By Cory Casciato
By Team Backbeat
By Amber Taufen
By Jon Solomon
By Tom Murphy
By Jesse Livingston
By Alejandra Loera
By Stephanie March
Mortensen's never been particularly good at toeing the line; bad behavior even got him chucked out of Ludo X. Nevertheless, he and Laursen stayed close, and together they committed acts of indie apostasy. "We were very much into Kraftwerk and early Human League and Depeche Mode, which weren't very indie. This was in, like, '94, '95, and it was considered really uncool." Next, the pair started grooving to "fun kind of dancey stuff. Old disco, old rock-and-roll stuff with a good beat to it -- '50s, '60s, '70s stuff. Plus black music that was very far away from the indie spirit. Like Motown records, where the boss would tell you, ŒI want a song that sounds like this,' and it was kind of an assembly line, where the singer didn't have anything to do with the song. But it sounded so good."
Laursen and Mortensen didn't know if influences like these could co-exist with an underground sensibility, but when Ludo X fell apart, they were determined to find out. They borrowed their DIY ethic from the indie universe: "We really wanted to be in control of our own thing and do what we wanted to do, without compromising," Mortensen said. At the same time, they were eager to break all the indie regulations they'd previously felt pressured to follow, beginning with their choice of a moniker and extending to marketing considerations. In Mortensen's view, "ŒJunior Senior' is a kind of anti-indie name. It's a bit of a concept, but it's a really weird one. We just wanted something that was stupid and unpretentious and in some ways didn't sound cool like all the other bands. A lot of indie bands have names with a sort of pseudo-intellectual ring that make them seem better than they actually are, and we wanted to go for the opposite of that. And with press photos, we didn't want to have the kind where you try to look pretty and really cool to get girls or whatever. That wasn't where we were heading."
Musically, their destination was just as far afield. To Mortensen, current indie bands "all take themselves so seriously," but he knew this wasn't always so. Back in the day, alterna-outfits such as the B-52's and the Cramps came across as nutty and outrageous without being called heretics, and he and Laursen were determined to forge a similar path. "We wanted to make music that people could dance to," Mortensen said. "We wanted it to be kind of edgy and to let us take the piss out of ourselves and have some fun."
To that end, they turned their disparate sexual predilections into a running gag custom made for the Will & Grace generation. "We make jokes about it all the time," Mortensen noted. "We tease each other, like, ŒWhat the hell is up with girls?' and have a lot of fun with it instead of turning it into some weird taboo thing. And that helps our music. We're not afraid of girlie things. I don't have to be overly masculine or try to do anything that's really manly, because I'm glad to be in the band with a gay guy. I think it's a lot more fun than to have another straight counterpart."
The combination of overt humor and get-down rhythms promptly differentiated Junior Senior from generic punk rockers and interchangeable mopers who are in such abundant supply, and it also opened the possibility of a dance-club crossover. Recognizing this potential, Crunchy Frog, a Danish imprint, quickly signed the twosome. A subsequent distribution agreement with Mercury Records spread the word throughout Europe, after which Atlantic Records jumped on board in the States, unleashing D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat.
Predictably, the highlight of the disc is "Move Your Feet," a podiatry anthem so infectious that the Centers for Disease Control should launch an investigation. Lyrically profound, it ain't: The chorus, wailed by Mortensen, declares, "Everybody move your feet and feel united," while the Laursen-delivered verses contain wisdom such as "P-p-put my record on/And all your troubles are dead and gone." But its canny amalgamation of faux horn splats, strummy guitars, percussion workouts and robotic exhortations about "dance energy" is absolutely undeniable, providing precisely three minutes of mindless bliss.
The rest of Beat may not be as instantly memorable as its single, which has sold well over 200,000 units in the United Kingdom alone, but it is similarly ebullient. "Go Junior, Go Senior" is built upon chants like "Do the kids dig what we do? Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"; "Rhythm Bandits" gives surf music a blast of nitrous oxide; "Shake Me Baby" offers up finger-snapping Nordic soul; and "Dynamite" juxtaposes "Twist and Shout" vocals and neo-rockabilly guitar. As for "Chicks and Dicks," its title is a case of truth in advertising. The chorus asks, "Who ya gonna do-do after dark?" -- prompting Mortensen to respond, "Gimme girls, girls, girls!" and Laursen to counter, "Gimme boy-boy-b-b-boys!"
The cumulative effect of this much glee will strike some folks as a wonderful corrective to indie glumness, but others may suffer a happiness overdose. Either way, Mortensen understands. "I really appreciate sad music and listen to that a lot," he said. "But what we do, I think of it as a celebration of the good times. We want to celebrate the good things and talk about the good things and let other people talk about the bad things. You need a bit of everything, I think. We're just trying to fill out a little bit of the space -- and I think most people want to have fun."
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city