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Best of What's Next: Choir of Young Believers

October 22, 2009  |  6:00am
Best of What's Next: Choir of Young Believers

Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark
Band Members: Jannis Noya Makrigiannis (guitar, vocals), Caecilie Trier (cello, backing vocals), Jakob Milung (bass), Lasse Herbst (percussion), Casper Henning Hansen (drums), Bo Rande (horns, keyboards), Sonja LaBianca (piano)
Album: This is For the White in Your Eyes
For Fans Of: Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Pixies

Choir of Young Believers is an experiment, a shape-shifting band helmed by musical multi-tasker Jannis Noya Makrigiannis. The group may feature as many as seven musicians strings, keyboards, piano, percussion, horns or cello at any given time, with Makrigiannis’ vocals and guitar at the center. But it can also be pared down to just a duo, as it was earlier this year at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, when Makrigiannis played alongside Choir vocalist and cellist Caecilie Trier. The performance helped them get signed to Ghostly Records, which released the band’s US debut, This is For the White in Your Eyes, in August.

Makrigiannis formed Choir of Young Believers in 2007 after leaving his former band, Lake Placid. At the time, local press touted the Choir as his new solo project, a classification that he didn’t refute. “In the start,” he says, “I think it was a way of securing myself, to call it a solo project. If someone left or was too busy to play, then if it was a solo project, it didn’t change anything. But people just stuck around and they’ve been so good to the music. We’re actually with the same people now as when we started out two years ago.”

Though the Choir’s smorgasbord of orchestral indie pop is just now eking its way into American consciousness, the band has been well-known in Denmark for a while, winning a Danish Grammy for Best New Act for its 2007 Burn the Flag EP and garnering the heady Danish Critics Choice Award for “Hope of the Year.” The quiet, reserved Makrigiannis refused to let the attention make him nervous. “This is not something you can control,” he says. “Being the person I am, I would think that I would get frightened by all these expectations, but I don’t.”

When Choir of Young Believers embarks on its tour of the U.S. and Canada starting Oct. 17, it will be as a quartet featuring Makrigiannis and Trier, plus Casper Henning Hansen on drums and Jakob Milung on bass. Makrigiannis characterizes the current foursome’s sound as “very basic and very raw—a bit more like a genuine rock band.”

“I’ve always been into playing different instrumental lineups,” he says. “I really like that you can play one song in many different ways and then it expresses different things.”

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