(Our Russian contributor Comrade Aleks returns with another interview — and if you haven’t yet discovered the wonders of Hamferð, this is a good time to get on board.)
After Hamferð’s debut album Vilst er Síðsta Fet succeeded in attracting a lot of attention to the band, their first full-length work Evst aroused even more serious interest in this bunch of talented dudes from the Faroe Islands. In addition to the attraction of the band’s exotic location, Hamferð play strong and dramatic doom/death with a real artistic touch and lyrics written in their native language. So, this interview with Jón Aldará (vocals) is a good opportunity not only to refresh your geography knowledge but also to discover legends of the Faroe Islands and a bloody good doom band.
Thanks to Frodi Stenberg of Factory92 for helping organize this interview.
Ahoy ship-mates! What is the latest news from the band?
Greetings from the wind-battered mountains of the Faroe Islands. We have just returned from a successful first gig in Norway at the Inferno Festival, and our next endeavor is an exclusive acoustic concert/poetry evening in my hometown of Klaksvík this weekend. It will be something special indeed.
Acoustic concert? What kind of program do you have for it?
We actually played the whole album as well as a few older songs, all strung together to tell a whole story. Our albums and songs are all connected within our own fictional universe, and so it was a perfect setting to emphasize the lyrical content and give the listeners a full experience from beginning to end, with small poems to bridge the small gaps between the songs.
Hamferð is a pretty young band, yet your EP Vilst er Síðsta Fet” and full-length Evst have achieved some “popularity”. Can you name some of the factors of this phenomenon besides the obvious attractive fact that you’re from he Faroe Islands?
We consider ourselves quite confident in what we do, and we work hard in order to do it well. The importance of every aspect of a band’s outward communication – be it conceptual, aural, visual. and so forth – is immeasurable, and this is something we are constantly trying to teach ourselves. Beyond that, it’s difficult for us to contemplate why our music has gained in popularity over the last couple of years. We can only enjoy the thought of making music that reaches people all over the world and speaks to them.
What are the necessary components of the doom sound and conception for the band?
Our cultural heritage, as well as a fellow musical appreciation among members, has probably formed Hamferð to a larger degree than any other outside influence. Of course, there is no denying the significance of other doom bands, but none of us are hardcore doom fans, so the influences tend to come from a wide variety of elements. One such is the weather and nature on the Faroe Islands, which are harsh and unforgiving for the most part. It can wear on you, psychologically, and it can also inspire you.
Excuse me my curiosity but how is it to live there?
It certainly depends on your outlook. Back when things were more primitive in general it was difficult living on the islands, mostly because of the weather, scarce farming opportunities, unsafe fishing boats, and limited import of food. Nowadays, when those factors don’t play such a large role, it’s for the most part a wonderful place to live. Beautiful surroundings wherever you go, fresh air and water, mostly easy-going and friendly people, and very little crime. Also, things are getting increasingly more liberal on a political and societal basis with issues such as gay rights and aid for psychological afflictions gaining more and more supporters. All societies have their downsides, even the really small ones, but compared to many other countries around the world, this is close to paradise.
Hamferð – Vráin
Evst tells the story of a sailor who survived shipwreck and was found by the mystic people of “Huldur”. Is it a part of your folklore? Why did you decide to use this story for the album?
Just one note: The album is about a father who loses his son in a storm on a mountain, and is aided by the huldur. The story is a prelude to our debut EP, Vilst er síðsta fet, which featured the main character facing different stages of death. It was a natural thing for us to explore the background of this character and how his trials in life relate to his dramatic and self-imposed death. These trials are tied to Faroese culture and history, which are filled to the brim with hardships and sorrow. Therefore, it was also important for us that the story was set on the Faroe Islands, but the references to the location are merely descriptive and there are no actual historical or geographical names mentioned.
Do you plan to continue this story or do you already have some other ideas for the next release?
I would certainly like to continue the story or perhaps a parallel story connected to it, but every album is an opportunity to create something different from what came before, so there might be some surprises ahead. The next release will, if all goes well, be something very special, even for Hamferð, so you’ll just have to wait and see!
I remember a great song “Captain Scott” from the band Spirit Descent, and everyone knows about the German nautical doom act Ahab. Both bands have strong lyrics with interesting and sometimes real subjects. How important are the quality of lyrics for you?
Lyrics are as important for us as the musical compositions. Even though it is possible to tell a story with instrumental music, using our language both descriptively and abstractly allows for a far more direct communication of our concept. Also, without lyrics, I wouldn’t really be needed in the band.
