The Deadnotes: Tackling Beauty Standards [Interview]

Interview by Sarah Williams.

The Deadnotes are an exciting indie-punk four piece from Frieburg, Germany. They joined us in the UK in February, including shows in London, Glasgow and Brighton.

Now in their early 20’s, The Deadnotes have been playing together since they were 14, and they’re due to hit their 500th live show this year. After working hard, they caught our eye with their latest single Make Up, which delivers a hard-hitting message about beauty standards. They’ve released it via their own label, 22Lives Records.

We spoke to vocalist/guitarist Darius Lohmüller to learn more about this fresh band.

Welcome to Shout Louder, guys! How would you sum up The Deadnotes for someone who’s just discovering you?

Someone just sent me a message today describing our style as ‘courageous music for weirdos’ – this is really something I can relate to! I’d say we are a groovy/poppy indie-punk band trying to write songs as genuine and straight from the heart as possible. We write angry songs when we want to and we write bloody cheesy songs when want to.

I enjoyed your latest single Make Up. The song and the video talk about how the beauty standards we uphold have had a negative impact. What’s the message you’re trying to convey?

I think the main message we are trying to convey is pretty simple, and I hope a song like this can encourage the right people to take more care of each other and open their minds: ‘You are beautiful just like the way you are’. The song is definitely a socio-critical song and tackles modern and current beauty ideals. I think the issue itself has been discussed quite often already and is nothing new, but most of the time only relates to the outer appearance of people. However I think that the resulting mental struggles people have to deal with has not been talked about enough already.

A main focus was the bitter conflict too many people have: being insecure and not accepting oneself, whereas your brain is rationally well aware of how irrelevant other peoples opinion or judgement is regarding the way you look, think or act.

It really kills me to see so many people, even with my peers or close friends, who get lost in self hate, hurting themselves psychologically and physically. Unfortunately this sometimes is an even bigger issue in the punk rock scene that usually calls itself open minded and tolerant.

As a group of guys, how do you feel those social standards have affected you?

That‘s a really good question and quite hard to answer, but I will try. I think the influence of social standards are not something you notice immediately but rather something that’s always been there and something that leads your way of life even if you try to not care about it at all. Weather it’s to define a strict gender, or feel the need to attribute yourself to it or it’s feeling like shit because you think you don’t meet other social standards and you can’t quite handle it.

Do you think it’s had an equally detrimental on women, or moreso?

Unfortunately it’s had an even stronger impact on women and especially trans and non-binary people, if you consider the recent waves of actors or male band members being called out for their abusive behaviour towards women, physically and mentally. Too many victims are still convinced that it was their fault, afraid to speak out about what actually happened.

I think it’s long overdue that things finally change here. I’m really tired of judging people by their looks, clothes, gender or how they love. There’s still so much to do and a long way to go when you look at e.g. festival line-ups in Europe and the strong presence of ‘straight white male’ dudes. I know that’s always easy to say but I‘d love to see more women, trans and non-binary people playing in bands. I mean, we’re playing festivals and I’m well aware we are part of this problem, too. If it’ll help to miss out on some festivals to leave more open slots, we will be happy to do that. I hope we can get into more interaction with people and talk about these issues even more often than we did in the past.

Make Up is quite a personal topic for me – I tend not to wear any but I’ve been considering it more recently. Although this is a stand out track, have you tried to convey important messages in your other songs as well?

To quote the guys in Antillectual from the Netherlands, ‘Critical times call for critical music’. We are far away from being a political band but I feel a deep need to address problems more and more in a time where many people struggle and suffer under conservative politics, conservative thinking, social developments and their social environment. Our first record was a very emotional and personal one. Nothing really changed in our core content since then and the music and lyrics are still based on emotions, and based on personal experiences and intimate thoughts, and at the same time I currently feel that it’s important for me to set a wider focus and try to face and reflect on what’s going on around me more often, so I think I will also write more about it in the future.

You’ve been playing together since you were 14! In what ways do you think you’ve learned and grown in that time?

When we started the band in 2011 I would never have thought that we would have played almost 500 shows in I think almost 25 countries only 8 years later. We’ve known each other for a very long time now and even when we get super mad at each other or seriously piss each other off, everything is usually fine again after only 10 minutes. We’ve shared tons of super crazy, intense and really tough moments together and most of all I believe we have all learned to stay positive and always make the best out of a tricky situation.

We bought a new van for this current tour and after not even 200km the van broke down on our way to London and got diagnosed as a write-off two days later. We lost shit loads of money because of this, ended up driving to the UK for almost 40 hours straight with a rental van we arranged at very short notice. The best thing about it? Not even a single person, including our crew, complained.

As a relatively young band, do you feel there’s a lot of pressure on you to succeed now?

I feel like our band is doing better and better with every step forward we are taking at the moment, which is absolutely crazy. At the same time it is getting harder and harder to even keep on working part time. I can‘t deny that it can sometimes get quite tough financially, it‘s not always easy finding a good balance between our private lives and being in a band. What we are doing now is exactly what we want to do and I never want to get to a point where I lose my passion and think I need to succeed in any way. We’re not here to prove anything. I never want to get to a point where I play music only to meet any expectations so I try my best to always keep them low.

What bands kick-started your interest in music when you were teenagers?

One of the first CDs I ever had was Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, and it’s still one of my favourite records ever. There’s even a video of Yannic and me jamming along to this track in elementary school using badminton rackets as fake guitars! You can actually see clips from back then in our music video to Cling To You.

Are there any new releases that you’re excited by?

There are always way too many releases to be hyped about. Our Münster, Germany, based friends in Shoreline are currently working on their first full-length. I just listened to the first mix of one of the tracks and I was blown away. Really stoked for the new Bad Suns record too. Damn, I love their tunes.

You’re based in Freiburg, Germany. How would you describe the local music scene? Do you think your location has affected your style of music?

It definitely has. Freiburg is a rather small town in Southern Germany but a couple of years ago the punk scene was flourishing. We used to put on tons of DIY shows and we still do. Bands from all over the world played in our rehearsal room in my mum’s house where we put on crazy basement shows. Thanks mum!

Unfortunately many people including my band mates moved away and it‘s not easy to keep live music venues alive and running. I think our hometown affected our music in the way that we always tried to be a bit different than everything that is popular here which is mostly Funk/Indie-Pop/Folk and Balkan. Our friends in Casually Dressed were one of the first Punk bands from Freiburg that started touring Europe regularly which was really impressive back then. We were still 17 years old at this time. We were super naive but thought: ‘if they can do it, then we can do it too’, and a few months later we toured the UK for the first time.

What are your ambitions for The Deadnotes in the future?

I always have a hard time with these question. We are currently playing our biggest and longest headline tour to date. We‘ll be doing songwriting in Austria right after that and will be back in the studio for another two weeks then. We have loads of festivals coming up in summer and a whole lot of further touring later this year and yes, some new stuff is waiting to be released, too, maybe our second album?! More on this soon, so stay on it. Trying to stay busy in the best and worst ways possible. Rock ‘n’ roll forever.

The Deadnotes UK Tour.jpg

Interview by Sarah Williams.

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