I can tell you for certain that waiting for the latest Byrdi album was a very long process for us fans and well worth the wait. “Byrjing” has finally been released by the Norwegian project via Trollmusic after a 4 year hiatus and has once again tantalized the senses like few others can. Members Nash Rothanburg and Andreas Paulsen teamed up on answering questions for us regarding the new album, the layoff, the songwriting process and a few other items of note…check it out…..
Congrats on your latest album “Byrjing”….how has the reaction been to it so far?
Nash: “The reviews and reactions so far have been out-of-this-world positive. We are, in fact, a bit flabbergasted by all the superlatives people use about the album. One of the backbone-intentions with Byrdi has always been to create music that we like and want to listen to, and it is a humble pleasure to see that so many enjoy what we ourselves enjoy.”
’m sure the first question that comes to mind is the long time until now since your last release “Ansur:Urkraft” from 2017… what transpired from that point until the completion of “Byrjing”? Was it just that long a time to finally get the album to where you wanted it?
Nash: “Sometimes processes end up taking much more time than initially planned. Byrjing was intended to be released back in 2018, and if I am not mistaken we were just about finished tracking the album in April that year. After the initial recording and mixing sessions we encountered different opinions on what approach we should choose for our soundscape, and it came to the point where we needed to get new perspectives into the process so we could unify thoughts and reality into something tangible. Since this setback in the time schedule already was a fact we decided to take our time and hone this album into something we felt was one hundred percent us. I must also add; Our personal lives changed a bit within these two-three years. I started studying at the university, and Andreas got a daughter. This added to the lengthy “delay” too.”
Did you have ideas going back to 2017 of what a new album would be whether it be conceptually or musical direction?
Nash: “We always try to have a sense of a unison musical direction in what we do and how we do it, either as a concept or a feeling we try to convey. Both “Eventyr” and “Ansur : Urkraft” have some elements of a red line, but “Byrjing” is our first album with a lyrical theme. It deals with a perspective built on the experience of transformation, and it was also the starting point of the album. So to answer your question; Yes, already from the start, we had a very firm idea on where to go with the album.”
Are their aspects of your style/sound that you know have to remain unchanged as being uniquely Byrdi? Do you feel that you can experiment and not really worry about how familiar it may be compared to previous work?
Nash: “I like to think that our sound is evolving with us as we progress as humans through the path of life, where our experiences and feelings at these different moments in time manifest itself into the music we create. I personally like to think we have been able to keep some of the same atmosphere and signatures through our three albums, but again, that is only my opinion. That said; We are are not strangers to add new elements to our music. We are very fond of progressive rock from the 70’s and we like having a mellotron onboard every now and then. We create the music we want to listen to, and doing something new now and then is just a part of that desire of having something nice to listen to.”
Andreas: “This is a constant dialogue within the band. Byrdi is both very free and a bit conservative in the sense that we want to make new music consisting of expressions we have not conveyed before, but it has to be close enough for it to belong under the banner of Byrdi. Free to play with new ideas but it has to inspire the others to participate. And as time goes by, our preferences and inspirational sources change and you have to kind of keep the new music we make within the tradition that we have cultivated within the band. So in a way the constraints that the established sound puts on the composer works as a driver for a new approach to the sound. Don’t make the same song twice. Ansur through Isa i guess.”
How does the construction of a song begin? Are lyrics and ideas the starting point before music or vice versa?
Nash: “It depends. Sometimes a guitar melody comes first, sometimes a phrase or a verse is the starting point. “
Andreas: “This time around the lyrical concept was quite clear from the start and I received more or less finished lyrics for Nash before I started making music for the record. Small changes in words or restructuring of lyrical parts to fit agreed upon music is a natural part of the process in our way of working with the music and lyrics, but for the most part it was finished lyrics. Since the underlying story was agreed upon, the back and forth with demos to decide the intensity or emotional component of the songs were the exciting part this time around.I did not get any particular musical directions from Nash so the next step was to try and convey the meaning within the lyrics in a manner that would satisfy his vision and musical taste. This way is a very good way for us to work, because my wish is to write exciting music and if he does not feel that the lyrics come alive – I have failed.”
