Kvelertak | Interview with Bjarte Lund Rolland


Seemingly from out of nowhere, well Stavanger-Norway actually, Kvelertak literarily took the world by storm with their incredibly infectious self-titled debut album which was already elected as one of the best works released in 2010. That’s no mean feat for a band that emerged only three years ago, when a bunch of friends decided to create a group just to overbear the tranquil and monotonous lifestyle of their hometown.
Yet not much is known from Kvelertak except for that, so I suppose the most obvious thing to enquire about right now is exactly who is Kvelertak? Some garage-rock musicians with a fixation towards black-metal, punk-rockers twisting around Satyricon tunes or just a bunch of individuals with a wide array of musical tastes and a desire shove them over your face, as violently and energetically as humanly possible?

“Definitely the last one! We are six very different people with different music tastes. We don't really subscribe to any sub-culture or scene, we just really like catchy rock music.”

Definitely “Kvelertak” is one of the most interesting albums to come out last year, merging genres as diverse as black metal, punk and garage-rock and into a potent and infectious amalgamation that defies conventional labels.
Do you guys ever pay attention to what people are saying about your music? Critics seem to throw a lot of different labels to describe your music.

“Of course we do! All bands that say they don't are liars. But it's not like we rushed out to pick up the reviews. We did not expect this massive acclaim obviously, so it's a flying start to a career, and we're very grateful for that.”

How would you describe the overall mood of the album?

"We wanted to make a party-album that you could listen to sober! It starts off right in your face, and then throughout the record the songs get longer and less single-y and more epic. I hope it makes for a good dynamic when listening through the whole thing. I like it when an album sounds like an album, and not just a bunch of songs.”
I’m told that you write all the music, while vocalist Erlend Hjelvik crafts all the lyrics."

Do you have a particular process that you go about when you’re writing music, or it’s just a matter of sitting down and jam whatever comes to you and then build from that?

“I'm not a jam-guy really. I like a good jam, but I'm not sure if it's a very effective way of writing songs. You can't just expect people to listen to something you came up with randomly. I record parts when I feel confident they are good enough, compile them in Cubase, play around with them for a while, re-record and mix, throw some midi drums and dummy vocals on top, pitch a guitar down an octave for bass, then send the mix down to the other guys, and hope that they like it. Sometimes, if there is a part I feel like I'm missing, we'll try it out in the practice area first, just to see if something comes up, then I will make the demo. ‘Nekroskop’ was the last song on the record to be written, and some of the stuff there we came up with together in the practice area, and that's one of my favourites on the record. But usually I will try to make a demo that expresses the idea as well as possible. Sometimes it's hard to get a certain riff or part across if it's not in the right context. It has happened that a riff that I've tried was rejected at practice, but when one was able to hear it with drums and vocals and all the parts combined, it made sense. But it's not a point for me to be the sole songwriter. We used to be several people writing songs, but it just kinda ended up like this. As long as the songs are good, doesn't really matter who writes them. It's not like it's going to get you laid anyway.”


All the lyrics were written in Norwegian and I’ve read somewhere that they deal with Norse Mythology and Viking Folklore, can you shed some light on what vocalist Erlend manifests through his words on the album?

“I guess it just makes sense thematically, since we're Norwegian and all. It would be really dumb not to utilize such an amazing source of material. Some of the lyrics are actually pretty clever too, in that they reflect stuff that happens to Erlend, but are disguised as your typical metal-lyric. ‘Liktorn’ may seem like a song about that whole thing with Balder, but it's really about this one time when I didn't pick Erlend up from band practice, or something (even I don't know half the lyrics). Balder is also the Norse origin of my name, pretty clever?? Too bad no-one will ever get to read that. Other lyrics are just very stupid. Let's just say they were written WAY before we even dreamed of releasing a record, hehe!”

There’s a long tradition of Norwegian bands that chosen to sing in their native tongue. In your case, it was just a natural choice, or it kind of happened by accident so to say?

“In the beginning we were playing around with the idea of mixing English and Norwegian, and so we had some really silly songs that would switch between the languages. We quickly realized it was a pretty stupid idea, and at that time it was not even a question, the lyrics had to be Norwegian. I guess the attitude was, no-one really care about lyrics because you can't hear them anyway, might as well be Norwegian. Unless you read them in the booklet, which we would DEFINITELY have none of. And we stuck with that. Turns out people DO care about lyrics! People are asking us all the time to release them. We have been on two European tours by now, and we see people all the time singing along to lyrics they couldn't POSSIBLY know! But they still have to sing along! That's pretty funny. And we love watching people post their own ridiculous transcripts. So we wouldn't want to kill all the fun by releasing them!”

One of the most interesting things about this new record is the production work. Sonically “Kvelertak” strikes a perfect balance between being engagingly melodic and rhythmically powerful. I take it the band is quite pleased with the work of Kurt Ballou at his GodCity Studios right?

“Hell yes! That was the best thing that could have happened to the record. I was kinda worried that my lack of studio experience wouldn't do justice to the song material that we had accumulated, unless we had a really kick-ass producer. So we set up a strictly hypothetical wish-list of producers, starting with Kurt. We didn't expect anyone would actually say yes. I assumed we would have to do it ourselves, so I was listening around to find references to music that I would use to describe the sound to a technician. When I started doing some research I realised Kurt's name was showing up on all my favourite references. I said “what the hell”, and sent him a bunch of demos on Myspace, and on account of that (he had obviously never heard of us before) he said yes the day after! I remember a huge sense of relief when I read that, the fact that he said yes based on that was really a testament to the material and his ability to hear it in a crappy demo. At that point I knew the record was going to be bad-ass, which it was, thanks to Kurt. Not to mention that Converge booked us for their tour without even seeing us, and way before anyone outside Norway knew about us. We really owe a lot to those guys!”

Are there any plans for a follow-up to “Kvelertak” yet?

“Of course! It will obviously be shitty, but at least there will be more songs to choose from live. ;)”

David Alexandre

All Kvelertak photos by: Paal Audestad

More info at: www.myspace.com/kvelertak