There’s a concept in Scandinavian society called the Law of Jante, which says individuals should downplay their achievements, blend in and support the group. The music of Danish band Yung serves as an urgent, screaming retort to that idea, the sound of young iconoclasts fighting against apathy. Led by 21-year-old frontman and songwriter Mikkel Holm Silkjær, the group hails from Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, a huge port, university town and ideal place to find like minds amid the industrial grit. On the forthcoming EP “These Thoughts Are Mandatory Chores,” they show themselves to be ambassadors of their country’s increasingly vital underground music scene. Anthemic guitars, coarse feedback and driving rhythm, insistent to the point of impatience, show angst acting as a powerful fuel for self-expression, gasoline poured on a fire already fed by youthful energy.
Boasting more than a decade of experience, Silkjær has played in a constellation of bands and runs a pair of labels, Shordwood and 100 Records. But music runs much deeper for the punk prodigy. At four, his dad Per Silkjær, then part of the band Studson, set up his son behind a drum kit, giving him a taste of music making when he was just tall enough to see over the stool. When he was 12, Per took his son to see garage rock icon Jay Reatard play in the practice room of local punk band Cola Freaks (the same group who would later play at Mikkel’s confirmation). About that time, Mikkel started picking up 7-inch singles from the Danish underground from his uncle’s Copenhagen store, Repo Man Records. Raised to see music as a craft and a calling, not art or artifice, he dove into his own productions as a teenager.
His dad literally stumbled upon his son’s burgeoning talent. During a trip to New York for his son’s 18th birthday, Per was up late, ripping newly purchased CDs on Mikkel’s laptop, when he found a long list of hook-heavy, exuberant tracks by an unrecognized artist named Yung. Fast forward a few years later in 2013, and Holm would start performing some of these songs live with a circle of friends—Frederik Nybo Veilie (drums), Tobias Guldborg Tarp (bass) and Emil Zethsen (guitar)—bursting forth seemingly fully formed, their chemistry quickly apparent as they built up a reputation for lighting up a stage. Recorded just months after they began playing together, their “Alter” EP wasn’t just a debut, but a document of their live presence.
“My father helped widen my musical viewpoint, and he has given me my taste for the more pop-oriented stuff,” Mikkel says. “But he has also taught me to do things DIY. You don’t have to play showcase festivals, even if all Danish bands think that’s what it takes.”
More than buzz, Silkjær has built a cottage industry. He writes songs, handles the artwork for every release and even does much of the production himself. The resulting self-made music on “These Thoughts Are Mandatory Chores,” raw, snarling corkscrews of feedback, find the Danish rockers branching off from the same family tree that birthed The Replacements and Cloud Nothings. It’s the band’s DIY call to arms, singular and authentic songs that won’t remain unknown very long.