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Dancing, not rowing: An interview with Silkken Laumann

By Apartment613 on May 27, 2011

Photo courtesy blurasis on Flickr

Post by Lidija Rozitis

There are few pop bands in Ottawa that can simultaneously channel both a rower and dance party. But Silkken Laumann – the band, not the athlete – does just that. Silkken Laumann is a brand new three-piece electro-dance project in the city, featuring members of The Acorn and solo artist Adam Saikaley. Despite their brief existence, they’re quickly expanding their repertoire and performance schedule, and they promise their groovy music will actually have you inventing dance moves.

A few days ago, on a porch and under the glow of a disco light, I had the chance to catch up with the band. We had an informal discussion about “micro-tours,” unreal venues, and the importance of having a dance band in Ottawa. Click through the full interview, and if you want more, be sure to catch their two upcoming performances this weekend.

Photo courtesy blurasis on Flickr

Apt613: I’m here with Silkken Laumann, otherwise known as Rolf Klausener [vocals and bass], Adam Saikaley [synth and keys], and Pat Johnson [drums]. The first question is probably the most obvious: why are you guys called Silkken Laumann?

RK: Pat and I came up with the name. Originally we were going to be called Ben Johnson, but then Pat felt that was too similar to his own name. I think Silkken Laumann was channeling us, or we were channeling her, but it seemed to come out of the ether. I think the name birthed the music.

Apt613: I was going to ask why you all created this new project, but you just answered that for me. So the name caused the creation of this group?

RK: Yeah. Well, did Superman have a choice? It’s the same thing. If Silkenn Laumann did not contact us through the ether….

PJ: Then we wouldn’t be here talking.

RK: Exactly. We didn’t really have much say in the matter.

Apt613: I feel that all of your past musical experiences are quite different from this new project, with perhaps the exception of Adam. How did this sound emerge from the combination of a folk background and Adam’s electro background?

AS: I’m pretty much still just playing drones. The thing is that I’m just arpeggiating the drones now so that it sounds more melodic, rhythmic and musical. But I’m still trying to create a lot of sound – I’m trying to create something people can swim in.

RK: I can only speak to my own experience, but I was listening to and making dance music and dancing in dance bands before I even played guitar. So, for me, this feels a bit like coming home to the kind of music I was listening to before I started playing guitar.

PJ: For a lot my [previous] tours, a lot of the stuff I’d listen to when I put on earphones would be dance music. I got into dance music a while ago; when LCD Soundsystem first came out, they were huge for me. I was into a lot of punk and hardcore at the time, but when I heard [LCD Soundsystem’s] first single, I thought it was really fun.

Apt613: Your current lineup of three dudes: is that permanent?

RK: As with any life span of a band, who knows what will happen. It started with just Pat and I, but then we got Adam to come along. What Adam’s added has made it impossible to go back [to a two-piece].

Apt613: I find it somewhat difficult to find your music online. Is that because I’m not very tech savvy?

RK: We haven’t put up any music anywhere.

Apt613: Why is that?

RK: Um….just waiting. Just waiting.

AS: We’re actually going to do some recordings in a couple of days.

Apt613: So then for people who haven’t heard your music or can’t find it online, why should people go to your show on Friday?

AS: To dance.

RK: To dance or not to dance? That’s the question.

AS: Why do people even go to live shows?

RK: Yeah, really. Why do people even go to live shows, Lidija? Why do you go to live shows?

Apt613: To dance!

PJ: There you go.

Photo courtesy blurasis on Flickr

Apt613: So what’s Silkken Laumann’s summer plans? You guys are making an album [called Not Forever Enough] – will you go on tour?

RK: That would be awesome. It would be amazing to keep this as a three-piece and tour really simply. Like just do the tour in a car or something.

AS: We were talking about doing a localized tour, like Kemptville, Stittsville, Blackburn…

RK: And then maybe even an intra-Ottawa tour, [at venues such as] Irene’s, Capital, your house…

AS: Micro-touring.

Apt613: Silkken Laumann does micro-touring? You guys should get 20 shows in Ottawa and just make that your summer tour.

AS: Yeah, we’ll play Nepean. Take the 97 bus to the show.

Apt613: Or full out bring sleeping bags and a touring van.

RK: We won’t come home. We’ll play 11 minutes from our house and sleep in the car.

Apt613: I guess it’s time for a little more of a deeper question now. What sort of presence do you wish for Silkken Laumann to occupy within the Ottawa music scene or community?

AS: I’ve always been haunted by the idea of difference. I always try to do something that’s different or not specifically happening.

RK: I know there are people writing and producing electronic or dance-based music [in Ottawa], but I don’t see a lot of live bands doing that. And I’m also haunted by difference. I think there’s definitely a predominant genre in town, or a few predominant genres, which seem to hold the majority of musicians; it’s kind of fun to bring forward something different. And all those people we see going to rock and punk shows in town you also see at awesome dance nights at Babylon. So I think there’s certainly a sense that people want to dance.

AS: And it’s wonderful what endorphins do to you.

Apt613: Are there any non-conventional spaces in Ottawa you’d want to play?

AS: I would love to play the top floor of the old jail that’s now the hostel because it’s haunted. The thing is, I’m terrified of ghosts myself so I’d need someone to stand behind me. But that’s always been a dream of mine [to play there].

PJ: I’d love to play in any abandoned place, really. A place that has stories. Old wooden-type places, with high ceilings.

RK: There’s this island, I think it’s called Bruce Island, off of the Cartier Bridge – this island would be the BEST spot for a music festival. The lawsuits would be crazy if anyone fell into the river and died, but it would still be the best place. And Gatineau Park. Or Vincent Massey Park.

Apt613: Any last words?

AS: If I can do an ode on the camera, I just want to say I feel very privileged to play with these guys.

RK: Yeah, I feel similarly. I mean, Pat is just an insane, intuitive, and really unusual drummer and it’s really cool to hear his ideas come out. It’s amazing how spontaneous this whole thing has come about. I can see this becoming progressively more insane.

AS: Perfect nonsense.

PJ: People will be inventing dance moves.

Silkken Laumann is playing both tonight at Ritual with Trust and Austra and then again on Sunday in Minto Park for the Ravenswing DIY Fair.

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