TEARS: Is There More to Life Than Drinking Every Night?

Love, drink, and other much less important topics: alongside a STILES exclusive stream of the new Tears LP, BINGING, BRAGGING, BITCHING, we speak to Jeppe Grønbæk Andersen, the man behind the band you can't wait tell your mates about.

Photo: Luna Lund Jensen

When Jeppe Grønbæk Andersen started Tears back in 2015, it’s hard to imagine that he expected his songs would bring people together in such a way. Though that may not be possible physically right now, the songs of new LP Binging, Bragging, Bitching still possess the unifying effect of Tears’ wonderfully cathartic live performances.

I remember first meeting Jeppe five years ago, over a lagered weekend in Denmark, with rock shows in Copenhagen and his native Aarhus in the North of the country. I did that thing of tracking down the songs I’d heard in an attempt to relive the trip, like watching the highlights of a football match you’ve attended that day. Far from the wailing, guitar frenzy I’d witnessed performed by Tears live as a quartet, I found gentle, bedroom pop versions of the same songs.

Tears at Tape, February 2016 | Maxwell Tait

With such passionate performances, and crowds singing along to most of the words, it felt like Tears had been around forever. Maybe it was my feeling of otherness, maybe it was the genuinely heartwarming community spirit that encompassed these two now infamous shows (lovingly put on by TAPE/Shordwood Records & Lappland), where in Copenhagen so many beers were drunk by the four bands performing that the gig only just broke even. But as was evident in these demos I listened to, for Andersen, Tears was a project in its infancy.

It didn’t matter that in these solo recordings Andersen was singing lullabies, as opposed to the screeched, dying-words of Tears’ initial live shows — the songs still scratched the itch I had. With the common denominator being alcohol, it’s a transition that makes perfect sense. Andersen has always written boozy songs. The difference is, as soon as people start singing along to introspective, sorrowful numbers with catchy hooks and universally-relatable lyrics, naturally, they become barnstorming floor-fillers. It’s a transformation that yields the perfect reflection of the difference between drinking alone and drinking with friends. Everyone is sad sometimes, and that’s why the catharsis of singing about flaws and self-doubt with other people is so important.

Steffen Jørgensen

Andersen has always been whittling Tears into a sharp point, ready to pierce the sweet spot between these different states. They’ve hit that bull with Binging, Bragging, Bitching, a record that assembles songs from this five year period, some of which Tears have been performing and honing this entire time. Now operating as a five piece, it’s the first time their refreshed lineup has recorded together. Stalwarts of the Danish scene are present, with Patrick Kociszewski on guitar (Less Win, Visitor Kane), Anders Ahle on piano (Trader), Lasse Kolding on drums, and Julius Lykke on bass (Modest).

Rock-waltz ‘God, Trouble, Pain’ opens, spinning you onto a sticky ballroom floor and setting the tone of the record with hammered keys and a belting guitar solo. The following number, ‘Maybe It’s Time For A [da-di-da] Dance’, perfectly captures the besotted, lolling of Andersen’s songwriting — wonderful, nonetheless in a perpetual slow-motion tailspin towards the floor.

The album’s debut single ‘When Love Comes Into Question (U Know It Hurts)’, with it’s straight-to-camera music video, is the strut song, a wink to the listener. But the highlight of the record was always going to be ‘Drinking (Maybe There is More to Life)’, a song that live has become Tears’ version of Blur playing ‘Tender’ at Hyde Park. It’s like a Monty Python song with the heart and sincerity of The Pogues, or if British Sea Power had spent less time in the valleys of Cumbria, and more time in dim clouds of fag smoke, flanked by empty bottles (not that they haven’t).

Closing the album is the titular ‘Binging, Bragging, Bitching’. It’s a floating, sombre reflection on the day before, events prior — “I’ve been drinking lately, thinking why you threw it all away”. But pillowed organs don’t give the impression of a hangover, more a eulogy, or the end of a sermon as people slowly file out. Which makes sense: in terms of the day after, Andersen has always been more of a raised-eyebrows, winking and can-cracking kind of man.

