New Politics’ self-titled debut, which came on via RCA in 2010, was centered on a singular motto. The Denmark trio, who uprooted their lives and relocated to Williamsburg after signing with the label, based everything on the notion of just saying “Fuck it.” The phrase wasn’t about apathy, it was about doing what felt right and making the sort of music they wanted to make. It worked: New Politics yielded raucous hit single “Yeah Yeah Yeah” and the band embarked on tour for nearly two years with the likes of 30 Seconds To Mars and Neon Trees, enrapturing fans with their intensely dynamic live shows, bolstered by David’s impressive breakdancing skills. The band appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Fuel TV’s The Daily Habit, and earned scores of press, including accolades from Alternative Press. Doing what felt right to the band evolved into a big album with a bigger response.
When it came time to pen a follow-up to their formative album, New Politics hit a few roadblocks. David and Soren had hardly paused between the momentum of New Politics and this new disc, titled A Bad Girl In Harlem, jumping into writing within a week of getting off tour with the Dirty Heads in the spring of 2011. But they quickly realized that there was no plan or outline for the next album, and suddenly both musicians were single and living in Brooklyn, a fact that illuminated just how far they were from home.
Homesickness and culture shock set in, and New Politics were forced to grapple with their present musical identity. “I don’t think any of us had really considered that we now would be doing a second album and the whole culture shock of coming over here was hitting us,” Soren says. “The first album was a punk album and this one had to be taken to a whole new level, but we didn’t actually know what that level was.”
The process of writing A Bad Girl In Harlem proved long and arduous, but ultimately fruitful. The band came out of it with over 60 demos, many inspired by David’s new single life. The musicians embraced a greater variety of musical styles, drawing influence equally from punk rock and pop music. The recording process coincided with the songwriting, and in fact a few of the disc’s final tracks feature the original demo vocals, which resonate with a more genuine flair than the subsequent takes.
The songs’ lyrics, too, were rooted in the musicians’ shifting lives and experiences. “Harlem,” the album’s first single, was inspired a fling David had with a girl from Spanish Harlem, an area he never thought he’d visit. The throbbing rock number captures a boisterous party vibe and marked a turning point in the band’s writing process for A Bad Girl In Harlem. “It came at a point when we were all like ‘What the fuck is going on?’” Soren notes. “And the song came from us having fun. We were still a little afraid of changing but we just said ‘Fuck it.’ We realized we had nothing to lose and could do whatever we wanted.”
So it turned out New Politics’ old motto could be their new motto, even as the band shifted and evolved. The rest of the album, culled from the pile of demos, is notably varied, and follows in this raucous sensibility, even on standout “Stuck On You,” an emotional piano ballad that reveals the group’s introspective side. The punk aesthetic from New Politics lingers, but regardless of musical style Soren and David were mostly interested in capturing sincere moments in equally genuine music. “Everything has to come from the heart,” David says. “Realizing onstage that you can do anything and if it’s honest and from the heart, the rest will follow. Everything will follow. It’s been really cool realizing that and bringing it into the album.”
“I feel that we have never been this focused,” Soren adds. “It’s more than us being these crazy, jumping around musicians and just going with whatever flows. We have more of a mission. We went through something hard and now we’re stronger than ever. I think that’s the most important thing – it’s actually been a great experience to fall down and rise again.”