Stylistically, I always start with Wardruna as a reference, and I see that you have “Avant Garde Norse Folk Music” as a description on Facebook…. is that as simple a description as possible? Are there other projects that you are comparable style wise?
Nash: “I like to identify Byrdi as an acoustic folk act where there is no fear of letting our love for the early progressive rock genre shine through from time to time. The ‘avant-garde Norse folk music’-thing on our Facebook page was put out as a small internal joke, but it is also somewhat descriptive of Byrdi. Not that our music is very avant-garde, and in 2021 that term is quite obsolete, but it shows we do our own thing regardless of whom or what other bands we are compared with. I understand why this is done as means to give the listeners a reference, but as a band we do not identify us with others. What Einar has done for this scene and genre is beyond belief, and tapping into that scene and genre does not automatically make us similar to the forebearers such as Wardruna.”
Andreas: “I guess it is natural to draw the line from Byrdi to both Ulver and Wardruna as is often the case, but I think that it comes as a consequence of being Norwegian but also as a broader grouping of music. I know very well how to avoid sounding like Ulver when the music I make can be a bit on the “Kveldsanger” side of things, and I am certain that musically we do not steal any shine from Wardruna haha! But if you like Byrdi, check out Canadas ULVESANG and Jørns new band NORDEIN.”
How do your lives in other musical projects and personal/work life effect what happens in Byrdi? Is there a set schedule to get together to write/record?
Nash: “Besides Byrdi I recently started a small solo-project-thing going named Ask. Ask is my experimental playground where I have a more simplistic, ethereal and poetic approach to what I try to create. This is a place.”
Andreas: “In my other band ENDEZZMA I play bass and do backing vocals but up to this point I have not yet contributed with any music on the previous records. As a father, family man and my work in finance, time is a precious commodity these days.We are also expecting another child in November so family will be the foremost priority into the foreseeable future. That said, when we work we get a lot done on a weekend and still find time to drink good wine, eat red meat and build big fires, so it is more a question of planning.”
How has the pandemic affected anything (if at all) about any plans you may have had in the last year?
Nash: “This thing happening around the world now has not had any impact on Byrdi or me personally. Living out in the rural parts of Norway we have avoided this madness we now see unfold. Up here life is good!”
Andreas: “If there was no world wide plague, we would at least have had a stream for a couple of songs on the release date of the album, and probably some small concerts around the kingdom.”
Magic of the Moment
Your label Trollmusic features a pretty diverse roster of acts with some of my favs including Alvenrad and King Of Asgard….how has your experience been with being on a label? What sort of obligations are there?
Nash: “Trollmusic has been a good partner for Byrdi through the years. Regarding the diversity of the rooster I can only say that I am glad there is guys like Thor signing bands with a wide spread of creative output.”
Is the live performance something that Byrdi wants to do more of in the future? What are the challenges of performing live either logistically or otherwise?
Nash: “When it comes to performing our music live Byrdi holds a great deal of complex logistics. Almost ten years ago Byrdi started as a two man project where the intention was to capture the essence and magic of the moment. The latter intention still exists in Byrdi, but instead of two people it has almost become a precedent that Byrdi now is a collective of musicians contributing on everything from a 3 second choir part to full songs.”
How do most people find your music…..You Tube? Bandcamp? Spotify? How do feel about promoting the project?
Andreas: “For me the promotion and all the media that comes with being a recording artist is very boring and energy consuming. When you have a family, a job that demands a lot of focus and energy, the whole point of making music is to put your responsibilities to the side for a moment and try to tap into creativity and create more energy through words and music. For us this is a way to ride two horses at once, to make music and express ourselves creatively, while getting together and catching up at the same time. I think we looked at some numbers at one point and concluded that Spotify is where people find our music.”
Any music you have really gotten into so far this year? Any releases you are looking forward to?
Andreas: “As I am getting older there is less Deicide, Dying Fetus and more David Bowie, Renaissance and Genesis on the playlist. Of course Opeth. Nash introduced me to the Norwegian prog bands “35 Tapes” and “Calignaut” I have listened to them constantly since.”