NMR Interview: A Chat with Löv
During the by: larm festival in Oslo at the end of February, David Bentley, writing for Nordic Music Review had the opportunity to catch up with Löv, a fairly new band formed by two ex-members of Highasakite - Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson - and Martin Halla, an early winner of the Norwegian version of ‘The Voice’ competition.
They have five singles under their belt, and their first album, ‘Nostalgia’ was recently released, after they had spent the previous summer touring in Norway and building up a following.
The discussion ranged, inter alia, over how they came to form the band, how they decided on its name, the ‘super group’ tag they had right from the start, their aspirations, and the rise of Norwegian music generally over the last few years.
NMR: Marte, Øystein, Martin, hello. I know a little about your backgrounds Øystein and Marte but Martin I am not so familiar with. How did the three of you come together?
(Martin) Me and Marte studied together in Bergen and before Highasakite and ‘The Voice’ we played in many bands together, then we had a five-year break. Marte (who is ‘the glue’ holding the band together) called me and said “why don’t we play together again?”, and I said “yes, please!” Then she introduced me to Øystein who is an amazing guy and an amazing musician.
NMR: I can’t quite get a handle on the band’s name. Google Translate gave me ‘Law’ in Norwegian and also offers ‘Leaf’ but that’s in Swedish. What would the correct English translation be? And how do you pronounce it?
If you translate it directly it is ‘Leaf’, we used the Swedish ö instead of the Norwegian ø. But that’s not the meaning. It’s also three letters which represent the three of us together. Three leaves on a tree, or “a new beginning” if you like.
NMR: You’ve been described as a ‘super group’, which I tend to think of as belonging to the 1970s with bands like Cream and ELP. Does a tag like that inspire you, or daunt you?
(All laugh). (Marte) Neither, and to be honest I don’t really care; it just seems typical that people feel the need to label things like that. I don’t get inspired by it or think we are a super group, we’re just three people who have been working with music for many years and we’re quite good at it, but not “super”. We’re just doing the best we can.
NMR: Who does the writing? Is it a group effort or is there a designated writer?
(Øystein). It’s a combination. Sometimes we write together and sometimes we come with our own ideas, such as a groove or chord changes. Sometimes Marta has brought along a lot of songs. (Marta) Sometimes I have brought along some songs I wrote in the past and didn’t know what to do with them. I ran them past Øystein and Martin and they said they liked them and then made them better songs than they were. We work like that a lot, showing each other ideas and in the end it is the three of us together who turn them into songs. (Martin) Sometimes we tried songs that sounded really
shit. (NMR)Did you play any of those at the gig last night (at the Vulkan Arena, as part of by:larm)? (Martin). NO! (All laugh).
NMR: How do most of your songs start life? A piano part? A chord? Or melody? Something else?
(Marte) It’s very much piano and melody together. For me I sit at the piano playing different chords and keys, and then Martin tries to sing something over it. (Martin) There’s also a lot of improvisation. We’re trained in jazz improvisation. For example ‘Take me Home’ started as a drum groove which was improvised by Øystein and Marte and the song ‘happened’ in just 10 minutes. (NMR): There were two additional musicians in the band last night, a drummer and a guitarist, are they part of the creative process? (All) No, they are touring musicians (but very good ones).
NMR: Are you modelling yourself on any other band, or just being yourselves?
(Øystein) We are inspired by other bands but not modelling ourselves on any. (Marte)Yes, like Coldplay and Imagine Dragons for example. They are not the youngest people around but they are still making good songs and both young and old people really like them. They are both ’modern’ and ‘classical’.
NMR: Vinyl, CD, Download or stream? Which do you prefer, as a band?
(Øystein). Vinyl and stream. But of course we are not keen on streaming because you earn so little money on it. It’s great for getting the music out to the people but I think it has killed the industry in some way. There are so many playlists you don’t know what you are listening to. (NMR) Is vinyl a big thing in Norway? (Marte) Yes, and it’s getting bigger. There is a big vinyl store just near here where they have live concerts. You should check it out.
