ove A do German post-punk. Raw, relevant and high-quality. Author Nico Cramer went out with vocalist Jörkk and guitarist Stefan and asked them about the contradictions between punk and everyday life.
Standing now on the dike in Hamburg Veddel. Waiting for Love A. Bass player Dominik and drummer Karl are excused because they’re at home in Trier, guitarist Stefan, who normally lives in Cologne, will join us shortly in a camping bus on his way back from Sweden, singer Jörkk, on the other hand, can’t use location as an excuse this Sunday afternoon: he lives close by in Wilhelmsburg, suggested the dike as a meeting-place and should’ve been here half an hour ago.
Gradually starting to think about how very punk and therefore absolutely okay it is to turn up late, or maybe not at all, for an appointment. Then a man appears some distance away, approaching across the desolate dike. It can only be Jörkk, and yes: it’s him. Dressed all in black apart from an apricot-coloured striped tie, sunglasses, mid-heavyweight. “Of course I’m late,” he calls out blithely, his voice as raw as the wind. “But I’ve brought drinks to make up for it. A beer, a cola, a yerba-mat. fizz. Who would like what?” Punk or no: you don’t feel like getting annoyed with this man.
The band prove once more that the punk attitude is far from being dead just because you can buy Ramones-printed t-shirts at H&M these days.
Going by Love A’s lyrics you might have expected less good humour – because they sound off about a lot of things: “World Champion Potato-Land” Germany, the constraints of standardised life, things in general. The band, formed in 2010 in Trier, prove once more on their current, fourth and phenomenally brilliant album “Nichts ist Neu” that the punk attitude is far from being dead just because you can buy Ramones-printed t-shirts at H&M these days. How could it be dead, with abuses apparent wherever you look. Love A plays against these with everything they’ve got: the singing’s got an urgency, the atmosphere’s dark, the tonality direct and drastic. “At the end of the day we’re all fucked, because what we want isn’t what we get” is the stark summing-up at the end of the album.
The mood is now pretty wild on the dike, partly due to Jörkk’s acrobatic contortions to save himself from taking off on the wind, together with his open umbrella. But primarily he’s belting out sound bites every minute, on the minute – and you can’t help wondering: how does that fit in with Love A’s music? Pretty well, says Jörkk. “After all, Heinz Rühmann was so funny, but very problematic to deal with in his personal life. With us it’s a case of so grumpy and miserable, but you can have fun over a drink off-stage”. Then on a more serious note, he explains that their art is a catalyst for negative thoughts: “I observe and I ask myself a lot of questions. Or can’t deal with things and then put them into words to offload them. Though I ask more questions than I give answers. But I seem to have the luck that a lot of other people are in the same boat and find themselves reflected there”.
“If you don’t like every aspect of capitalism – or as far as I’m concerned any of it – that doesn’t mean you have to run away to the forest and be a drop-out.”
Guitarist Stefan finds us at that moment as well, he’s parked on the dike with his camping bus and tooting his horn. One big hug later we’re headed for the Schanzenviertel district. It was more or less chance that took front man Jörkk to live in Wilhelmsburg, because a friend had a granny flat available, “But it’s really a bit too far away from the action for me”. The Schanze offers a very different vibe: the Rote Flora squat, the Astra Stube night club – and Jörkk can even enjoy the coffee on its hip main street, the Schulterblatt, almost, at least: “Of course I’m sitting here on the latte-macchiato strip and thinking: Oh my God, am I betraying anybody with this? Or should I just chill, because after all life expectancy has risen under capitalism? It used to be simpler: you just had to cross the line and you were one of the bad guys. But at some point you realise you can’t look at everything in black and white, and don’t want to”. Guitarist Stefan is the perfect example: you can’t see the 35-year-old’s hardcore screamo socialisation behind the stylish beard-and-glasses look, or his way of thinking either. “You can think things are shit – in fact you have to, if you reflect a bit and take an interest in your environment – but you don’t have to beat yourself up and constrain yourself because of it,” says Stefan. “If you don’t like every aspect of capitalism – or as far as I’m concerned any of it – that doesn’t mean you have to run away to the forest and be a drop-out.” That’s the verdict of a man who owns and runs a design agency as his main career, alongside his role in the band.
The other members of Love A also have steady jobs alongside their music, “because it gives us complete freedom. We don’t have to play our closest-topop song for the promo on breakfast radio,” says Stefan. So Jörkk (40) runs the mail order service finestvinyl.de, graduate political scientist Dominik (36) works as a copywriter, Karl (38) as a project manager in an advertising agency. That, too, can be punk in 2017. “You just try as far as possible to lead the right life in the wrong environment,” says Jörkk. And despite this support from Adorno – Jörkk’s adapting a quote here from the German philosopher, who was exiled in Fascist times – he frankly admits that he’s finding such a life more and more difficult in our increasingly convoluted and contradictory world: “These days, it often makes me angry that I understand the motives of people I actually hate”. And so, in his songs, he goes on draining his energies using all the archetypes that are probably thronging the Schulterblatt at this very moment: the tattooed man with the beard, the yoga practitioner with her tortured soul, the vinyl-collecting red wine fan, the burn-out boy and the druggie girl having Tinder sex.
“These days, it often makes me angry that I understand the motives of people I actually hate”
Love A capture the spirit of the age in their songs, packaged in compelling post-punk sounds. And it works: the band’s at number 36 in the German charts for the “Nichts ist Neu” album that was released in May, they’re appearing at the Reeperbahn Festival for the third time this year (2017) following gigs in 2014 and 2015 – for the first time, they’ll be at the biggest venue, Große Freiheit 36. When Jörkk and Stefan stop in front of the entrance as we stroll along the Reeperbahn, they suddenly seem to register the scale: “Große Freiheit inspires respect,” says Jörkk almost reverentially. “Bands like Turbostaat and Donots play there and have trouble filling it”. But then the mischievous twinkle is back in his eyes. “On the other hand, we’ll do it – wow, hey, thanks – really well, I know we will!”. So nothing can really go wrong – at least if the timing is right this time.