Kanaan are a psych/fusion rock trio from Norway. If you’re familiar with these pages then you probably already know that as I’ve talked about Kanaan before. First their 2018 El Paraiso Records debut Windborne, then a scorching live session at Øra Studio in Trondheim, an in-depth interview, and most recently their collaborative LP with Jonas Munk of Causa Sui(and so much more) called Odense Sessions. Last week the band just released the proper follow-up to Windborne titled Double Sun. I talked about that amazing record as well. It takes the band’s sound to new and exciting realms, upping the fuzz and bombast and turning in a raw and elegant work of power.
Typically when a band drops a new record they begin prepping for promoting their work; more standalone performances, European tours, face-to-face interviews with annoying journalists and the like. But giving the times we are currently in none of that is happening. A summer tour planned has been bumped to a year from now. No rehearsals, no face-to-face interviews, and not even a quiet acoustic session at a local coffee bar. The Kanaan guys are home bound just like the rest of us. Watching, waiting, and practicing by themselves.
Kanaan, which consists of Ask Vatn Strøm, Ingvald André Vassbø, and Eskild Myrvoll, aren’t letting the pandemic keep them down. Working on solo albums, planning video concerts, and just generally keeping positive despite the current world situation. I spoke to bassist Eskild Myrvoll about the new record, the band’s musical progression, and their general artistic evolution over the internet waves recently. Give our conversation a looks-y below. Then head over to El Paraiso Records page and put Double Sun in your cart.
J Hubner: It’s been quite the whirlwind for Kanaan since the release of ‘Windborne’ at the end of 2018. How are you guys feeling about the album, the tours, and the past year overall?
Eskild Myrvoll: 2019 was a great year for the band and our most productive one for sure! We were just super happy that we got to play a lot of shows and we were very pleased with how well our debut album was received. But, looking back at our debut, I definitely feel that we’re in a different place musically than we were when we recorded the album almost two years ago.
J Hubner: Are there any moments or shows that stand out during the Windborne touring cycle?
Eskild Myrvoll: I suppose that all the shows on the EU tour were memorable in some way, probably as a result of it being our first proper tour outside of Scandinavia and the continued amazement from meeting people all over Europe who were listening to our music and coming to our shows. But I think we all can agree on the particular show we played in the small city of Troyes in France being one of the most memorable shows we’ve played.
J Hubner: What happened there?
Eskild Myrvoll: We were playing a great record store/bar called The Message, but when we arrived at the venue we had no idea how the evening would turn out. We ended up putting up our amps and drum kit in the middle of the street and playing for everyone who wanted to hear – which turned out to be a lot of people. A memorable night for everyone involved! There’s also a very authentic and lo-fi video of the performance on Youtube.
J Hubner: The band doesn’t seem to be slowing down as you have already released one album, a collaboration with Jonas Munk called ‘The Odense Sessions’ that came out early in the year. And now the follow-up to Windborne, ‘Double Sun’, is out now as of last Friday. First off, how did the collaboration with Jonas come about?
Eskild Myrvoll: The collaboration with Jonas was actually a quite spontaneous thing. We had planned a show at a venue in Odense in September 2019, but as it is a nine hour drive from Oslo we wanted to do something more than just play that one show. We’ve been fans of Jonas’ work both with Causa Sui and as a solo artist for a long time, so it was an easy decision to hit him up and ask if we could have a late-night jam in his studio. We recorded all the basic takes for the album that evening. The three of us were pretty tired at the moment, going into a five hour jam session after spending the whole day driving, but we were really happy with how the record turned out. We didn’t have a plan to make an album out of it beforehand, but we were really happy with the recordings, and when Jakob made that great cover we just couldn’t say no to doing our first ´Sessions´ release – hopefully there are many more to come!
J Hubner: Were these all completely improvised sessions, or were you starting out with melodies and musical directions going in?
Eskild Myrvoll: The first track on both the A and the B side are completely improvised. If I recall correctly, they also came about pretty early in the session. It’s always a great way to get to know each other in a musical sense, and I think we really managed to capture some of the energy and excitement in the room. Of the remaining tracks, I suppose “Of Raging Billows…” is the most traditionally structured and “composed”. I had been working on those two riffs you can hear in the beginning for a while, and after playing for a bit to get the feel right we just hit ‘record’ and went for it. “Urgent Excursions” was also based on another riff that we had been playing within the band for a while, but the structure of the track was very much something that happened in the moment. Personally, I think those two “composed” tracks are a nice counterpoint to the freely improvised ones.
J Hubner: So let’s get into the new record ‘Double Sun’. The album is absolutely fantastic. Tell me about the writing process for the record. What were some motivations and inspirations going in?
Eskild Myrvoll: Thank you! We definitely wrote and planned the material with a vinyl release in mind, and I think we even had the running order for both sides planned when we headed for the studio. The band’s vision had expanded a lot in terms of exploring different styles and methods of working since we recorded and released “Windborne”, and it was important for us to document that in a thorough way. And since “Windborne” was recorded almost as a live-in-the-studio album with very few overdubs, we wanted to expand the sonic palette a bit – try to expand our sound while still maintaining that organic live feel. We were also pretty fresh off our European tour and tried to keep that spirit as we went into the studio – playing the songs but being open for everything that happens in the moment. Also, I guess you could say that our debut album was mostly inspired by jazz-rock, but ended up as a psychedelic rock album, but with this record we aimed for the psychedelic vibe from the very beginning.
