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Staring Out From The Darkness: Leprous Interviewed

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 Written by Ben Bland

Leprous guitarist Oystein S. Landsverk took some time out to speak to Stereoboard about his group’s latest record, the excellent ‘Coal’...

Firstly I’d like to ask how you guys as a band have dealt with being largely known for your work with Ihsahn. I’m sure it’s helped in many ways but do you feel it has sometimes led to people making unreasonable assumptions about your sound?
Yes, I would agree with that. Some people have a tendency to draw too many similarities between our music and his sometimes. There are of course traits we share and both are labelled as progressive, but as a whole I think we have a quite different sound. We don’t mind, but it seems more like the easy way out to describe our music because we’re connected with him. However, the benefits have far outweighed any “costs” of course and we couldn’t be happier with collaborating with him.

I understand you’re from the same part of Norway as Ihsahn. What was it like when you first worked with him?
That’s correct! We played our first show with him in 2009, and rehearsing since some time in 2008. So it’s actually 5 years now. I remember we were so excited when we began working together. We were pretty young, and didn’t have much experience. Vegard (Tveitan, aka. Ihsahn) always writes down all of his stuff as he’s recording, to remember it for later. You know, long days and a lot of creativity. Things can get lost! So we just got sheet music for all the songs he wanted to play, and we really went to town on it! Listening to them, and practicing our asses off. We just put down everything we did with Leprous at the time. I think even a year passed, before we went back to our own stuff, but it was so worth it. We improved insanely during that process. It was such an amazing opportunity to showcase ourselves, and we wanted to really make the best of it. Now, I don’t even wanna think about how we sounded live before that whole thing (Laughs).

It was great for him too, because he got an extremely excited band who rehearsed everything very well before even having one rehearsal with him. That meant that everything went smoothly from the get-go.

How would you say that the new album, ‘Coal’, is a development from ‘Bilateral’, which was released a couple of years ago?
It’s a development in the sense that it’s a lot more mature, in our ears. ‘Bilateral’ was a mood-swinging teenager at times, but ‘Coal’ feels more settled. The songs themselves are more strongly connected to each other, so the sound ended up being much more consistent over all.

We generally don’t rush as much anymore. ‘Bilateral’ was jumping around more, touching on a lot of different stuff during many of the songs, but on ‘Coal’, we have a sort of calmer approach and stay longer on a given theme. Personally I’ve never been happier with an album, and we have learned a lot about songwriting from working on it.

Have you gone through a different creative process at all this time? Is there a set way of working for the band?
Yes, it’s been quite different in the sense of the time frame, which ended up affecting a lot of things. ‘Bilateral’ was written over a long period of time, something like two to three years. I think we wrote some of the stuff before that long break when we started out with Ihsahn, so that’s part of the reason why it ended up the way it did. ‘Coal’ was written in just a few months, and there was a lot of stuff that weren’t ready before we went into the studio. On all our previous albums, we had everything ready down to the last note. This time, there were a lot of pieces missing, which ended up being a good thing and a lot of cool stuff happened during the recording sessions as a result.

A tight deadline can be really annoying, or you can use it to your advantage. There’s something cool and honest about spontaneous creativity. If it works, it beats everything else. The actual creative process of laying out the foundation was pretty much like we’ve done it on all the albums. It all just happened a lot faster.

What’s the thought behind the album title? I find it a pleasing representation of the slightly obtuse, dark nature that permeates much of the record to my ears...
That’s exactly what we wanted it to be. It’s a darker album, and we wanted a catchy title which could convey the feeling you’d get from listening to the music. What ended up as the title track did the trick. We felt ‘Coal’ was a simple and fitting description. It was also a very cool foundation to have for the artwork and we’re very happy with how it turned out.

People talk about you as a prog metal band. How would you see the boundaries between each? Are you a metal band with progressive elements or a progressive band with metal elements? Why?
That’s a tricky one. We’re definitely more of a metal band than a classic progressive band, but it depends a lot on what you put into those terms. I guess we’re progressive in the sense that we’re not afraid to do what we want, and don’t necessarily stick within the framework of things we’ve done before. Maybe a bit unexpected if you’re looking to hear just a “metal band”. On the other hand, everything we do is based on metal. I guess that’s reflected in our live shows. They really have a strong metal attitude to them and we want to maintain a high energy level up throughout the entire show to keep people on their toes! We use every means possible and are very energetic on stage. That’s not really something the old school progressive bands used to do at all.

When you think about ‘progressive’ music out there today what do you think about? Does the term refer to a degree of experimentalism or a sound?
What I put into the term is willingness to pursue something new and innovative. Going against what people expect of you, if that’s necessary, and follow the music wherever it takes you. You need to do something which hasn’t been done a million times before, and have some kind of personal expression along the way. But being honest is the most important thing and will get you further than anything else. If you play what you really “feel”, you will get your point across and it’ll be much more convincing than if you’re looking to copy or sound like someone else. The term progressive has kind of been washed out to me, and it’s become more of a label on a very specific kind of music/sound rather than how I think of the term, which is like you mentioned before; a degree of experimentalism.

Whenever I talk to Norwegian bands I find it interesting to ask them about their views on Norway’s reputation as being the home of black metal, and I’ve had some varied answers along the way. Do you think that reputation colours some people’s view of Norwegian bands? Has it had a bad effect on the wider Norwegian metal scene?
I’m sure some people think that way, but I don’t think it really has any drastic effect on the metal scene in general. I’d rather have my country be famous for an achievement of good bands than not. If anything it creates attention and fuels new bands to go for it because they know that others before them have succeeded, even in such a small genre, but it’s actually one of the biggest cultural exports we have here, so I think that impact outweighs any prejudice people may have against Norwegian metal bands.

What are your ambitions for this album? Where do you hope Leprous will be this time next year?
We hope to reach even more people and grow closer to our goal of making a living out of doing what we do. We’re playing some of the biggest festivals in Europe this summer, and sure hope to come back again fast. We would love to be able to play more in other parts of the world where we haven’t played much too, like United States and United Kingdom. Also, a new album is hopefully well on the way! We always have plans for the future, and we never lower our ambitions.

‘Coal’ is out now via InsideOut Music. Read Stereoboard's review here



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