Monday, February 26 2024

Norwegian-Irish duo Todd & Karen’s latest single, “Juicy Gossip from the Mothership,” is a catchy dive into indie sounds with a strong message. The lead lyrical hook, ‘I dare not speak my mind; every time I do, I get in deeper shit,’ cleverly explores the consequences of speaking out in a world that values discretion. The analogy of only the queen in the mothership freely expressing herself adds a touch of whimsy, drawing parallels to societal hierarchies where certain voices carry more weight.

Todd & Karen’s music draws inspiration from Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura but blends it with the nostalgic tones of the late ’60s and early ’70s. ‘Mothership’ features catchy organs and compelling vocal harmonies and offers a retro-cool vibe while maintaining a modern, indie-pop edge. The vocals cut through perfectly, complemented by some lovely harmonies and perfectly timed falsetto lifts.

Additionally, Todd and Karen’s attention to production detail is clear in the varied vocal effects, enhancing the track. The balance between voices and instruments is well-executed and creates a lively ‘bounce’ throughout. Personally, I particularly enjoyed the captivating elements in the song’s introduction and organ interludes, evoking a sense of nostalgia and a laid-back atmosphere. These components add breathing space into the song and showcase the understanding this duo has in how to structure and effectively put a song together. This is shown again when two-thirds of the way through the track; the drums drop out to add a different dynamic before the organs take the reins again and bring the song to its conclusion.

“Juicy Gossip from the Mothership” is a toe-tapping, thought-provoking track that merges infectious melodies with a meaningful message. Todd & Karen have crafted a tune that’s not only musically engaging but also serves as a gentle reminder about the importance of discretion in a world where words can carry unforeseen consequences.

And, luckily enough, we had the pleasure to catch up with Todd & Karen and find out more about “Juicy Gossip from the Mothership” and what’s around the corner.

Can you tell us about “Juicy Gossip from the Mothership” and how it came together?

This song is Todd & Karen at our most “poppy” and the most “current” sounding we’ve ever been. People have said that it’s a slight departure from our signature sound. At the same time, I think you can hear the typical T&K sound buried underneath there. It started like a 70s pastiche of Elton John and Wings, with a driving honky-tonk piano groove underneath it all and jingle-jangle guitars on top. When we got to the studio, we realised that this isn’t what the song is calling for. We came up with this insisting Farfisa riff that we were both quite happy with (and amused by!) and the menacing bass line that kicks in on the chorus. Together with our regular producer Sigve Høghaug we battled it out in the studio in around 6-7 hours. It was a real treat. And then we sent it over to a guy we call “the Hotshot” for an amazing second journey in the mix and master process. He took it and made it into a bouncy club song almost. It’s like it jumps out of the speakers after his treatment to it. We can safely say that this is the song that’s sounded the most different from its inception to its release of any of our songs so far. We have a bit of a dogma between us, which is that each release should be quite significantly different from the previous release. If you listen to our two last releases, I think we can say that we managed that with “Norwegian Summer” and “Juicy Gossip From The Mothership”. We like the idea that you can never quite be sure what Todd & Karen are going to throw at you.

Where did you get inspiration for the lyrics and melodies?

The melody is an unabashedly and unashamedly ’70s pastiche. Originally, it sounded like a crossbreed of Elton and Wings, with a driving piano beat. That kind of changed during the recording, where the Farfisa and bass became more prominent. But that’s the origins of the melody, in any case. Lyrically, this is an annoyed song. You know how you sometimes come across gatekeepers in your life? Initially they’re all smiles and want you to bring your ideas to the table. Once you do though, and it doesn’t correspond with what they had in mind, they’ll shoot you down in flames or throw you under the bus.

Do you have a specific routine or ritual when creating music?

Our method is completely random and music can happen at any time – especially, any inconvenient time. There have been instances when ideas have come at 3am and one has had no choice but to get up and jot them down somewhere. If memory serves, our track “Cosmo Crowd” was like that. Other times, certain moods or events trigger songs. “Blackpool Lights” came about watching England beating Germany in football during the last European Championships, for example. What does happen quite frequently, though, is that Øyvind (aka Todd) will come up with a hook or a melody line and then send it over to Ina (aka Karen). From there we’ll play ping-pong with lyric ideas and melodic input. But, there are no set rules to it. Sometimes one of us will bring in a fully-fledged song and the other will contribute more on the arranging side. The only time we’ve sat down and co-written a song in its entirety is when “Norwegian Summer” happened. We were taking a break from recording the “ELO string part” on “Cosmo Crowd”. Fiddling around with an acoustic guitar, this sweet, laidback and slightly jazzy melody came about. In about 10-15 minutes, we had most of the song knocked out. The only things added in the studio was a strummed ukulele and the electric guitar part.

