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Subliminal discomfort: Get Well Soon

Alarmed by the steady AfD presence in his neighbourhood, Konstantin Gropper poured his angst into a dark new album. We caught the indie chameleon ahead of his upcoming Volksbühne gigs (Oct 1-3).

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Photo by Clemens Fantur

Alarmed by the steady AfD presence in his neighbourhood, Konstantin Gropper poured his angst into a dark new album. We caught the indie chameleon ahead of his upcoming Volksbühne gigs.

With his verbosely titled debut album Rest Now, Weary Head! You Will Get Well Soon, Konstantin Gropper a.k.a. Get Well Soon caused a stir amongst indie fans in 2008. Since then, the Mannheim Pop-Akademie alumnus has cultivated a knack for anything opulent, from Morricone-inspired arrangements to Lynchian soundscapes to 1950s big band melancholia. On his last EP, Born With Too Much Love, Gropper dived into smooth synth pop, only to emerge with one of his darkest recordings this June, The Horror, tackling right-wing populism and #metoo in all its nightmarish magnitude. From October 1-3, he’ll play Volksbühne with a full-on big band in tow.

You don’t like repeating yourself.

Whenever I finish an album, I’m certain the next one will be very different. It’s a precautionary move. I dread repeating myself. Not doing the same thing twice is something I value in an artist; Bowie and Kubrick, for instance. Bands that find their sound and bring it to perfection bore me very quickly. Or maybe it’s just that I can’t find my sound and this is pathological.

What triggered the album’s political themes?

I read a lot about fear, books on psychology and sociology. What I had in mind wasn’t horror films but our current fearful zeitgeist. I watched a lot of BBC documentaries by Adam Curtis about the power of nightmares and fear being the most important political weapon of our time. There wasn’t a concrete event that triggered The Horror, times are just more political again. It would’ve felt wrong not to address it.

You sing of “Nazi bitches in my hood”. What’s going on in Mannheim?

All these AfD events are held at a clubhouse around the corner from where I live. It’s where [then party leader] Frauke Petry famously called for German police to fire guns at refugees to protect the border. Every few months all the party’s prominent figures show up here, and I find it frightening. It doesn’t get any more bourgeois than where I live; right-wing politics has truly reached the centre of our society. Everyone probably knows a few AfD voters by now, but it’s all very hush-hush.

The title track suggests a feeling of powerlessness: “sit, ignore, we’ve seen it all before”.

Everything that happens today is so familiar from history and my question is, what can we learn from that? Do we say it happened once and it went away? That’s fatal, of course. But I wonder if there are any helpful measures. All protests and warnings only lead to a larger divide and make the populists even more popular. Words and attitudes are twisted and redefined. It’s such a mess! Making this album was my way of dealing with the situation and overcoming the powerlessness.

You’ll tour with a big band. What do you like about that sound?

I don’t like big bands per se. Swing big bands are terrible. Sinatra is my one big reference. I wanted to have these grand orchestra arrangements from the 1950s and 60s on my album. There’s something inherently cinematic about them. The same goes for Hitchcock soundtracks like Vertigo which are from the same era. They perfectly capture the mood I wanted to convey with my album: subliminal discomfort. On the surface, everything is beautiful, but below, the abyss looms.

The Grand Horrorshow, Oct 1-3, 20:00 | Volksbühne, Mitte