Lemaitre are Norway’s latest entry into the smooth, melodic electronic tradition of artists who temper their electronic grooves with adept pop songwriting. “We want to walk the line,” explains Ulrik Denizou Lund, who along with Ketil Jansen is Lemaitre, “and do everything from a loop-based song to straight pop or rock songs that have more structure.”
Their new EP, 1749, brims with pop gems sung by Lund. “Not Too Late” and “Day Two” both have a bright ’70s-pop feel even as Lund and Jansen’s tones and beats live definitively in the post-EDM present. “Stepping Stone” is a lean groove with a sing-along chorus. They also make smart use of guest vocalist Jennie A on “Closer” and producer Giraffage on the tropical-leaning anime-videogame fantasia “Nishio 2.” At Lemaitre’s shows, these imaginative arrangements are further fleshed-out thanks to a live drummer, David Myers, who has toured with Frank Ocean. “We always really liked the aesthetic and the feel of drummers onstage,” Jansen says. “It immediately feels more energetic.”
Their sound has been getting results offstage, too. Lemaitre have more than a million followers on SoundCloud, and the duo’s 2012 EP, Relativity 2, shot to No. 1 on the iTunes Electronic chart in the U.S. and Canada. They number among their fans some of dance music’s biggest artists — Porter Robinson, Madeon, Kygo, and Martin Solveig to name a few. Robinson took them on tour last summer. Lemaitre’s music is finding outlets beyond the dance floor as well. In September 2013, their song “1:18,” from The Friendly Sound EP, was used as a synch in an ad for the Apple iPhone 5C. (View the commercial here.)
Oslo natives Jansen and Lund became Lemaitre in classic electronic-music fashion — after meeting and clicking at a party. Both were thinking about becoming musicians. After Jansen graduated from high school in 2010, he returned to his native Oslo, and Lemaitre kicked off that June. “We didn’t really want to go to college, straightaway at least,” Jansen says. “We agreed that we would treat making music as a 9-to-9 job every day, so we just worked 12, 14 hours a day all the way until we started getting interest.”
They camped out of Jansen’s parents’ basement with “a very basic setup,” Lund says. “After two years, we got a ridiculous opportunity to have a studio in this old office building that was going to get renovated into apartments. It was completely empty. We got to have this whole building — three floors. We filmed videos there because we had so much space. We could blast music all day and all night. It was an ideal situation.”
Both Jansen and Lund loved hip-hop and rock, but the core of their fandom was “cool electronic music, like Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx,” Lund says. They were both huge Daft Punk fans, and when they connected, Jansen says, “We wanted to sound like Justice — that would have been the ultimate success, to sound like Cross.” Fellow Norwegians Röyksopp were also hugely formative. “We both wanted to do something different than what we’d done before,” Jansen says. “We agreed from the start that we wanted to do live shows.” (Jansen had DJed and still does, occasionally).
An early battle-of-the-bands in Oslo proved them right. “It was the first show where we realized we actually had a lot of fans,” Lund says. “We had played a few shows in small clubs — but there, people in the crowd were chanting our name before we went onstage.” They won, and joined the bill for Hove, the one-time “Coachella of Norway.”
But it wasn’t just the show that got attention. “We started putting our music out immediately on SoundCloud the day we finished it,” Jansen says. The second time was the charm: “The Friendly Sound,” their second track, blew up online, shooting to No. 1 on Hype Machine overnight. “Suddenly, we had requests to come and play a show in California,” Lund recalls. “And Lithuania,” Jansen adds. There, a radio DJ asked them to join a station-sponsored lineup. Show offers began to snowball. “We realized that maybe we could actually do this for a living,” Lund says.
Astralwerks thought so too. When the label came calling, Lemaitre shipped out to L.A. in early 2014, where they share a five-person home in Silver Lake. “A lot of musicians and actors and young people who are working on music live here,” Lund says. “We have two studios — well, they’re also our bedrooms, but we have plenty of space for the studios.” Four-fifths of the house work, in some capacity, on Lemaitre. There’s a loose camaraderie between them. “That’s the spirit of Los Angeles right now,” says Jansen. “There’s such a huge influx of artists and creative people that everything flows loosely. Everyone just keeps popping in everywhere and working together.”
That occasionally means bringing in outside vocalists. On 1749, Lemaitre’s instrumental tracks are accessible but those with singers are even more so. Jennie A, the Swede featured on “Closer,” came via their manager discovering her album Gemini Gemini. They met Giraffage, who adds production to the climactic “Nishio 2,” while touring with Porter Robinson. They met Robinson after remixing his Mat Zo collaboration, “Easy,” then collaborating with him on “Polygon Dust” for Robinson’s Worlds album, followed by joining his Worlds tour — Lemaitre’s most extensive outing yet.
Though Robinson was the headliner, Lemaitre got their share of love. “In San Francisco I met this girl at the after-party at Rickshaw Stop that we were Djing,” Jansen says. “She had made fan art that she gave to me, which is in my room today: A tiny painting of our logo on blue canvas.” That logo was Lund’s handiwork. “It’s built very lightly,” he explains. “You can actually fly with it in one piece of baggage, so it’s really handy.”
But everything else about Lemaitre is expanding. The 1749 EP is just a taste: Lemaitre will be finishing their new album by year’s end, for release in 2016. “It’s a culmination of everything that we’ve learned,” Jansen says. It’s also got way different things than we’ve done before. We feel really good about the music we have. We’ve been on a roll for a while.” Among the top-secret goodies on tap: a series of R&B collaborators on tracks, they hint, with a Motown flavor. “We’re just writing and writing every day,” Jansen says.
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