Because if it doesn’t, nothing will change: the new Vienna band Endless Wellness has good music and even better lyrical ideas. They’re FM4’s Soundpark Act of the month for September.
Is starting a new band in Austria an adventure? Okay, dumb question; it probably is everywhere. But can you take the insecurity out of the adventure, can you turn it into something comfortable? You can if you start the band with old friends – like Philipp Auer, Adele Ischia, Hjörtur Hjörleifsson and Milena Klien did. Ladies and gentlemen: meet Endless Wellness.
About three months ago, all of a sudden, there was this song. A little weird, to be sure – it was about gilded genitals, and it used words that haven’t been heard in German-language pop for a long time, words like “Nackapatzi”. Kind of ur-Viennese, identifying a group that still uses words that they learned from their Omas. Courageous, and it certainly set them apart. It sounds endearing, amusing, but that’s exactly what Endless Wellness’s music is not: “And in psychology today they told us / That highly sensitive people are missing protective armor.”
“Hand im Gesicht” (Hand in the Face), the first single from Endless Wellness, is a staccato song, a “look-at-me” song, a “break-me-down-into-my-individual-parts” song. There’s so much to dig up and analyze, and you might only realize when you listen to it the third time that the first line is the best one: “Some days I want to die / then again, other days I don’t.” It dances at the edge of the abyss, but then the sun comes out for a moment. No one in recent memory has managed to describe the circus we call human emotion more concisely. With their band name, Endless Wellness makes a promise that – we hope, we believe, we even know a little bit – they’ll keep. In the FM4 interview, Hjörtur refers to it as an “invitation to join in” for all the people out there.
And it has to be said once again: making music is awesome; making music with friends is usually even better. There are those moments in the studio where all of a sudden everything clicks, when the things that define the individuals in the band come together to make this new thing. “Magic!” Milena says, and Philipp muses about how the band focuses on mental pictures while playing – on ships, waves, on perfect clouds drifting over their heads. We’re familiar with these ideas from bands like Big Thief, a comparison that raises a gentle blush on the cheeks of the interviewees. These are four people who go into the studio trusting that the whole is always more than the sum of their little egotistical parts.
“Maybe I can’t build a long-term future” – another favorite line from the group’s still-modest body of work, this one from their second single, “Kinder“. The song came about after long conversations about how great and desirable it is – or isn’t – to start a family. It’s a song that gets right to the point, aimed at millenials and everyone they believe is ruining the world. And since it’s not just about children and having them, we see how subtle writing from a position of strength is done: the big procreative question leads to even bigger ones – whether it’s worth it to leave anything behind at all, whether you want to, if other things aren’t perhaps just as important, and how the relationships we have make us into the people we are.
Nobody wants to be a nothing in a no-man’s-land: that’s how an intelligent man by the name of Gerbrand Bakker once described his depression – a word that comes up at least ten times during the interview. The everlasting search for connection – and in that moment, that’s exactly the thing that’s missing: a link to the outside world. Endless Wellness knows that; the majority of their songs are about it, and about their attempts to extend their hands for connection.
“Sometimes I think it’d be easier to let myself go,” a lyric from their forthcoming third single, “Schöne Dinge”, “and it gets bad when I start to believe it.” A dumber sentence than “no one is an island” has never been heard – at least not by those who have already been through it all. Anyone who speaks of things that touch so many people must choose their words carefully, and if they’re a touch smarter, they’ll add a grain of tragicomedy: “I don’t want to let myself go; I’m not a postcard” [a play on words in German].
So, what does a good pop song need in 2023? “It has to hurt; this isn’t a time for feel-good music,” Philipp says. “At least now and then,” Hjörtur adds, and Milena chimes in: “It should say something, but not think that just saying will change things enough.” And we imagine Adele (who isn’t in the studio but presumably present via friendship telepathy) nodding in agreement. Thus, a possible definition of Endless Wellness’s music: painful, but in a positive way. “A little like therapy,” Hjörtur whispers. Gentle laughter. We’ve heard it again and again; why shouldn’t it be true?
Lisa Schneider; translated from the German original by Philip Yaeger