Norna, the new and devastatingly punishing outfit with members from Breach, Ølten and The Old Wind, will release their debut album via Vinter Records this fall. Today we premiere the first track from the upcoming album Star Is Way Way Is Eye together with an interview with the band.
Hailing from the cold North of Sweden and the epic vastness of the Swiss Alps, the band consists of Swedish Hardcore-pioneer Tomas Liljedahl (Breach, The Old Wind) and Swiss underground troopers Christophe Macquat and Marc Theurillat (both known for their other band Ølten). Formed merely a year ago, the three-piece is now ready with their debut recording – a thunderous onslaught of bleak, cold and desperate heaviness.
We understand that Christophe took the initiative to form the band. How did that come about? We expect you had this idea because Thomas had a guest appearance on the Ølten-album Mode, on the song “Gloom”?
Chris One year before I turned 40 I took the decision to record a new album instead of buying a new car (midlife crisis :-) ). For this album I had an idea: Make an album with the people who have influenced me. Breach and Cult of Luna are a huge part in my life. That’s why I asked Tomas and Magnus (Lindberg, who produced the record). I also wanted to have my best friend in this project, Marc.
There has been this pandemic for the last 1,5 years, how did you rehearse and write when being far apart from each other? Or were you able to be in the same rehearsal room, despite the pandemic? How was the recording done at Roystone Studios in the middle of the pandemic?
Tomas It have been weird times for sure… Rehearsing together was not gonna happen so, basically writing riffs and throwing them into our Dropbox and build from there. By the time we got to Roystone in Switzerland, which is located deep in the middle of the Alps, social distancing was not really a problem. A cabin up on the mountain where we slept and the studio right beneath us in the valley we had all the basic structures done so we rehearsed in the studio for a week to finalize all the writing/songs and then recorded live together in a room. But yeah, we basically wrote and recorded the album in the studio, hard work and time consuming, but it was a blast .
How do you form your musical ideas together in your writing of the music for this album?
Tomas I guess our initial thought was (the strife for) simplicity. I wanted the guitar tone to form the riffs/songs, there is not really any idea to write complex riffs with a super dirty and harsh guitar sound, it doesn´t make any sense to me. And we wanted the sound to be crushing, almost unbearable. So that kind of set the tone for the songwriting, usually Chris or me coming up with a riff and then coloring it with an additional tone. But the idea was simplicity: repetitive almost mantra-like riffs. I like the idea to have a riff take on its own life after being repeated long enough.
How is the writing shared among you? Or is there like a main song-writer?
Tomas Mainly me and Chris write the foundation and the basic “skeleton” for the songs and Marc came up with some cool stuff in the studio.
You originally announced the band name as A.T.A. on Facebook in December 2019 and in February this year you changed it, deriving the name from Norse mythology, Norna after the Norns who are deities shaping the fate of gods, goddesses and humans, always at present when a child is born, and they weave life threads, they measure and they cut life threads. Who of you is into Norse mythology so much?
Tomas Well, A.T.A. was just a “working” name for this project cause then and there we didn´t really know where we would take this collaboration. But yeah, we ended up being a three-piece band and decided, it was time to name the beast properly. NORNA had been at the back of my mind for some time and we decided to go with that. I´m really interested in the Norse mythology for many reasons but mainly because it is my heritage, it is where i come from. I am born and raised in the Northern part of Scandinavia in somewhat old (traditional) ways and it is where I have a solid ground.
Does the band’s name in some way reflect in your music?
Tomas Hm… maybe more spiritually than musically.
You formed a year and half ago, recorded this winter, early spring. How was the recording process of the album at almost the height of the Pandemic?
Chris Since we made the decision to be focused only on Norna, Marc and I worked together one time per week. I created a template on Reaper (recording software) that we shared on a Dropbox. We recorded everything and we shared it with Tomas who, in his turn, recorded his parts and shared those with us. We also had a lot of video chats to figure out some stuff.
Tomas We actually post-poned the recording of the album twice because of the pandemic, but eventually we decided that we had to make this happen no matter what, so we just went for it. It was a lot of PCR tests and keeping up to date with traveling restrictions. When we all finally got together in the studio nothing could really stop us anymore. Rehearse, record, eat, sleep, repeat.
In an interview with Duo Nöje Thomas promised the album to be “ugly and uncomfortable”. Well, from the first song you release, “The Thruther”, it is clear that this will be as heavy, hard-hitting, multi-layered and atmospheric as it gets, with recognizable vocals. If the rest of the album is like this we will protest a bit about the statement, and say that it is passionate and beautifully-performed. What is your comment to that?
Tomas Well, I do think it came out uncomfortable, but with that said I really think the atmosphere and surroundings at the place of recording made the whole experience take a little bit of a turn. The beautiful Alps, the majestic mountains completely embraced by stars at night totally blew me/us away and definitely created a spiritual vibe that we did not expect. To me it was a profound spiritual experience and I felt a deep connection to everything there, and that definitely created some beauty and melancholy on the recordings. I have never felt so unstressed and calm ever before during a studio production. Chris was the boss of the wonderful cooking at night, while me and Marc were practicing meditation and breathing exercises. The whole album might have been completely different if it was made in a dirty cellar in the deepest part of Russia.
Chris Yes, we had a lots of weird dreams in this cabin, to be honest I was happy to get back home.
