Norwegian producers CLMD are far from the jilted musical offspring of the age of button-pushing skepticism. Replacing their scenic homeland with the bright lights and booming club culture of New York, the duo’s drastic change of landscape has mirrored the staggering shift in momentum of their short but impressive career. And their journey from childish dreamers to Sony-approved club advocates has come with an emotive yet striking soundtrack. With their latest single, “Falling Like Angels,” and further remix duties for Norman Doray and Nervo’s “Something To Believe In” adding a late leg of glory to their biggest year to date, members Carl Louis and Martin Danielle talked with us about mastering the middle ground, DIY industry progression, and the tricky task of giving people what they didn’t know they want.
For a duo still early in your ascent, you have collectively covered some impressive ground. Talk us through the origins of CLMD, and your decision to transition from your native Norway to New York in the earlier part of 2012?
Martin Danielle: Our origins were all about big dreams and too much self-esteem. Until Chris Lake signed “The Message,” this was a hobby to us, but from there it all went crazy and before we knew it people like Axwell were on to what we were doing. Moving onwards from here, it was hard not to be motivated to pursue it; we were confident enough that this could be a life, and there was no better time to make it happen. We always had that dream, but this early support finally made it seem achievable.
Carl Louis: It was also the year we moved to New York. This was a huge step for us, but it made perfect sense. Norway is great, but the fact is that there was no significant scene to feed off, so it made more sense to emigrate to somewhere that lives and breaths that music and culture and has done for years. At this point I feel like we have the material and skills we need to deliver track after track but with significant quality—but the process has taken a lot of time and energy.
There seems to be a clear focus on melodic development and emotional resonance throughout every production you touch. Are their any particular avenues of inspiration that have led you to this seemingly harmonious balance between the uplifting musical journey and the peak-time anthem?
MD: We have always wanted to mix up electro-pop and indie with that huge peak-time house sound—quite simply because we love it all. I feel like our studio work to date has shown that there is a good middle ground for them all. Instead of just being emotional in terms of melodic composition, the tracks need to really capture you as an artist; there is a huge focus on immediate drops, but they don’t have to be huge to make a song have impact. Eric Prydz is a great example of that subtlety that we aspire towards, because he captures you immediately and sometimes the only physical differentiator is a kick drum added, but it still sends you crazy.
CL: As far as I am concerned, CLMD stands for something big in terms of feelings and emotion. The influences Martin mentioned come naturally because that is the stuff we already love listening to, so the mix of these allows us to make music we immediately feel for. We may not be the most obvious peak-time choice, but I think people recognize the depth of sound we are aiming for. The two can definitely correlate and work wonders together, the challenge being to find a way of doing that on your own terms without bending to pressures of making something hip or too obviously radio-friendly.
Given the more mainstream hallmarks that your sound has embraced, how do you perceive the state of electronic music and the more radio-friendly elements that have become second nature on the digital market and airwaves alike?
MD: There is this perception that the industry is about just giving people what they want. This is true to an extent, but my overarching ethos has remained “give them what they didn’t realize they wanted.” Good music makes boundaries disappear and once those barriers are broken, I think music stands the best chance of being enjoyed and appreciated. Putting a new and unnecessary label on it or saying it doesn’t mean anything because it has mainstream elements just doesn’t make sense to me personally. Radio play is a good thing, so long as the song in question is a genuine piece of music than an easy sell.
CL: Exactly. Good music is simply good music, regardless of what you call it in your library or where you hear it. Mainstream music and pop immediately get bad press, but the fact it is in wide circulation and admired by the masses cannot be used as a factor against it. That is the sort of platform guys like us could only dream of catering for. We saw that with bands like M83, who went to the masses with a sound that was not like anything you would usually hear on the Top 40 in most countries; there has never been a better time to try and do it well and with integrity.
The story goes that your debut single for your own label took more than two years before its release. What was the reason behind this considerably staggered release?
CL: “Black Eyes & Blue” was ready around about the same time as “Message,” but we just weren’t ready to go at it at that point in time. It felt like it needed to develop more. With the way this industry works, you can put something awful out and then never be given the attention again. People have a habit of remembering what they hated first time around… We were lucky with “Message,” but at the same time, once you do something amazingly well, it is immediately harder to repeat.
Given this careful process, talk us through the approach you gave to your latest single, “Falling Like Angels.” Was the process any easier this time given the considerable time and experience you took making its predecessor?
MD: We made “Falling Like Angels” almost a year ago to date, but we spent the 12 months in between tweaking it to perfection and finding a suitable vocalist. At the time, dubstep seemed to be peaking and our thought was that we could do our own take on the genre within the parameters of the emotive sound we were already pursuing. The track was a considerable challenge because the main theme is quite overbearing, so finding a suitable vocal sample was proving impossible.
CL: Eventually we landed upon English vocalist, AJB, and eventually we found a formula that worked without dampening the energy of the instrumental. For me, that journey made it a fun record to make. You learn immediately from your own experiences, and it definitely makes embarking upon the next track seem relatively easy. This was only the second single for our own label, Up North, so once the track was done, we had to make sure we had the whole package sorted. It was a huge run of DIY learning and development, but the finished product was something we could both be exceptionally proud of.
Having very much exploded in a peak of enthusiasm for electronic music, do you perceive the industry to be an inherently positive place for young artists such as yourselves to bloom?
CL: I think this is a positive place if you can keep your integrity and do what you believe. Nowadays, there is a lot of pressure for artists to deliver radio-friendly music and those instant club bangers, which has obviously led to the cynicism and repetition. The fact is that not every track needs to be an outright anthem. There has never been a better time to experiment and discover your own unique approach to the music.
MD: It definitely is, even though we have very much been alone in our journey. There was a big empty milieu in Norway, and as a result there was really no one for us to ask for pointers or guidance. It was simply a case of looking at how our heroes did it and making a real effort to mirror that approach and enthusiasm. Making it has essentially been down to our own approach and then the support of Sony and the amazing DJs that came to us eventually, so I would struggle to criticize the industry, as it has been relatively good to us of late, in spite of the solitary start we had.
With so much positive ground covered to date, what further aspirations do you hold, and is there a wider picture to CLMD that you look to fulfill?
MD: The future is still a big question for us. We want to be as successful as possible but within the parameters that allow us to be true to ourselves. If you can build a career on that, with economic safety, then that is ideal. Everyone wants to be the biggest and the best, but that is far easier to say than it is to act on. To hit #1 status on our own terms would be a dream for us.
CL: Our sound is probably a little more commercial than others in the market, so with the timing and luck we have already had, I think we have a good chance at pulling it off with the right enthusiasm. My belief is good music will always survive in one way or another.