J Hubner: There’s definitely a harder edge with these songs. It’s still very much a Kanaan record, but I didn’t hear anything like the scorcher “Worlds Apart” on ‘Windborne’. It’s like this mixture of early 70s fusion and psychedelia. If Tony Williams’ Emergency merged with Blue Cheer I would imagine it’d sound like “Worlds Apart”. Were you wanting to dirty up the sound a bit?
Eskild Myrvoll: If it sounds like Tony Williams mixed with Blue Cheer, that’s a proper compliment! But sure, we’ve been exploring our heavier side a lot in the past year, both in terms of sound and composition. Although at the same time, we’ve been delving more into extended jams and longer tracks, so I guess you could say that we’ve just been flirting a bit more with the extremes. I think this record was just our way of showcasing all the great psych, kraut and jazz rock we’ve been influenced by.
J Hubner: I also love “Double Sun” 1 & 2 that closes out the record. You guys have flirted with prog rock previously, but here I feel you’ve fully embraced the epic song cycle. Does prog rock play a role in the Kanaan sound? If so, who are some classic prog rock bands that you’d gladly spin at home?
Eskild Myrvoll: I don’t really think about those two tracks as very “prog”, for me it was more a matter of a “long form” psychedelic track, almost like four jams contained under one title. That being said, we’ve all listened to our fair share of prog rock and we all enjoy our classic Crimson, Soft Machine, Gong and Yes records!
But there are definitely some prog aspects with this record, in how we planned it all beforehand as well as the way there are similar melodies appearing in several tracks. “Worlds Together” and “Worlds Apart” are both the same melody played in two versions – one lush, pastoral version, and the other a gritty, garage-y psych jam.
J Hubner: Tell me a bit about who produced and where you recorded the album. The production is amazing.
Eskild Myrvoll: The album was produced by Roar Nilsen together with us. Roar is a familiar studio engineer and player for most of the people in the Norwegian music business. We hadn’t really met him before the session, but we have a lot of mutual connections and hit it off instantly in the studio. From the beginning we felt that he really understood our vision and had some great input on arrangements and sounds. Most of the material for the album was stuff we had been rehearsing for quite a while, as well as stuff we’d been playing while on tour. In those cases, it’s easy to get a bit lost in the details – which is why it was such a help having Roar come in with a fresh outside perspective on those tracks. The record was mixed by Håvard Soknes, who also mixed “Windborne”, and he really made a great mix that suited the tracks in a proper way.
The album was recorded in Sugar Road Studios, which was built by Bjørn Klakegg on a farm in remote Sweden, just across the border from Norway (Just thinking about it now, our first three albums have all been recorded in different countries). Bjørn is a great guitar player and composer with his bands Needlepoint and Local Store, great bands everyone with an interest in prog and psychedelic pop should listen to and check out. We’ve been toying with the idea of recording an album at his studio for a while. Bjørn also laid down some amazing guitar work on the aforementioned title track for the album, and he and Ask got to have a proper guitar duel at the beginning of “Double Sun pt. 1”!
J Hubner: In the band’s eyes, what are some major shifts or progressions you’ve made since the beginning of the band?
Eskild Myrvoll: Mostly, it’s been about just becoming really familiar with each other as people and individual musicians. I feel that at this point we’re really working together as a team both on stage and in the studio, and we’re all trying to push each other further every time we play together. From a musical perspective we’ve been constantly exploring various forms of improvisation, and in a simplified way I guess you could say we’ve moved gradually from a jazz-oriented way of soloing (with a soloist and the rest of the band accompanying) to a more collective form of improvisation, more clearly influenced by various forms of psychedelic music.
J Hubner: With the current state of the world we’re all at kind of a stand still. How are all three of you holding up? What are you doing to pass time during isolation?
Eskild Myrvoll: We’re all in separate places now, and trying to pass time writing and recording for various projects. I’m recording in my bedroom for a solo project, and Ingvald is finishing up this solo electronic EP he’s had laying around for a while. Going crazy from the lack of loud riffs though, so hopefully we’ll be able to get back in the rehearsal space not too long from now.
J Hubner: Where do you see Kanaan a year from now? Or is the world too unpredictable yet to look that far into the future?
Eskild Myrvoll: Our upcoming European tour, booked by El Borracho Bookings, was originally scheduled for this summer, but we’ll be rescheduling it for next spring – so we’ll hopefully be on tour a year from now! We want to do a live streamed concert from Oslo some time during the next weeks, and we’re also planning to hit the studio again pretty soon, so we’ll probably use the fall to try and finish a new album if the sessions turn out well! Also, we’re all excited to see how people will welcome the new album, and we’re eagerly awaiting the opportunity to play real concerts again. Stay safe and wash your hands, everybody!