I caught up with Jeppe to chat about the record. And, of course, drinking.

Maxwell Tait: Binging, Bragging, Bitching is undoubtedly a boozy record. Are the bars open yet in Aarhus?

Jeppe Grønbæk Andersen: It is? I reckon it could have been a lot worse. The bars haven't been open for months but I don't really mind. I've stopped drinking anyway — I stopped half an hour ago.

MT: The LP sounds fantastic. When did you manage to record it?

JGA: Thank you – I am glad you like it. The album was recorded in early January 2020 and I remember thinking “what a great way to start a new year — being with friends, recording, and drinking to better times and new beginnings!” Little did we know that everything soon was going to change quite radically for the worse.

MT: Tears started out as just yourself with a keyboard, back in 2015. How has it grown since then?

JGA: Different incarnations, different focuses. Nowadays it's a lot less keyboards and drum machines and more of a traditional, organic rock'n'roll situation we've got going. Anyway – I always liked the idea of being able to write and play songs that work in different contexts and outfits independent to instrumentation, arrangement and production.

I mean, it doesn't matter for me if it's played at home on a shitty keyboard, in a pub on an acoustic guitar or at a regular venue in a classic rock'n'roll frenzy at one hundred thousand decibels. That is what I like about Tears – it's all about moods and melodies.

Maxwell Tait

MT: The band have become synonymous with their raucous, cathartic live shows, and Tears have been playing some of these songs live for at least a few years now. Has that had any affect on the songs?

JGA: Sure – playing some of the songs live for a long period of time, always being a bit too drunk and distanced from the reality of the songs, made me want to slow things down a bit for the album. It had been a ‘rough’ couple of years prior to recording, from the first song written to the last, and I felt like respecting and acknowledging that, the process, in order to move on and get a hold of myself.

MT: At its heart, Tears for me is about songs you can sing along to with other people. Do you think that this unifying quality is a valuable attribute for music to have?

JGA: Of course – I always enjoy a good old-fashioned singalong myself. There is something to it – a certain feeling of unspoken common ground and mutual understanding that I find extremely appealing. I understand you – you understand me.

Catchiness, the premise of most singalongs, is a huge part of Tears, and the banality of the popular-music-scheme is quite obviously present in the melodies and refrains as a method for unification – nothing crazy is going on there... I like the idea of Tears being accessible and relatable as that’s how I like to see myself. I'm not a far fetched ‘poet’ with my head stuck in my ass, you know?

MT: Speaking of concerts, you’ve played a lot of memorable ones. Do any performances in particular stand out?

JGA: I don't know. I like to think of every show as being memorable in one way or another – either for being really good or really bad. It all makes sense in the end. I really enjoy shows at pubs and smaller venues as it more often seems to inspire singalongs, casual conversation and friendships. TAPE was always a great deal of fun, I guess ...

Steffen Jørgensen

MT: The last year has been painful for a lot of reasons, but the closure of TAPE, Aarhus’ best venue, hits quite hard. What part do venues like TAPE play in giving you and others a platform for their music?

JGA: Everything comes with an ending, I guess. TAPE definitely made everything easier for everybody involved in music in Aarhus as they presented a streamlined and fully curated underground experience for only a few bucks – you didn't even have to think for yourself!

I understand that people are sad that TAPE is closed now, but people tend to forget that there was a reality before Tape with great shows at various other venues – it's all going to be fine. Anyway – TAPE lent us money to finish the album and have always been really supportive. Great guys — thank you!

MT: It’s been just over five years since we met, and I remember our first conversation at the TAPE bar was about singing in different languages. Have you thought about writing a song in Danish since then?

JGA: Not really – at least not in Tears. I think singing in Danish would defy the entire purpose of the band being accessible and unifying as some people would be left out in the cold, you know? But next time we meet I would like to hear you singing along to “Maybe There Is More To Life” in Danish! Cheers.

Binging, Bragging, Bitching is available to stream exclusively on STILES Magazine in the section above. The LP is released on Friday 12th March through Part Time Records, and is available to order via Bandcamp and Rough Trade.