Interview with vocalist Erlend Hjelvik
By Brandon Ringo
Though I had heard Kvelertak when their debut album came out, it wasn’t until I saw them open for Converge and Torche that I became a true believer. The thing that makes this band cool is their raucous display of rock n’ roll that features elements of punk, thrash and black metal, as well as super catchy choruses and lyrics sung completely in Norwegian. They recently signed with Roadrunner Records and are gearing up to release their major label debut Meir, an album that is sure to add some weight to your gas pedal if you listen while driving, thanks to their rapid fire pace.
First off, congratulations on signing with Roadrunner Records! How did you guys hook up with them and how does it feel having your albums released by the same label as bands like Opeth, Mötley Crüe and Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Thanks, man. They’ve been at it for a while. We first met them when we played at South By Southwest and they talked to us after the show, and we met them a couple of times after that when touring the states and they seemed that they really wanted to have us. It feels good, like, a lot of the bands when I got into metal were on Roadrunner, so it feels good to be in the company of all those big bands and they did a good job on the record.
What was it like getting to do your new record with Kurt Ballou of Converge, a guy that seems to get the best out of every band he works with?
Yeah, it’s great. We recorded our first album there, too. The first time, we were kind of nervous and had barely been in a studio before. It was a lot more fun this time, because we felt more confident from all the touring we had done until that point, and like you said, he gets the best from all the bands he works with and he doesn’t let you do a bad take, so it was awesome.
Did you record the album before or after the tour with them and Torche?
We recorded the album right before the tour. We recorded the album and had two weeks in Norway and then we went back to the States.
Having recorded your first album with Kurt, was there a major difference in the songwriting approach between Meir and your last album, or did you keep that process the same?
I haven’t really thought about it, but we just made eleven songs and they are the ones that made it on the album. It feels like we expanded on the sound that we have on the first one, and there’s just more of everything, like the heavier stuff is heavier and the catchier parts are catchier, so there’s a lot in there.
The way you guys mix the heavy riffs with the catchier parts is one thing that I think makes your band very unique. Who are some bands that inspired you to just throw everything into a huge pot like that?
There are so many bands you can mention that it’s hard to pick a few, but I would say definitely bands like Thin Lizzy, Turbonegro, and The Hellacopters, as well as a lot of heavier bands- way too many to mention. Our guitarist Bjarte is the main songwriter in the band, and he’s pretty much a living music library and he listens to everything and steals all the good parts from the bands we like, and puts it into our music and that seems to be working so far.
I’m sure you’re asked this a lot, but being from Norway, did any of those black metal bands inspire you?
I wouldn’t say it has inspired the music that much; it’s mostly superficial I think. We have some blast beats and some little riffs, but I wouldn’t give too much credit to black metal for our music. Personally for me, it’s a big influence on some of the lyrics and stuff. I also have a black metal band on the side called Pjevel, which is my black metal outlet.
Mentioning the lyrics, those are sung in Norwegian right?
Yeah, everything is done in Norwegian.
Where do you get the inspiration for those lyrics and is there a particular theme with them?
I was mostly inspired by like Blue Oyster Cult and Monster Magnet lyrics, as well as black metal lyrics and I just did my own take on it. It’s everything from evil rituals involving owls to more basic stuff like the anti-christ coming from a black hole in the earth, as well as shameless band anthems about ourselves. There’s a lot of ingredients there.
Were your stories inspired by any particular authors, like Lovecraft in particular?
Most of it just comes from my own head. I definitely get inspired by watching old horror movies and space documentaries. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint the influences exactly, though.
As far as touring goes, when you guys tour places like North America and Europe, is the crowd reaction the same, or is one area more intense than another?
What’s different about the US is that there’s definitely more metalheads at the show than Norway, where we have everyone from sixteen- year- old girls to forty- year- old rockers. It’s all good, the crowd reaction is pretty much great no matter where we go.