Interview with Jonas Bjerre of MEWs

In the simplistic, ‘I saw God.’ Jonas Bjerre of the band MEW is nothing less than a creative artist through and through. From the top of his head to the soles of his feet he is connect both above and here on earth. Constantly in a state of creating from music to a multiplicity of hundreds of other projects Jonas is perhaps one of the most blessed and unique artists to be a part of our here and now time/space continuum.

With a new album rightly entitled, Visuals, MEW is set and more than ready to hit North America and bring their depictions of unique visions and reflective introspection to MEW fans everywhere.

Song River: Is touring North America after releasing your newest album of utmost importance to MEWs, if so why?

Jonas Bjerre: I would say yes. It was such an experience, our last tour there, it was during that tour that some of the initial ideas for the ‘Visuals’ album came about, and we always aim to go and visit all places where we have a following.

We appreciate our fan base in the US very much, and we look forward to coming back.

Song River: Describe the process of preparation it takes to even undergo a tour overseas.

Jonas Bjerre: Well the first challenge is figuring out how to play the songs live. We go over the parts, and sometimes the parts live become a mixture of the parts on record, as we tend to overdub a lot.

For the live shows we aim to make the songs as precise as possible, and we often hone in on their best possible presentation during touring, figuring out from experiences how best to go about it. I feel we get pretty close to the album experience, but live it’s a bit more raw, and obviously a lot more physical, which is really exciting to me. We usually do about 10 days of rehearsals before a tour.

Song River: So much of this album, ‘Visuals,’ is heavily connected. From the title, to video and stage. Is your focus directed towards the visual sensory would you say more so this time?

Jonas Bjerre: In many ways this album was a different process to make, than what we have done before. We made it faster, just letting the energy drive us, without constantly second-guessing ourselves, which we have tended to do a bit much in the past. It’s most often the initial idea that really means everything, and more often than not, slaving over things for years become a kind of doubtful procrastination. It pays off in a big way once in a while, but just as often it pays off to just let the idea take the shape it wants to.

On this album we did almost everything ourselves, pre-production, production, even a lot of the engineering. And as it felt so internal, we kept things in that vein, and I made the artwork and all the videos, which on this album are much more connected to the live animations I’ve always been making. It felt right for this album, as the song writing was also inspired by visual ideas. The live show too has a lot more visual content, that I’m constantly fiddling with.

Song River: Jonas can you give an introspective description of this vision for the album, and have current societal events played any role in its development?

Jonas Bjerre: A lot of sad events permeated 2016. Politically, the world started to feel less inclusive. A lot of anger in the air. A lot of anger which was, and continues to be, misplaced, if you ask me. The rise of the far right scares me, makes me despondent. Music helps with that. There are people holding positions they do not deserve, which they took hold of utilizing fear- and hate-mongering, scapegoating and disinformation. And while we look here, they are doing something even worse over there. These are dark times. But I don’t feel like this is the darkest album we’ve made, instead it feels to me quite colourful and uplifting in places. Maybe that’s a kind of counter reaction.

Song River: As an artist is it your purpose to blatantly direct your audiences focus or to lead them in gently?

Jonas Bjerre: Definitely the latter. This is partly why lyrically the songs remain open to interpretation. I want people to discover their own meaning in them. That way they connect to it in a more personal way, the songs keep growing, keep traveling in people’s minds. To me, this means that those who listen add something of themselves to each song. The songs are stories, but they are stories about more than one thing.

Song River: 11 Tracks. Lyrically all of them are visually charged. Each a story of its own. Is there a song in particular Jonas on ‘Visuals’ that was a personal reflection?

Jonas Bjerre: They all are, really. It comes from somewhere, either entirely from my own or shared experiences, or from how observing the experiences of other people affect me. “Nothingness And No Regrets” is possibly the most personal one, but at the same time it’s about all of us, and the problems we have in common.

Song River: How about one that fits a motion of relative satirical smatterings? Maybe even humor.

Jonas Bjerre: Ha ha. That would probably be “Candy Pieces All Smeared Out.” Some of that is making fun of how so much of what we think of as “progress” actually makes us less happy as people. It’s actually a really dark song. Having an identity in today’s world is just so very different from how it was when I was a kid, a teenager even. But I’m trying not to fall entirely into a get-off-my-lawn attitude.

Song River: Would it be correct to assume Jonas that your mind is a busy place and that at times you feel you’re in a bit of a race against time to do all the things you want to do?

Jonas Bjerre: That would be a very correct assumption, yes. Sometimes I get these weird ticks in frustration with how little time there is.

Song River: Since it would appear Jonas that you are most technologically savvy- you’ve found multiple avenues in which to express it. Let’s briefly touch on this outside the music box project:… do tell.

Jonas Bjerre: This was just one of many projects we’ve done in a side-project I am part of, called Apparatjik. It’s a very different discipline from what we do in Mew. It’s rare that we are able to find a time when no one is on tour, or recording, or doing something else. So we get together in short and very intense periods. No idea is rejected, and small spur-of-the-moment ideas have huge consequences. For instance, I wrote lyrics for one of Guys songs, singing about ‘antlers getting mixed up’ and we had another song about combat disco. We wrote a disco song because we didn’t really like disco. This resulted in silver uniforms with antler-helmets. This mirror-ball car was a part of that project, which culminated at the Neue Nationalgalleri in Berlin. We were there for 3 weeks and it was a huge experience for me.

Song River: Driving through the future tunnel where do you see us as a society? Culturally, socially, politically and spirituality?

Jonas Bjerre: I think something almost miraculous has to happen if we are to have a future, or at least if our children are to have one. Dark times. Don’t mean to be a downer, but we are pretty deep in it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool. But I have not given up on miracles yet.

Song River: In the end do you see hope?

Jonas Bjerre: Yes, I have to. We all do.
But we gotta stop fighting. And we have to start dealing with the causes of things, not just clumsily attempt to treat the symptoms.

Song River: For those fortunate enough to find you on your North American dates, tell us what can we expect from a MEWs performance?

Jonas Bjerre: A very engaging, visually stimulating, awkwardly funky and slightly strange experience. And a band that’s happy to see you, grateful for the possibility to tour in your wonderful, strange country!

Song River: Lastly, a giraffe is your chosen reincarnation? If one wanted the ultimate view wouldn’t a bird have more advantages?

Jonas Bjerre:You got me there. But when I was a kid my school took us to the zoo. I had eye contact with a giraffe, its beautiful face looked so benign, and for a brief moment I had the distinct feeling I was looking at God. Birds are cool too though.


​*​ L-R:  Jonas Bjerre, Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen, Johan Wohlert
Photo Credit:  Sasha Ryabina

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