Image credit: Lucio Vignolo
‘Hab dich lieb’ doesn’t have a direct translation into English. Literally speaking, it most closely means ‘I love you’, but not always in a romantic sense. Germans say it to people they care about, not just their partners, but also family and close friends. They love them, but they’re not in love with them; in that case, they would say ‘Ich liebe dich’.
When I caught up with Olli, the guitarist from JEREMIAS, he told me a bit more about the idiom. It’s the title of a recent single of theirs, abbreviated to ‘hdl’. As a band of four twenty-somethings from Hanover, JEREMIAS sing almost exclusively in German. ‘hdl’ is a breakup song; it focuses on that moment in time when you’re not quite over them, but you’re working on it. You’re no longer in love with them, but you still have some love leftover for them. It’s a tense, bittersweet moment that we can’t quite capture in English.
That’s the benefit of listening to foreign music: new ways of conceptualising familiar feelings. Olli and I chatted all things language and the European music scene, to silver linings from the pandemic and ‘GOLDEN HOUR’, their upcoming debut album due to be released on 28th May 2021.
Image credit: Lucio Vignolo
Could you tell me more about ‘hdl’? What was the inspiration, and what message do you want to convey?
The way our songs evolve is that we just jam in a room until someone comes up with an idea, a groove, harmony, something like that. For ‘hdl’, all of the lyrics came from our singer, Jere. I think at its core it’s about losing someone, the end of a relationship, and you’re not over it yet but you’re trying to get over it. The process of letting go, I guess. From your perspective, what’s it like to listen to a German song? People listen to English music all over the world, but German lyrics less so…
That’s true! Lots of us just don’t engage with foreign music, which is a great shame, I think. There’s so much potential in Europe for upcoming artists right now. What do you think about that? Is the scene changing, or do you think the German language will curtail who you can reach?
That’s a tricky question! I think there’s potential to reach people in other countries. I don’t know why, but the German music scene is largely restricted to Austria, Switzerland and Germany, the ‘GSA’ territory as it’s called in the industry. If you’re a band that sings with German lyrics, you get told that these are the only countries you’ll perform in. I think there’s change happening, but it’s not that big of a deal yet. Hopefully it will be. I’ve seen it with a lot of French bands lately – the French language is making its way around Europe. Maybe that’ll happen with German, but I’m in no position to predict that. That said, I’d love to go to London one day – I’ve never been. As a musician, it’s a must to spend time in London!
That would be great! You’re not missing much at the moment though; the live music scene has been at a standstill for so long. How has JEREMIAS been affected by the pandemic? Particularly with the production of your upcoming album, how have you dealt with lockdown restrictions?
I guess if Covid wasn’t a thing, we probably wouldn’t have recorded the album by now. We had a big tour in February [last year] and recorded our second EP ‘alma’ right after, then played some shows in Switzerland, and the first lockdown came around two days or so after we returned. We needed the break, so for the first two weeks, we kind of enjoyed it. But after that we were just like, “…what should we do now?”. We all went to our friend’s house in Eastern Germany – it’s in the middle of nowhere – locked ourselves in and wrote the whole album in like seven days. Then in July, we went to the studio in Berlin and recorded it there. It hasn’t changed much since we first started recording music together. It’s just the four of us and our producer in a room, thinking about our songs and how they’re going to sound. So I guess you could say, if Covid hadn’t hit so hard, we wouldn’t have recorded the album.
That’s great to hear you found a silver lining in the whole situation.
Yeah, exactly. But at the same time, we’ve cancelled like 20 festivals and an entire tour. You really get used to being away from home for the whole summer; you’re on the road, playing shows and experiencing a lot of cool stuff with your friends. That fell apart right in front of our eyes. During the first lockdown, emails came through every day about some festival being cancelled. Obviously that was really sad. But everyone in our band and crew are just so desperate to do things and be creative. We’ve still got our creativity.
Image credit: Lucio Vignolo
What do you enjoy most about festivals and live performances? Lots of artists have experimented with livestreamed shows, but do you think there is something special about playing to a live audience?
When you play music live, there’s a relationship between you and the audience. You’re able to share your love for music with them, and the audience responds in a certain way. That’s ongoing between you and the people watching you. It’s not possible to create that via livestream or socially distanced concerts, where you have a venue as big as an arena and there are like 200 people there. It’s not the same. We tried that over summer, we played five or six socially distanced and livestreamed shows. Of course, it’s fun playing music with your friends, but you just can’t compare it to normal live shows.
Could you tell me more about your socially distanced concerts?
Sure. Mid-July, we released ‘alma’ (our second EP) and on the same day we played a ‘car cinema’ show or Autokino, as we call it in Germany. From the stage, we couldn’t look into people’s eyes – more like their headlights! [laughs] So it was a little strange. There was no real connection; the sound was transmitted via radio into their cars, so there was no big PA system next to us. You don’t feel anything from the music really. So we tried it, it was fun, but it was so much harder to get things across in terms of the emotions we wanted to convey.
Looking back to life before Covid, I’d love to hear more about your evolution as a band. How did you form, and how have you changed over time?
So it went something like this. Six years ago I met Jere at a friend’s birthday party. We were introduced to each other like, “hey Olli, that’s Jere” and “hey Jere, that’s Olli’, “you guys both make music – do something!’. Then we met up and just jammed, it was nothing that serious. We found Ben, our bass player, and then three years ago Jonas came into the band. That’s when it really started. We called ourselves JEREMIAS and began doing things on a professional level, not just meeting up after school and messing around with our instruments. That was three or four years ago now, I can’t really remember. We met another really good friend of ours, also called Jonas, who started our management, then we found a label and a producer. Ever since, we’ve just been writing songs and seeing where it takes us.
What more can you tell me about the upcoming album?
It feels like a very natural progression from everything we’ve done before. It’s got its funky moments and its sad, melancholic moments. I feel more confident about it than with anything we’ve ever recorded. We all experimented a lot more; we combined our influences from jazz, hip hop, funk, soul, all those different genres. It’s been an exciting musical and lyrical journey that us four have been through, and I can’t wait to share it with people. It’s a new side to JEREMIAS that you haven’t seen yet. But, I think it’s better not to describe it too much and let the music do the talking.
Finally, when it’s possible again, would JEREMIAS consider coming to the UK and playing some shows here?
Absolutely! We spoke to our manager about this two years ago with regards to last summer, which obviously didn’t happen, but there’s been an active conversation with our booking agency and management. The question is not if it will happen, but when. We’d love to play over there in England, as long as someone will listen!
Interview by Emma Short, Music Editor. Look out for ‘GOLDEN HOUR’, the debut album by JEREMIAS, on 28th May 2021.