(In the second installment in a week-long series of interviews, Andy Synn talks with members of the Norwegian band Endolith, whose 2016 debut album he reviewed here.)
For the second in this interview series on some of the “unsung heroes” of 2016, we’re travelling to Tromsø, Norway, to discuss Metal and metaphysics with progressive death-groovers Endolith, who released their fantastic debut album, Voyager, in December of last year.
First question – nice and simple – how are you guys doing at the moment?
Frode: Hello, we are doing fine. In fact we’re actually in the middle of writing our sophomore album, and we’re more than halfway through. We’ve been working continuously since the release of Voyager and it’s looking good!
Spirits are high, and we feel that we are honing our sound further, trimming some of the fat that may naturally accumulate on a debut album, and making perhaps more cohesive material.
Before we go any further, how about a bit of background about who the band is, where you were born/formed/forged, etc?
Frode: Endolith consist of three guys from Northern Norway, drummer Roger, guitarist/singer Erling, and vocalist Frode. We are all from different towns, but we now reside in Tromsø.
The band was formed by Erling and Roger in 2010, and Frode joined in 2014. We all cut our teeth playing in different extreme metal bands in the late nineties/early noughties, and our music holds a deep relation both to the Norwegian scene of that era, but also to our Arctic surroundings.
We have several months every winter without any sun and just a few hours of daylight. We didn’t have to invent “Blashyrk”, we already live here! (It’s true, google it!)
Voyager ended up becoming one of my personal favourite albums of last year even though, unfortunately, I didn’t discover it properly until after I’d compiled all my year-end lists. Looking back, now that a fair few months have passed, how do you feel that the debut album was received?
Frode: Well thank you, that is very cool to hear! We do feel that your review of the album really showed that you grasped the essence of what we were trying to do.
As an independent band releasing our first album ourselves, we have learned a thing or two about the music scene today, and how hard it can be to get through to the proper channels for reviews, interviews etc. We had a few really great reviews from independent webzines like yours, and a few decent reviews from Norwegian press, plus one where it seemed apparent that the reviewer had not even listened through the album!
Although we feel that there are some things that could have been addressed differently production-wise, we are still really proud of how it turned out, and the material is really close to our hearts, as some of these songs were written almost ten years ago.
Any plans for a (limited) physical release? I, for one, would snap that up immediately if it were available.
Frode: Actually, we’re looking at that right now! Of course, these things cost money, but we definitely want to do a limited run on vinyl perhaps with expanded artwork and a few bonus tracks. Hopefully this will come to fruition sooner rather than later, but as of now it’s hard to say when we’ll be able to do it.
What was the writing process like? Obviously you’ve got a rather complex sound, with a lot of moving parts to it, so how do you even begin to put all the pieces in place?
Frode: The meat and bone of our sound is guitar, drums, and vocals, do not let yourself be fooled by the bells and whistles, hah! So, a song usually starts with guitar riffs that are arranged into more or less cohesive structures, and usually programmed drums and maybe synths are added to that.
When the general structure is more or less finished, lyrics are written and adapted and vocals are recorded, and everything else comes later. For the next record though, we are trying a bit of a different approach, as it will be a full-blown concept album. We wrote a schematic of the story before anything else was written, and the music is then being written with that story in mind.
Lyrically as well, the album goes a little bit off the beaten track (for a Metal band, at least), covering ideas such as the artificial division of knowledge into separate “spheres”, the possibility of establishing/observing an ultimate/objective truth, and the Heisenberg “Uncertainty Principle” – so let me ask you, why these topics, why these sorts of lyrics? And who is primarily responsible for this aspect of the band?
Frode: Most of these topics came from Erling’s studies in social anthropology I believe, as I (Frode) was not part of the band at the time of writing these lyrics. So I’ll let Erling fill in on that.
Erling: Yeah, it started in 2010, and I hadn’t written music or lyrics for a couple of years when we founded Endolith. So for inspiration, I grabbed the closest book I had, which was a book on philosophy. Sifting through it, the idea came to me to add music to some quotes from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”, as one might a poem. So from there we did quite a few songs based on quotes from academic texts. Getting all the permissions took some time, but was really worth it.
All of the topics and lyrics revolve around humanity, what it means to be human, and how we perceive and organize the world around us.
When Frode joined in 2014, 4 songs were lacking titles and lyrics (“Galactic Pecking Order”, “Velocirapture”, “Old as Cancer”, “Holy Curiosity”), and he delved into the matter of trying to write something that would continue in this vein, retaining the philosophical and humanist approach, and expanding it into perhaps our favourite genre: science fiction.
Do you have any particular favourite tracks (I know that’s a little bit like asking someone to choose their favourite child)? Or any that are particularly fun/challenging to play live?
Frode: “Holy Curiosity” perhaps. I am really happy with how the lyrics turned out, and how the music almost slithers from groovy death stuff through jazzy breaks into Erling’s magnificent singing, culminating with the recitation of the Einstein quote and echoing out. In live settings I have no particular favourite, it depends on the mood of the day, the response from the audience, among other things.
Erling: For me, I think maybe “Old As Cancer”. The lyrics are devilishly clever and really suit the frantic pace of the song, and the orchestral timpani (not samples, they’re real!) also really bind this song together, I think.
Speaking of live… what is the average Endolith show like?
Frode: Energetic and a bit mysterious, we hope! We have really tried to put a lot of effort into it, we use video installations that are tailored to each song, and our lights guy Torbjørn is just out of this world. Beyond that, we just get up and play our hearts out. You can check out a professionally filmed live clip on our YouTube channel, by the way!
What do the band have planned for the future – both short and long term?
Frode: As initially touched upon, we are working on our second album, a full concept album with a theme that we don’t think many bands have ever explored, so we are really stoked on that! The theme/ concept lends itself ridiculously well to Metal, so expect something growlingly animalistic!
We are also looking to play more shows, and plans are in the works for some touring following the release. Right now we are trying to sort out the business side of things as well, and we are hoping to be in the studio just over summer.
Any final statements, words of wisdom, etc, you want to share with the NCS audience?
Frode: Give Voyager a listen if you have not, I think it might be the kind of album that takes a few listens to grasp. Keep your pies eeled for the new Endolith album in hopefully around one year. Never lose a holy curiosity.