Q&A: Kvelertak wants more…Kvelertak

Kvelertak: MeirKvelertak: Meir (Roadrunner, 3/26/13)

“Bruanne Brenn”

Kvelertak: “Bruane Brenn”

In 2010, metallic Norwegian sextet Kvelertak introduced its riff-heavy sludge ’n’ roll to a global audience via its self-titled, Kurt Ballou-produced debut, an 11-track monster that sounded equally fit for a house party as it was for the pit. Three years later, the band has refined and honed its sound, and on its Roadrunner Records debut, Meir — which boasts blast beats and Southern rock riffs in equal measure — Kvelertak has evolved into one of the heaviest rock-’n’-roll bands on the planet.

There’s a much broader range of sounds on Meir, from the cross-section of black-metal intensity and classic-rock melodies on “Spring Fra Livet” to the AC/DC-style party rock of “Kvelertak,” which the group describes as a “band anthem.” And though many different ideas swirl around the album, they all come back to the accessible intensity that caught the attention of metal-heads worldwide — as well as one-time tour-mate Dave Grohl.

Following the US release of Meir, we caught up with vocalist Erlend Hjelvik to discuss the band’s broadening palette, global following, and secrets for tour endurance.

Meir means “more” in English. What in particular were you seeking to have more of?

Just more of everything we did on the first record — more Kvelertak, basically. Expand on the sound of the first record. The hooks are catchier. The pop parts are poppier. So, really, just more of everything. More rock! [Laughs]

The new album sounds even more like a really heavy rock-’n’-roll album than before. What inspired you to pursue this direction?

I don’t really know; it just kind of turned out that way. I don’t think we had any idea of what direction we were going to go. This was just the way it did. We had finished demos of all the songs before we went to the studio, so we spent more time on getting the right sound.

There also seems to be more acoustic guitars and piano on this album. Were the songs written that way, or did you add these extra layers after the fact?

I think the parts were written like that, except for the piano. But we always had that in mind — just adding an extra element to the songs. We had some parts like that on the last record, so we didn’t do anything all that differently. We just wanted to add more layers to the songs.

How collaborative is your songwriting process? Are all hands on deck, or does it begin with one person?

Everybody’s involved, but they usually start out with our guitarist Bjarte [Lund Rolland]. And then everybody just hashes it out in the practice space. If something sounds cool then, we flesh it out.

Meir, like the first record, was produced by Kurt Ballou. Why did you choose to work with him again?

It just felt natural to us to work with him again. We were really happy with how it turned out last time, so we went back [to GodCity Studios]. This time, we knew more of what we were after, so it was a little more fun on this record. When we went to record the first album, we were a little nervous because we had never recorded in a studio before. We just felt a lot more comfortable with him this time.

What’s your reaction to the greater global following that the band has garnered since the first album?

I think it’s awesome. When we started in 2006, I never expected for it to take off the way it did. No ambition. It’s really cool, and it’s just a lot of fun. I try not to think about it too much. We just try to keep focused.

What do you hope the listeners take away from Meir?

That’s a good question. I hope they like it. I definitely think that there’s going to be some discussions about the new album. This album feels like a natural progression for us, and I think that’s what people want to hear. I hope not everybody wants to hear the same record over and over again.

Since 2010, you’ve spent a long time on the road. How do you maintain the endurance to keep going for long periods at a time?

I actually started working out. We had a few months off last summer, so I started jogging, and that’s helped me out a lot. I also try not to get too wasted every day. [Laughs]

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