PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Jafarzadeh
I See Rivers
IF there are quite a few Norwegian-born, Liverpool-based…
trios around, I haven’t heard of them. Luckily, the one and only I See Rivers have the chance to fill that rare niche. The threesome hail from different quarters of the country but are settled in the northern city – vibing from the musical heritage and inspirational people. They have been dubbed a ‘Float-Folk’ group and that is a pretty apt summary. One hears flecks of Fleet Foxes and The Staves – they have been compared to the sisters – and Sigur Rós. I ask the girls about their inspirations and musical icons; how they have progressed single the single, Loved Ones – and what new track, DA RAM, is all about. They have performed festivals around Scotland and Wales (Green Man) and recently supported Newton Faulkner around the U.K. They are gearing up for this summer’s festival excitement so I was keen to enquire where they may be headed. They talk about current material, including the forthcoming E.P., and how they are settling in Liverpool. They tell me the albums and artists that mean the most to them and the words of wisdom they would give to new songwriters.
Hi, girls. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! We’ve had a wonderful week writing some new songs, rehearsing some old ones; filming a live session at the Scandinavian Church here in Liverpool. We also got to celebrate the International Women’s Day by doing a show at Launch 22 for some lovely and like-minded people.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
We are Eline, Gøril and Lill and we are originally from different parts of Norway – but we’re now calling Liverpool our home. We’ve been writing and playing together for three years and we create music that meanders between dancey Pop and floaty Folk.
I am intrigued by the name ‘I See Rivers’ – sorry if you have been asked it before – but where does that come from?
Although we didn’t know each other before we moved to England, we’ve all grown up with nature being a big part of our day-to-day life.
It was natural for all of us that the name of the band should represent something from our hometowns.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Jafarzadeh
There is closeness and a sisterly vibe in the group. How did you all get-together and is the close relation you have responsible for the quality and passion of the music?
We all first met in Liverpool and, after spending a lot of time together as friends, we realised that it would be fun to start writing together. We are not sisters by blood, but it often feels like we are sisters in spirit! If that is reflected in our music – we’re very happy!
You have been named, by a few sources, as the ‘Norwegian (The) Staves’. Is that a fair comparison and are you a fan of the group?
We’ve heard that one before! First of all, they are truly great musicians and we love the way their voices blend so naturally together as sisters. We understand the comparison, but our influences mostly come from bands such as Fleet Foxes and Sufjan Stevens.
Although you hail from Norway, you’re based in Liverpool. What is it like being in Liverpool? How have the people reacted to your music?
Liverpool has given us a very warm welcome. There is so much going on in Liverpool’s cultural scene every day and it’s very inspiring to be a part of that.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Jafarzadeh
I know a lot of musicians from Sweden but not overly-familiar with Norwegian music. Is there a big scene over there? I am aware of bands from Oslo and Bergen. Does the sound change depending on what part of the country you visit?
Compared to Sweden, Norway has not always been a hit-machine but the last couple of years artists such as Aurora, Dagny; Astrid S and Sigrid has started to bridge the gap between Norway and the rest of the world.
Norway is a long country so, geographically, the music scenes varies a lot. We have a lot of artists singing in Norwegian – especially artists and bands from the north. Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim probably have the biggest music scenes but there is a lot of interesting stuff happening all around the country. We recommend you to check out Highasakite, Siri Nilsen; Moddi, dePresno; Sondre Lerche, Jenny Hval and Pil & Bue.
Speaking of Norwegian music, I hear little bits of Kings of Convenience in your music; a touch of Fleet Foxes, too. Who are the artists that have inspired the sound you’ve dubbed ‘Float-Folk’?
You’re absolutely right! Kings of Convenience and Fleet Foxes are definitely two of the bands that have inspired our sound. A big one for us has always been Sufjan Stevens (we love you, man). His way of writing songs is absolutely breathtaking. He is a very interesting lyricist and his arrangements are so clever and fun. The contrast between Chicago, for example, and the more recent and understated Carrie and Lowell are so exciting!
PHOTO CREDIT: Lily Bungay
Nathaniel Ratliff and Bon Iver are also artists we listened to (and still do) when we first got together and decided to write songs. As artists, they are quite different but they both have an ‘element of surprise’ in their music – be it in the way they shape a specific lyric, untraditional production techniques or just a cool and unexpected guitar sound.
Once you released the single Loved Ones, you played festivals like Green Man and Belladrum – that followed a tour of rural Norway. Was it quite crazy going from modest and sparse parts of Norway to hitting the big festival stages in the U.K.?
Yes, it was! When we did The Outskirts tour in Norway we played in a tiny barn by the foot of a mountain: a traditional Sámi hut way-up-north in the country and a small chapel on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere (to mention a few). However, the nature in both Scotland (Belladrum) and Wales (Green Man) are quite similar to what we’re used to back home – which was quite comforting.
I know you’re gearing up for the summer. Any festival and tour plans ahead?
Maybe! We can’t really reveal anything yet, but we are pretty excited for spring and summer to come on rolling in! What we can say though is that you’re all invited to our E.P. launch on 20th April! We’ve got to borrow the beautiful St. Luke’s Church in Kentish Town, London and, with support from a very special friend, we hope it will be a fun night.
DA RAM is the lead single from your debut E.P. What can you tell us about the song and its inspiration?
DA RAM was one of the first songs we ever wrote together. For us, the song is about letting go of the mundane and undemanding in search for something more fulfilling.
We take our work very seriously, but we’ve come to understand that, sometimes, things are just the way they are – and the power of a silly dance can cure almost everything!
What of the E.P.? Can you reveal any songs and themes that will be explored, perhaps?
From leaving our homeland, finding each other and then having to find our place as musicians in a foreign country – The E.P. is a collection of five songs we feel represent the different eras of our time here in the U.K. For instance, one of the tracks featured on the E.P. is almost three years old now but we also chose to record a track we wrote just days before we went into the studio.
If you had to select an album each that have meant the most to you; what would they be and why?
Lill: I never meant to get into music. I was going to study fine arts, but then I heard I Am a Bird Now by Antony & the Johnsons. As well as being a beautifully understated album, it has an honesty and a sense of intimacy I had never heard before.
Eline: Silicone Veil – Susanne Sundfør. Susanne Sundfør has always been a big inspiration to me; especially because of her incredible voice. I learned how to sing by learning all the songs on that album.
Gøril: The first album from the Norwegian artist Jonas Alaska (the album is also called Jonas Alaska) is a collection of songs that I keep in my pocket wherever I go. It’s a beautiful and emotional album: the lyrics seem so honest and his songwriting is just breathtaking. It’s also close to my heart because, at least for me, parts of the album seems to be about being far away from home; travelling and some of the songs have a strong link to nature, both musically and lyrically.
Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?
Have you any advice for songwriters coming through at the moment?
To be honest with you, we are still finding our own path as musicians and songwriters but we are firm believers in gut-feelings and honesty – if it feels right to say that exact thing in that exact way, do it!
If you’re one for routines, get up and write for three hours every day.
If you’re one of those people that wait for a divine intervention; seek out nature, interesting people or other things you know will do you good!
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each select any song you like and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Lill: Gobbledigook – Sigur Rós (spring is coming and everything will be okay!)
Eline: Just Pretend – Reggie Got Beats (because it has made me dance so many times the last week!)
Gøril: The last months I’ve been listening to Bon Iver’s new album and I’m in love with the opening track, “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”. So, I think that will have to be my choice for the one song!
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PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Jafarzadeh