We jumped on Wolves Like Us over three ears ago when we first clapped our ears around some of their early demo tracks over on MySpace. Yes, it was THAT long ago. Thankfully we weren’t the only people impressed by this, as the band are getting ready to release their second album, Black Soul Choir, on the mighty Prosthetic Records. We caught up with them before a sweaty old show at the Camden Barfly to interrogate guitarist/vocalist Larsh Kristensen and bassist Toy Kjeldaas on one of 2014’s early album highlights.
Let’s start off with the embarrassingly obvious question. Your new album, why call it Black Soul Choir?
Larsh Kristensen: Well, you know, dropping names but our friend Chuck, who plays in a band called Wovenhand, and their lead singer [David Eugene Edwards] fused to have a band called 16 Horsepower. It’s a country band, an alt-country band.
Toy Kjeldaas: But really dark, yeah.
Kristensen: And one of my favourite songs of their is called ‘Black Soul Wire’, and the theme of that song is kind of dark, you know? And religious in a way… that sort of fits the theme of our record. We asked Chuck could you please ask David if we can use that song title as our name of our new record. And he just went like, “yeah, sure, I’m honoured!” Click.
So how you would describe the theme of the record? Particularly to someone who doesn’t know your band?
Kristensen: Our themes are kind of, you know, I don’t want to use the word “emo”, because we’re not emo in either the old or new sense. But it’s, you know it’s heavy. It’s not Metallica-heavy. We sing about things that matter to most people, but matter to us, too. Like a new family, dedication, you know, it’s kind of an emotionally heavy theme, you know for the whole band. And this new record is even more into that sort of direction.
Well, you guys are kinda the odd-men-out on Prosthetic Records…
Kjeldaas: Definitely we are, because they have a lot of metal bands. We’re not metal. We have influenced by metal, obviously, but we’re not a metal band.
Kristensen: Metal is just a part of what we’re about, you know? We’re more from a hardcore, post-hardcore side of the tracks.
Track five, ‘When Will We Ever Sleep’…
Kristensen: That’s the ballad… it’s like…
It reminded me of like mid-period Tool. Longer, heavier track… wide spread of sounds, rather than a focused, post-hardcore kind of band song.
Kjeldaas: The people who like our music is very like us. I think we have like a range of people that knows us, is probably uhh… the typical guy that likes us is probably 35+ male, and grew up listening to Quicksand and Tool, and early Metallica.
Why do you appeal to them?
Kjeldaas: Because, I’m not sure really. I don’t think people or bands that actually done quite the thing we do now for 20 years, but…some of the best albums I have they didn’t hit me at first.
Kristensen: They grow on you.
You write in a fashion that you can’t skim read…but with your ears. Does that make sense at all?
Kristensen: We certainly don’t mean to write pop music. What we did with this record is we wanted to challenge, we wanted to play something that was difficult to play, and was dynamic for us. And also, to be honest, I don’t really write for other people, I only write for myself. That might be why it’s so on the back foot, because we write what’s appealing to the four individuals in the band, and our influences, and what we want to listen to. We’re basically playing for ourselves, and you know, just having people like it is a by-product of that.
Coming from where we’re from, I mean, we grew up, a lot of… we’re from Norway, but we listen to 90% of American music, like post-hardcore, like Quicksand, and Hot Water Music, and post-hardcore, stuff that was in skateboard videos. And you know Planes Mistaken for Stars was a huge influence for us. You know, bands would serve an emotional depth, and they’re heavy at the same time.
Kjeldaas: All those bands, they sound like they fucking mean it, you know? They’re baring their souls.
Kristensen: Our common ground is that it’s honest.
Not trying to lump Norwegian bands… they all share that. Perhaps not with musical similarities, but in intent…
Kjeldaas: Well they have the same philosophy, they play the music they… you can hear it especially in Kvelertak, you can hear all the influences from all the music they listen to, where they grew up, and it’s rock and roll, it’s black metal.. yea, that’s a good example there.
Their second album… much more than their. Had your album for a few weeks… doesn’t sell itself to you… deliberate… feels considered, feels…
Kjeldaas: The writing process was really dynamic in that way, it’s more or less what happens happens. Yea.
Kristensen: The ideas that survive are the best ones, we jam out, you know, we write in that way. Like I said, most of the time it’s supposed to be fun for us to listen to and fun for us to play, I mean, we’re not making conscious decisions, we’re not making unconsciously… we’re not mindlessly just playing either. It’s a very deliberate selection of what we want to do but it’s also sort of giving yourself… allowing yourself room to play what you want to play, even though it’s against the rules, maybe? A lot of genres have like, “you can’t do this.” We don’t give a fuck about that, we’re just like, if we want to play a Tool riff, even though we’re not supposed to, we do it anyway, man. Because like, if we want to make a one minute and a half song, like, we’ll do that. As long as it feels right, we’ll just do that. I mean, a lot of bands have… they consider too many things, I think, and forget that it’s supposed to be fun, first and foremost.
Kjeldaas: That’s why we started the band, and that’s why we continue to do it.
You recorded it at home in Norway – were you ever tempted to record abroad?
Kjeldaas: It’s a high profile studio we use in Norway, we do it much cheaper to do it somewhere else in Norway, but it’s more convenient to do it, because we all… we have families, we have jobs, we had to do it, make it convenient, make it affordable (but it really wasn’t because it was really expensive!). But at the same time, we’re always dreaming of like the idea of going somewhere else, like to the states, or to where ever, to record with someone else.