For the longest of times I received no new records from Norwegian bands (at least it felt like that) andthen all of a sudden I am almost bombarded with them. VICINITY’s Alexander K. Lykke and Kim-Marius H. Olsen were kind enough to answer my questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
When the band came into creation what was the main purpose for it?
-Vicinity started forming in 2006 when Frode Lillevold, Kim-Marius H. Olsen and Kristian Nergård got together one night in Trondheim, sharing a common love of progressive music, but the band didn’t get its name or start writing songs until Alexander K. Lykke joined in 2007, so the readers can decide themselves when we became a real band. We started out doing some covers of bands like Arena, Dream Theater and Deep Purple, but soon realised that we wanted to create our own music.
How hard is it to come up with a sound that is all yours? What bits’n’pieces do you pick up from other stuff to make it your sound?
-We don’t really make a distinct effort to make our own sound, I think that just comes naturally, since the members of the band like different things, and tend to push the music in different directions. Not to say that we are not inspired by our influences, since that is unavoidable, and you tend to make stuff that sounds like what you already like. I generally think that writing the music for ourselves, and not caring about what anyone else thinks, or might like, generally gives you your own sound, instead of trying to sound like anyone else.
I have no idea what kind of creative process you guys go through but how hard is it to record and release new songs?
-We usually present new ideas at our weekly rehearsals, and jam on them, and try to find out what those ideas might become. Some of them turn into something right away, and other ideas might get saved for later. Once we feel that we have a rough structure of a finished song we usually try to record it live, to have a basis to work out the final melodies, and final touches. This is usually the stage where we have some workshops where we work on the vocal lines, mostly done by Alexander, Kim-Marius and Pierre. First drafts of the lyrics are mostly written at the same time as the vocal melodies, or afterwards, but there are examples of a lyrical idea being present from the very beginning of the work with a song, like with the song “Walk All the Way” from Awakening.
Once we have a live demo, the track is usually ready to be recorded, but we traditionally work within the album format, so we usually won’t hit the studio until we feel that we have a full album on our hands. In regards to the releasing of the songs, with our current album “Recurrence” we were lucky, since the label Mighty Music came back to us quite early in our label hunting phase, and they seem to be doing a good job spreading the word and making the album available across the globe.
Today technology allows you to record at home and release your music digitally. But in doing so is there a risk that you release only single songs because that is what is demanded to stay atop and therefore you end up killing the album for example?
-We are very big fans of the album format, and Recurrence in many ways embodies just that. We also like the EP-format, but we gravitate towards the album format quite naturally, and we like the fact that it takes time to write the album, giving the material time to mature. Also, albums containing more material, simply gives the opportunity to elaborate more on any artistic ideas you might have.
I for one feel that the change in how people listen to music today, by downloading it and expecting to get it for free, will kill music as we know it. What kind of future is there for music?
-I think there will always be room for music, but it might not be so easy to live of the music any more. Not only will less known musicians, or musicians in smaller genres need day jobs to finance their musical endeavors, but most importantly, they need that extra passion, an extra drive, as they know they’ll most likely never get a significant return on their investment. And let’s be honest here, recording and releasing music does not just take a lot of time, it also costs money.
There is no doubt that the music business of the 1980s, even the 1990s and early 2000s, was something completely different than what we have today. But it is hard to say if everything that has happened is for the worse. Everyone interested in music know very famous artists that they do not like, or who they feel get an unwarranted amount of attention; many of these are products of the record industry. It is possible that the fall of the traditional record industry may open the door for more artistic freedom, more varied releases, and less conformity. Only time can tell.
What kind of responses do you get to your music? What has been the thing that has gotten the most attention?
-To us personally, the most noticeable responses we get to our music, are perhaps from critics and/or other various media outlets. One of the greatest things to happen to us attention-wise so far, was being put on a list of best newcomers on a metal show on Norwegian national radio (NRK P3, on the show Pyro), and getting air-time on national radio covering millions of listeners. They played the song Mass Delusion, from our first album Awakening. Another thing that was very fun for us, was being played on local radio in Melbourne, Australia (shout out to Gary Carson and Peter Fundeis!). That city has about the same population as our native country, Norway… Furthermore, the detailed commentary they gave of our songs was very interesting to hear. We also immensely enjoy reading reviews of our work, since they are mostly quite positive, if you excuse the bragging.
