Thrash Hits verdict: We love a bit of progressive UK hardcore, so the thoughtful but forceful racket knocked up by Bristol’s Svalbard was just the ticket for our Future Hits column. Lead guitarist/vocalist Serena Cherry answered most of our questions, but left it to guitarist/vocalist Liam Phelan to add the cheesy jokes at the end.
Describe your sound in 3 words.
Reverb, Delay, Distortion.
What made you want to start a band?
Dissatisfaction and disillusion with previous bands! We all played in previous bands that had crossed paths on the local gigging circuit and shared the same eclectic love of music and the same obsessively passionate mentality towards making it. We all wanted to make this type of music; but also to create it with people who are genuinely enthusiastic, consistently reliable, open minded, and just nice to hang out with.
Where did the name come from?
Svalbard is an archipelago off of Norway which is locked in a constant state of change – it is either freezing over in winter, or melting in summer. It never stays the same for long; I feel this is symbolic of the ways in which all art is never “in the moment” but in a state of either becoming, or reflecting upon, what it is going to be next.
The land of Svalbard is also receding away due to climate change, making it a visible consequence of globalisation. This again adheres to the notion of inevitable change, but in a more finite sense – the accompanying feelings of helplessness over this situation also inspired the title of our 10″ Gone Tomorrow.
Where did you grow up? How do you think it’s affected your music?
Three of us grew up in Bristol, one of us grew up in Surrey. I don’t think place particularly affected our music, as a city is just another city; and our music isn’t really about localising our pasts.
However, I would say that the diversity and sheer activity of the Bristol music scene affects our music nowadays; in the sense that there is always something interesting going on, whether it’s hardcore, jazz, underground metal, noise, dance. The variety of gigs in Bristol helps to broaden your tastes and in turn keep you open to all kinds of inspiration.
What are your non-musical influences?
The brilliant work of Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman – particularly his concept of ‘liquid modernity’- has influenced a lot of our lyrics. Visually, the art of Theodore Kettelson has been a source of inspiration as he conjures dark and mysterious atmospheres amidst beautiful yet stark Scandinavian backdrops. We try to bring a similar atmosphere into the artwork for Svalbard- which tends to be drawings of bears – purely in admiration for their strikingly powerful and solitary nature.
What bands do you consider as part of your scene or as your peers?
Locally, Bristol has a great hardcore scene because no two bands sound the same. We have bands such as True Valiance who mix hardcore with thrash, Honour Your Pain who are all about the “sweet mosh”, Failure To Follow who play slightly more melodic, modern hardcore; I Don’t Want To Know Why The Caged Bird Sings who make amazing emotive screamo.
Outside of Bristol, there are bands we have toured/played gigs with who we absolutely love – Notebooks, Direwolves, Pariso, Hammers, Culver, Arboricidio, Chapters, Stallone; to name a few.
What marks you out as different to other bands around at the moment?
I don’t think we can speak for other bands, as you never really know how a band works from within. It’s easy to make snap judgements from the outside about the attitudes/abilities/productivity of other bands without really knowing what their aims are. We probably do own more delay pedals than your average hardcore band, though!
What’s the funniest show you’ve played?
We played on Halloween at “Treehouse of Horror Fest” in Bristol, dressed up as Simpsons characters. Our drummer and bassist unknowingly both turned up as Otto! We were all sweating yellow face paint and none of our costumes survived the entire set…
What have you got planned for the future?
We will be releasing a 5” vinyl with two new tracks on it, entitled Flightless Birds. We will be touring again in September, and playing lots of other odd gigs and weekenders around the UK in the next couple of months.
What other band should everyone find out about?
Tell us a joke.
Where do horses go when they are sick?
Where do people with sore throats go?
Svalbard’s Gone Tomorrow EP is available to buy right damn now. As they mentioned above, their new Flightless Birds EP will be out later this year, along with some dates in the Autumn in support. We can’t wait.