Natives of Copenhagen, Denmark, New Politics singer David Boyd and guitarist Soren Hansen originally started writing songs "just for the love of writing and music." But then, they suddenly realized they had become a band.
"We had all these songs lying around," says Boyd via phone from a Kansas City tour stop. "I remember listening to them one night, thinking, 'We're a band and we didn't even know it.'"
After they won a battle of the bands competition, record labels started calling.
"We had so many options," says Boyd. "We released 'Yeah Yeah Yeah' on YouTube. [One version of the video] was just a one take of us in the basement."
The guys moved to Brooklyn with the hopes of breaking big. Things didn't get off to a good start, and the band's self-titled debut, a noisy affair that draws equally from Nirvana and Weezer, reflects the band's frustration with trying to put out a debut impressive enough to catapult it to mid-sized venues.
"I think that first album represents a period in our life when we were maybe a little bit angry," says Boyd. "There was a bit of angst because we were mad that we weren't out there doing what we wanted to do and things weren't going our way. The economy collapsed and we were at war in the Middle East. Something wasn't quite right. That played a big role with the lyrics. We love all types of music, but we have a hard-on for grunge and rock music. I mean, we are a couple of white kids in the end. We love the Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine."
Last year's A Bad Girl in Harlem represents a shift in direction as it embraces a pop aesthetic. The opening tune, "Tonight You're Perfect," is a tender love song that has more in common with OneRepubic than with Nirvana. "Berlin" benefits from synthesizer flourishes that make it sound like it could be a P!nk tune and "Stuck On You" is a stereotypical power ballad.
"I think it is our most mentally challenging album so far," says Boyd of A Bad Girl in Harlem. "We came to America with these high hopes with a massive label believing in us and great management. We were on the road for a year-and-a-half promoting this thing but it didn't pay off like we thought. We felt a little bit like failures. We go into the second album and the first mental challenge was that were sort of writing the same album."
According to Boyd, the guys wrote 80 songs for their next album but didn't have anything with which they were happy. So they went back to the proverbial drawing board.
"We did some reflecting," says Boyd. "We thought about how we're in New York and no longer with a family and friends. Everything was changing. The food was different. The water was different. The way you approached women and socialized was different. We were adapting. The wave of culture shock interfered with the way we thought of ourselves. We were living on Ramen noodles and white bread. We broke down to rock bottom and the songs started coming. They're just honest songs. It just became us writing. We started to fall in love with where we were even though we didn't fully understand it. Eventually, we accepted it and made the best of it. We wrote about 15 songs in two weeks."
One of the songs the band wrote was the retro-leaning "Harlem," a high-energy tune that has a catchy refrain and sounds a bit like something by the Killers or Foster the People. The song's music video has amassed some 4 million views on YouTube. It's become the band's most popular single to date. Boyd says he's been inspired by some of the big acts that the band has had a chance to tour with. The band has toured with Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Jane's Addiction, 30 Seconds to Mars and P!nk.
"One thing that is a common thing with these artists, especially with the big ones, is how it's so inspiring to see," he says. "It takes so much hard work, especially in this day an age when there isn't a lot of money in music. You know out of your small career what you've gone through. The person you're opening for has a career of ten years and gone through what you've gone through tenfold. There's a reason why they're selling out arenas—perseverance and drive keeps them going. That is the most inspiring thing to see. It keeps you humble seeing the fans. You write these songs and people just take them. I think music is like an earthly thing that helps you through life. It can trigger your emotions, memory and imagination. We create this music and our fans get touched by it. I'm one of those fans. I know exactly what they're going through."
The current headlining tour is designed to pump up support for a forthcoming studio album that's due out in February. Boyd says most of the songs, including the infectious new single "Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens)," were written when the group was on tour with Fall Out Boy and Paramore; they reflect the band's newfound enthusiasm and optimism.
"It's very exciting. We're on a cloud," says Boyd. "Playing ['Everywhere I Go'] live has been so much fun. I think we really bridged the gap between the first and second album. It's a nice mix of the two."
New Politics, Bad Suns, Somekindawonderful<p>6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 20, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $28, houseofblues.com.