NMR: When I wrote a review of ‘All of the Lights’ last year I mentioned that the PR was talking about “dark, catchy pop music” but that while it is definitely catchy, I didn’t hear anything especially dark on that track, or on ‘Superhuman’, or ‘Take me Home’, or ‘Fuel to the Fire’, which is really a dance track ? How do you see it? Are you trying to be ‘dark’?
(Marte). I think they meant the lyrics? I wrote the lyrics to that song and they were sad, but I don’t think they were dark. And most of our songs are melancholic, for sure, apart from ‘Hero’ which is the only one that is ‘happy’ I suppose. (Øystein). Also when people refer to things that are sad or melancholic they use the word ‘sad’. There is quite a lot of ‘dark’ music in Norway anyway, not metal, or Goth, just not cheerful.
NMR: Martin, you were the winner of the very first series of the Norwegian version of The Voice, in 2012. Were you in the music industry prior to entering that competition, did you feel any particular pressure caused by winning it (or did you take it in your stride?), and can you talk us through your career since then?
I was finishing my Bachelor degree in jazz when I entered The Voice, surprisingly won the whole thing (that wasn’t the plan!) and was thrown into a solo career. I went to London to record a CD with Mags from A-ha – 10 days with five songs – the process was a bit of a mess and that’s my solo career (laughs). I made one single that was fairly successful and kept me floating for a while but you can’t even find it on Spotify in the UK. So I wasn’t really inspired to carry on doing that, then Marte called me and asked me to be in the band, a good thing!
NMR: Marte, how does your work with Löv tally with your other recording and performing duties. For example, you released an album with your father last year and you have had solo recordings such as Mad Boy and performances in the past as well as other bands like Morning has Occurred. Is Löv your priority now?
It’s part of everything that comes my way. I’m working a lot with this band. I’m still doing other stuff and that’s important as a composer as I have so many different ideas. If I do just one thing I fear my creativity will stop. If I’ve been doing jazz rock it’s good to come back to Øystein and Martin to write and play some pop music, it’s the tension release I need to keep the dynamic to keep moving forward. When I was a little girl I played Nintendo and kept aiming for the next level and refused to go to the dining table for meals while I was playing. It’s the same thing, just doing what I know bestand keeping at it as much as I can.
NMR: And Øystein, what other projects do you have presently? I believe you work at a music institute here in Oslo?
Yes, but that’s quite some years ago now, four or five. But I’ve also been writing some stuff for television and theatre. And three years ago I started checking out studio work. I’m getting very interested in producing and recording. I’m building a studio with friends now, at the old airport in Oslo. I’m really enjoying being in the studio and getting better with the tools. I also recently started playing the piano and writing songs on it, something haven’t done for, I don’t know, 15 years or so. (NMR. Is there any influence of that on the album, the ‘jangly piano’ as I call it, is that you or Marte?) (Marte) Actually it’s both of us. What Øystein is working on now is very cinematic. It’s very
beautiful. (Øystein) Thank you. (Marte) Øystein isn’t the best person to talk his music up, so someone has to say it! (Øystein) I’m rediscovering the sparks I had when I was young, again, there’s no plan, I’m just enjoying it. When I first started on the piano I was learning a lot of classical stuff but there’s so much pressure. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy what I have been doing, with Löv, Highasakite, blah, blah, blah. There’s just something special about getting back to the piano again. Which sounds weird for a pianist? (Marte) I don’t think so. You’ve been playing piano since you were six, now you have to play highly synthesised music every day, over and over again. It’s good to have a change. (Øystein) It’s good not to have to over-think things, just to enjoy what you do. I think it’s
common for musicians when they get to my age to go back to childhood stuff. (All laugh). (Martin) Or go back to the cabin with a guitar, to the roots. (Øystein) Actually, it was embarrassing, over the last 10 years, when anyone asked me just play the piano, I had nothing to offer. I’ve played piano for 30 years now; I should be able to play something for someone on demand!
''I think our live show has developed quite a bit since last year, when it was a bit more ‘rocky’...''(Martin)
NMR: I’ve seen you (Marte) playing guitar in a video. Most people tend you associate you with keyboards. Is guitar an instrument you were familiar with already (I’m assuming so because of your father’s skill on that instrument) or did you take it up recently?
