In 2006, high school friends Thorben Seierø Jensen and Sune Sølund formed Alcoholic Faith Mission after stumbling upon Brooklyn’s Apostolic Faith Mission and joking around about swapping the “Apostolic” with “Alcoholic,” because alcoholics have faith in booze like the devout have in religion. It stuck, and now six years later, the band has grown to a sextet and resides in its hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark. With four full-length albums under its belt, including the recently released Ask Me This, the indie/alternative outfit has turned its focus on touring and has spent the last month in North America, headlining venues across the U.S. and Canada. Amidst the chaos of life on the road, AFM vocalist, Jenson, was kind enough to chat with me about the group’s collection of awe-inspiring music videos, working with producer Tom McFall (R.E.M., Weezer, Stars), and the band’s drink of choice.
Katrina Nattress: You are known for your breathtaking music videos. What makes a music video special to you?
Thorben Seierø Jensen: It’s all about the narrative. Watching videos with a band performing in the woods or a singer trying to be sexy just seems pointless. Sometimes stupid videos are watchable too. Like the Ok Go videos. Don’t really care much for the music, but the videos are amazing.
KN: Do you feel music videos still have the same impact as they did, say, ten years ago?
TSJ: It’s definitely different now. The big TV stations don’t have the same impact anymore, but now you’ve got YouTube. Everybody can post his or her own video and even small bands can get success making good and creative viral videos. Ten years ago they’d never stand a chance.
KN: Do you plan on releasing your videos as a collection package?
TSJ: Haven’t really thought about it. But it sounds like a good idea.
KN: You have spent a lot of time in both America and Europe, how does touring differ between the two continents?
TSJ: It’s actually quite different. In general, the circumstances at the small or medium sized venues we usually play are better in Europe. Over there the venues usually treat you like a rock star with free beer and champagne, two meals, free accommodation and really sweet and welcoming people. [In America], it’s just business as usual. Most places you get two beer tickets and that’s it. Only a few venues provide a decent green room and although we’re easy going and humble (at least we feel we are) some of the people at the venues couldn’t care less about you. Of course it’s not always like that, sometimes you run into really good people as well. We think it might have something to do with competition. Bands from all over the world love to travel to U.S., and that could conceivably make the venues somewhat spoiled. Often they’re able to book quite big names as well as having 3-6 bands on the poster each day without paying much. In Europe, it’s the opposite. Fewer bands tour, so many venues spoil the bands to attract their attention. Also there are only one or two acts each night. This doesn’t mean we don’t like touring US. We love it! And we meet shitloads of good people. The treatment at the venues is just different.
KN: Where is your favorite place to play?
TSJ: There are definitely a few favorite places. Of course we love playing our hometown Copenhagen and we also have had very good experiences every time we visit New York. But for some reason the safest bet seems to be Hamburg, Germany. We have been there five times and can’t wait to go back.
KN: What’s been your most memorable performance?
TSJ: There were a lot of memorable shows last year, but one was extraordinarily good. It was our official gig at Swan Dive in Austin during the chaotic SXSW. Ten minutes before our show the venue was empty, but it got packed in no time. It was the last show of seven in three days, so we just gave all we had left. It was the most amazing 40 minutes, and the show is why we have our current setup over here.
KN: You have released four albums thus far, how does Ask Me This differ from its predecessors?
TSJ: As a new thing, everybody in the band now participates in the songwriting. During the creation of the songs we also tried to bring in some new inspirations, which led us to some experiments with the genre. A lot of people have mentioned there’s almost a classical touch on a couple of the songs. Also, we usually do everything ourselves. We still do, but this time Tom McFall participated as a co-producer while finishing up the songs.
KN: Tell me about working with Tom McFall.
TSJ: He’s amazing! He contacted us late 2010, some months after our release of our third record Let This Be The Last Night We Care, and asked if we were working on something new. We didn’t know him, but we definitely knew of his work with R.E.M. and Stars, so we were very honored by him reaching out. He came over for a weekend to try it out and immediately we clicked. He had the same unpretentious and playful way of doing things as us, so we decided to do this, and we’re really happy he joined us for ten days in the end.
KN: I have read that alcohol is integral in your recording process. What is your drink of choice?
TSJ: Whiskey. During the recordings of Ask Me This, it was expensive bottles of Scotch, usually the peaty ones from Isley, always neat, of course. These days, we’re more into ryes and bourbons with lots of ice. Sometimes we prefer whisky as a part of a cocktail. Like whisky sour and old fashioned.
KN: The band formed in Brooklyn, what made you decide to move back to Denmark?
TSJ: Money. It’s expensive to live in New York, so it was only for six months in 2008. As foreigners we’re not allowed to work beside of touring and unfortunately we’re not big enough to make a living of it. Back in Denmark we all have part time jobs.
KN: Would you ever move back to the States?
TSJ: Would love to. Some of us actually stayed in L.A. for three months during this winter and left in January with the feeling of coming back soon. Next time, and to catch the perfect weather (for us at least), we’d love to stay in Brooklyn during the spring and fall and then summer and winter in LA. Not a big fan of New York during winter or summer.
Alcoholic Faith Mission is wrapping up its American tour this month. If you live in Los Angeles, catch the six-piece at The Satellite this Thursday, May 17. Find the group’s remaining tour dates here.