Quiet Is the New Loud by Ørjan Nilsson - Book launch and concert with Kings of Convenience, Vulkan Arena, Oslo, Sept. 22, 2014
It was a Monday evening in autumn, Vulkan Arena in Oslo, September 22nd, 2014. Around 300 people had supported the new book from author Ørjan Nilsson, and gotten the chance to attend a private interview and concert with Kings of Convenience.
Up a staircase we were handed out the books after giving our names. It was to be a seated concert by the looks of it, and on stage there were two mics and a couch area, seemingly meant for the interview part. The concert hall was dark and intimate, and seemed like the right setting for a Kings performance.
I was a bit early, and got a good seat, close to the stage. Unfortunately, a man of much taller stature than myself chose to sit in the seat in front of me, obscuring my view somewhat. But I find that it's the sound that matters, so it didn't mean a great deal to me.
Awaiting the performers of the evening gave me a chance to look through the book, which looked promising. The author has conducted interviews with the band, and other parties involved with making the record that will stay in my heart forever; Quiet Is the New Loud (2001).
The event started promptly at around eight o'clock in the evening, and the author Ørjan Nilsson had Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye on the sofa to talk about the record. Nilsson seemed a bit nervous, and with good reason, as Erlend explained that this was the first time Nilsson had done anything like this. The author had planned to talk about all aspects of the record, but made room to follow up with the flow of the conversation.
They started discussing the record cover, that had been selected out of certain coincidences. The band themselves had wanted a picture in which members Eirik and Erlend were embracing each other, but apparently the record company had thought this to be far too «gay» and needed «more sex». So instead, the iconic picture with the woman and two band members were chosen. This had been an extra shoot at the end of a long day of driving around in the Bergen area, with various shoots all around. Eirik's girlfriend Ina Grung had been their driver, and it seemed the photographer had wanted her in some pictures at the very end of the day. And somehow one of these pictures found its way to the record cover. Erlend had initially not been happy with the choice, but it had made the record come together in a way he really enjoyed. Of course they also joked about the fact that Erlend ended up in front of the cover, looking somewhat like the band's main vocalist. And they also spoke about how Erlend can meet people on the street, out walking with a friend, and the friend he's with will be mistaken for being «that other guy».
The possibility of another album was also discussed, and they explained that they are under contract with EMI Virgin, which is a gigantic conglomerate, where they are a small fish in a great pond. Right now they are waiting to be assigned a new contact at the record company. This will happen sometime next year, and most likely this will be a randomly picked person, with no connection to the band, that will have to get to know the band and their sound, and see where to go from there. In the past the band used to have people that had some sort of connection to their music, and that would call them up on a regular basis to see what's up, and if they have a new album in the making. So as far as a new album goes, the band couldn't make any promises, and said that it might take a good while. On the other hand, Eirik said he'd been working on some tunes well in style with the Kings of Convenience sound.
Another aspect of a potential new album is the fact that Eirik and Erlend expressed that they need some time apart between each album, just to get in the right mood of creating an album. Both are occupied with solo projects, Erlend with his new album Legao, and Eirik with his band Kommode, and a new record this autumn. Eirik is also working on a documentary in relation to his thesis in psychology. The film will be named "The Curse of Cars", and will be about the affect of cars on the human habitat.
A question was asked from the audience about a potential vinyl release of Quiet Is the New Loud, but the band said this was unlikely, again due to the size of their record company. It wouldn't be much to gain for the company to do a vinyl press of a record that probably won't sell more than 3000 copies. Alas, one can only dream. Or go broke on ebay.
After a session with some talk about the record, they decided to break it off, and play some tunes, and opt for a second session on the couch, followed by the remainder of the album. After all the rumours of what they would play, I was happy to learn that they intended to play the entire record from beginning to end.
It was a joy to behold these two old friends, playing their old songs, from a different time and state of mind. Eirik had stated during the interview that he never could have written these songs today. I'm sure a lot has happened in their lives, and they have developed considerably from the boys from back then.
The most memorable performances in my mind were Summer on the Westhill and The Passenger. Summer on the Westhill is my favourite song from the album. I always listen to it when I ride the train, and I had high hopes that they would play it.
