“If I ever move there for real,” says Tomas Barfod, speaking of Los Angeles, “I would try to get a house in the hills.”
Barfod has a fascination with the Hollywood Hills that even Laurel Canyon traffic can't crush. He likes the hiking and the view. He likes that it's so different from Copenhagen, the city he settled in when he was old enough to leave the Denmark countryside where he was raised.
Barfod travels to Los Angeles often enough that the electronic musician and drummer for WhoMadeWho releases his solo work through local label Friends of Friends. Right now, though, he can't play here — not even a gratis gig at a friend's party, he emphasizes — since he's still working on renewing his work visa.
“It's funny because it's a catch-22,” he says, “you can't get a visa if you don't have any gigs, but I can't really get any gigs if I don't have a visa.”
That's a shame, because on Nov. 13, Barfod will release his latest solo EP, Glory, through Friends of Friends. It's a gorgeous collection of new tracks from the electronic artist.
Recorded mainly in Europe with contributions from a small handful of Scandinavian artists, Glory captures the bliss of chill-out rooms and after-hours. “Glass Slipper,” featuring Danish artists Sekuoia and Kill J, is the kind of track you want to hear as the sun rises over the party, with a beat that keeps tired legs moving and freaked-out angelic vocals. He keeps the ethereal vibe going with tracks like “Used to Be,” featuring Swedish singer Nina K, and the instrumental “Hope in a Box.”
The son of a music teacher, Barfod found his main instrument at an early age, when his dad got him a drum kit and a music teacher. “I think every kid kind of likes the drums,” he says, “but it wasn't my goal to be a drummer.” That changed a few years later, when Barfod got more serious about playing. His ambitions changed again, though, when the young musician hit his teens, started raving and decided that he wanted to be a DJ.
“I thought, well I know about the beats, so it will be really easy,” Barfod says of DJing, “but it wasn't really easy. It was actually pretty hard.”
But Barfod did have an advantage in creating rhythmic music and he ultimately excelled in the dance realm. At one point, he had scored a contract with a Danish record label making mainstream-minded house cuts, but it turned out that wasn't his thing. “I felt like I didn't really belong in that scene,” he says. “I never really fit in.” He ditched the idea of commercial success and joined forces with two friends to form a band.
WhoMadeWho emerged when interest in dance-floor-friendly bands hit its peak. In the United States, at least, the trio remains something of a cult phenomenon, music for people who follow European indie labels like Gomma and Kompakt. When Barfod made his first move to Los Angeles — about four or five years ago, he estimates — he did so rather anonymously. “Nobody knew me, basically,” he says, with the caveat that some “real music nerds” were familiar with his work.
Barfod spent close to a year living in Los Angeles, a period that resulted in his 2012 solo release, Salton Sea. He had returned to Europe right around the time that the album, named for the salty lake in the middle of California's desert, hit the streets. However, the press surrounding Salton Sea was good, so he came back to tour. Then people in the States started showing more interest in WhoMadeWho and the band headed out on the road. The tours, he says, helped immensely. “I could really see that it made a difference in the whole area,” he adds.
Even with the impending EP, Barfod is laying low for now. He says he'll play a few gigs in Europe. “I'm always happy to do a nice gig somewhere,” he explains, “but I'm not chasing it at the moment.” Meanwhile, he's continuing work on his next full-length album, which he hopes to release some around next summer, when he intends to tour again. As for L.A., he'll be back again, maybe as a more permanent resident. “I think in a couple of years, I'm going to move back for a longer period,” he says.
Glory is out Nov. 13 on Friends of Friends. Pre-order available via Bandcamp.