Kvelertak interview (Erlend Hjelvik)

"Being played on the radio and being a top 40 band is quite the suprise, I'm taking it as a sign that we're doing something right"

21/06/2013 @ 12:17
A new album and an upcoming visit in our country are more than enough to give the opportunity for another chat with Kvelertak. With "Meir" being the natural next step from "Kvelertak", the Norsemen -by the words of their frontman, Erlend Hjelvik- are answering our questions regarding their new album as well as their appearance at Athens' Heavy By The Sea festival.

KvelertakYou released your sophomore album a couple of months ago. So -first of all- congrats for another great one! How has the response been so far, compared to your debut?
Thanks, it's been great! It's even been getting better reviews than the first album for the most part and I think that we've made a lot of new fans with it. We're super happy with the album ourselves.

I’d say that the element of surprise played a large part to all the hype you created, since in 2010 most of us didn’t know what to expect from you. Did you have a plan for counterbalancing that element, so to speak?
Not really, the only plan we had was to make an album that we loved ourselves. We don't really overthink things too much, if it sounds good and feels right we'll do it.

Kvelertak - MeirWhat would you say are the main differences between "Meir" and "Kvelertak"?
I think "Meir" is more varied, more dynamic and has more layers than our first album. It also has more of a rock feel to it. "Kvelertak" we basically just did the best we could with what we had, "Meir" is the first time we've actually made an album.

So, was the composition process any different this time around? Did you try to avoid any similarities with your older material, or did you let yourselves totally free when composing the new stuff?
The songs were made in a much shorter timeframe compared to our first album. On the first album we just recorded the songs we'd been playing for years, this time the songs were mostly made in June and July last summer. Other than that it was pretty much the same approach, just recording demos and working out the songs together in the practice space before hitting the studio. Our guitarist Bjarte is luckily an endless supplier of riffs, so we didn't have any problems with things sounding too similar or anything. We just made eleven songs and those are the songs that are on the album!

KvelertakOne of the biggest differences, in my opinion, appears in tracks like "Nekrokosmos" or "Tordenbrak", which are quite lengthy and complex songs. Also, I believe that "Meir" as a whole is slightly more extreme. Would you agree?
Yes and no, I think "Nekrokosmos" is probably the heaviest song we've done so far, but on the new album there's also tracks like "Evig Vandrar" which is on the mellower side (for us atleast). There's a lot of variation on it, that's what I like about the album myself.

One of the tracks that introduced us to the album was “Bruane Brenn”, for which you released a really awesome video. Could you tell us a bit about that?
It was just an idea that Vidar and Marvin came up with. We didn't really have time to be in a video ourselves, so they just came up with the idea of having kids kind of act like us in the video. It's not superoriginal or anything, but I think it turned out really good!

Erlend Hjelvik (Kvelertak)Last year you supported Megadeth in Athens. What can you remember about that concert?
I remember the show being awesome! I thought maybe the crowd would be only there for Megadeth, but we got a really good reception. Can't wait to come down to Greece again and play the new songs!

This year you return to play at Heavy By The Sea festival, alongside Slayer, Down, Rotting Christ and Napalm Death. How does it feel being part of a billing like that?
Feels great! I'm especially looking forward to watching Slayer and Down, I haven't seen them in a long time now. The fact that it takes place in Greece is the icing on the cake!

What kind of impact has Jeff Hanneman had on you as a musician?
I really love the classic Slayer albums, especially "South Of Heaven" which is my favorite. Since I'm a vocalist I can't give him too much credit in regards to what I'm doing, but I'm thankful for all the good music he's given us!

KvelertakIf I asked you to try and foresee your future as a band, where could you see Kvelertak in ten years from now?
Hopefully we'll have a third album out by then, haha... I like to think that we're still gonna keep it going, but ...who knows? Time will tell, we'll keep doing it as long as it's fun!

Where do you stand on bands that are changing? Do you prefer a band that serves their fans with a similar style of music through the years or one that is 'training' them to change their perspective along with the band itself?
It all depends, that's what I think is one of the good things about for instance Slayer. They never changed their style too much. At the same time there's alot of examples of bands (won't mention any names) who just keep putting out the same boring album all the time. We personally would like to keep things fresh and do something a little different with each album. The most important thing is that it sounds like us.

KvelertakNorway appears to be a hotbed for lots of new stuff in metal nowadays. Why do you think this happens? Is maybe a sociopolitical explanation there?
I don't know actually, but people in Norway really love their rock and metal. Actually it's kind of a boring country to live in, we don't have any real problems here, so that's probably why there's so many metal bands here. We need the contrast!

I understand that Kvelertak is quite favored by the music press. Yet your blend of different music styles is not one you could actually call 'easy listening'... Is this the band’s biggest victory, becoming popular while staying exceptional and unique?
Sure, we never expected it to go as far as it has when we started the band! We didn't have any ambitions at all. So going from that to being played on the radio and being a top 40 band is quite the suprise, yes! I'm taking it as a sign that we're doing something right, hehe...

Erlend Hjelvik (Kvelertak)Now, what does the -imminent- future hold for Kvelertak? Do you have big tour plans? How soon do you plan to start working on the next one?
It's going to be a pretty busy summer with over 30 festivals. We're still talking about the fall, but it's too early to tell you anything about that. Just follow our facebook page for updates! We haven't talked too much about the third album yet either, it will come when it comes!

If the members in Kvelertak were among the cast members of History Channel's "Vikings", who would play the roles of Ragnar Lothbrok, Earl Haraldson, Rollo and Floki?
I haven't seen it yet, so it's kind of hard for me to say! I've been more obsessed with "Game Of Thrones" lately, hehe.

In my previous interview with you, the message which you addressed the Greek fans with was 'Please bring us some weed'. So, what is it gonna be this time?
Please bring us more weed.

That would be all, man. Looking forward to your time onstage - thanks for the interview!
Thank you!

Vangelis Evangelatos