By the way, do you plan to do a naval doom live-set with experienced sailors from Ahab and/or Ocean Chief? A split-release would be good too 🙂
Sounds like an interesting pair-up. Might be a fit. I know that Esmar, our keyboard player, is a fan of Ahab, so he’d certainly appreciate it. The future is an open book, ready to be thrown into the sea.
photo by Jan Egil Kristiansen
What was the story behind the producing of Evst? I see that you have a quiet professional approach with everything connected to the band: the album itself, being nominated for the Faroese Music Awards, that gig in a church, your collaboration with Factory92, and so on. Can you reveal some details of this mechanism?
Theodor (guitars) can answer this one better than I, so I asked him, and his response was this:
“We have always taken the band very seriously, so we put a lot of effort into whatever we do, whether we are writing music, arranging shows, or releasing an album. The story behind Evst is that we wanted to try to release our next album internationally on our label, Tutl. They started a management branch a few years ago which is handled by the guys in Factory92. They saw our show at Wacken Metal Battle in The Faroe Islands, and they were interested in working with us. Prior to that we took care of everything ourselves, but nobody in the band had any knowledge about releasing music outside The Faroe Islands, so we were lucky that Factory92 got on-board at the right time. They specialise in international relations and have great PR and distribution connections (Oktober Management/Promotion, Cargo Records, Believe Digital), so we managed to get the album out in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with proper PR which has made a huge difference for us. We are also very lucky to have received great local support here in The Faroe Islands.”
Hamferð was nominated at the Faroese Music Awards – did you get your prize finally?
No prizes for the band this time, although I did win an award for Best Singer. So there’s that. But the other categories were dominated by Týr, who won best band of 2013 and best album of 2013.
Okay, Jon, I congratulate you with that award and I hope that next year the band gets its prize! Performing traditional forms of doom metal is a kind of challenge for modern bands. Can you say that the forefathers of Doom left some places for their followers to grow?
Very much so. There are always new angles to take on a genre, even if it might not be an easy road to popularity. The grandfathers in Black Sabbath and the younger Candlemass, for example, lay a very solid foundation for further exploration of heavy, dark, and sorrowful metal, and many newer bands do amazing jobs with that.
photo by Delugephoto.blogspot.com
I know that you started your collaboration with Barren Earth in 2014. Are you a constant member of this band? How did you get the invitation from them?
I am a full member of the band. They were searching for a singer and since I was a fan of theirs I wrote them and told them that I was interested. The rest is history.
In this epoch of globalization different cultures seem to melt and move in the same directions. What do you think about the national identity of the band?
Most bands have a touch of national identity in their music, either easily heard or lightly scattered through their compositions. For Hamferð, the culture and history of the Faroe Islands have certainly become defining factor for the band concept. Globalization is great but it is something we need to control so as to unite populations without losing the riches of individual cultures. Hamferð does its part to maintain our own.
I’ve read the story that some media outlets associate the band with pilot whaling, as it was a kind of joke from some of Hamferð members. What are the band members’ real occupations besides spreading word of Doom and the Ancient?
The association with pilot whaling was a very typical example of how quickly violent accusations arise without any real sources or knowledge of what is being criticized. People let their emotions run rampant without any forethought, and they end up spitting their frustrations out on the social media, using language that they wouldn’t dare use when faced with an actual human being. Hamferð has never promoted or discussed whaling publicly, and as a band we represent only the emotional and technical content of our music and lyrics. Should be clear enough.
Regarding the occupations, it’s quite varied between members. I, for example, just finished my Bachelor’s thesis in Biology, and will continue with my Master’s studies soon, Theodor is a studio engineer working for a very successful and internationally acclaimed studio in Tórshavn, and Jenus works as an industrial mechanic for the public maintenance system. So it is safe to say that we are working with diversity.
We had a Cosmonauts Day in Russia not so long ago, and I know that many children here wanted to be cosmonauts. Who did you want to become in your childhood?
Becoming a cosmonaut might be one of the hardest roads to take in life, but a commendable one. I cannot speak for the others, but personally, I always wanted to become a veterinarian. I have always had a love of nature and animals, so for many years my mind was completely made up. I even applied for veterinarian school but was rejected. So I started studying biology instead, and it might have been an even better choice for me. And I still get to work with animals.
Thank you for your time and answers Jon! It was great to talk about Hamferð, I wish you good luck and send my best greetings to other band’s members. Do you have anything to add?
No worries, my friend, I will bring your greetings to the right place. All the best from the Hamferð camp, and for the U.S. natives: We hope to bring our sullen crusade to you as soon as possible!