Who would you say is the biggest musical influence that has shaped your work?

I think we’d be lying if we didn’t say The Beatles. All of our output is steeped in some kind of Beatleesque influence. We don’t set out to be Beatleesque, but it’s something about the chords and the words used and the whole mood and direction our songs take that seems to go down that street. We come from quite different musical backgrounds – folk tradition and brass band meets classical music – but we join together in a massive and borderline obsessive love of Beatles and British pop music in general, with a little pinch of American west coast pop and folk. If you listen to our singles “Cosmo Crowd” and “Blackpool Lights”, especially, you’ll probably hear it. To put it differently, if you’re into The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, ELO, The Byrds etc. you’ll probably find something you like by checking out Todd & Karen – without comparing ourselves with these titans in any way.

Can you describe the roles each member plays in the duo’s dynamics?

Both bring ideas to the table. Todd is the member who gets 500 melody ideas at once and will often bombard everyone involved with elaborate home demos and say “let’s get to work now”. Karen is a bit more meticulous and thinks before she acts. So when Todd brings the craziest ideas to the table, Karen will weed out the quirkiest bits and is the unwritten and benign veto power in the operation. Our style of writing is also different. Todd will mostly come up with a melody first, whereas Karen is more lyrics driven.

What’s the most memorable moment of your musical journey so far?

There have been quite a few in a short space of time. Getting this whole project off the ground in the first place after so much talk about it was a highlight in itself. Then reaching 100,000 streams for our “Cosmo Crowd” single was a nice little milestone a few weeks back. Getting nominated in two categories at the NAS Awards (“Single of the Year” and “EP of the Year”) was another highlight, even though we didn’t end up winning. So, there have been little magic moments along the way. Probably the coolest thing so far has been the chance of collaborating with an Award winning producer for the latest single. He’s worked with Beyonce, Billy Joel, The Script… you name it. We’d love to namedrop, because it’s seriously a hotshot who brought so much coolness to the track. He did it kind of on the sly though, so we’ve decided to credit him simply as “the Hotshot”. Just being able to throw ideas back and forth with such a seasoned pro has been very inspiring and a great highlight. Hearing his final mix and master of “Juicy Gossip From The Mothership” blew us away.

Can you give us a glimpse into what you’re currently working on?

We’ll be ready with a new single very soon after the New Year. We can reveal that it’s entitled “Bougie Suzie” – you heard it hear first! It’s a different vibe to “Juicy Gossip From The Mothership”, but still quite a rousing number. It’s the longest song we’ve recorded to date, at almost 4 minutes 30 seconds. That is almost prog by our standards. If pushed, it could be described as The Divine Comedy doing “Ob-la-di-Ob-la-da” perhaps? It features lead vocals by both Todd & Karen again. It’s got a ’60s feel to it, but is still quite bass driven. Hopefully that’s enticing enough to look out for it when it’s released early in the New Year. Oh, and for the hardcore fans who have been with us since the beginning… ”Mr. Beardsley” makes a return within this song!

Can you share a quirky or little-known fact about you that fans might find surprising?

Quirky? We’re as quirky as they come. Todd is an incredible nerd. One of the things he’s followed for years is the investigation and conspiracy theories surrounding the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. He’s part of that whole subculture of investigative nerds. It’s a veritable rabbit hole that gets deeper and deeper. Karen? We think that in a former life she was a famous horticulturalist. Say no more…

Massive thanks to Todd & Karen and you can keep up with their shenanigans socially, right here:

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Review

Summary

“Juicy Gossip from the Mothership” is a toe-tapping, thought-provoking track that merges infectious melodies with a meaningful message. With shades of Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura the track blends nostalgic tones of the late ’60s and early ’70s. ‘Mothership’ features catchy organs and compelling vocal harmonies and offers a retro-cool vibe while maintaining a modern, indie-pop edge.
91%
Cracking!

Rating

Song Quality
Vocal Performance
Lyrics
Instrumentation
Production
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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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