Gold. We’re very humbled and lucky that she wanted to be a part of the project, it was the most extraordinary team.”
The band tell us their music is also inspired by a range of things: “It can be pretty much anything, having a conversation with someone, hearing a song or seeing a film. Most of the time a song idea emerges when one of us is in a moody state. It’s usually hard to write music when you are happy. But after that the writing process can go on for a long time, to develop the first draft or idea. It’s important to allow yourself time to try different things and to be patient with your ideas.”
Looking to work with women in music
We’re generally wary of talking about ‘female fronted bands’ – I mean, when do you ever hear the phrase ‘male fronted band’? – but Junodef make a really interesting statement around ‘actively searching for women to co-operate with’ in the music industry, which we had to explore further.
The band told us: “It’s very boring to be labelled as the ‘female fronted band’ time after time, instead of just being labelled ‘a band’ like any other band. It is however very important to recognise and address the gender gap and that it is a huge problem in the music industry. A good way to approach the problem is to scrutinise your own behaviour, and understand what role you have (or could have) in creating a more equal music scene.
“It is easy to follow norms and prejudices when choosing who to work with, and due to the fact that the industry is male dominated it is often easier to end up working with men. The problem is not that the music industry is lacking of talented women, there are a lot of women out there working in music and totally shredding it, we’re just so stuck in a mentality where we by default turn to men instead of women. When it comes down to it, we think it’s a matter of social justice and it’s about time that we appreciate and recognise women’s work as much as we do with the work of men and make sure women get the same opportunities as their male colleagues.”
There’s plenty more to come from Junodef, having just finished up a studio session recording new material that will see their sound develop further. Not restrained to music, they’re also working on an art project with artists from all over the world from all different artistic backgrounds, focusing on collaborations based on common denominators such as ideas, beliefs and artistic vision, which should launch this summer.
As they explain: “One of the main things we are interested in is crossing different art forms and looking at how they relate to each other. We’ve tapped into it a bit before when working with visual art for our live performances and this is something that keeps on developing into new ideas and new projects. It is a core perspective for us, and you will see a lot more of it in the future.”