Apparently Summer on the Westhill was created during an experimental stage. The band requires a special tuning of the guitars for the song, which is the reason it is seldom played during their concerts. They gave a moving performance of the song, that gave me goosebumps all over. On top of that, the lighting turned purple, which is my favourite colour, and my partner managed to snap this picture of the Kings.
(As previously stated, I was seated right behind a tall man, and for that reason I had to bend from left to right to see Eirik and Erlend, separately.)
Another song that also stood out especially was The Passenger. This is also not played as often in concert, though for other reasons than Summer on the Westhill. Eirik said this is probably one of the bands darkest of songs, and it set a gloomy mood across the audience, with it's silent and beautiful melancholy.
The concert closed off with Parallel Lines, which was the sole masterpiece of the record according to a review in one of Norway's biggest papers. Amusingly enough it's also the only track on the record that the band hasn't written themselves. The song was written by a friend and former room mate of Eirik, from his college days abroad in America. Her name was Daisy Simons, and from the insinuations I got from Erlend, it seemed as though she had been in love with Eirik, and apparently he had not realised. Even after she had shown him the song.
During the interview, one of the main subject centred around the usage of the album and the music. Eirik is preoccupied with the notion that all art should have a practical use. And they discussed how their music was used. As I'm sure a lot of fans know, their music is often used in coffee houses, and they said that their music probably not far from being the world's number one coffee house music. They have been told their music has been heard in coffee houses all the way from Siberia, to Albania and Malaysia. And they seemed very happy about this usage of their music. I can personally concur with this notion. To my surprise, a couple of years ago, I was having a coffee before a Kings of Convenience concert in Drammen, and of course they played their music on the coffee shop's stereo. It was just a perfect way to start the evening.
Erlend also told us that a number of his British friends and acquaintances used their music after going to clubs on the weekend. And I suppose you are in dire need for something mellow after having had dance music banged through your head for the entirety of an evening. The band had themselves gotten used to going to dance clubs in their younger days, and Eirik used to come home and grab his guitar ever so often after a night on the town.
Erlend also let us know that someone he met in the States had very good knowledge of his music, it being his go-to mood setter for romantic evenings. Somehow the topic of their music being used for sex seemed to return a number of times throughout the evening.
During the interview, the author had the band read certain paragraphs from the book. The band had yet to read the book on the night of the concert, and Erlend showed great curiosity as to what was in the books. He was especially interested to hear from a musician they had hired for the record, a cellist from The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He had not said much, and just gone along with the band's wishes. Erlend was eager to know if he had any relation to the album in the aftermath, and looked up the interview with him. He read the following passage (p. 115, my own translation):
«It is my strongest memory from the time in Parr Street Studios, ant it hasn't been often that I've been involved to such an extent. The big difference between working with pop music and my daily job, is that the bands that wants some cello in a song very rarely has any thoughts on what is to be played when they phone me. One of them may have suggested that 'it would be nice with some cello on the album'. But they seldom know which song, and to what extent they want the cello. It can be really frustrating to feel that you have to be the one with all the answers to how and where the cello should play a part in the sound image. With Kings of Convenience however, this was not the case. They had clear ideas of how the cello would be used, in specific tracks on the album, says Bracken.»
The cellist also mentioned how serious the band was in the studio, as opposed to other artists. And that he still listens to the record during his jogs, which was a pleasant surprise to the band, learning a different usage of their music.
After the band had played the last part of the record, the audience arose in a standing ovation, clearly wanting more. We were given two encores, the all-time hits I'd Rather Dance and Misread, for some extra energy at the end of the evening.
Erlend also made sure to make a shout-out to his grandmother in her 90s, that had attended the concert. Sitting close to the only senior citizen on the premises, I had my suspicions. And she gladly received an ovation on her own after her grandson's shout out. It reminded me of how someone once described Kings of Convenience's music to me once - «Music even your grandmother can listen to», which I think says a lot about the accessibility of their music.
The band stayed to sign books and talk with people, but unfortunately it was getting late by then, and I had to get up early the next morning. Alas, that such is the curse of Monday concerts. But all in all I had a wonderful time, and I'm looking forward to getting to read the book in between my busy schedule. And dare to hope for a new album sometime in the distant future.