Interview: Polina Bachlakova

Photo: Ed Gumuchian

“I think that life is about challenging yourself as much as possible. If I get too comfortable, I need to change what I’m doing,” says Rasmus Littauer. “After spending so much time only playing with other artists, it’s very emotional to put myself out there like I do now.”

The 27-year-old musician has been integral to Denmark’s music scene for years, but primarily as a razor-sharp drummer for hyped acts like MØ and Reptile Youth. So when he released the track “Las Vegas” under the moniker School of X last summer, people were stunned. Not only did Littauer’s personal endeavour seemingly come out of the blue: it was also confident and cohesive—as if he’d spent years quietly finessing his creative vision before unleashing it onto eager ears with a bang. Yet Littauer stresses it all happened organically as a result of years spent touring, surrounded by inspiring people and diverse creative energy. “I needed something more out of my creative spirit—to let off some steam, in a way,” he says. “There wasn’t a point when I decided to release my music: it’s just that I started writing more songs and eventually, I felt they were good enough. I have very high expectations of my own music.”

Judging by the two tracks we’ve heard so far, Littauer’s perfectionism and work ethic paid off. Both “Las Vegas” and his recent single, “Words”, are silky pop songs successfully walking the tightrope between emotional intimacy and near-clinical execution. Littauer meticulously balances candid vocals and lyrics against billowy, cinematic production; he brings his slick pop sensibility down to earth with washes of warm synths and show-stealing drums. “I work a lot with the intimate and the grandiose,” he offers as explanation. “For me, it’s a game of finding the right expression in between; I think capturing that middle space is super exciting. My lyrics and parts of my music are quite intimate, but the sound is huge and so is the aesthetic.”

Indeed, Littauer’s aesthetic is as bulletproof as his music. Watch his short-format video for “Words” and enter a universe of perfected pastel hues, Wes Anderson-like art direction and hazily dreamy imagery; go on the School of X Instagram and it’ll feel the same—a stream of clean crops and hazy kaleidoscopes with not a filter out of place. “It’s very important to be as straightforward as possible in all aspects. Music, visuals, live shows; everything must come together,” Littauer firmly states. Unsurprisingly, he’s deeply involved in the aesthetic development of School of X. For example, that forty-second-long video for “Words”? It took him days to write the script and build the visual concept. “People need to get the artist’s message instantly. Otherwise, they might not give it a chance or listen to it, which is the worst thing that could happen. Also, it’s important for me as an artist and creative to express emotions through photos and films,” he says.

Executing a vision that ambitious and precise is intimidating for any creative. But doing that while spending most of your time carrying out other artists’ visions as a drummer? Probably challenging, and definitely impressive. Luckily for Littauer, meeting his creative expectations for School of X paradoxically lies in occasionally letting go of them. “The main thing that matters with music is continuously releasing, writing and producing. If you stop doing that because you’re too obsessed with results, it’s a limitation,” he explains.

Of course, maintaining that practical perspective is easier said than done. Littauer admits that this kind of pressure can be creatively hindering, which is why he often turns to a quote by Danish poet, journalist and filmmaker Jørgen Leth to keep a cool head. “Leth said that the key to overcoming a creatively depressive period is remembering that you can work your way out of it. It’s not like you’ve lost your ability to create,” Littauer explains. That mentality got him through a creative down period of his own, during which he spent four months struggling to make music he felt was good enough. “Suddenly, it turns around and you feel you can actually use what you worked on,” Littauer continues. “I think that seeing the potential in what you can do is a state of mind that’s really important to remember.”

For now, Littauer is gearing up to play Danish festivals like Roskilde, Wonderfestiwall and Musik i Lejet this summer. After that, he’s hoping for some international shows, and in the fall, he’ll release his first EP. It’s all moving pretty fast for School of X, but Littauer isn’t too worried. “I’m very confident in my music,” he said. “At the same time, it’s new for me to be doing my own project. It’s very scary, it’s difficult, and it’s a lot work. But at the end of the day, it’s surprising and rewarding, too.”