Kvelertak: upcoming success story?

Very early on in their career, Kvelertak were considered the new metal/rock curiosity to discover. Then they quickly evolved from curiosity to sensation. All it took was a first album, released through Indie Recordings and graced by a wonderful artwork signed by John Baizley, for the Norwegian band to convince the audience and create big expectations.

In fact, that’s not surprising given that their recipe associates originality, creativity and efficiency. With their highly varied influences, Kvelertak have created their very own style. That’s probably what the audience is looking for, even unconsciously, in a world that’s evolved towards formatted, rehashed music, even in metal. Kvelertak are a breath of fresh air, mixing energetic punk rock, federating classic rock, lively hardcore, aggressive black metal and psychedelic stoner.

When we interviewed him a few weeks ago, Vidar Landa, one of the band’s three guitarists, told us: « We’re six members and everybody has their own musical backgrounds. We all put these influences into our music and into the band. » As a result, there’s always something in their songs that will make one go: “Oh, that’s surprising!” The fact that the three guitarists compose probably explains the acute sense of melody and harmonies the band shows. At least that’s what Landa suggests: « We’ve always been doing that and the songs are always made with that in mind, based around three guitars. So it’s not really hard to handle for us. It’s part of our foundations. That’s also what’s fun about this band: the fact we can play around with a bunch of guitars and do lots of harmonies. »

Are we currently witnessing the birth of a future leading light? Of one of those bands that will drive tomorrow’s metal scene? It might be a bit early to tell (even if we really want to believe), and the music world may have become too complex, compared to the 70s, 80s and 90s, to speculate on tomorrow’s talents. But one must admit that, in spite of their youth, their weird name and their Norwegian lyrics, Kvelertak elicit almost unanimous support.

« I was just star struck and giggling like a little girl when we talked to him. (Laughs) He was super nice to us. »

Their 2011 Spellemann Awards (the Norwegian Grammy Awards) nominations for Best upcoming artist and Best rock band are enough proof of that. And yet, Landa plays down the impact of these awards: « It’s a good recognition from the outside. Our parents and family are proud of that but for us it’s doesn’t really mean anything. » Similarly, all he remembers from their Gold-record-award ceremony (their self-titled album received a gold record after selling 15,000 copies) is the meeting with Dave Grohl: « It was weird because we didn’t know we were going to get a gold record. We thought we were maybe coming to him to give him something. And suddenly he gave us the gold record. But I was just star struck and giggling like a little girl when we talked to him. (Laughs) He was super nice to us. »

But what probably boosted the band’s recognition, at least in their own country, Norway, is the presence of the single “Mjød” in the movie Troll Hunter. The film features many references to Norwegian culture and folklore, and takes the form of a university documentary, where students follow a mysterious bear hunter who seems to be hunting more than just bears… The movie was met with some success and Hollywood is now considering a remake via Chris Columbus’ (Mrs Doubtfire, Home Alone, Harry Potter, etc.) company, 1492 Pictures and CJ Entertainment & Media, which have acquired the rights. The guitarist tells us more about this collaboration: « When the producers of Troll Hunter approached us, we thought they were just making a student movie (laughs). But we thought it was cool so we said: “OK, you can use our song”. And then, it’s only a month later, we were in Oslo, and we saw this big cinema posters for the movie! I love the movie, it’s a great movie. I don’t know if it’s that funny for people outside of Norway, but for Norweigians it’s a very funny movie. I think actually that the movie has done really good in the States, so we are always receiving a lot of Facebook messages or emails from people saying that they just have discovered us through that movie. »

« That was maybe the only thing we talked about before writing the new songs: we wanted more backing vocals and to try to use as many members of the band who sing. »

It wasn’t long before bigger labels took an interest in Kvelertak. Now Roadrunner Records are proud to welcome them into their catalogue: « It’s good for us to have a label that can make the record available everywhere. But beyond that we don’t think too much about it. We’re a hard working band and we’re always out there playing. But it’ll be interesting and I’m excited to see what Roadrunner can do with this record. »

The new album, Meir (meaning “More”), has been released on March 25th and is already plagued with a difficult task: being at least as good as a sensational first album. And yet, the band doesn’t really seem to worry: « We haven’t felt any pressure at all. We’ve been just touring and rehearsing for the new record, so we haven’t had the time to think about it. »

Once again Kurt Ballou, Converge’s guitarist, is behind the steering wheel of production. You just don’t split up a winning team. « It was so smooth the first time », confesses Landa, « and we felt that the songs would again fit his style. Plus he wanted to do it. We wanted him to do it. You can definitely hear his style in the sound, in the guitars. When he came in, the songs were all finished and ready, so he didn’t change anything. The biggest influence from Kurt is the sound of the instruments. » John Baizley was also called up again to create the artwork in his inimitable style. « He wanted to do it. And again, we wanted him to do it. Since we also went back to work with Kurt, it just felt natural to also work with John again. » An excellent way to create continuity between the two albums, as if to say: “If you liked the first one, you’ll love the second!”

And yet, Meir is not just a copy of its predecessor: things are pushed further, hence the title. This is particularly obvious from a vocal point of view: « Erlend Hjelvik has become a better vocalist than he was before. That was maybe the only thing we talked about before writing the new songs: we wanted more backing vocals and to try to use as many members of the band who sing. »

About the song ‘Kvelertak’: « we figured that this song was so shameless that we might as well just call it Kvelertak and make fun about ourselves. »

On the first record, following the example of many Scandinavian bands, the lyrics mainly revolved around Norse mythology and Viking folklore. « They’re all spellbound by those Nordic gods. (Laughs) », says the guitarist with a laugh, before adding more seriously: « I don’t know it’s something we all hear when we grow up and it’s a great way to find inspiration for good stories and lyrics. » But this time, with Meir, Kverlertak have broadened their horizons: « I think there’s only one song that has anything to do with the northern mythology on this one. There is one song called « Spring Fra Livet », that one is basically about getting away from the big city life and go back to the elements, to the forest and the countryside. The song “Nekrocosmos” is about the antichrist coming from outer space (laugh), to destroy everything. There’s a song called « Trepan » which is about a method they use for either people that are mentally ill or that have headaches, where they drill a hole in the brain to let out the evil spirits. Some things are pure imagination, others are more personal stuff. »

It should also be noted that the band have chosen to add a self-titled anthem at the end of the album, as a form of self-celebration. It was current practice in the 70s and 80s, but the tradition has become slightly obsolete: « It was a cool way to end the album, explains Landa. « On the first one we began shouting our name and again at the end of the album we shouted our names. On this one we say the band name backwards and we end the album with the band name again. When we were playing around with that song, rehearsing, when that part came along we were just screaming Kvelertak mostly just for fun and we were laughing. But we figured that this song was so shameless that we might as well just call it Kvelertak and make fun about ourselves. It’s our new band anthem and it’s going to be a great live song. »

Kvelertak are now ready to get on the roads and to conquer the audience: « We start in UK and then in Europe. We’re going to play Paris the 16th of March. Then we’ll continue touring Europe, the US, do all the festival and then we go to Japan in September, then Australia and do it all over again. It’s just going to be a bunch of touring. »

And what does he have to say to the eager French audience? « It would be to bring all their friends and have a great time! Get drunk and shout lound! »

Interview conducted by phone on February 21st 2013
Transcription: Spaceman

Kvelertak’s official website: kvelertak.com

Album Meir, out since March 25th 2013 via Roadrunner Records

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