Before hearing Mutual Friends, the debut album from Hamburg-based duo BOY, my knowledge of German music was strictly of the more stereotypically serious variety - the tightly controlled electronic rhythms of Kraftwerk, the militaristic metal of Rammstein, etc.

So the breezy tunes made by Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass can certainly smash preconceptions of their country’s music scene. The best indie pop of the past decade has apparently reached farther than one might have thought, and their warm, inviting melodies have drawn comparisons to some of its most acclaimed artists.

During a recent Toronto appearance I sat down with Glass (a German native, while Steiner originally hails from Switzerland) to talk about international appeal and the mysteries of language.

You recently finished your first tour of America. Was it different than you expected, growing up in Europe?

I try not to expect so much, actually, because that makes it easier to cherish an experience. But all the people were really, really nice. That’s different than Europe, where people are not so open and chatty. There’s more distance.

Were any shows particularly memorable?

In Austin, at SXSW, our amplifiers didn’t work. We couldn’t do a sound check at all or anything. So we brought the audience outside and played completely acoustically, and it was so nice and special. Everyone was standing around and singing along. It sounded great even with a bunch of party buses going by.

Artists at SXSW don’t get a lot of prep time or chances to fix sound problems, do they?

No, you get like 20 minutes to do sound check. No time at all, really. We don’t have a huge band but many tiny details. A stomp-box and other instruments to check.

Tell me something unique about Hamburg.

It is not something that other places don’t have but I always miss the harbour when I am away. I live right near it.

Has it inspired your music?

No ... but if you want time to walk and think, it’s great. You can feel the ocean breeze.

Where have you had the most success outside of Germany?

We’re starting to break ground in North America right now, so our audience is still the biggest back in Germany and Switzerland. I have a feeling it will slowly grow and stand on two feet.

Without knowing any better I assumed you were a Canadian duo. Don’t ask me why. Maybe its the unbridled positivity in the music.

Oh! I do think we have an optimistic view on life, and I hope you can hear that in the music. Some have said they find our music comforting, and I consider that a compliment.

I wish I could say I was more inspired by Canadian music. We love Feist, sure, but I think she sounds very different. She has a certain lightness, his music is very airy. Maybe that is similar.

Are your songs first written in German, then translated?

Valeska writes the lyrics, and she has always listened to American and English songwriters. She really soaked in the language, so she speaks quite good English. We never thought about writing in German. She is from Switzerland ...

German is the dominant language in Switzerland, right?

Yes. But with a very different accent. I understood her because I’ve spent much time there. By the time we met she was already writing in English, so it was never a question.

I’ve found listening to music sung in another language helps in learning that language, even if only in a rudimentary way.

Yeah, exactly. I think I learned a bit from that. I think Valeska learned a lot about language from music - she would write down lyrics and read them back. She also speaks Spanish and French, so very skilled with language. I have a harder time.

Mutual Friends is technically a few years old though it’s just getting released in North America now. Was this staggered release plan always in mind?

We didn’t have a release strategy in the beginning. We didn’t have much hope for that at all. In Germany it’s hard to sing in English and reach a certain audience level. We were very surprised that things developed so fast.

It must have been great to get these calls from around the world from people interesting in spreading awareness of your art.

Yes! We are so grateful for that.

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BTW Sonja has split her time between Netherlands and Germany before BOY kind of strange she has no awareness nor did you encourage any of DANNY MICHEL as the Netherlands and Germany are Danny's two primary European gig and audience markets.
The author of this article needs to learn much more about German music and music culture.Sadly Sonja Glass has decided to speak to the English speaking press with an ungrateful denial of all she has benefit from coming from the city of Hamburg that literally has the best music scene on the planet. Lately I am seriously falling out of love with the two of them from BOY.I sense no solidarity with other artists from either of their countries. Would it kill them to bring Hamburg singer-songwriter Luisa on tour as their opening act she does not have the same machine working for her. It would help her a lot.Now to the author watch Balcony TV HAMBURG and discover TVNOIR the latter view in 720p when the option is there and use decent headphones or speakers. Watch the FULL SHOW of the episode withSweden's MONEYBROTHER and Hamburg's Luisa. Then search for the shows not just clips featuring BOYthey have appeared 3 times. Watch BOY on INAS NACHT a great Hamburg music, booze and drunken chat show. Also look for INAS NACHT with ANNA DEPENBUSCH one of Hamburg's greatest artists she is brilliant lots of other Anna stuff on Youtube.Also checkout recent appearance on INAS by German soul singer LESLIE CLIO. Also checkout on both BALCONY TV and TVNOIR...YASMINE TOURIST. Other Swiss and German acts to look at:WILLHELM TELL MEWE INVENTED PARISYAKOTOTIM NEUHAUSJOY DENALANEALIN COENSOPHIE HUNGERGENTLEMANGermany produced expatsDEAR READER (South Africa)WILLIAM FITZSIMMONS (USA)same label as BOYthat is owned by German's superstar singer-songwriter Herbert Groenemeyer.The great of all German music genius isMAX HERRE his album HALLO WELT is the SANDINISTA of HipHop ...the man is a fucking genius plain and simple a powerhouse of creative vision.Germany also has wonderful pop starsfrom Nena to Lena. Checkout the music videofor Lena's NEON (LONELY PEOPLE.BTW the way Switzerland is a French, German and Italian speaking country with a lot English awareness. To hear Valeska speak Swiss dialectwatch the SR3 NEW TALENT BOY performance she speaks to audience quite a lot...the sounds not the words sound more Swedish than German.
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