Rock the House
WhoMadeWho rocks, but that doesn't mean you can't dance.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 06.24.10
“We call it German foot,” explains Jeppe Kjellberg, songwriter and guitarist for Copenhagen indie dance trio WhoMadeWho. “In the German scene, they have all these different styles of techno and electro, and the main thing is the foot. You have it under every four notes of the bar, like thmp thmp thmp thmp.”
In 2003, Kjellberg and drummer Tomas Barfod, a longtime friend and bandmate from various other projects, formed WhoMadeWho to give their rock background that German foot, translating the sound for dance clubs. “Barfod, when you translate it, it’s barefoot,” Kjellberg says of his drummer’s last name. “Naturally, he’s also got a very German foot. He feels so comfortable putting those four notes down on the bass drum.”
WhoMadeWho, its name lifted from an AC/DC song, has been an overnight success in Europe. “The whole idea was that we could stand in the middle of a club and just jam and improvise instrumental music, reacting to the crowd with our music and communicating like a DJ.” In the early aughties, that was still a fresh concept. Dance-rock bands like LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip were just emerging, and the formula hadn’t yet crossed into the U.S. rock-music sphere. It would be a few years before MGMT and Passion Pit won acclaim.
Despite its popularity overseas, WhoMadeWho is only now gaining steam stateside. If not for the band’s much-talked-about South by Southwest set this year, it wouldn’t be embarking on its current U.S. tour.
Speaking from his backyard patio in Copenhagen, as birds chirp in the background, the mustachioed 34-year-old tells us about studying music at the Danish Rhythmic Conservatory, also in Copenhagen. While there, he met the band’s vocalist and bass player, Tomas Hoefding. “I played with him in different groups and enjoyed his extremely skillful disco bass playing and his voice. So when [Barfod and I] needed a bass player, it was very natural for me to call him.”