Over the past eight years, Lemaitre have dreamed up intricate and immaculate electronic pop by defying formula and embracing their instincts. For their latest body of work, the L.A.-based Norwegian duo adopted an even more free-form approach, building most of their new material in laid-back collaboration with their closest musician friends. The result: a selection of songs that emerges as Lemaitre’s most inventively constructed yet immediately infectious output to date.
“It’s been a really long time since we’ve had this much fun making music,” says Ketil Jansen, who co-founded Lemaitre with his fellow producer/songwriter Ulrik Denizou Lund. “Working with our friends has helped us put this more casual feeling to coming up with ideas, where it feels like anything is allowed.”
Although it’s the only new track created solely by Lund and Jansen, Lemaitre’s new single “Machine” still flows with a loose and giddy energy. The duo’s first new offering since Chapter One (a 2017 album featuring the hit single “Closer,” which has now amassed over 65 million streams on Spotify), “Machine” blends bright synth lines, jangly guitar riffs, and soaring melody into a sweetly wistful, indie-pop-inspired confection.
“The basis for the lyrics to that song was this thing my cousin used to say when he was little,” notes Jansen. “Every time he did something he wasn’t allowed to do, like play with matches or whatever, he’d always turn into a machine and walk out the room all robot-like, saying ‘I’m a machine, I don’t have any feelings, you can’t yell at me.’ It was the perfect defense.”
For the rest of their new tracks—to be released as singles throughout 2018—Lemaitre paired up with producers like Coucheron, Jerry Folk, Bearson, and William Larsen (all of whom are also Norwegian artists living in L.A.). “Oftentimes we’d just start working on something without there being any kind of scheduled session,” says Jansen. “We’d all be hanging out at our place or at someone else’s place, and we’d just start messing around and end up making a song.” Lund adds: “It was mostly just about having fun and jamming and going with whatever felt cool, without overthinking anything or trying too hard to come up with something.”
In that process, Lemaitre steadily ventured into new sonic terrain, often by exploring and expanding on their collaborators’ distinct sensibilities. “When you work with another artist, there’s a lot of experimentation in blending your two styles together and creating something new out of that,” Lund points out.
On forthcoming single “Control,” for instance, Lemaitre offer up a hypnotically slinky groove that hints at the hip-hop influence of Jerry Folk. Another Jerry Folk collaboration, “Smoke (Signs)” unfolds in sultry guitar tones, heady beats, and soulful vocals. (“That song came out of a session where we invited our friends over and just wrote for two days in a row,” says Lund. “It’s definitely our most hip-hop/R&B-inspired track so far.”) For “Fast Lovers,” Lemaitre joined forces with Bearson and Coucheron, sculpting a hazy and ethereal soundscape that drifts into dreamy psychedelia. That otherworldliness endures for the fractured beauty of “It’s Not This,” while “Big” arrives as a massive anthem made all the more powerful by its melancholy undertones. And with “Little Things,” Lemaitre glide toward classic-pop grandeur as the track journeys from quiet whimsy to anthemic intensity.
With their new work encompassing such a kaleidoscopic sonic palette, Lemaitre are set to deliver their most dynamic live show yet. To that end, the duo will play a number of major festivals this spring and summer, including Sasquatch and CRSSD. Known for their incendiary live sets (such as their unforgettably explosive appearance at Coachella 2016), Lemaitre constantly change up their show to specifically suit each audience and venue, typically bringing in a full band—sometimes with an entire horn section. “We really like the feeling of watching a live band perform something that sounds completely electronic or like a DJ set, so that’s the ultimate goal for our shows,” says Jansen.
Lemaitre’s endless commitment to upending what’s expected of the musical experience dates back to their earliest days as a duo. After meeting at a party in Oslo and bonding over their love of The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx, Lund and Jansen started making music as teenagers, often holing up in Jansen’s parents’ basement for 14 hours a day. In summer 2010 they had a major breakthrough when “The Friendly Sound”—their second-ever release—hit No. 1 on Hype Machine overnight.
Taking their name from Georges Lemaître (a Belgian priest and astronomer known for introducing the Big Bang theory), Lemaitre put out The Friendly Sound EP at the end of 2010, and in early 2012 released the first EP in their Relativity series. With Relativity 2 arriving in May 2012 and reaching No. 1 on the iTunes Electronic chart in the U.S. and Canada, they quickly caught the attention of some of dance music’s biggest artists, including Martin Solveig and Porter Robinson (who brought Lemaitre out on tour in summer 2014). Also in 2014, soon after their song “1:18” was used as a sync in an ad for the Apple iPhone 5C, Lemaitre signed to Astralwerks and made the move to L.A.
In 2016, Lemaitre drew critical acclaim for 1749 and Afterglow, two boundary-blurring EPs that find the duo mastering everything from electro-swing to nu-disco to future bass. At the same time, Lemaitre widened their reach by adding to their impressive list of syncs: “Closer” was synched for a Google phone commercial and used by Bose in various retail displays, while “We Got U” appeared in the FIFA 2017 mobile app trailer and “Higher” landed in an Apple Watch ad.
Through the years—and especially in the making of their latest material—Lemaitre have found that their chemistry as collaborators has only intensified. “Even though it’s been kind of a crazy ride, the core element of this has stayed the same,” says Jansen. “It’s still Ulrik and I working together and doing whatever feels good to us, building on this thing that we started years ago.” And with their singles-based approach to putting out new tracks, Lemaitre feel even more inspired to push the limits of their creativity. “Since we’re not working toward an album, we just write whatever feels natural to us in the moment,” says Lund. “Each new thing can go any direction. It feels a lot more free, like we’re able to just start a fresh chapter after each song is done.”