In our Spring 2020 Issue we launched a new music feature, Emerging. If you’ve been wondering what to listen to lately or perused Spotify and social media searching for the next emerging band that would restore your faith in The State of Music, this new feature is for you. We checked in with a few of the bands we think have a unique voice in the musical landscape to inspire a new generation of concert-goers and record-buyers alike. Our first lineup includes Totenwald, The Wraith, OVER, and Rotten UK. In this Auxiliary Online Content you’ll find more background and photos on each band starting with Totenwald.
Trish : Lead Vocals
Ruby : Saxophone, Backing Vocals
Rob : Guitars
Sergej : Bass
Forming in 2014, Berlin-based Totenwald play dark punk with a shot of saturated color and an onstage presence that harkens back to a different era of the underground scene.
In April of this year, Totenwald released an EP Forward to the Past with four new tracks. The EP is streaming in all the usual haunts online but if you are in Germany the vinyl can be found at Plastic Bomb. The band recently announced via Instagram that a limited edition pink vinyl version of the EP would be released with details to be confirmed soon.
It’s easy to make visual connections between performers but they tend to be fraught with dissonance between how two performers look versus what they actually sound like. In one case, a fair comparison can be made between this band and Rubella Ballet for both being female-fronted and channeling upbeat, even joyful energy into their sound with peace punk at the heart of the anarchist punk genre they are understandably placed into. It’s bands like Rubella Ballet and Crass among many others that helped break the barrier of women in punk having a voice and being respected as equally powerful to the male voices in the scene. For their part, vocalist Trish and saxophonist Ruby do a great job representing this energy today in Totenwald.
We interviewed Totenwald for our Spring 2020 Issue and they provided some background on the band.
When did the band get started and what was the original intention of the band?
Totenwald : The band was founded in the beginning of 2014 by Sergej, Trish, and our former guitarist, so in the beginning it was just guitar, bass and vocals. The intention was to play a mix between punk rock, post-punk and goth, but to make it dancey and giving it the little extra, we decided to use a drum machine. In 2016, Ruby joined and added saxophone notes and backing vocals to the songs and in 2018 Robert became our new guitarist.
Tell us more about your name. How does it communicate the sound or vibe of the band?
T : “Totenwald” is German but it does not exist as a real word. It is a made-up word that means something between “dead forest” or “forest of the dead”. As it is really difficult to find a name in English which is not in use already we just translated two words from the chorus of a song in Russian language that Sergej had in mind into German and it sounded cool. Totenwald… we also thought it would fit to have “tot”, so “dead”, in the name because it’s dark. Another inspiration was that Sergej at that moment was interested in the Tunguska meteorite explosion in 1908 which left behind hundreds of kilometers of dead trees. As morbid and goth as it sounds, it does not really reflect the “vibe” of the band; we don’t play gothic rock nor death metal and our sound and aesthetics have something glamorous and sometimes even joyful, so the name doesn’t have to be taken too seriously.
How would you describe your music to someone who has not yet checked you out?
T : We all hang around the punk scene as well as in the gothic scene and our music is a mix between both, but in an unconventional way. We’re often told it’s difficult to put a label on it but here’s some examples of how other people were describing us: Joy Division on speed, children of Nina Hagen and Bérurier Noir or a mix between Neue Deutsche Welle, X-Ray Spex, and Crass. We describe our style as punk inspired by 80s new wave with drum machine and saxophone.
Read more of this interview in the Spring 2020 Issue.
A great introduction to Totenwald is their only official video for “Shadows in Paradise” from Dirty Squats & Disco Lights which was directed by fellow Berliner musician/audiovisual artist Sally Dige Jorgensen in 2017.
Going back a bit further in their catalogue, the track “Sex Sells” from the 2016 EP Wrong Place Wrong Time is a great example of the band’s approach to topics encompassing media, sex-positive ideology, and feminism.
Lastly, it is important to include live footage of Totenwald here to see the power and energy they have onstage. The song “Terror Age” contains lyrics that speak to our modern geopolitical conflicts and the impact that has for each of us individually. The lyrics parallel a different era and certainly point back to Berlin during the Cold War.
It’s not as far away as it was before
You’re not safe here anymore
Jihad’s knocking on your door
In global world there’s global war
Ten minutes to midnight, another day passed
but the fuse is on fire and soon it will blow
There’s war in Syria, there’s war in Ukraine
Looks like the whole world is going insane!
– Excerpt of “Terror Age” lyrics from Dirty Squats & Disco Lights (2018)
“Terror Age” live at Kill Your Idols Festival 2017 at Tommyhaus.