AyoWa band portrait for Blacklisted Copenhagen

AyOwA and their dark ethereal sound

The Danish snyth-duo talk about their inspiration and processes behind juxtaposing lyrics and musical vibe.

Published: February 15, 2017Words: AyOwA & J.Scott StrattonArtist Link: Bandcamp

It’s a true joy when stumbling upon a bands like AyOwA—bands that sing in a different language than my own, but somehow allow the vocals to transcend delivery and communication and become instrumentation. Thus, rendering the necessity to understand what is being sung as no longer important.

Of course, there is a the obvious reference to bands like Sigur Ros when speaking about evacuating vocal delivery beyond pure expression of intent or meaning, but the skill crosses mere musical genre. Japanese rapper Dotama has a staccato delivery that turns his voice almost into percussion. Peruvian singer Yma Súmac had a voice that spanned five octaves gave mambo a whole new instrument to work with. In short, lyrics and vocals are, of course, always something that should go together, but they’re not mutually exclusive.

I reached out to Nico Kornerup—one half of the duo called AyOwA—before they upcoming gig MusikCafeen to go beyond my non-Danish speaking naivety towards their sound, to get the deeper meaning, inspiration and processes behind their work.

Can you give me a little background about the band?

Ya, so in the studio it’s just Hannah and myself. We’ve known each other for a long time, before we eventually came to make music together as AyOwA. We’ve played together and tried making music together, in different constellations, but I think the breaking point was when we got together—with me on the modular synth and Hannah in charge of the songwriting. The both of us are doing lots of different things with instruments and producing, but narrowing it down to “Nico’s synth meets Hannah’s songwriting” seems to work quit good for us now, opening a really wonderful and mysterious world of sound to us.

Where do you pull inspiration for the sound?

Inspiration is whatever is present at the moment when we build a song. Sometimes it’s rather dark emotions expressed in a apparently lighter tone, which makes up the base mood of AyOwA. It’s like when you hear Marvin Gaye sing a beautiful and funky song, but then you listen to the lyrics and it’s about oppression or betrayal. The synths and sounds we use, comes about in a random fashion, and then we take the spaceship to the moon from there.

Is the band primary a duo, or do you pull in other musicians for live performances and recording?

In the studio yes, it’s a duo, but live we are a trio joining up with powerhouse drummer and electronic wizard Anders Meinhardt. He brings the performance to life with his energy and unique expression. The core of our music is ‘designed in the studio’, so we have to do something radical different when we perform, and Anders is that thing. Our live show is quite potent compared to our ‘stoner’ recorded sound.

With the growing opportunity for bands to break through internationally by presenting themselves in English, can you tell about your choice to keep the core of the band in Danish?

I don’t think it’s a choice to sing in Danish, that’s just what it is right now when we record songs. From producers point of view, I look at the vocals in AyOwA more as an instrument and sound than a classic Lead vocal. We have a lot of stuff just waiting to be released, with different timbres in instrument and voice.

You’ve released a few singles at this point, do you have plans on a full length, or will you keep with the more modern approach of continuously releasing singles?

A long EP will be out in May. After that probably a mixtape or full length album in the fall ‘17. I love the fact that formats are being broken up and mixed, these days. Like Die Antwort releasing a mixtape only months before a fulllength record, or A$AP Mob basically only having release one album and being one of the biggest new hiphop names. I mean those are big names. Small artists have been working in interesting formats for years, but when commercial acts are doing weird formats you know it’s ‘there’.

Can you tell me about your live shows?

Well we’re playing at Roskilde Festival this summer, so right now our minds are at making our performances visual, more fit for a bigger stage. The music will still ‘just’ be the trio, as the sound is already pretty ‘big’, but we want to expand our visual universe as well.

We’re working with the wonderful Nicholas Følsgaard, who also made the video for our song Sommer. Yeah and then our live shows is about having fun. People tell me that we look like we’re having fun when we play. We are!