Actually I wanted to play guitar when I was younger. I asked my dad to teach me but he said no, no, no, you have to practice so much, you don’t want to go there. So I just play for fun, I’m not a good guitar player at all. I can hardly play, just some chords, so this was just to do something else. I could never play an acoustic session; I just did it to get another sound for that video. The guitar chords sound different to the piano ones and that inspires me to different melodies.
NMR: I hate this question but have to ask it. How do you ‘classify’ Löv by genre? Also, what type of audience do you think you are especially likely to appeal to? (By way of demographics such as age, gender) or are you not pitching at any one particular audience?
(Øystein) We’re classified as indie-pop as we’re on an independent label. (NMR) Indie-pop or Scandi-pop? I get 50 submissions a month from artists many of which sound the same, like a couple of rungs down from Sigrid. (Marte) Yes we saw one before us, last night, very stereotyped, the attitude, the clothing etc. The same package. And they’re getting younger and younger. But maybe we are ‘Scandi pop’? (NMR) No you aren’t! (All laugh). (Øystein) We label ourselves as indie- pop but we hope we reach out to everybody but most of our audience are in their twenties I think. (Marte) But one of our songs was ‘song of the week’ on a radio station for young people and that surprised us. But mainly we see that people from 25 to 50 or 60 are listening to our music.
How has your touring been going? Are you happy with your live shows? / Are you playing all your own songs or are there covers right now? / What’s your favourite gig so far? Are you likely to tour abroad in the future?
(Martin) I think our live show has developed quite a bit since last year, when it was a bit more ‘rocky’ if I can say that. (Marte) I think it was because we hadn’t recorded any of the songs then, we were only finding out how to play them, live. (Martin) It was more ‘rock and roll’ last year. (Øystein) It’s more produced now. (Øystein/Marte) Our best gig so far was probably one at an arts festival in the north of Norway last year. The people attending were curious to find out about us, they had to buy a ticket just to see us, not a general event pass. (Martin) It was only our second gig but the event sold out and we knew those guys came just to see us. A big ego boost. (Øystein) Yes, and it was very very
beautiful, blah, blah, blah. (Marte mimics Øystein and laughs, Yes, so beautiful, blah, blah, blah). Regarding touring abroad absolutely, but you have to have a plan. I remember the first time we played in Manchester there were just three people in the audience, the stage was too small and we had this massive arena sound that just didn’t fit.
''...taking care of each other and making music together is the main thing and if we can play some concerts that’s a bonus.'' (Marte)
NMR: A general question or two. It seems to me that Norwegian music has made great strides internationally in the last five years or so. (Prior to that had you asked someone in the UK to name a Norwegian band they would have said A-Ha and then stopped). It has made an impact in the UK and the U.S. thanks to current stars like Sigrid and Aurora (and of course Highasakite before them). Even people I know in the business in Sweden have commented about Norway ‘overtaking’ that country). How do you see it? Why the sudden rise in popularity?
(Øystein) Over the last 10 years the Norwegian government (the Labour Party) has been putting a lot of money into culture and supporting music in schools, nothing happened suddenly, it happened over a period of time. The government wants it to happen. (Marte) And there are so many young people now that are good at programming and making good songs at an international level. (Øystein) And plane tickets have become much cheaper so Norwegians can travel to L.A. and New York and the opposite and swop experiences. Also you can teach yourself now on YouTube.
NMR: Back to Löv. What is your goal? Your dream? To have a #1 album, to play at the Nobel Peace Prize concert again? (assuming there is one) Or something more modest?
(Marte) I think it’s just to have as much fun as we can. We’ve had so many ambitions in other projects and saw them go wrong. So taking care of each other and making music together is the main thing and if we can play some concerts that’s a bonus. But the main thing is taking care of each other. (Øystein) I was talking to a guy yesterday, a member of one of the biggest bands in Denmark, which has headlined the Roskilde Festival three times and has been around for 24 years and he was telling me that for him it is just still a hobby. That way, they can keep another focus, it’s healthy for them. It’s a mental thing. No, not mental – psychological, that’s what I meant. My English!
NMR: Øystein, Marte and Martin, thank you again for joining us and best of luck for the future.