Nelly’s Crush are a group that occupy that indefinitely modulating dimension between the stage and the dance floor. A collective, of sorts, they’ve only existed for a short period of time, but in that time they’ve managed to establish something unique and captivating as a live band and as a recording act. They’ve received a lot of attention from here and abroad for their beguiling sound that combines dance-informed beats, spacey synths and sensual vocal hooks. When asked about their popularity, Sven Waagan from the group hopes it’s because “we play live electronic music in a live context” while Nelly Hansen, one of the other founding members believes it’s because the “melodies are catchy.”
Thus far their single “Get Off” is the only piece of music that has made it into the public’s consciousness, introducing us to the electro-pop-modern-soul sound of a group that very much consider themselves a live act. That single, which featured on P3s’ Urørt, got a lot of praise from American blogs too, while at home their shows were met with a great reception each and every time. “All our shows have exceeded expectations”; says Sven with many people in the audiences singing along to songs they haven’t even released yet.
Their concert at Jæger will also be something of a make-up show for those that weren’t able to get into their gig at Klubbøya a few months back, and while we now know what their name is about – “she’s Nelly and we’re the Crush”; says Karoline Garfjell (and not the Google result involving the rapper Nelly and Beyoncé) – most of who this new band are, is still something of a mystery.
So on a frost-bitten evening in Jæger’s offices, over a cup of Kaman’s reduced-price, watered-down coffee, we sit down with Nelly, Karoline and Sven to talk about their upcoming debut LP, their visual showcase and why Tor’s Crush would not have been as an intriguing prospect…
Are you the core members then?
Sven: We are 6 core members. Tor, Are and Simen as well.
But you label yourselves as a collective. So I imagine you have some floating members?
S: Yes. We don’t have a regular drummer. We bring in other musicians and that can vary from show to show. We also have a sax player, who will be here on this upcoming show. We have to fly him in from Trondheim.
Is that where you are all originally from?
Karoline: None of us.
S: We’re spread all over the country. It came together in Oslo though.
What are the origins of the group?
S: We had a band before this called Thor.
Nelly: And then we changed some members and changed the name.
S: … and changed direction.
N: … and became Nelly’s Crush.
Not Thor’s crush
S: Thor’s Crush (laughs). Sounds like a goth, new romantics type of music.
K: Nelly’s Crush is more catchy.
So it started with Nelly (Hansen)?
S: It started when we met her and found out we all had a passion for soul and disco.
So, would you describe yourselves as a soul disco funk group?
S: There’s a lot of variety in our songs, but most people haven’t heard our songs yet. It’s somewhere between disco soul funk and pop. The main part is that we want to make music that you can dance to.
But I imagine that it has quite a live feel to it where even the electronic elements are played in and not sequenced?
K: It’s synth based. We are inspired by the disco of the seventies, and synth pop in the eighties.
S: We have elements from disco-soul, like the guitar, but then there are also melodies from the popish nineties which we love as well.
K: We take in everything we like.
What sort of influences are you talking about here.
S: And early Madonna stuff. We have some songs that might remind people of her that have yet to come out.
K: There is also one other influence, Whitney Houston.
Whitney Houston, Madonna and Prince.
S: The classics.
I heard you guys talking about layers while I was making coffee.
K: We’re inspired by ABBA, so every song has layers and layers of vocals.
And who does vocals.
K: Me and Tor.
N: (pointing to Sven) And you.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new single Undertow, which is set for release this week?
S: It’s like a mixture of Portishead and Röyksopp and it’s our only ballad. The verse is a bit claustrophobic and unnerving, but then the chorus opens up into this big, dreamy thing. It’s really slow, but in the show we’re going to have a bass-line to make it more dancy.
Ok, so the live show is often different from the recorded format?
S: It’s less polished, more raw. We can vary it from concert to concert.
Do you have fixed roles on stage or does that also move around like on the record?
S: We have the four fronting members, but we’ll be eight people on stage for this show. It’s me, the girls and Tor at the front, because we sing it’s kind of natural.
Let’s get to the debut album. Do you have a name for it yet?
S: There’s a song on the record called Sellout Youth, which we thought would be cool as the name for the album, although we haven’t settled for it yet! It’s a sort of ironic catchphrase as the lyrics are about how some kids always seem to ride the right waves and gain popularity, and so on can seem like they’re selling out, but then again they’re not trying to, are they? But we are always pretty shameless about making sure music is properly pop so we’re probably the ones selling out. We’re the sellout youth.
There’s an obvious visual component to your work too, and it’s going to be part of your live show here.
S: We’ve never played with proper lights before. We’re a new band as Nelly’s Crush.
N: We want to be a visual band.
K: We want people to have fun when they’re looking at us too.
N: And not to just stand there and watch us but to get in that dancing mood.
S: We play dancing music and you need lights for that.
There are also some images, I believe?
S: Yes and they are cued to the music.
What inspires you visually?
S: Those old pre-VHS videos of old disco and funk bands always gets us. You’d be hard pressed to find that kind of energy even after postproduction in modern flicks. Just straight-from-the-heart dancing pleasure. Incredible.
And the clothing and visual design in the movie “Hackers” also deserves a mention. It’s so totally off-beat and far from reality, yet I love it. It’s bad taste gone great.
So what instruments will be on stage on the night?
S: We have guitar, bass, drums, three synths, a trombone and sax.
N: And I play the flute.
The flute is an interesting addition. It’s not something that’s too common in a band today.
N: Yeah. Everybody’s always like: ‘is that like Jethro Tull?’ No it’s not at all like that. (laughs)
S: We use the flute on all of the songs.
What sort of role does it play?
N: It depends. There are some harmonies, some leads and some melodies.
S: We have a lot of melodies in our songs.
N: It’s a new combination, and something you don’t get to see that often in a pop band.
It’s very unique indeed.
N: And with the combination of synths, sax and and trombone, we’re something of a pop-orchestra.
A pop orchestra I think is a perfect description of Nelly’s Crush and a great place to end our conversation. Anything that you want to add?
N: Just that we’re looking forward to the show.
K: Hit us up on Instagram and Spotify!