PERSONNEL: ANE BJERKAN (VOCAL/HARMONIUM), KEN ERIK KLASEIE (BASS), OLA EVEN HOGSTAD HAGEN (DRUMS), HAKON BRUNBORG KJENSTAD (VIOLA/GUITAR/VOCALS)
LABEL: NO FOREVERS
2015 Østfrost EP including Wooden Floors (Oct), Single Bakkegata 14b (Dec)
TC SET: FRIDAY – SOSTRENE KARLSEN – 20.00
SATURDAY – ROCKHEIM RESTAURANTEN – 21.30
Hey, Hey – it’s Trondheim Calling week – woo !! – and, in the run up to the “main event” we have been reviewing and interviewing bands on the TC line up.
Østfrost have found their perfect sweet spot within the indie sound – neither jangly nor dreamy, theirs is a sound that has just enough bite to appeal to guitar loving types, whilst wielding sufficient pop sensibilities to make it very daytime radio friendly. They scored huge media acclaim with their Autumn 2015 single, ‘Wooden Floors’, and if you’re one of the lucky ones due to see them play either of their two TC sets later this week, you’ll get to hear this powerfully catchy track live.
A huge fan of their music, I couldn’t wait to delve a bit deeper to uncover some more background to both the band and their sound. I asked Østfrost if they’d answer some questions, and they very kindly took time out to give me some really interesting and indeed, surprising answers (check out the really unique location where they held their debut concert!!) … Here is what they had to say …
Hey, for those that know zero about the band and its members, can you tell us something about your individual musical backgrounds?
Ken Erik: I started playing bass because I had a dream of playing in the local youth gospel choir’s band. I soon got interested in rock music in all its possible forms, and even though I spent years trying to play gospel, funk and jazz, rock music always stayed closest to my heart.
Håkon: My first musical encounter was playing the violin in a string orchestra, but I didn’t really dig music before I discovered Led Zepplin and started my first rock band. I later changed to the viola because I prefer the slightly darker timbre, and of course John Cale proved years ago that playing the viola is just about as cool as it gets.
Ane: For as long as I can remember I’ve loved writing songs and singing, but when I was twenty I decided to be a musician and moved to the Norwegian mountains where I studied traditional folk music. From the day I made that decision I’ve never looked back.
Ola Even: In my childhood I had some friends that were very interested in music and we started a rock band together. It was wonderful. I had finally found an activity that I enjoyed! I believe that meeting those friends is the reason I play the drums today.
Cool – pretty diverse backgrounds. So just who are your musical influences?
Ane: When we first started playing music together I was inspired by the Norwegian band 1982, a band with one of my favorite musicians, Nils Økland (a very famous Norwegian fiddle player). I guess you could say we got the idea of using the harmonium and viola from them, even though our music does not resemble theirs at all.
Håkon: Lately we have listened a lot to people that play minimalist music, like Angel Olsen (the American folk singer) and the American singer/songwriter Cat Power. When talking about minimalist pop music I would also have to mention the danish band Under Byen.
Ken Erik: We have been interested in the Norwegian scene for quite some time now. There are great bands in almost every city in the country. Trondheim especially has had some interesting bands emerge in the last years. These bands have all stayed within the pop format, but at the same time experimented with other sounds and musical diversity. This has inspired the whole music scene, ourselves included.
It’s cool that you take your inspo from the indigenous music scene, and such an interesting mix of eclectic influences. How did you guys come together?
Østfrost started when Håkon (viola and guitar) and Ane (vocal and harmonium) began to improvise and write songs together. In the beginning we played whatever instrument we had to hand which resulted in some interesting sounds with both viola and the Indian harmonium as essential elements. Ola Even, the drummer, joined the band before our first concert to give our music a more rhythmical feel. Our debut concert was actually in an empty swimming pool at night, with only a few light sources, giving the music an atmospheric setting and plenty of natural reverb. (like how seriously cool was that folks!!), Østfrost’s bass player, Ken Erik, is the newest member to join the band – he has helped give the songs a little more depth.
A swimming pool – that must be a first. I’ve heard of people recording in bathrooms (Depeche Mode for instance) but I’ve never heard of anyone playing live in a swimming pool. The acoustics must have been amazing – all those echoes!
