For Theis Vesterløkke and Niels Fejrskov Juhl, the duo behind synthpop band Gents, a friendship of complementary opposites shapes the escapist nature of their music.
You met in your early teens. What were your first impressions of each other?
Theis: We didn’t hang out much. I’m not sure why, actually. We each had our own band—mine was a post-rock Sigur Rós thing and Niels’ was a jazz band. There was a musical distance between us.
Niels: It took a few years before we found each other in music. I feel that we’d subconsciously gravitated toward a common reference point that united us. We had been friends up until then but it was as part of a large group of people more than an actual friendship; that didn’t happen until we began making music.
Theis: The real friendship grew when we moved to Berlin in 2013. Being in the city without knowing anyone else and having nothing to do brought us together.
Did you move to Berlin to make the first EP?
Theis: We really didn’t have any plan; we were both living at home and our aspirations for the future had suffocated from working random full-time jobs. Moving to Berlin was an escape from that.
Niels: We had this naive idea about Berlin; artists lived there and loads of amazing things took place in the city, so we reckoned that things might happen from just being there. The music that we made had zero direction to it—it was noncommittal, somewhat like Berlin is. After we moved back, we realized that the sound we’d shaped there had potential in some way; the idea of forming a band wasn’t brought to life until after we’d made 30-something songs together.
Is your friendship a prerequisite for your music?
Theis: I wouldn’t be in Gents if Niels and I weren’t friends. It’s what makes our music interesting—the sensibilities and emotions that we have between us.
Niels: Our friendship is a means of reflecting our individual personalities in one another and then communicating these realizations out into the world. We want to make music that people relate to and create something in symbiosis with an audience.
Do you ever argue during the process?
Theis: We’re both quite passive-aggressive, so issues are often unspoken. It’s a conflict-averse relationship where discussions can be intangible, lingering in the air around us.
Niels: We don’t have arguments per se. There are all these preconceived ideas about what being in a band entails: tempers running wild and people screaming. Granted, that can happen, but I think we’ve avoided that by being patient with each other. If I disagree on an idea that Theis has, I’d rather have him see it through and then pick it up from there rather than rattle his process.
Looking back to the beginning, is there anything you’d have done differently?
Theis: Definitely. But taking that approach won’t do you any good. Sure, we could’ve spent every waking moment practicing but that might’ve led to a life in despair. Overthinking your trajectory can impose limitations on the dynamic in your work.
Niels: You have to realize where you’d like to go and then move toward that point on your own terms. There will always be things that you could’ve done better strategically, but it’s the intuitive nature that drives us and that’s what we abide by.
Do you think of yourselves as musicians?
Niels: I can’t see why we wouldn’t. I often think back to when I was a kid, reading about bands in magazines. And today I’m thinking: “Maybe that’s just us now?” It’s strange, though. Being a musician has become the focal point of our self-perception.
Theis: I’m not sure if we deserve to be called musicians yet. It depends on whom you ask, but I think being a musician comes organically after making full albums and playing loads of shows.
When you sign to a label and enter the music industry, do you have to lose the intuitive approach?
Niels: It’s harmed our sense of naivety. You’re surrounded by a mass of people who have your best interests at heart but bring a more business-focused perspective. It becomes an element that’s necessary for Gents as a band, but it bites off chunks of the innate ideas between the two of us.
Theis: These people are helping us bring the music out, thereby giving the songs justice. It’s something that we want and require but we have to be vigilant about how it affects our imagination.
On the first track, Since Forever, from your debut album, About Time, Niels sings: “Since forever / I’ve been trying to define / What it means to be alive.” Can music be a method of finding out?
Niels: Music is a means of distractive escapism—you delve into these stories and emotions that simplify the world surrounding you.
Theis: It’s what everyone does—attempting to discover who you are and what you want from life. You can find it in anything, whether you want to become a musician, a barista, a journalist or a sculptor—it’s about discovering that sensation to which you want to surrender your life.
Niels: Music is a momentary and cathartic element that you delve into for a limited amount of time and return from with a clearer view. People should intoxicate themselves with the things they hold closest to heart.