Interview: Elias Bender Rønnenfelt from Marching Church

Interview: Elias Bender Rønnenfelt from Marching Church

At their gig two weeks ago, we were able to catch up with Marching Church’s lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt and get his thoughts on touring, music and performing. Read on for his no-holds-barred opinions on a variety of topics.

How does it feel being in Bangkok again? I heard you were here last time and it was apparently quite an experience, with a lot of people very interested and happy to see you back this time.

I mean we had a few more days and we got into a lot of trouble.

Really! Last time?

(Chuckles) I’m not gonna get into that but um … well me and my Irish friend broke into a 40 storey skyscraper and we were chased by wild dogs and hiding from security guards and we got lost a lot.

Oh wow!

But this time was a bit more brief. I saw so many things last time that I never want to see again. The experience of seeing child prostitution and fat foreigner guys taking 9 year olds into cabs by the hand and you’re just kind of left … feeling hopeless knowing you can’t do anything about it. So that is scary in itself and it was very much that desperate living that saddened me greatly to a point where I was almost scared of returning because the tourist culture here is in my opinion depressing. But not just depressing, it’s despicable.

Yes, unfortunately Thailand attracts the scum of the West.

It’s like a Disneyland for the worst of the worst of Europe … people with no sense of human sympathy go here. So that was disgusting to me and today I woke up in our hotel and I walked around and you see all these balding, fat, middle-aged Europeans and you know that some of them are going to do some disgraceful things later that night and there’s really nothing you can do, so that’s hard.

It’s really hard to be a bystander, but on the other side, that day we were breaking into the skyscraper me and my Irish friend got lost a long while and we saw the beauty of some of the more ghetto areas, where it was really communal and people were happy and there was music coming from every corner and children playing happily. And we went to a park where there were many Thai people and live bands … so my impression is that Thai culture can be really, really beautiful and they are a wonderful people but there’s so much that’s sick in the quarters where the European tourists roam.

 

With live music … when you can get to that level where you transform the room and everything is focused on what’s playing out on stage and everything is de-centered from whenever people have on their mind … I consider that a success. It doesn’t matter if there’s 350 people in the audience or 7, as long as you can create that’s sort of space, that’s what we’re aiming for.

 

On a more happy thought, your band Marching Church seems to be doing well and the old fans of Iceage are still following you and Marching Church. Do you see yourself doing a lot more touring and getting into the cycle of creating music and bringing in to the fans via touring on a regular basis?

Yeah, I mean that’s what I generally do. Marching Church exists and I exist because I need to have both, when one well dries up the next one will be ready to be filled and vice versa. But it’s definitely interesting because this band has only existed as it is for a couple of years so the growth of it and of the musicians involved has been just going at an upward scale and we are very much hammered together.

So a little makeshift but working?

Yes, contently working. I mean I’m always constantly working.

Another question, I haven’t heard you before, but during the first song when you first got on stage it felt like half of the audience was really moved and the other half of the audience wanted to dance and party. Perhaps that’s a bad example, but what do you feel when you meet people who really love your music and react to it compared to those who don’t so much?

When it feels like you managed to win a crowd over or you start feeling like there’s a big part of the crowd that’s just there to see the spectacle and they don’t really like you or not, but by the end of it you feel like you really grabbed their attention …

Did you feel that happened tonight?

Yeah I’d say so. But if it doesn’t happen that feels like a bit of a failure, but there are so many elements playing into that. But yeah, I would say with live music – in our case – when you can get to that level where you transform the room and everything is focused on what’s playing out on stage and everything is de-centered from whenever people have on their mind, from a general evening narrowed down to one moment … I can’t speak for the audience but I can narrow things down for myself and I consider that a success. It doesn’t matter if there’s 350 people in the audience or 7, as long as you can create that’s sort of space, that’s what we’re aiming for.

I think you did that tonight and I was talking to one guy who is a music writer and a really avid music fan who plays music himself and he was saying it really felt like a perfect moment and that you have so much charisma. He was basically saying “I feel bad for the people who are not experiencing this because there are many people who are not going to come to a venue like this and not necessarily try to connect with a band that they do not know”.

Yeah but the people who did come, and I’m sure for a percentage of them it was tedious, and that’s okay too, but as long as you manage to get your message through to at least some of them then it’s worth it.

 

Expect nothing. If you’re starting out and there’s not an immediate interest, you shouldn’t have expected it in the first place. You should do it for whatever value you hold in doing it. Playing the game is certainly the first step to corrupting whatever your initial feelings about what you’re doing are. I started out playing music wanting nothing from it. I got something out of it, which I’m grateful for, but I never expected anything.

 

I had one question after watching you tonight for the first time, but knowing a little bit of your history, do you feel like you are able to be more yourself now than you were with your first band and that label?

Well we have a label but we never let our label take any sort of creative dictatorship. Whatever we’ve ever done has always been on our own terms.

So in other words it doesn’t change much, have you always in your life been able to be yourself?

I mean recently I’ve been disgusted with the music business at times, but they’ve never been able to deprive any of the natural message, so no.

What’s your 2 cents or advice for bands who are kind of like you, try their best to be themselves, try their best not to be held down by anything, but it’s not working, they’re not getting to tour or get the audiences or opportunities. Bands who are a little fresh.

Expect nothing. If you’re starting out and there’s not an immediate interest, you shouldn’t have expected it in the first place. You should do it for whatever value you hold in doing it. Playing the game is certainly the first step to corrupting whatever your initial feelings about what you’re doing are. I started out playing music wanting nothing from it. I got something out of it, which I’m grateful for, but I never expected anything.

So basically what you’re saying is that if you’re not expecting anything it will always be beautiful?

Not necessarily, maybe you’re talentless you know, and that’s very likely. But at least you find some enjoyment in doing it in itself, but don’t aim for the big stages, don’t aim for anything. If you have a sincere love of the craft whether you’re fucking talentless or not then that should be reward enough in itself. And if it goes to the place where I’ve been fortunate enough for it to go, to the world and all these things, well then good for whoever gets to do that, but that shouldn’t be the focus.

Interview by Abner Olivieri, image credit www.c-heads.com

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