Part One - The beginning

Part Two - Into open waters with "Kyst" (not finished yet)

Part Three - Keeping the trees together by themselves (coming soon)

Part Four - The discovery & new collaborations (coming soon)



Part One - The Beginning

So the story goes . . .

Back in 1995 the two friends Katrine Stochholm and Henriette Sennenvaldt got the idea to form a band while on a bike ride. They had tried writing songs in English, but that didn't work for them, so they tried putting some of Henriette's Danish poems together with Katrine's piano tunes. While writing they soon figured they needed more instruments.
- The songs made us think of violin, cello and accordian, because they have very sensitive qualities. And they are in some way closer tied to reality, Henriette said in a 1998 interview.

They found the musicians they needed. Morten Larsen on drums, Anders Præstegaard on bass and guitar, Anna Budtz on cello, Poul Rørkenfelt on violin and Katrine's big brother Anders Stochholm on accordian and percussion. Now they could create the soundscape they wanted. In the spring of 1996 they played their first concert at the Library & Cultural House in Henriette's and Katrine's hometown of Hinnerup - a small town in a green valley outside Denmark's second-largest city Aarhus.
First show

The band also had to find a name. Around that time they had a song called "Under Byen" - Below the city - and figured it would be a good name.
- It somehow gives the notion of things going on beneath it all. And it has a good ring. I also think the lyrics tie to this city and my life in it. Like the buildings in it and the waters outside it, Henriette has said.
Nils have added that the well-known local writer Svend Åge Madsen might have inspired them a bit too with his writings about "de underjordiske" - the subterraneans - a people living somewhere. . . below the city.

The band didn't play more liveshows then, but kept writing new songs and rehearsing them.

The band name

In October of 1997 they went into the studio and recorded three songs which they released on the self-financed "Puma" EP. Nineteen minutes that easily showed the talent and vision of this emerging band. The lyrics had several animal references and it was clear that the band wasn't afraid of being poetic - neither with words or sounds.
These recordings took place around the same time as the band was finding its permanent members. Budtz and Rørkenfelt left the band and in came Nils Gröndahl and Myrtha Wolf on violin and cello respectively.

The Puma EP
Puma EP

Once the cd was out the band landed another show. This was at Æsken - a small venue in a loft in central Aarhus. Henriette recollects the experience of this then seven-member band with a laugh.
- It was the smallest stage in the world and we stood their embarrasing ourselves while some yelled 'pussy' and half of the audience left. It's quite different today, she says.
In January of 1998 the band played at Musikcaféen - also in Aarhus. This time the experience was different. The venue - which holds more than a hundred people - was sold out. A big surprise for the band.
Under Byen then applied for financial support for touring from the Danish Rock Council (ROSA).

Playing Aarhus

They did not use the money for its intended purpose, though. Instead they recorded the track "Veninde i vinden" at the famed local Feedback Studio in Aarhus in April of 1998. This turned out to be a wise choice.
The cd was essentially just a promo and was never sold anywhere, but sent to radio stations and record labels.

The "Veninde i vinden" single
Veninde i vinden

After their "first real gig" at Musikcaféen, as they called it, they were hired to play at the Aarhus Festival Week in August of 1998. On the strength of that one previous show they were put on the big stage on the main square in central Aarhus. A few eyebrows were raised at that event.
This was also the case at the annual local Spot 05 Festival for hopeful young bands where the band played in October 1998. Sara Saxild replaced Anders Præstegaard on bass at this concert and became the member of the band. The show helped spread the rumour about this new exciting band who played such enchanting music with Danish lyrics - a thing not attuned to the current trend among new bands at the time.
The rumour also reached the ears of Steffen Brandt, leadsinger and songwriter in the band TV-2 (who have been a part of Danish popular music culture since the early 80s). He and his band was just about start a new record label - Pladeselskabet Have A Cigar. He therefore attended Under Byen's show at the local venue Train on March 18, 1999 and reportedly proposed a record deal backstage afterwards. The same show was also recorded by Danish National Radio and broadcast later.

The record deal

Around that time the band figured it was time to record some more music. Being very fond of the music of Swedish singer Stina Nordenstam the band took a chance and contacted one of her collaborators - the producer Manne Von Ahn Öberg who most notably worked with her on the albums "Dynamite" and "People Are Strange".
- We never thought he would accept, but we aimed high and to our surprise he said yes. This taught us that we should always aim high. If we should fail it's not the end of the world. We will always have our music and that is what matters, Henriette Sennenvaldt said in an interview in 2004.
So in March of 1999 the band travelled to the Atrium Studios in Stockholm to record with Öberg. Here they made a three-track demo.

Finding a producer

On May 28 the band performed in Rådhusparken, the park behind the Town Hall in Aarhus, as part of the Cultural Night '99. Here they played two new compositions made especially for the event. The titles of the two ten minute pieces were "Englene sitrer / Gå ind i lyset" ("The Angels Are Jittering / Walk Into The Light") and they were accompagnied by changing coloured lights in the park's trees. The visual side of the event was arranged by John "Skæg" Hedegaard - the former Vildensky-member who later became the Under Byen's light engineer on tour.
The songs were never performed again, but parts of them later became "Syng hvide nat" and "Gå ind i lyset" on "Kyst".

Into the light
Part Two - Into open waters with "Kyst"  

With a record deal in place the band could now embark on the journey of recording their debut album. So in August and September of 1999 they returned to Stockholm to record with Manne Von Ahn Öberg. The most notable different from the early demos and previous live versions were that the new album tracks were much slower than their "originals".
Just before this the "Veninde i vinden" single had reached the ears of some radio hosts at the Danish National Radio who then got interested in the band. So much that they interviewed them before the release of "Kyst" and also during the recordings - even playing new and not-quite-finished songs on the air.
In October that year "Gå Ind I Lyset" was released as a one-track promo for radio use only and in November "Kyst" was released to much critical acclaim. Most reviewers were astonished and wrote that the album was "the sound of dreams", "the most courages Danish album in ages" and "fascinating and mysterious" - while still saying that it demanded the listener might have to put in an effort to really get it.
Furthermore almost every newspaper and music magazine in Denmark interviewed the band.
The band was nominated as Best Newcomer in the Danish grammy awards and was in several of the newspaper's Best Of The Year top 10 polls at the end of the year.


In late 1999 composer Katrine Stochholm felt increasingly uncomfortable being on stage playing live. So at the band's first performance outside Aarhus they enlisted the help of pianist Thorbjørn Krogshede. He played his first Under Byen show at Copenhagen Jazzhouse in October 1999 - a show where someone described the audience as being "dead quiet and attentive... no one even got up to get a beer".
From then on Thorbjørn became a member of the band. Katrine still played and plays live with the band on occasion, though. But mostly when on hometurf in Aarhus.

A full band

To be continued. . .


Written by Lars Kjær Dideriksen, June-July 2004.
Copyright. May not be used without permission.


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