Pop Goes Helsinki: Interview w/ Finnish Sister-Act LCMDF

01 July 2015 by

If you so happened to live out your teenagerdom in the mid-noughties, you’ll have probably skirted, if not moshed head first into, the vibrant world of indie-cum-electro pop music. Back in that not so distant epoch, when Topshop started flogging skinny jeans in all the colours of the rainbow and EMA was a weekly endowment to be blown on gig-tickets and underage drinking, is where you’ll find the origins of LCMDF, the online-trending and genre-bending Finnish sister act comprised of Emma and Mia Kemppainen.

Formerly known under the tongue-twisting guise, Le Corps Mince de Françoise, the band rocked onto the scene in 2006, initially as a trio, dishing up a heady concoction of ultra-ironic lyricism, bolshie percussion and effervescent synth hooks to the Myspace generation. After some internal restructuring and a switch to the more digestible abbreviation, LCMDF, the siblings released their debut album Love & Nature as a twosome in 2011. The record, co-produced with UK beat-maker Switch, was rated across the board for repackaging a smorgasbord of 90s sounds into a format primed for the pop-hungry 21st century. A year later, the girls put out their two-part Mental Health EP series, showcasing their satirical rudiments on grooves such as the post-shoegaze number ‘I Go Insane’ and the chant inducing ‘Douchebag’.

Following a two year spell without dropping any new material, the Fins have returned with a fresh single, ‘Fooled’, which arrived on Helsinki’s Cocoa Music this April. Cut with a distinctly Scandinavian vibe, sprayed with snapping trap-style drums and buoyed by a reverberating horn arrangement, the tune is a brilliant pastiche that buzzes from beginning to end. Echoing chart-esque sentiments and a more mature approach, the track is also the first the ladies fashioned entirely by themselves. With work already underway on a much anticipated album, FMS caught up with Emma and Mia to get the lowdown on their journey, Finland’s blossoming music scene and a few bits in-between. Mahtava.

Before you shortened the band’s name to LCMDF you were known as Le Corps Mince De Francoise, which translates to ‘Françoise’s slim body’. What’s the story behind the name?

Emma: It’s quite a long story. We were just kids when we started out, I was 17 and Mia was 15. I got really into French language and I went to Brussels to take some lessons. On the course I had to pick a French name, so I chose Françoise, I don’t know why as it’s a super old lady name but it became my French alter-ego. It was also around about the time I got into thinking about irony and sarcasm, which is the base of our band and our lyrics. So then I thought “what are my two goals in life” as a 17 year old, in a self ironic manner – one was to be really skinny, and the other would be to be French. So the band name was a comment on that idea and that’s why we came up with the ‘skinny body of Françoise’.

You’ve been in the game since you were teenagers, what got you both into making music?

Emma: It was sort of a mistake in a sense. I was going through a phase, doing singer-songwriter stuff, and there were some dudes I thought were hot. I wondered “what’s the best way to connect with these dudes,” so I just uploaded a track with some garage-band drums on it, which soon became electropop. A festival picked up the track, the next thing we were playing there, which was followed by interest from a label; it just went on, like a snowball effect.

Which festival was that?

Mia: You know, I don’t even remember! We were both playing guitar, then one thing just started happening after another. Labels started coming in saying we were cool, things went crazy on the internet. Pretty quickly afterwards we began playing gigs, got on French TV and started a European tour. I guess we were one of the first examples of an internet band in Finland and of how fast things can happen, not over night, but in a few weeks.

Emma: But I feel like making music is a thing that we’d have done anyway. And also, I guess a lot of musicians start out their career so they can impress members of the opposite sex. One of our early tunes was actually called ‘I’m Only In It For The Hot Dudes’ – there was a lot of self irony in that though!

What’s the scene like in Helsinki?                              

Emma: It’s actually growing right now. At the moment I’m hosting a weekly radio show where you can send in demos that we comment on. It’s shown that a lot of young people in the country have a completely different view on music and how you should do it, visually especially, which is fantastic. More artists seem to be doing well too, Noah Kin is really amazing, he’s got such a raw talent.

Mia: Also, Mirel Wagner was recently on Later with Jools Holland, the first Finnish act doing that. Funnily, no one in Finland noticed, I was like “hello, everybody, Finnish music history here,” it’s kind of a big thing!

Emma: It’s cool to see a lot of these new artists picking up stuff all the time. There’s massive potential, although I sense there could still be so much more. I think in five years though things are going take off, with a new generation of musicians who’ll probably be ready to take on something new.

Since 2006 you’ve racked up an incredible tally of shows, ranging from festival slots to support acts. What’s been your favourite gig so far and who’s been the best artist to play alongside?

Mia: Two Door Cinema Club, they’re really nice, super cool guys. We played a lot of shows with them before they got so big.

Emma: When there used to be three of us in the band we were doing the NME Awards tour supporting The Wombats, alongside Two Door Cinema Club. None of us were known at that point, so we had to share a shitty kitchen at the shows, whilst The Wombats got an amazing backstage area. We were just sitting there, three teenage girls and three teenage boys who didn’t really like each other at all. But we had to hang out and bit by bit we shared a beer and had some awkward teenage moments. Some years after that we were playing at the same festival together and got really drunk and joked about how we’d both done so well, that was awesome. Also, Crystal Fighters have been our friends from the very begging, we’ve actually made some music together that never got released.

