Mars & Holly
– Danish Synth Pop or just two chocolate bars
Mars & Holly combine the masculine with the feminine and a planet with a plant – at the same time Mars & Holly are just two chocolate bars. The band consists of singer/pianist Amy Horn and drummer/producer Mikkel Bech-Hansen (former member of the danish rock band The Minds of 99).
The chocolate mass tastes like the 80s, now and the future. The list of ingredients is simple: Keys, more keys, drums and melodies – and a good amount of tempo. The tight pop productions are wrapped in different metaphors that bring out colourful pictures of a world that is made out of relationships. You can take it very seriously or just dance right through it.
Mars & Holly is the result of a meeting between two people – who in many ways are opposites.
“Our differences make the music dynamic. We’re good friends and agree about a lot of things but we work and think very differently. The music holds our contrasts and that’s what makes it really interesting to us (and hopefully to other people as well). It’s both light and heavy, strong and weak or silly and serious at the same time,” Amy explains.
Mikkel continues: “To me Amy’s songs make up pictures, that I interpret and put into frames. I focus the musical textures so the lines in the picture become more visible but are still open to interpretation. That’s Mars & Holly.”
The Copenhagen-Berlin based band’s first single came out this December. It’s called “Anker Hos Dig” and very soon the debut EP “Lårkorte Tanker” is out.
Here they are in exclusive indieBerlin interview:
indieberlin: Tell us a little bit about your musical background?
Amy: I’ve grown up surrounded with classical music and jazz. My mother’s grand piano created a musical foundation right from the beginning. I started writing poems a couple of years before I became a teenager and then I started writing songs. I didn’t want to study music, because thinking too much about music theory has prevented me from composing freely in the past. I don’t want my head to think about it. Writing music is more of an impulse to me. I get bored if I only do one kind of music. So I do different styles – from electronic to rock and pop, to jazz and to trip hop in different constellations. The different styles influence each other and make me keep on developing. Moving to Berlin has made me experiment a lot more than I did in Copenhagen.
Just as I had given up the dream of becoming a musician, my band broke through on the Danish scene and catapulted me into the music business
Mikkel: The earliest song I remember is John Lennon’s “Woman”. And to cite The Beatles as an inspiration to me is the understatement of the century. I started playing the drums at age 9, and in my early teens I got into the whole grunge thing, and taught myself to play the guitar. I played in a lot of bands through the years and started getting into songwriting and recording, and then just as I had given up the dream of becoming a musician, my band broke through on the Danish scene and catapulted me into the music business. In the course of four years I played all the biggest festivals and venues in Denmark. I don’t know if it was the speed or the pressure or just diverging creative ambitions, but after a few years I suddenly had enough. I couldn’t find the joy and appreciation of playing and quit the band to find something that was more meaningful to me. It was around that time that Amy and I got together and started writing songs.
I love to dance and I don’t care if it’s pretty or stupid. I think people in general don’t dance enough.
indieberlin: How did you come up with the name?
Amy: We had a different, more serious name in mind at first. But I felt it needed to be more easygoing. When I lived in Copenhagen I a had a very sweet and quiet roommate. When I was discussing band names with some friends he came into the room and said: “What about Mars & Holly?”, and then he disappeared again. At first it seemed silly. But it stuck. In Denmark “Holly” is a chocolate bar – just like “Mars”. And the bigger, more symbolic meanings make sense too – which is not bad.
indieberlin: Tell us something about yourself that you always wanted to say but no one has ever asked you yet.
Mikkel: I think Ringo Starr’s drumming is extremely underrated!
Amy: I love to dance and I don’t care if it’s pretty or stupid. I think people in general don’t dance enough.
indieberlin: How does the songwriting process work for you / in your band?
Amy: Most of the time I grab one of Mikkel’s cool old synthesisers and just start playing. He gets out his drum pad, we record the keys and I start finding a melody while Mikkel develops the soundscape. When I hear the music, I see a picture and that picture becomes the lyrics.
indieberlin: If you had to describe your music to a deaf person, what would you say?
Amy: It’s like a rainbow and makes you want to dance – although the lyrics are mostly melancholic.
indieberlin: Tell us a secret about yourself.
Mikkel: I would love to own a pet penguin. I do own a stuffed one though.
Amy: I like watching people without them noticing it. Every person is his very own story. I find that fascinating…
indieberlin: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Mikkel: In writing and producing I’m always reaching out for a feeling or an emotion. It could be from past experiences, musical references, or art. But I think the reaching out is the culprit. The fact that I know that I’m always reaching out for the end result, that I imagine, but without being able to fully grasp or touch it.
Amy: People. All sorts of people. Often different stories and experiences melt together into a picture and that picture then becomes a story.
It’s like a rainbow and makes you want to dance
indieberlin: What was the last concert you went to?
Amy: My last concert was with Strand Child, Soft Crystals and Lakes Of Light at Marie-Antoinette in Berlin.
Mikkel: Well.. it’s starting to become a bit of a kliché, but actually, the last concert I went to was with Paul McCartney. Yes. I cried.
indieberlin: How do you feel about covering a song?
Amy: We’ve talked about doing that and I think we’re both really open to the idea. The question is: What song should we cover?!
Mikkel: I would be really into doing that at some point. But probably with a lesser known band or song. There are only a handfull of cover songs in music history that superseeded the original. If Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt” p by Nine Inch Nails doesn’t break you right in two, you’ll never know what I’m talking about.indieberlin: Do you see your songs in colour or in black and white?
Amy: Colours, definitely.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.