Nothing suits talking to the Kings of Convenience (aka Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe) more than sitting in a cozy room on a rainy Friday. As I enter, I am greeted by Bøe twinkling the piano setting the relaxing tone for our chat. The room is stocked with honey and yogurt to heal Øye’s cold. Understandably, it’s been a tiring week for the duo in New York, showcasing their third studio release Declaration of Dependence. The night before saw Øye and Bøe return to the gig scene after 4.5 years with a sold-out Bowery Ballroom stunner. The boys are back together in Bergen after going separate ways (for one, Øye’s notable Whitest Boy Alive side project) and have reconvened to restart the momemntum that’s kept their act going for all these years.
After Erlend’s stint away, you’re both living in Bergen now. What is the city like?
Eirik: Bergen can be the most depressing place in the world, and it can also be the most beautiful and inspiring place. It is a very confused place. It has a great music scene; it’s a student city, too. You can also go swimming in the fjords, be in the mountains, and then see great shows!
Do you guys like New York?
Eirik: We love it. It’s the most urban town.
Erlend: I spent an important time of my life here in 1999.
Ah yes, you mentioned that at the gig.
Erlend: You were there! A lot of the journalists didn’t go.
It was an event! It was announced suddenly and sold out quickly. How did you feel about it?
Erlend: How did you feel about it?
The audience were really loud. I’ve gone to a lot of gigs in Europe and people aren’t as loud as they are here. You guys are really quiet, and I was observing how it was such a quiet vs. loud environment. It was the first time I went to Bowery Ballroom where the crowd wasn’t dancing like crazy. Quiet seems to be a theme with Kings of Convenience!
Erlend: It was quiet.
It was an interesting contrast, and a nice change. I don’t think people at gigs here respond to the quiet unless they’re sitting down! What did you think?
Eirik: It was one of our first shows we’ve played with the new songs and it’s all very new to us. I think we need to work out how we’re going to play these songs, and how we’re going to create the show to work. We need a good balance between being outgoing and introverted… we need to find the combination of ingredients and experiment.
When you do a show back home is your audience really chilled out?
Eirik: We usually only play to people who want quiet and don’t talk during the show!
Erlend: There are major differences in the world where we play. Germany tends to be really quiet. When we first played there they took Quiet Is The New Loud serious. The Italians, in the beginning, were naturally just the perfect audience: quiet, but when we suggested any fun, they were totally in on it.
I wanted to comment on the interaction, it’s great.
Erlend: Last night was a great audience, but the only problem we have are photographers.
Yes, last night I noticed when you commented on photography only occurring between songs. Even when it’s so quiet, the littlest noise gets to you?
Erlend: It bothers me. Photographers don’t seem to have that thought in their mind.
I guess there doesn’t need to be a picture for every song. We can’t hear the song in the picture!
Erlend: They’re like “oh they’re playing the famous song, I need to get a picture!” [laughs]
The little tidbits of your show were very interesting. Bowery Ballroom tends to play bands on the louder, dancier front, and last night was refreshing to relax. Were you guys relaxed?
Eirik: Yesterday we weren’t really relaxed. It felt really new playing the songs and my jet lag has been bad. We got here two days ago. I didn’t feel on top of the situation.
You did an EMI showcase as well?
This is it for the US, for now?
Eirik: Yes, but we’re coming back in the spring to tour major cities.
Tell me about Declaration of Dependence. I understand that when you recorded the album, you met up in Mexico and then traveled to record?
Erlend: We recorded part of it in Reggio, Northern Italy.
Erlend: The food [laughs]. Northern Italy is almost a perfect region. They have real winter there with snow, and then if you drive in March or April towards the Mediterranean you get totally different weather. They have the best food and great architecture. The only problem with the North of Italy is they have an enormous car and highway culture. It’s similar to America. You drive to a restaurant that is 25 minutes away in the middle of nowhere, and then you have to drive somewhere else. Nightlife doesn’t really happen in town centers either, it’s somewhere industrial or out there.
The rest of the album was recorded in Bergen?
Eirik: Yes. When it was finished it felt like we had climbed Mount Everest. Then you’re on top and you realize it was such a jump getting there, but then the descent is such hard work. Everything that comes after the record- publicity, making the videos and there is just so much stuff. The moment of celebration lasts for like five minutes and then it’s back down to reality. A lot of people die on the way down from that.
Do you like promoting the album?
Erlend: We are pretty wise about our press. We do very little.
Eirik: I do, when I get to sit on this nice chair talking to nice people!
–Andrea D’Alessandro, Photo by Åse Holte