Secondarily, we do get some attention in social media. Our listeners mostly listen to our music through newer digital solutions, and we are not the most touring band, so there is not a lot of direct, personal contact between us and those who listen to our music. On the other hand, the new technology is instrumental in spreading our music all around the world, and if you look at the freely open statistics on Spotify, you can see that our music is indeed listened to all over the world. This being said, we are very grateful to the noticeable number of people who actually buy a physical copy of our albums, which should be possible to do from anywhere in the world through outlets like amazon, and the like. This is, in addition to showing up at concerts, the biggest economical support a fan can give us! Also, when somebody has bought the album, we know that they really enjoy our music, and that serves as motivation for creating more!
We live in a world where there are no real distances between people communicating anymore. What has been the most surprising contact so far?
-We already brushed upon this under the last question. It’s very interesting for us to get attention from as far away as Melbourne! Also we have at least one or two big fans in Italy! One of them has even started up a Vicinity fan club for Italy (although we have no idea how active it is). The funny thing is, we do not have a Norwegian fan club. This is a very good example of the things that happen with today’s technology.
Does playing in a band make you feel like you are a part of a greater community? What has music brought with it that you would have otherwise missed out on?
-To a certain extent. We do know that various kinds of metal are a major cultural export of the Scandinavian countries. It’s fun to be a small part of that, such as it is. Around the time we released Awakening we were also becoming increasingly aware that there actually are a lot of active bands in Norway playing roughly the same genre as us. Over time we have realized that it could almost be called a Norwegian progressive metal movement, because there are a lot of progressive metal bands from Norway like Withem, Tellus Requiem, Illusion Suite, Divided Multitude, Rudhira, Mindtech (though they perhaps tend more towards melodic/power than prog) who perform at a very high level, not mention acts like Circus Maximus or Pagan’s Mind. If it can be said there is a wave of Norwegian progressive metal going on right now, we are proud to be part of it.
One thing that being musicians brings us, is getting a whole different kind of contact with other like-minded musicians than we could have gotten as listeners or fans. The relationships feel something like being colleagues, and there experiences, joys and frustrations to share. These relationships are something we appreciate, because there are a lot of great guys out there playing progressive metal, and all of them are very talented. It is a privilege to be in such company.
What is the live scene like for you? Do you feel that playing live helps building a bigger following?
-As we said previously, we are not the most touring band. When you are not among the greats, you have to organize most concerts and tours yourself, and in addition to being a lot of work, it also costs a lot of money. Actually, we see that it is becoming increasingly common for warm-up acts to actually pay the bigger bands to go on tour with them, not to mention that they have to cover all expenses, travel, accommodation, diet etc., themselves. We have decided not to jump on this trend. All of us also have lots of other commitments outside of Vicinity, so going on an extended tour has not been possible with the offers we have received so far.
But, yes, playing concerts together with other bands of similar genre no doubt helps recruit new listeners and fans. To take the band further, when it comes to fame, touring would probably be a good thing to do more of.
What plans do you have for the future?
-We plan to keep on writing and playing the kind of music we ourselves enjoy listening to and playing. Our new album has not been released yet, but already some new material for a probable future release has been written. All of us also really enjoy spending time in each other’s company, so we’ll obviously keep doing that, in and out of the rehearsal room. We also plan on playing some concerts in the bigger cities of Norway as part of releasing Recurrence in April. Also, since we now collaborate with Danish record company Mighty Music, there might be possibilities for playing in Denmark, maybe even other Scandinavian or European countries. We’re open to offers, to put it that way! And no one can know what the future really holds, so there is actually no knowing where everything might end up. At any rate, we almost cannot express how much we are looking forward to releasing Recurrence!