Hamferð released their brand new album, Támsins likam (reviewed here) about 3 weeks ago to a rather positive reception from both the fans and the media as a whole. Prior to the release, I had the opportunity to send a few questions over to guitarist Theodor Kapnas for some insight as to what inspires the band to create their music and also the story behind the video of “Deyðir varðar” from Evst.
You’ll be releasing Támsins likam within the next few days via Metal Blade Records. How do you feel the response has been to the songs that you have released thus far?
The response has been very good to be honest. It was quite difficult for us to pick which songs to start out with, because Támsins likam has been written as a whole, and we feel that the songs make more sense in the context of the album than they do in isolation. However, we have tried to make the songs work by themselves and I do feel that we have succeeded in doing that. The fantastic videos for “Hon syndrast” and “Frosthvarv” have also helped, so the response has generally been great. But it’s going to be even more interesting to see how people react when they get the chance to listen to the album in its entirety in a few days’ time.
Metal Blade actually first got in touch with us several years ago and showed an interest in releasing our music. However, at that time we were not quite sure how we were going to approach our next album so we didn’t feel like we were in a position to commit to a big label like that. However, as the creation of Támsins likam progressed we decided that we wanted to be able to release it to as big an audience as possible. So we got back in touch with Metal Blade, and thankfully they really liked the album so we ended up signing a deal with them. Getting to work with a label of that calibre is a dream come true, and we have been extremely happy with our co-operation so far.
This release marks the end of your three part story concept, “The Body of the Mist”. Have you started considering whether the next release will be a concept or is it too early to be thinking about that?
No decisions have been made yet, but we have had a few discussions about it. Hamferð is always going to be a conceptual band, and I am sure that there will be some sort of concept involved in the next album. However it’s still too early to say exactly how we will approach it and if it will be as strongly tied together by a single concept as this record is. We do have one or two concrete ideas, but time will tell what we will actually end up doing.
In the early years of the band, you competed in quite a few ‘battle of the bands’ competitions in your homeland of the Faroe Islands. Do the competitions still exist and do you feel that they helped you develop as a band?
We have competed in three different band competitions since the bands started out, and they were all very important steps in the development of the band. Generally band competitions have had a huge impact on the Faroese music scene for the last 25 years or so. When we were kids there were no music festivals here, but Faroese music got lots of exposure through a band competition called Prix Føroyar. That competition was the foundation for a long list of Faroese bands and artists and was by far the biggest exposure you could get as a Faroese musician for a very long time. Unfortunately they stopped arranging Prix Føroyar before we started Hamferð, so we never had the chance to participate. If you want an insight into Faroese music in the 90s and early 2000s you can try youtubing Prix Føroyar, a lot of the stuff is on there. You probably need to know Faroese though.
The first Hamferð shows ever were at a competition called “Global Battle Of The Bands” where we actually reached the final. The second competition we participated in and the first shows we did after GBOB was a competition called “Sement” which was held for young local bands. That competition still exists and is held every year and it can be a very good insight to what is going on at the grassroots level of Faroese music.
We ended up winning that one which had a huge impact on us, giving us our first slots at the biggest festivals in The Faroe Islands as well as the studio time we needed to record drums for our debut EP “Vilst er síðsta fet”. It also gave us the confidence which made us dare to be ambitious with the band. We did not expect to win, but that experience made us believe that what we were doing had real potential.
And finally we also participated in Wacken Metal Battle 2012 where we won both the local competition in The Faroe Islands and the final at Wacken Open Air. We met several people that we have worked closely with through our participation in Metal Battle, including our manager and our booking agent, so it is fair to say that it also had a very big impact on us. The Faroese edition of the competition has been held a few times since 2012, but there won’t be a Metal Battle in 2018 since The Faroe Islands is taking a break from participating. We hope that it will be held again in 2019 though since the competition is a golden opportunity for unsigned bands to reach a lot of people. And who doesn’t want the chance to play at Wacken?
In a previous interview, you mentioned that the main influence for the band is the Faroe Islands itself. How much of an impact would you say this has on the makeup of the music?
It has a huge impact, both consciously and subconsciously. Generally most artists will be influenced by their surroundings and their heritage. Thankfully we come from a place where the population is quite small, so there are huge areas of music and art in general which have never been explored in a Faroese context. So we can take inspiration from everything which is going on around us and try to put it into a doom metal context which nobody has done before. That means that we can write music which to us feels completely natural but will sound unique and exotic to most people. So in that aspect you could probably say that we are quite lucky.