Mia: Whenever they come to Finland they’ve invited us to play on stage with them. We played on the closing track of their last sold out show with wooden sticks. The song had quite a percussive build up so we couldn’t really hear a thing. It felt more like sabotage as they were really focused!

Emma: In terms of shows, I can’t pick a favourite one. Getting a great crowd connection is the thing. Even when we play smaller shows there’s always at least one or two fans who know the lyrics and those are the people we’re playing for. Of course it’s nice to get new people into our music, though I feel the coolest thing is knowing there’s some person actually listening to the songs and it’s an anthem for them.

You’ve got a substantial fan base across Europe, especially at home, in Britain and France as well. Where would you say your support is the strongest and why?

Mia: I think in France, that’s where it started. Although Finland then woke up like “huh, what’s going on,” France really had the first base of true fans that made the whole thing happen. Spain and the UK followed a bit later.

Emma: I feel like our fan base is quite scattered because we’re such an online band. If I could buy a ticket for everybody who’s an LCMDF fan and bring them to one arena that would be amazing, that’s not going to happen yet though, so we just have to keep making records until it does! It’s all over the place, we’ve got fans in the US, in Japan, Europe.

Mia: Japan was quite surprising, we just arrived there with no idea and there were loads of people wanting to hear us.

Emma: I also think we appeal to younger people who are a little bit different too. We’re proper misfits so I think we attract fans that’re a little bit like us.

Has your approach to production changed at all from when you put out your Mental Health EP series?

Mia: Mental Health was guitar driven, and now we’ve taken a step back into more organic and electronic sounds. A lot of people liked those EP’s but I think we needed to stop and reflect on our productions rather than having a crazy band-based approach.

Emma: This is the first time that we’ve taken a gig break, before we were just playing non-stop and releasing stuff all the time. Having that two years pause in the studio has put us in a place where we’re ready to launch our new material. It’s been interesting as we’ve been able to look back at what we were thinking at certain times, and although I’m not saying its better, what we’re making now is artistically crisper as we’ve been able to sit down and work on the concept and figure out how we want it to look and sound. We’ve also been getting back to our electronic and pop roots.

Let’s talk about your latest single ‘Fooled’. The track is pretty standalone in contrast to your earlier material and has a distinctly poppy flavour to it. Does this mark the start of something new, maybe a fresh record?

Mia: It’s really distinctive and you can definitely hear our sound on the tune. We somehow thought that it’s different but it’s still a bridge to our older songs, the honesty that we put in is still there. We produced and wrote it together so that reflects on it too.

Emma: It’s poppy but I feel that we’re also poppy too. You can hear a resemblance between fooled and our 2008 tune ‘Something Golden’, especially how it represents the more emotional side of our band. Although it’s also a bit chopped-up and quirky with its pitched vocals and ironic trance synthesisers, it’s a little bit of a different groove that’s kind of a pick and mix of musical genres that we like at the moment.

This is the first single that you’ve produced alone. Was it good to have that freedom and did it make the creative process a lot easier?

Emma: Yeah, so we had three or four different producers working on it, and then we felt like “Nah” this is how it’s got to be. We’d been working with so many different people and it’s quite difficult trying to explain to another person how you want it to sound, when you could just do it by yourself.

Mia: I was just going to tell a story then you said “Nah” and that kind of summed it up! We’ve been doing this for so long, we’ve already learnt how to use all the software and we’re technically pretty good, so we thought “why aren’t we just doing this by ourselves?” It’s not that hard, producing is actually more about taste and putting the right sounds together.

Musically speaking, Scandinavia’s renowned for producing quite a unique brand of electropop. Is this something that’s influenced your style?

Emma: Yeah definitely, I think that our band wouldn’t be what it is if acts like Robyn didn’t exist for example. A lot of the most innovative productions come from Sweden, they’re just way ahead with their musical thinking. We’re also really influenced by the whole electro-clash movement, bands like CSS and Peaches – our sound is like a mash-up of that tradition and the Scandinavian pop thing too.

What do you get up to when you’re not in the studio or posing for intimidating photo shoots?

Mia: Working, we’re like small workaholics! Trying to Zen as much as we can but there’s no time. I do loads of co-writing and I’m in the studio a lot. Everything makes sense when I’m in the studio, so I like to be there. It’s actually kind of relaxing even if it needs a lot of brain power most of the time. Probably as relaxing as a sauna!

Emma: Being in a band and having an active release takes up a lot of time. I keep myself very busy, although if I try to relax I do some cooking, that’s a boring answer but it’s a good way to chill. But I reckon we’re going to have to lock ourselves up in the studio and get the record done. We’ve also built up a whole load of other stuff outside the band so juggling that is hectic too.

Finally, Kirka, HIM or Jenni Vartiainen?

Mia: HIM definitely, they have good songs!

Emma: HIM is a cool band, they also have a super concept, with the whole Heartagram. They’re massive, their song writing is excellent. I used to be a huge fan when I was a kid. You can see that the band members are really into the concept, they managed to keep that idea solid, that’s probably why they’re so successful.

LCMDF’s brand new single ‘Procrastination 365’ is out soon.

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Words: Alex Rennie

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