Norwegian black ‘n’ rollers Vreid are currently decimating North America on their tour with Melechesh and Lightning Swords of Death. I sat down with Hváll on the Seattle date to talk about the band’s touring ethic, war, and their latest album, Welcome Farewell.
How’s the tour going?
It’s been good so far. We’ve just done our opening shows in LA and San Francisco but it’s been a good start. Feeling a bit fresh after finally getting a shower today!
You tour very frequently, both in Europe and here in the States. Do you find it that enjoyable or do you find it critical to your success?
I think it’s a bit of both. We really enjoy putting a new album out and then going out and playing the new songs live. And also it’s important for a band, to get out on the road. Not just to release albums, but you have to support them and show the audience what you’ve got.
I know a lot of European bands have a hard time touring the States, what with visa and geographical issues.
It is a hassle in many ways. But you just have to get over it. Yeah there’s a lot of bureaucracy and it costs a lot of money to come over here, what with the promoters and you get shitty showers compared to Europe, but it’s a great audience. We enjoy touring here and that’s what it’s all about.
Last year you played a tour in India, a country where very few international – let alone metal – bands ever visit. How did that come about and what was the experience like?
It was a combination tour, as we did a special performance with some Indian dancers so it wasn’t just a regular show. We played opera houses and things like that so it was very strange. We had people coming to the shows who had never heard metal, or even rock, and then some really metal kids. It was a cool combination and it was great to get to India, I really liked that.
Was the Indian dancing combined with your music, what was the performance like?
Yeah, we had a choreographer who had some dancers and she adapted it to the music. We performed as we do at a regular show, and they put on a whole performance around it. It was a strange thing but it was great. And it was a good turnout, the shows had anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people. Some were sold out, it was fantastic. Metal is building up there. We went to Bangalore and a lot of bands have been going there recently because there is a huge amount of metal fans so everyone comes out to the shows.
Were conditions rough at all? India is notoriously tough to navigate.
Oh no, we got really lucky. We got put in five star hotels and everything, so we were very fortunate. But it was very interesting seeing the country and noticing the immense difference between the rich and the poor.
I’m really interested in the inception of the band, and how you took a massive loss and turned it into an inspiration for a new project and a new sound. Can you speak about how you decided to form Vreid after Valfar’s passing?
Pretty much after what happened, we didn’t know what to do. It was just an instant reaction to want to keep on writing music. We felt in many ways we didn’t want to continue what we started since it felt like such an end; we wanted to start things from scratch. So we started in a small rehearsal space jamming out some songs, and we were quite surprised. We turned out eight songs in something like a month, recorded it and never looked back.
Was it a conscious decision to change the sound of the band?
Yes, absolutely. If we had copied the same thing then we might as well have continued as Windir and that wasn’t our intention at all. I wanted to focus on some of the other inspirations I personally had in music and sort of get back to the roots. To build a band from scratch and see how it evolves. And the band has changed a bit over the years, but that’s natural.
And of course you all had been playing together so long it just sort of worked.
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve all been playing together for 20 years now so we know each other’s good sides and flaws.
What was the inspiration for I Krig and Milorg, two albums are based on the Norwegian resistance? Does Vreid have any special connection to these events or was it to glorify a lesser-known WWII tale?
I’ve always been interested in history. Since I was a child I’ve was interested in World War Two and I’ve studied lots of history, that’s been most of my education. It’s my main interest beside music so it feels natural. When I write lyrics I want to write something that I feel passionate about, not just pick a theme because it’s cool. It felt natural at the time and it was an interesting to do some concept albums about that.
And it’s great, because that’s not a tale Americans generally know about. Growing up we are mostly taught about things like D-Day and American forces “saving the day” so having a metal album teach a piece of niche history like that is very rewarding.
Exactly, and I think that’s what happens in every war. The winning side tries to create its own “victory history” and especially the larger nations take credit for what was done. Of course their work was immensely important, to give liberty back to the people. But it was also important what happened in each country, not just for Norway. For me it was natural to write about Norway because that’s my home country and I know that story the most. But the same sort of thing happened in a lot of countries during the war; building up a resistance from within. Without that kind of resistance within the country it would have been impossible for other countries to step in and help out.
Along those lines, Vreid seems to focus on more human themes in comparison to other black metal bands. Are you drawn more to the “real” world as opposed to the occult, mythological and satanic?
As I said, I write things that I’m passionate about and things I am thinking about and reflecting on, instead of trying to force words into a setting. For me it’s natural to focus on my life and my thoughts and how I view the world and the society I live in. That’s what creates the basis for our story, not just fairy tales.
Do you think that sets you apart from the other Norwegian Black Metal bands? Because although the original Norwegian Black Metal scene is 20+ years old now, that stigma is still attached to bands from your country. Do you find it easy to be separated from that stereotype?
I think some bands try to stick to the same old formula, but there definitely are a lot of Norwegian bands like us who have started to go their own direction both lyrically and musically. That’s something that’s been evolving a lot. But of course I understand a lot of the bands that started the whole typical black metal thing and I totally respect it. But so many new bands are trying to copy what they did and I really don’t find that interesting. I really like bands that try to find their own angle on things.
Welcome Farewell is my personal favorite Vreid album, and it’s also the most unique one. The songs are much more riff-oriented and have a heavier rock ‘n’ roll feel than on previous albums. Was this the intent or a natural evolution?
It happened very naturally. I try not to reflect too much on the music while I’m writing, I try to just go with the flow and see where it takes me. As the album was finishing up and I began to mix it I realized that although it’s very different it kept a lot of elements from previous albums, even back to the Windir days. Although it is interesting hearing what other people think about the music, hearing if they think it sounds new or old because that’s something I generally don’t reflect on. I really don’t want to think about the album as a whole before it’s finished because I don’t want to create rules for how it’s going to sound.
So I take it you contribute the most to the song writing process?
Yes, I write all the music. We work a lot of the arrangements together, and adapt the bass and the drums to the songs but yeah, I basically write all of it.
What’s next for Vreid?
The album-tour, album-tour cycle has been going on for almost ten years now. Now we’re on the tour phase so after the States we’re going to do some festivals in Europe and take a break in Autumn. We’ll have some tours coming up next year and then we’ll see. Pretty sure I’ll start working on new ideas soon. I don’t know if it will take a year or five, but when I’m ready we’ll record again. We record quite often, even though we don’t feel like we have to. If we feel we’re ready then we’ll be ready. I never know how long it will take, a year or five, we’ll see.
Welcome Farewell was released on Indie Recordings on February 22. Catch Vreid on the final dates of their North American tour:
6/25/2013 Mojoe’s – Joliet, IL
6/26/2013 The Smiling Moose – Pittsburgh, PA
6/27/2013 Wreck Room – Toronto, ON
6/28/2013 Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC
6/29/2013 Railroad Tavern – Keene, NH
6/30/2013 Europa – New York, NY