There are people, and then there are awesome people. While I’d like to think I fall in with the latte, I most certainly do not. Now Mr. Brendan Mulvihill and Mr. Eric Slick?
Now normally, I wouldn’t have any evidence to back up my outlandish claims, but for once in my life, I do. I sat down (well, metaphorically speaking) with the duo to discuss their band (Norwegian Arms), life in Siberia and haiku’s:
Joewhistle: So, Norwegian Arms, that’s an interesting name for a band. Are either of you Norwegian? Perhaps you have a thing for Norwegian girls? I’m going to assume there’s an interesting story behind the name. Could you be so kind as to elaborate?
Norwegian Arms: People generally assume the name is somehow associated with “arms” in the sense of weapons, but actually the name is derived from a Norwegian idiom. A person with “Norwegian Arms” is a person who reaches across the table and grabs things without asking. While that has some negative meaning, I felt it was fitting to use a name that describes the content of the songs, generally an assemblage of thoughts from situations and experiences from different places around the globe.
JW: I’m a big fan of the bands’s latest song “Tired of Being Cold”. It’s so… literal, and that’s becoming increasingly harder to find these days in music. I mean, obviously there are a few philosophical parallels you are trying to insinuate, but we can save that for later. And by later, I mean now. So, what was it like writing music in Siberia, and how did it challenge you both mentally and physically?
NA: My (Brendan’s) whole experience in Siberia was strange, particularly the sense of isolation. It was my first time in Russia after only a brief exposure to the language, and I possessed only a minimal amount of cultural knowledge. I was in in a daze for a while, getting accompanied with the language and way of the Russians while simultaneously dealing with a quickly cooling climate (I arrived in early September and it began to snow in the beginning of October). As one can imagine, I suffered from significant culture shock. The limits of my comfort zone were being tested every day, which is something I later came to appreciate. I brought my mandolin along because it was easy to travel with, and because it was an instrument I wanted to return to after having mostly written on guitar for an extended period of time.
Writing music in Russia became a kind of therapy; I spent a lot of time attempting to document my experiences and exposures. I used to come home every day from work and record a short video of some improvised snippet as well as a tag line, after a while, I began to assemble these snippets. Often I would write long essays and poems focused on a single idea in order to begin developing ideas for songs. Then I would make drafts of lyrics on large pieces of paper I would tape to my wall. Often I would come home mentally defeated and exhausted, or drunk and feeling profound, and use the few hours I had before bed to record my thoughts.
JW: As someone who has travelled extensively the past couple of years, I can closely relate to the feelings you convey in your songs (except I was in South East Asia and I probably would’ve wrote ”Tired Of Being Hot”). This isn’t about me though, so moving on… I understand you’ve got your LP, Wolf Like a Stray Dog lined up for a release sometime soon. When can we expect it to come out? Should we be excited?
NA: We hope that people are excited about the record, it was a great process finally getting it recorded. We had been playing the songs live for about a year and it was time to make a record. It was a whirlwind of an experience; we only had a week to track. I think the time limit was beneficial though, as it limited us from overdoing it. It also kept the instrumentation and production processes simple, which was our goal. If anything, it feels good that the record exists, as though it validates the experiences contained within. This record had to be made, for me personally, and for the group. It’s changed how we approach our live show, which has helped tremendously.
We’re not sure on a release date at this time, but will announce it as soon as we know.
JW: Well I am certainly glad that the record was made as well; it’s a fantastic debut and I’m positive it will be well received.All of that aside, Brendan, you mentioned that you were in Chile “doing an international American folk music project with some friends”. While this could be an allusion to something else (we won’t go there) I’ll take it at face value. What exactly is happening out there?
NA: It’s really as simple as it sounds. While in Russia, I had the pleasure of meeting a great guy and solid banjo player Matt Nelson, we were both there on the same program (Fulbright) so when we had meetups we’d see each other and play and talk about folk music. We ended up creating this educational program where we travel to various English classrooms across the globe, giving workshops to students and teachers of English. The concept is to expose students to other songs besides the corporate media emanating from the US. Generally we teach a song or two within an English lesson based on that song, with such tunes as “Oh Susannah” or “The Fox”, and then teach them a simple line dance. It’s a lot of fun, and this is our third year of the program. So far, we’ve taught in Russia, Cololmbia, Ecuador, Peru, and now Chile. It’s a wonderful way to travel, satiates my Wanderlust as well as giving purpose to my travels. Our materials and blog are located at ESLfolk.com
JW: Improving the lives of students by way of folk music? Now there’s an idea I can truly get behind. As a certified instructor of english I’m hoping I can squeeze a haiku out of you. We love them over here at The Digital Outhouse, and if we love them, we like to assume our readers love it too. What do you say?
I will never get
Why reggaeton is famous
In any country.
JW: I never will either, but I don’t understand a lot of things so that’s alright. Speaking of our readership though, is there anything you’d like to say them before we sign off into the night?
NA: Just a reminder that essentially all of our music is available for free at our bandcamp, and they should go ahead and take it and give it away as much as they want. Or delete it if they don’t like it. Isn’t digital media wonderful?
JW: Digital media is wonderful, and so are you. Thanks again.
So as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end”. But overused clichés aside, there isn’t lack of auspicious milestones to look forward to from the band. That’s a good thing.
Oh and finally, Brendan sent over an exclusive preview of one of the standout tracks from their upcoming LP. That’s another good thing.