You don’t get too many opportunities to hear a band from The Faroe Islands but HAMFERð gives you that opportunity. Jón Aldará (vocalist) answering my questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
Every band has to introduce their music to new people. What is it that you want people to get from listening to you guys?
JA: It’s a bit difficult to answer that question. In theory, the music should speak for itself, and if people get the particular experience that we tried to convey, then we have done a good job. Preferably, we would like to hear what people feel when listening to our music and seeing our visual art, rather than tell them what they should think in advance.
Idealism aside, the main concept of Hamferð lies in exploring the darker sides of Faroese culture and nature; the way people have experienced, processed and overcome adversity throughout the centuries of settlement on the Faroe Islands. To represent that in our music, we try to include big dynamics, using heavy, dramatic, melancholy, introspective and sometimes violent elements. This generally puts us in the death/doom metal genre, although we don’t necessarily adhere very strictly to its framework.
How hard was it for you guys to pick a name? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
JA: I don’t remember it being very hard. The word appeared to me quite naturally, actually. We needed something that evoked a mournful, eerie and violent atmosphere, while also being uniquely Faroese. Since “hamferð” is a ghostly omen of death from Faroese lore, it fit the profile perfectly.
Everybody is influenced by certain things. What band(s) was it that turned you on to the kind of music you play? What inspires you today?
JA: That’s a very big question, since we all have very different musical preferences, and take inspiration from all sorts of things. As a whole, we try to draw inspiration from our culture and surroundings; the mountains, the oceans, the weather, Faroese myths and traditions. We also like big concepts, both in music and lyrics, so progressive bands and classical composers are among the big references these days.
But of course, there is still a doom metal backbone shining through. The original rough idea with Hamferð was to create a Faroese version of those classic 90’s death doom bands; My Dying Bride, Anathema, Katatonia and so forth. But, like everything that continues to live, we evolved into something that is now hopefully more than that.
When you formed did you do so with the intent of knowing what to play or did you do so from the point of having a band name and then picking a sound? How did you settle on the name/sound combo?
JA: We didn’t think long-term when we started the band, but we had a good idea of what we wanted to do, and that idea is still mostly present. As I’ve alluded to earlier, the name came after we had decided what we wanted to do musically, which was to create a band that could convey the aesthetic of the rough environment and conditions that people have endured on the Faroe Islands for more than a millennium. Doom metal was a good starting point, since the genre sufficiently embodies feelings of adversity, tragedy and brutality, which permeate the Faroese culture to some degree.
I believe that digital is killing the album format. People’s changing habit of how they listen to music will result in there being no albums. Is there anything good with releasing single tracks only?
JA: Although it’s true that people’s listening habits are changing, I disagree that the album format will die. The physical format might go extinct eventually, but an album is much more likely to create a world than a 3-4 minute song, and it can gives out a deeper emotional resonance through large-scale contrasts, dynamics and movements. I have faith in people’s appreciation for that, even though attention spans become narrower, and even if the physical format all but disappears.
The real challenge lies in learning to resist the constant barrage of distractions and pressures that run rampant through social media. It’s a maze out there, and it feeds on people’s precious time and focus.
What part does art-work and lay-out play when you release new recordings? How do you best catch people’s attention?
JA: Visual components like artwork, photos, videos and stage design are vital in the way we present our music, and we try to maintain a strong concept throughout everything we do. Catching people’s attention is one thing, but keeping it is a whole different story! I think people react well to a band that is conscious about everything, connecting everything and conveys it as a whole world that one can be completely immersed in. I don’t know how successful we are in doing that, but it is something we continually strive for.
Has social media re-written the rules on how to promote your music? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way?
JA: It certainly has changed the game in regards to competition and exposure! Hamferð started back when social media was beginning to take hold, so we have sort of grown up and evolved with it. In that sense, there hasn’t been a drastic, overnight change in our approach to promotion. But competing for people’s attention on the social media platforms seems to have become more and more challenging as trends and viral content becomes more overwhelming for each day that passes. I don’t think we have changed our methods that much, though, since we try to focus on the music and the art surrounding it, and then kind of hope that it speaks for itself. It’s a slow process, but it has proved itself effective so far. That said, we’re not above using certain marketing tools, new and old, but they have to adhere to our first principle: the music is above all!
When you play in a band, does that make you feel like you are a part of a scene, of something bigger and grander?
JA: Well, it depends on the angle from which you look at it. Generally speaking, we are a metal band and thus belong to that particular scene, in some way. But that scene is extremely broad in regards to genres and subgenres and sub-subgenres, so you tend to see certain metal bands and genres as cohorts, while others seem a far cry from our niche. Touring with other bands definitely reinforces that feeling of cohesion within the scene, so, at times, we definitely feel like a part of big picture.
On the other hand, we have a kind of singular approach to our music, as we try carve out a unique sound for ourselves that doesn’t necessarily adhere to particular styles or genres. Also, we are based on the Faroe Islands, where we are both slightly part of the mainstream, yet still completely at odds with it. Therefore, it can sometimes feel that we are somewhat disconnected from other artists.
How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
JA: Touring is an integral part of the band, and it always has been. We take great pride in creating a strong live experience for the audience in terms of sound, performance and visuals. It is the ultimate way of spreading the word, I think. With a few expection, you are much less likely convince people to listen to your records if you can’t play it.
What will the future bring?
JA: Hopefully everything and more! We are celebrating our 10th year as a band next year, but it sort of feels like we are only getting started. We have signed with a legendary and very supportive label, a new album is coming out in a few weeks, the tour starts in February, where we are finally able to present the new material live, and all kinds of interesting ideas and ventures await. I think that’s enough future for now!