Is “The Truther” criticizing life in the digital age? If so, who or what is “The Truther”?
Tomas “The Truther” is you and me, all of us when we remove all the filters that holds us back from being aware. “The Truther” is a higher state of consciousness.
We are very happy to exclusively be able to premiere “The Truther” here at Veil of Sound. Right here, right now you can get a first glance at the sound of Norna.
Tomas, we have to ask you. You have performed vocals and have been involved in numerous bands as diverse as Breach and The Old Wind. You have participated largely in The Ocean Collective at their beginning. Is it true, that you also were involved in Switchblade or in Terra Tenebrosa as the Cuckoo?
Tomas I know there have been a lot of speculations regarding this. They are close friends but no, I have never been involved in Terra Tenebrosa or Switchblade.
And now you have also picked up the guitar with this band. Why did you and how does that change your own perception of your position in Norna?
Tomas I have always played guitar, writing songs for Breach and The Old Wind on guitars. We wanted to try to create as much noise as possible with three people and that required me to also play the guitar and bass for that matter. Both me and Chris play the bass with a split signal to a bass rig, it#s complicated. Hopefully we can make it work.
What do you guys think about it, Christophe and Marc? Does that change your duties in the band?
Chris No, because I wanted to have two guitars, a moog and no bass on this band. The main challenge was to make it sound a guitar like a bass.
Marc Not really, with Ølten I play drums and a bit of Moog and now I play drums and I added a pad to start some loops and weird sound during the songs.
And Tomas, a question: Is there something in the water in Luleå as quite a few bands hailing from the city have become highly influential?
Tomas I´m not sure what it is. The northern part of Sweden has been very creative musically and the scene has always been strong, especially from the mid 90´s and up to mid 2000. Might be the water or the clean air, it makes you more connected I guess.
And Christophe and Marc, Ølten is an instrumental band, how did you fit your kind of music to Tomas´ vocals? Did it change how you write the music?
Chris Not really, to be honest it was easier to write this album than the Ølten albums. And I‘m felling lucky because with Marc and Tomas we worked very hard without boundaries.
Marc It changes the way you write music a bit because you have to keep more space for the vocal parts. The vocals were the last parts we did, so you have to keep in mind the final result is not only instrumental music.
The first song, and of course the album, is mixed by Magnus Lindberg. We can feel his fingerprint on this as on many other he has produced and mixed, is he your obvious choice?
Chris Off course! Magnus did two masters for Ølten, we know him and we wanted him for the mixing and the mastering. I remember the first day when we joined him in Stockholm. he made us listen to his mix of “The Truther”: We looked at each other with Tomas and said “FUCK!!!” This guy completely understood how Norna should sound.
Tomas Magnus has been a part of this project from the beginning; first he was actually supposed to play drums, but he ended up taking care of the mix and master. To be honest, I personally thought that Magnus would make the mix too nice and clean but he definitely proved me wrong.
How did the collaboration with the new Norwegian label Vinter Records come along?
Chris So far so good. When we were looking for a label, we had a chat with the guys from Vinter Records and I remember each of them was excited to release our album. After this chat it was obvious that we had to work with these guys who were going to put all their guts into the release of our album.
Why did you not go to a much bigger label?
Tomas We wanted to be a little bit proactive when it comes to people to work with and Vinter Records really showed interest in what we were doing and we felt that with them we would not fall through the cracks like we, as a new band, would likely have with a bigger label. We all like the idea of promoting people in the industry that work with passion, heart and transparency, and we definitely got that vibe from the Vinter-staff. We are looking forward to work and lift each other. It´s all about passion.
What’s in store when the pandemic is over, will there be a tour?
Tomas Yes! We are super stoked to get out on the road with this band, we all have missed touring greatly! We are reaching out to booking agencies all over the world right now to work with, and as a new band we basically have to start from square one, and it is tough to get agencies to take us on at this moment, but we will get there. We really want to get this show on the road.
Which bands have inspired you to make this album, this kind of music? And what is your favorite band to listen to for each of you?
Tomas This is a hard one. I get inspired by so many things, not only music. Over the last couple of years I have expanded my musical interests and run through all the genres these days. I have actually been into a lot of spiritual music lately, folk music etc.
Chris I am very influenced by many Scandinavian bands. When I write riffs I try to listen to the opposite of the music when I write a new album.
Marc I listen a lot of different kinds of music so I don’t know what really influences me when I play music. A mix of all that stuff maybe!
Now a short quickfire-round. It would be nice if you could all answer these questions:
Oslo or Vienna?
Tomas Both, depends of time of year.
Marc I would say Olso, but I have not visited either of the 2 cities so.
Beer or wine?
The woods, the mountains or the sea?
Chris The Woods
Tomas All of the above! This is where I grow.
Marc Right now, the sea
Bathory or Emperor?
Tomas Both, depends on the mood.
Touring or recording?
Refused or Entombed?
Jesus Lizard or Melvins?
Chris Jesus Lizard
Tomas Jesus Lizard
Neurosis or ISIS?
Tomas Both - any given time of the day.
The Ocean Collective or Coilguns?
Tomas Guns and Oceans.
The Shining or The Exorcist?
Chris The Exocrcist
Tomas The Exorcist.
Thank you all for doing this. All the best and thanks for your time
Chris Thanks to you, was a pleasure to answer to your questions, Knut.
And here is a little teaser for the video to be released mid-September: