'There's supposed to be a hidden Beach Boys reference in one of our songs" - Erlend Hjelvik, vocalist with Kvelertak, speaks to Metal as Fuck

He's not surly or abrupt. He's Norwegian...

I opened my interview with Kvelertak vocalist Erlend Hjelvik with a slightly left of field question; what scares the hell out of you? And his response, given their imminent tour of Australia, is surprising...“Spiders. That’s my biggest fear; I’m kind of worried about going to Australia in that sense but I guess I’ll be fine...” I must admit that I was tempted to lay it on and say that we’ve got spiders the size of small cats roaming the streets but then I didn’t want to run the risk of Kvelertak pulling out of the Soundwave tour because of me, especially since Erlend says they’re really looking forward to coming to Australia. Do you have any expectations? “No idea. I just hope the crowds are gonna be good and I hope I get to see some weird animals – and it’s gonna be summer so that’s perfect.”

I was reading an interview with Bjarte (pronounced Bee-Yar-Teh) Lund Rolland, one of the three guitarists in Kvelertak, and he said you guys formed out of boredom when you were living in Stavanger, Norway? “We didn’t have anything to do; we were sharing a house together with some other people and we mostly just sat around in the basement and played video games, and then we just started a band just because we didn’t have anything to do.” A good a reason as any, I say. So what’s your view on the success of the band? “I haven’t really had time to react; it’s gone pretty quickly. When we released the album I quit my job and we’ve pretty much been playing live ever since then. We've probably played 300 shows since we released the album so it’s been pretty busy.”

I touch on the subject of influences, aside from the obvious bands such as Turbonegro, Darkthrone, Hellacopters and Satyricon, what are some of the lesser known influences? Erland hand-balls the question away; “You really should ask our guitarist Bjarte - there’s supposed to be a hidden Beach Boys reference in one of the songs but I wouldn’t know how to recognise that - there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know about. He listens to everything from Marvin Gaye to Gorgoroth and everything in between.” But what about you? “I guess the vocalist I’m most inspired by is Hoest from a Norwegian band named Taake...”

A few people have said to me that interviewing Norwegians is hard work – they come across surly and abrupt but I suspect this is a cultural and/or language barrier thing. Erlend is no different. I don’t find him surly or abrupt but he keeps his answers brief and to the point...
We all know you sing in Norwegian, are you getting sick of people asking why? “No, not really; it just feels better. It feels more natural for me to sing in Norwegian because I’m Norwegian. I feel as though I’m acting, or something like that, if I sing in English.” So no plans to sing in any other language? “No plans. We’re gonna stick to Norwegian, I think it’s an important part of the sound...”

It’s been two years since the debut album hit our ears – when is the second album coming out? “We’re working on new songs now; Bjarte is writing the riffs and I’m working on lyrics; we’re going to start practising pretty soon, I guess. Hopefully we’ll record the album by the end of summer [Australia’s winter]; maybe at the end of the year, maybe next year – it’s kind of hard to tell yet.” So do you have a working title? “Not yet. You’ll have to ask me again in a couple of months. I’m still working on the lyrics and stuff so I kind of just have to wait and see what title will be when I’m done with all the songs and see what’s gonna be on there.”

How is the album shaping up? “It’ll be pretty similar to the debut, so far it seems like the songs are going to be pretty varied; for me, I think it’s going to be better. I’m looking forward to recording the new stuff.”

Kvelertak are looking at getting Kurt Ballou (Converge) to work as producer again; they’re currently trying to work out a schedule with him, and they might also try and score another John Baizley creation for the cover artwork too. Given the success of their debut album, maybe they’re trying to reproduce as many elements from it as they can. Some kind of good luck charm, perhaps? The band scored some pretty sweet guest vocalists on the last album including Ryan McKenney from Trap Them, Hoest from Taake and Ivar Nikolaisen from Silver to name just a few, but as yet, there aren’t any plans to get guests on the next offering. As Erlend says “It’s too early for me to say just yet. “

I hear you’re trying to move away from Norse mythology based lyrics (apparently a dominant topic on the first album – not that I could tell, not speaking Norwegian and that...); “Yeah, I’m just trying not to get stuck in a corner where I have to keep writing about that kind of stuff all the time; I’m not completely sure what the general theme is going to be yet; that’s only goal I have for myself – to stay away from Odin and Thor lyrics for the next album. I’ve only written two songs [so far] so it’s pretty hard to tell; one of them is about moving away from the city and going back home to a small village where I come from, and the other one is about trepanning; an old medical practice where they drill a hole in your head to release demons...that’s what I’ve got so far but I’m still working on other lyrics though.”

Strangely trepanning is something I’ve always been interested in and we digress for a few minutes to discuss trepanning and its effect on expanding perception and spirituality. Apparently there’s a video on the net of some bloke giving himself the operation? “Yeah, I tried to find it but I haven’t found it so far...I’ve been reading about it and I guess there’s all sorts of stuff that trepanning can do to you; I read there are still people who do it.” We agree that whoever finds the video first will email the link to the other. But getting back to all things Kvelertak; what’s the deal with having an owl (‘ugla’ in Norwegian) as a mascot? “I just think it doesn’t hurt for our band to have a mascot. It was our bass player who came up with the idea when we were eating at an indian restaurant; owls, they like to stay up late and they’re smart and they eat mice.” Is this some kind of bizarre metaphor? Erlend is silent on this one...

You recently moved from Stavanger to Oslo; how’s that going? “It’s been great. Especially there’s been a lot more going out in Oslo than erwhen it comes to live shows; it’s just more practical because usually when we travel we always have to go to Oslo anyway, and we knew a lot of people from there before so it was an easy transition.” Regarding the music scene in Oslo, Erland says it’s “...better than Stavanger because in Stavanger we couldn’t even find a rehearsal space and there are lot more bands and a lot more rehearsal spaces and stuff like that so it’s a lot better.”

On a side note, he teaches me the correct pronunciation of the World Ash where Odin hung himself for nine days. Any Norse Mythology fans will be pleased to hear that Yggdrasil is pronounced Ig-Dra-Sill. Glad we got that one cleared up...so who is your favourite Norse God/Goddess? “I guess Thor is the favourite one; he’s one of the most bad-ass guys.” I’ve always had a soft spot for mischief maker Loki...”I kind of like him too but he doesn’t beat up the snake who goes around the world...I don’t know what it’s called in English [Jormungandr, if you’re interested]...Loki doesn’t walk around beating up the snakes like Thor does.”

Following on from a comment made by bassist Marvin Nygaard; do you find a spot of weed helps the creative process? There’s a pause on the phone-line, I suspect that Erlend is debating whether to answer this one...“Sure, why not?!” But then he changes his response to “No, not really. I think I become more lazy if I do it. Usually I come up with stuff when I’m having trouble sleeping at night; usually in the toilet.”

There you have it, Kvelertak fans...like any artist worth his salt, Erlend creates at night, in the toilet.

So what’s the worst thing about being in Kvelertak? “Having to be away from my girlfriend so much, but she understands it so it’s no problem.” And the best? “Just getting to hang out with my best friends pretty much every day and play shows. It’s perfect. I would have done it for free if I didn’t get paid.” Probably best if you don’t let the record label hear that one...

Who in the band annoys you the most? “I don’t want to say that! They’re all equally annoying in their own way.” That’s very diplomatic. “Yeah, but it’s actually true...they’re probably saying the same thing about me! It’s a love/hate relationship.”

And finally, aside from Soundwave, what other tour plans do you have? “Australia is the only thing pretty much so far. We’re planning some festivals and stuff but other than that I don’t know what’s in the pipe line but I think the main priority will be working on the new album.” Surely you must get a bit tired of touring, as you said yourself, you’ve done over 300 shows since the debut album. “Sometimes you feel like that when you’re sick. It kind of sucks to be on tour when you have the flu or whatever but the shows are always still good. You forget about that kind of stuff when you go on stage; the last tour we did was five weeks and you feel kind of ready to go home in the last week. Usually we enjoy it though so it’s not usually a problem. We used to party a lot harder before we learnt to moderate a little bit. To be honest, there’s not much point in partying every day when, for example, you’re in a place in Germany with nothing else to do. Sometimes it’s just better to go to bed and save the energy for when there’s a good party night coming up.” Wise words.

Kvelertak. Hitting a Soundwave show near you soon.