Kvelertak's Erlend Hjelvik: Coming to a town near you...

Lyrics. Touring. And most importantly, fishing...

“Hey Erlend, how’s it going?” I get a massive distorted noise back down the phone at me; for a brief moment I think the Kvelertak vocalist in speaking in his native Norwegian tongue but no; it’s just another shit phone connection.

Erlend Hjelvik is chilling in Norway between European festival dates, having just completed an April/May US tour with the Cancer Bats and Black Tusk. He explains “That was just before the [European] summer and now we’ve just been playing the festivals every weekend – it’s been pretty busy.”

Last time we spoke, before Soundwave 2012, you were getting material together for the new album. Now the second album Meir has finally dropped, what’s your take on it? “I think it’s the best album we’ve done so far – I like it a lot better because this was the first time we actually tried to make a real album – I’m just a lot more pleased with it myself and happy with the good reception it got. The fans are awesome to play for live and I’m just super-happy about it.”

Are you getting weary talking about the tour, the album, the t-shirt, the underpants? He laughs, answering “Yeah!” before adding “No, really; it’s fine. It just depends on the kinds of questions I’m getting…” I’d better make this next one count then…

How has the idea of being an international rock and metal superstar stacked up against the reality? “When we started this band we never had any ambitions; we just started it for fun and I never thought it was going to turn into a serious thing, let alone something that would pay my rent. So it’s pretty crazy that a hobby just turned into a full time thing. But I’m really liking it because the job I had before this was working in a freezing warehouse, and I didn’t like that at all – it feels much better to just do whatever you want and work for yourself.” He’s stoked. You can hear it in his voice. Metal stardom over working in a warehouse? Easy choice.

I heard a rumour that Kvelertak were slated for a 2014 Soundwave appearance? “I don’t know anything about it but we’re coming to Australia pretty soon though…”

Indeed! My next question is on the immanent September tour; all prepared? “We’re really looking forward to it because I think that Soundwave thing that we did last year was one of the best tours I’ve been on. It felt more like a vacation than an actual tour! We just had a really good time in Australia; all the shows were really fun. There were a lot of good parties down there too, and I really love the weather too. We’re really excited about going back there.”

Did you enjoy the Sidewave shows with Mastodon and Gojira? “They were some of the most awesome shows that we ever did; I thought the line-up was great and both Mastodon and Gojira are awesome bands, and they turned out to be great people too. It was a lot of fun. But what I think is exciting this time is that we’ll be headlining the shows ourselves and it’s gonna be fun to see how we’re gonna do at those shows…”

We dip our toe into the topic of Australian metal (Destroyer 666 get a nod), Norwegian government cultural grants (“They don’t pay for the entire tour but it’s a good help  - we have a lot of foreign money though so they can afford it!”) and John Baizley doing the cover art again – bizarrely a bird shitting all over the place; what does it mean? Erlend chuckles and explains “When he was thinking about covers, I just explained and translated the lyrics to him and he took bits and pieces from each song and blended it all together.” He mentions a pertinent point about complaining about something but his reply is obscured by masses of feedback and distortion, which leaves me temporarily deaf.

Speaking of lyrics, you’ve moved away from Norse mythology, yes? (not that I’d know, not speaking Norwegian and that…I should get MaF Associate Editor Carrie Gibson to do some translating for me at some point).”I kept away from Norse mythology this time so I don’t have to write about it every time we make a new album. I just wanted to something a little different this time to keep it interesting. For me and the Scandinavian people, I guess.”

He’s now living on the coast of South West Norway; he names a spot that sounds something like Sognefjord but the phone-line is deteriorating; apparently “It’s close to Stavanger, about two hours away…” And has moving away from the city had an impact on your lyrics? “There’s a lot of shitty weather! A lot of rain and wind and it is by the ocean so I guess it finds a way into the lyrics sometimes; the general atmosphere I guess…it’s very quiet living out there but I think it’s a great contrast to the life we have when we’re on tour. It’s very peaceful and quiet and a little bit isolated too…”

When not on the road with the band, Erland chills at home, does a spot of running, and also a spot of fishing. Fishing, eh? “I don’t have a boat so I just fish from the land but usually I don’t catch anything; I’m a pretty bad fisher…but it’s pretty relaxing.” I insist that we get together and wet a line if he gets a couple of hours downtime when in Australia next month; an offer that he graciously accepts.

I hear that Meir producer Kurt Ballou’s dog took a dump on the floor of the studio during the recording process. I suggest getting John Baizley to do a drawing of it for the third album’s cover; Erlend likes the idea of “a chihuahua taking a dump…” as the artwork for their next release. Kurt Ballou’s got a chihuahua? I’d have pegged him down as having a big alsation or something? Erland points out that “It’s easier to have a small dog running around the studio instead of a big dog.” True; one must think of the logistics of such things.

Given the heavy touring that occurred when Kvelertak were trying to put Meir together, do you see the band taking a rest from the live shows to make the third album? “I’m assuming that we’ll make sure to have a break next time so we won’t have to worry about playing live. We’ll just make some time when it’s appropriate.” and as the band’s popularity increases, are you getting placed on bigger stages? It must be a tight squeeze sometimes, what with there being six members in the band? “Yeah! Especially in Europe there’s starting to be a lot more people at the stages. We recently played Roskilde,Denmark - the biggest festival in Europe - we played for 15,000 people and that’s the biggest show we’ve done so far… it was amazing…”

The phone-police tell me to get off the line so my final question is; were you frightened? “No, we just had a lot of fun!”
And they’ll be bringing the fun to Australia next month.  Get your tickets now…