Tell me, where did the name Østfrost come from?
When we started writing music together we didn’t think of it as a band, but when we were going to play a concert with the music, we chose to call the project Østfrost. This was actually an insider joke, one of those jokes between ourselves, that no-one else would understand. As we played more concerts and became a proper band we just kept it. 🙂
My favourite subject – how would you define your style – or do you feel that music should not be pigeon-holed by constantly being categorised?
We play and write music that we like. We don’t mind people categorising music, but others can do the job of categorising our music.
Good answer. What makes you stand out from other bands?
Ken Erik: There are very many bands playing cold synth-pop these days and it’s extremely popular in Norway. We steer clear of it in every way possible, it’s just not our cup of tea.
Ola Even: Østfrost use harmonium and viola, instruments with a warm soothing timber that aren’t traditional in the rock/pop world.
Ane: Even though we play music that might sound aloft and atmospheric, we are really quite down to earth. Østfrost consists of a plant science student, a health care assistant, a art history student and a bartender. (You’re going to have to guess which one is which – answers on a postcard!)
Håkon: The combination of different musical references within the band shapes the sound of Østfrost. We never agreed on sounding like a certain band or style, but rather try to incorporate all of our ideas and preferences into our own sound.
Great so your sound was allowed to develop organically. That figures, it all sounds really natural, unforced and not trying to be something or fit a genre. Your debut EP came out last Autumn. Are you guys working on any new music at the moment?
Right now we are preparing a killer set for Trondheim Calling. We also just received vinyl pressings of the EP that we are preparing for release the 5th February. As for the year 2016 it’s going to be a year for working hard, booking concerts and playing as many gigs as we can, writing new songs, recording and releasing some singles and getting started on our debut album.
Do you guys ever argue//fall out during recording?
The music we record in the studio have always been tried on stage quite a few times and through that process we usually agree on what we feel works the best. In the studio we are therefore effective and don’t get into any big arguments.
Perfect harmony ! Tell me, if you could cover one song, what would it be and why?
We would love to do a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”, just because it’s an awesome song and it makes everyone extremely happy. Ending a concert with “Black or White” would transform the venue to a frenzy of disco like dancing.
And, conversely, if you could get one artist to cover one of your own songs, who would it be and which song?
There are two versions of our songs we would love to hear. First of all it would be fantastic if Beyonce did a cover of Meeting the Sun. The absurdity of that cover would be, well, just absurd. On a slightly more serious note we think Angel Olsen, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Bill Callahan and Sparklehorse singing “I don’t want to stop” acapella would be lovely. It would be the perfect song to fall asleep to, gently guiding you into calm and beautiful dreams.
Awh, now I want to hear that too. We shall have to do up a petition!!
Finally, the Norwegian music scene is particularly exciting at the moment – it seems to have entered a really creative and interesting phase. Why do you think that is?
There are many factors that together have stimulated the Norwegian scene over the last twenty or so years leading to the interesting scene you see today. We’ll mention a few. One very important reason for the diversity in the music scene are all the small record labels, studios, concert venues and record stores that have bloomed lately. They create an environment where small bands are encouraged to create their own thing. There are also many funds in Norway helping musicians create music without having to sell everything they produce. The applications for these funds add more paperwork for musicians, but it’s a small price to pay for the artistic freedom the funds give. There are some really good jazz schools in Norway as well. Many of the students from these schools have started playing rock and pop music as well, influencing the whole scene. There is also a very good trend where women have become more involved in all parts of the music business, though we are still a long way from balance. It’s hard to pinpoint how this has changed the music scene, but we believe the difference will be more obvious in the future and that balance between men and women undoubtedly changes the scene to be more diverse and interesting.
I think you’ll find that a more than interesting chat!! Tune into Spotify and Soundcloud for sounds from Østfrost. The vinyl ed of their Østfrost EP is out later this week on 5th Feb – see their FB page or the NO FOREVERS page for details. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with their mus-mazing track, ‘Wooden Floors’ – and if you’re around Trondheim Thurs/Friday night, check these guys out.