Interview with Pil & Bue

Pil & Bue - Interview


This week, Knut spoke with Norwegian Rock-act Pil & Bue and found out a lot about the band’s sound, the latest record and why they want to enter the studio twice more within the next 16 months!

Pil & Bue (meaning Arrow & Bow) is a duo from Norway´s high North, Finnmark. Even though they are a duo their soundscape is loud and heavy, energetic and raw, the songs melodic and the vocals clear as the northern sky. They formed during a jam session in 2013 and released their acclaimed debut in July 2014, Push Start Button (level 1) and followed up in 2016 with the also highly acclaimed Forget The Past, Let’s Worry About the Future. Since then a new drummer has joined and the band has gotten heavier on their new album The World is a Rabbit Hole out September 3 2021 through Indie Recordings. Pil & Bue is Petter Carlsen on guitars and Gøran Johansen on drums.

Congratulations on the new release The World is a Rabbit Hole! It is five years since the last, and it was worth the wait. But you both have been busy with other projects. So, for our readers, we have to get the name of the band explained, Pil & Bue (Arrow & Bow). Quite a good name for a duo as both are dependent on each other and “complete” each other. How did you come up with the band name?

Petter: We didn’t; a friend of mine came up with it long before the band was even thought of. One of those evenings of beer drinking and trying to come up with good names for a band, just for fun. And then, when I realized we had a duo-thing up and running I asked him if I could use it.

How did you two meet each other?

(Photos by Frank Rune Isaksen)

Petter: We met at a nice little rock venue in Hammerfest called Redrum, 20 years ago. I played in a Metallica tribute band called Damage Inc. and Gøran was at the gig. A few years later, in 2007, Gøran became the drummer in that band. So we have played quite a few gigs together, paying tribute to a band we are very fond of, the both of us. Suddenly, in 2019, I thought ”Damn! He could very well be the new drummer in Pil & Bue”. I asked him, he said yes, and we started making new stuff, even before trying the already made songs in Pil & Bue. The energy and chemistry were there immediately.

What is the driving force behind Pil & Bue? An easy question to ask, but it might be a bit difficult to answer?

The driving force is to meet in a rehearsal room, jamming out ideas, recording them, and start putting it together. To make energetic music and have fun! The main idea is always to play/write (loud) together.

How was the writing and recording during the Corona pandemic done? You both live in the northern parts of Norway, Petter in Alta and Gøran in Hammerfest, with about three-hour drive between the two cities. Was it hard to find space and time to practice, write and record?

It’s a two-hour drive. We switched on who was driving over to the other. It wasn’t very hard. We both wanted to create new songs, and we did not have so much other stuff to do, since there was close to no gigs with other bands and projects. Also, Indie Recordings was very eager for this to happen, so that also gave us a boost. The plan is actually to record the next record in December, and to repeat that once more at the end of 2022. The plan is three albums in three years.

Where did you record the songs? And how spontaneous was the recording or were the demos already pretty precise?

Petter: We recorded the album in Cederberg Studios, Kristiansand, with producer Christer André Cederberg and his crew. Great studio, and great people. Some of the demos were pretty close, and some of them we arranged together in the studio. We were there for a week and stayed at the studio. That gave us the chance to be in the bubble the whole time.

Do you want to explain the album’s title or should that be up to the listeners to interpret individually?

Petter: It was a good working title that became the album title. It allowed us to do so much with lyrics, I guess. Everything felt so strange when we started writing, because the pandemic was so new and scary ”what’s around the bend? what will happen? where are we headed” etc.

What are the themes of the songs on this album? I read somewhere it is about remembering your teenage years and that is surely the theme for the video for the song ”Everyone´s Just A Kid”. Is this a theme throughout the album?

Petter: Yeah, two of the songs, ”Select 2 Players”, and ”Everyone’s Just A Kid”, are indeed looking back at our teenage years, remembering who gave us the kicks and who blew our minds within music. ”The Resonator” is a tribute to a cousin who changed the world for the better. ”Rube Goldberg Machines” and ”The World is a Rabbit Hole” are more going into the depths of our existence, and facing the truth. We (humans) are nothing without everything else.

Who came up with the idea for the video?

Petter: It was me and Frank Rune Isaksen, the director of the video. We wanted to make something together with personnel from the same county in Alta, Finnmark.

Since the last album in 2016, Gøran has taken over the drums, and the result is just as astonishing as before. I think this album is by and large heavier than the previous. Is that because he has his background in metal bands like Slogstorm, IEksil and Hordes? Or was that the direction the band was going?

Petter: Yes, that has a lot to do with it. It was natural, and we did not try to fight it.

So Gøran, how did you approach the musical style of Pil & Bue, playing with one guitarist?

Gøran: I have known Petter for many years now, and therefore know his range, capacity within different genres. We are not so unlike each other in that sense; I am deeply connected within Hard Rock, Metal and Punk and like to describe myself as a hard-hitting caveman drummer. But I have also experience from other musical styles such as Pop and Rap music, which has helped me to incorporate grooves and techniques across genres. That was something I felt I could add to Pil & Bue.

As I think you have ventured further into heavy metal soundscapes with nods to both thrash metal and post metal, which genres do you yourself think your music is within? It is now heavier than indie rock as which you were labeled earlier, isn’t it?

