Another quick-fire interview, this time with Åsmund Lande of Norway’s Oslo Ess. Their facebook page is all in Norwegian so I don’t know a huge amount about the band (and we all know how “imaginative” the Google translations are!), but their music speaks for itself.
Very popular in their native country with very fast success, they play a blend of rock/punk which reminds me of early Die Toten Hosen in places – bouncy, fun, shedloads of variety. Only with an accent closer to that of a well-known chicken-chasing chef puppet (and, yes, I know that one was Swedish).
Can I also just say that Åsmund apologised for his English and said I was welcome to edit anything I needed to. For the record, I made far fewer changes than I have done with some of my pupils’ homework in the past – and they’re native English speakers!
Once again, thanks to the band for taking time out. These guys in particular are stupidly busy as you’ll soon find out…
First up, tell us a bit about yourselves. You’ve been “together” since around 2007 and formally a band since 2010 (do I have that right?). How did you meet, etc.?
Yeah, that’s right. Turbonegro bass player Happy Tom had recommended me and Oslo Ess guitar player Peter’s old band, Upstrokes, for supporting the Swedish band Backyard Babies on their 2007 Norway Tour. It was a great opportunity for going on tour for us, but ironically our bass player’s girlfriend was having a backyard baby herself at the exact same dates so we had to get a stand-in on the bass. Both me and Peter had moved to Oslo some years earlier to play music and so had Oscar with his band. We had a lot of common influences with Oscar and he’s a great bass player and a lot of fun so we asked him to join us on the tour. He did and we instantly started talking about playing more together and start singing in Norwegian. From 2007 to 2009 it was just drinking, hanging out and having fun, but in late 2009 we recorded a demo and got a lot of attention from the Oslo scene quite fast.
You’re a young band who’ve had success very quickly. Number 1 with your second album! Does this make it more difficult to produce new material?
Writing and recording our second album felt more difficult than it did on the first one. We had the ten songs for our first record written at least a year before we recorded them. The second record was written in studio. We felt we had a lot of pressure on us, but it was only ourselves that had put this pressure on. Actually we feel that we work better under a bit pressure. We’ve always been a bit strict on ourselves, forcing ourselves to be a very productive band. The second record was also a bit special to record since we were pretty much constantly on tour, playing 215 shows that year. The album was written on the road, whereas this one is written during demo sessions between the tours. A punk album going number one in Norway was unbelievable, but I guess all the touring we did gave some results!
Describe your sound and attitude to someone who’s not heard you before.
We are influenced by Calipunkbands like Rancid, Bad Religion and Social Distortion. We’re very obsessed with melodies. Trying to make the best punk melodies with three or four chords. Lyrically we are somewhere between Rancid and Bruce Springsteen. Like an urban Springsteen on drugs. Ain’t got no money or no plans but a lot of love and a lot of hope. Punk is rebellion, but there’s really not so much to rebel against in Norway. It’s a nice place to live, and our lyrics are kind of rebellion towards punk, since we don’t really play by its rules.
How would you convince someone to come to one of your gigs?
Our shows are full of energy and we play very tight. None of us has ever really done anything else but playing in bands and playing shows since we were fifteen years old. Playing shows is what we love the most. I think people can feel that in our shows. Feel the love for music that we have. Our music is a lot more brutal, faster and harder live than on our records. For the last two years we’ve played 350 shows. Live TV shows, 80,000 people festival scenes and small clubs in Europe with seven people in the crowd. We always give what we have, no matter how many people are listening.
I gather that your new album will be all acoustic. Is this true? And if so, why the decision to try this? Can you give us an idea of what sort of sound to expect?
Yeah, we are releasing a live album on August 30th, from an acoustic show we did in Oslo last year. It’s like a hymn to our fans who are the best and always support us and come to our shows. We did an acoustic session pretty much spontaneously on a rooftop in the old town in Oslo some years ago and put it out on YouTube. It was kind of a hit and a lot of people ask us to play acoustic. We don’t do it that often, but once a year we do that at the Rockefeller venue in Oslo and it’s always sold out, so we figured we’d release it as a live album. It’s quite lyrics-based, maybe not the easiest thing to sell outside of Norway…
As far as I can tell, all of your songs so far have been in Norwegian. Do you find it easier to write in your native tongue? A few bands have managed to break the international market singing in non-English language (Kvelertak most recently, Die Toten Hosen, Rammstein…). Are you planning on continuing in Norwegian, or with the increase in exposure is there temptation to perhaps do a song or two in English?
We have discussed doing some English versions of our songs actually! It wouldn’t be a problem translating some of them. In our former bands we have always sung in English, but when starting Oslo Ess, singing in Norwegian was kind of the whole idea. We wanted to do that to communicate more directly to our listeners. It felt more real and there were not a lot of bands who did that when we started. Actually, it’s not easier but more difficult, because it’s very transparent. More fragile. There’s nothing to hide behind, something a lot of Norwegian punk bands have been doing. We’ll see, perhaps we’ll do a song or two in English on this next round.
Your touring schedule has been incredible. A lot of hard work! Are there plans to tour further afield (of course, I’m hoping for the UK…)
It would be awesome going to the UK! Our friends in Honningbarna are touring a lot there and keep telling us we have to go! As of now we’ve been to Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria except from Norway, but it’s quite expensive to tour abroad like that, especially since we have quite a big production with us on tour. We are hoping to go more abroad, but hoping it can be as an opening act for a bigger band! Playing abroad has been successful for us when there are people at our shows, like when we supported Turbonegro in Switzerland last year, whereas playing alone, though it has been a lot of fun, has been a quite lonesome experience…
Thanks for checking our band out, we appreciate it a lot! Hope to see you at one of our shows in the UK some time in the future! Please send us the link when you’ve posted the interview! Cheers!
Åsmund Lande (29) , singer and guitar player, Oslo Ess