For your previous album, Evst, you recorded a performance of the song “Deyðir varðar” during the solar eclipse. How did you come up with the idea to do such a unique thing?
We were approached by a couple of documentarists who were in The Faroe Islands to film a documentary about eclipse chasers – the people who travel the world to experience total solar eclipses. They wanted to make Faroese art and music a part of the documentary, so they asked us if they could come to our rehearsal space and film us performing a track and use the footage for their documentary. That whole discussion gave me the idea of taking it a step further and actually perform live during the eclipse. At first the idea seemed too crazy to be able to work, but as the eclipse got nearer it felt like we had to give it a shot. So we did some research, found out how long the totality was going to be and how the light was going to shift and then picked a song with the right length and atmosphere to fit with it.
Me and the photographer went for a drive around the islands a few days before the eclipse to find a location which wouldn’t be too crowded and had a good view of the sun at the same time of day as the eclipse was going to happen, and when we got to the location above the village of Kvívík everything just started making sense. We were extremely lucky with the weather though. A large part of the islands didn’t actually get to see the eclipse because it was overcast. It was the same at our location, but thankfully the skies opened up for about 30 minutes just before we started shooting.
The experience of performing during the eclipse was indescribable. We knew that we only had one shot at it – the next total eclipse in the Faroes is in 2245 – so even if it was freezing we didn’t feel the cold and managed to pull off the performance. However, when we knew that we had got the take and the adrenaline started to wear off we definitely started feeling how cold it actually was. There were a few minutes where it literally felt as if my fingers were going to fall off.
You’ve got a couple of live dates coming up with Downfall of Gaia. Are you looking forward to those?
We can’t wait! We have been working on Támsins likam and its release for what feels like eternity, so to finally be able to go on tour and perform the new music to audiences around Europe is going to be fantastic. Playing live is one of the things I personally enjoy the most about being in Hamferð, and being able to go from city to city and perform every evening is the most amazing experience. I also have high hopes for touring with Downfall Of Gaia. I’ve not seen them live yet, but I imagine that their live shows are strongly based on creating a dark atmosphere in a similar way as we try to do, so the two bands should be a great match.
Aside from the release of the album and the upcoming tour, do the band have any other plans for the next six to twelve months?
We are working on a few festivals next summer, and hopefully we will be able to follow up on this tour with another one at some point after the summer. We don’t have anything finalised yet though, right now it’s all about the next couple of months and then we’ll see where we go from there.
If you could put together a line-up for a tour, who would you pick and why?
That’s actually a really hard question to answer. There are quite a few bands that I would absolutely love to tour with, but many of them might not fit that well musically with Hamferð since a lot of the stuff I’ve been listening to for the last couple of years isn’t really that doomy. The biggest we could get would probably be playing with Black Sabbath, the originators of doom – unfortunately they’ve stopped touring. And we’d probably have to grow quite a bit to even have a shot at that. For me personally there is no band that has influenced me more than Iron Maiden, so touring with them would be surreal. I feel that I also have to mention My Dying Bride and Swallow The Sun, because even if I haven’t listened that much to those two for a few years they were huge influences on us when we started playing and their music would fit perfectly with what we are doing live.
If I was to put together a tour package for my own personal enjoyment I’d probably put on four bands – I’d start out the evening with Karnivool, Leprous and Meshuggah to get all the best aspects of progressive music today. And when those three are done I’d put on Cannibal Corpse for groove, headbanging and beer!
And finally, what bands from the Faroe Islands do you think people should check out?
There are a few really cool bands from The Faroe Islands which are worth checking out, depending on your personal preferences. There is a young and very talented thrash band called Asyllex who released their debut album last year, if you’re into old school thrash with a bit of a modern twist to it they are worth checking out. Then there is a really cool progressive band called Iron Lungs which I have a hard time describing. Their music is pretty weird but their live shows are insane and they are currently working on their debut album which is going to be great. They have released one song called “Andromedan” which can be found on Spotify and Youtube, I can warmly recommend it.
And last but not least we have our peers from Svartmálm, a Faroese black/doom metal band who are also releasing their debut album in the next couple of months. They are probably my personal favourite, really dark and noisy and aggressive. They only have a few live recordings up on youtube so far, but if you’re into blackened doom I can strongly recommend checking them out and keeping your eyes open for their upcoming record.