Petter: Yes, it is heavier now, so the Indie Rock label has to go! I think Hard Rock is the best label, perhaps with nods to trash and metal, as you said. Somebody mentioned “Arch Core” as a style, which was funny! Ha-ha!

So Petter, we have to talk a bit about you as you have done so much musically diverse since you started out. You have a range in your musical universe that is impressive. Your music has been used in films like “Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead” and “What Happened to Monday”. Did you have this in mind when you wrote the music or did it come as a surprise that the director wanted to use your music?

Petter: Thank you. I think it has been very vital to me, since I have been doing this for so many years now, to do different things, and explore new territories. I have brought much of the energy and impulses from one project to the next. It’s been quite an adventure. Regarding those two songs; No, I didn’t, it was a nice surprise. I sent him the songs long before the release though. If you never try…I knew he was a fan of the band.

Not only have the Pil & Bue releases received good reviews internationally, but you Petter have also released acclaimed solo albums as a singer/songwriter in the Pop or Indie Pop genre, you have sung on Anathema and Long Distance Calling albums and at their concerts and you have collaborated with members of Anathema. How did those collaborations come along?

Petter: It all started with meeting Daniel Cavanagh in around 2008, I think, in Oslo. He was doing a solo gig, playing Anathema songs and some covers. I gave him my EP from 2006, and my e-mail address. A few months later he wrote me saying how much he liked the music. The conversation kept going, and I invited him to visit Alta, to see the northern lights. He got a glimpse, we got to play guitar together, and went on a mini split tour in Norway; Alta-Oslo-Kristiansand. After that he invited me to their ”We’re here because we’re here” tour. I said yes! It was such a great time. Great people. Generous, kind and very funny! On that tour Long Distance Calling joined in on some of the shows. We connected immediately. Became friends. I have worked a lot with Jan Hoffmann, their bassist, on several of my solo albums. Also did a duet together with Vincent Cavanagh on The Flood Inside-album. When he asked me to join in, it was of course very exciting, and I had to give it a go. I think the album (Trips) is very good.

Your voice is easily recognizable, so clear, strong and distinct and on the Pil & Bue albums it is like a third instrument in itself developing the quite memorable melodies, like it is soaring over the heavy music. However hard you push it, it never seems to break. Do you have a special technique or did you have special training?

Petter: Thank you. Not really. I have learned most of it myself. It was not always that way, that I could push it so hard. But as I became more secure, the voice took some giant steps. I feel that my voice is stronger now than ever. I hope it continues. I tried to go to singing lessons, but they all were true disasters.

(Photos by Frank Rune Isaksen)

Do you have vocalists that you are inspired by and have learned from?

Petter: Yes. Especially Vincent Cavanagh and Anneke van Giersbergen, as we toured together. I think I learned a lot from them. And in general, all my collaborations with other singers has done me favors. I appreciate them very much. Freddie Mercury, James Hatfield, Jeff Buckley, Thom Yorke must also be mentioned as inspirations.

So, the next question will be a follow up to the previous: Who is your musical inspirations for the music that is on the last album? Who is the inspiration for you as a guitarist and songwriter, Petter? And who is the inspiration for you as a drummer, Gøran?

Petter: Good question. I guess a little bit of everything I like. It’s no secret though, that our common fondness for Metallica might have shun through on this album. We both discovered Metallica in our teenage years, and since we were going back to our teens on some of the songs, the link was even more obvious. There are a lot of inspirations. Gøran: Inspiring drummers are George Kollias, Lars Ulrich, Eloy Casagrande, Buddy Rich and Thomas Lang. I’m easily inspired by the energy of the people I play with. On this Pil &Bue album I think I am very inspired by the previous Pil & Bue albums. To try and keep some of the feel and energy, but also make it a little heavier.

I have been to some concerts with Pil & Bue, the last one at Parkteateret in Oslo. How do you manage to bring the massive layers of sound from the albums to the scene?

That is a secret. ;-) An important factor is the sound technician. One who understands the concept. Another factor is to split the signal from the baritone guitar into different pedals, including an octave pedal, and then use 2 different amps. Preferably a bass amp, in addition to 1 / 2 guitar amps.

How close is “the scene” up North? Which bands (apart from your other bands) are you close with?

This pandemic has possibly sent us a little further apart, but still I think we are good at motivating each other. In Finnmark the scene is very small, and a lot of bands are moving to the south (often Oslo), to work from there. In Troms and Nordland there is a lot more bands, and a lot more people.

Which bands from the northern parts of Norway where you live and play (especially during the pandemic), should we check out? Any record labels you, beside Indie Recordings, we should look closer at?

Féleth! A lovely Death Metal band! Their debut received a lot of nice reviews!

So here is a quick questionnaire for you both:

Tour with Mantar or Metallica? Metallica

Touring or recording? Touring & Recording

Mountains, the sea or the woods? The sea. Or all three

Beer, wine or water? Beer

Holiday or staycation? Both

Festival or own show?Both

Be sure to check out Pil & Bue’s Facebook as well as their Bandcamp page!

And here the video for “Everyone’s Just A Kid”: