Intro and interview by Hilary Saunders
Comprised of just Gonzahl and drummer Timo Silvola (originally from Finland), Norway’s Barren Womb follows in the path of other beloved rock duos like The White Stripes, JEFF the Brotherhood, and even The Kills—creating an enormous ruckus with little personnel and instrumentation. But back in the band’s home country, their 2014 debut album the sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken and last year’s follow-up Nique Everything often elicited comparisons to fellow compatriots Kvelertak (who Nordic Spotlight spoke with just a few months ago).
While the slow drudgery of “Heap Blame/Put to Shame” or the frantic punk of “You Can’t Fire Me, Because I Quit” do seem to align Barren Womb with their heavy metal brothers, Nique Everything encompasses a much wider range of influences. In addition to the single, likely the most rock radio-friendly cut of the 10-track bunch, there’s quasi-yodeling on “Devil run the game” and even alt-country plucking on the closing “Svart hav.”
In fact, Barren Womb’s newest single “White Raven,” which was just released internationally with a striking black and white music video, is a true garage rock romp. Opening with a straightforward chordal riff and guitarist/vocalist Tony Gonzahl’s growls about “lovers gone away,” the song builds into a squealing, stomping mess of headbanging. At the apex of its screaming chorus, Gonzahl proffers, “Every little thing’s gonna be okay.” And yet, the sentiment seems like it could serve as honest comfort or aggressive sarcasm with equal measure.
We checked in with Gonzahl and Silvola, who both contributed to these responses, about the fluidity of genre, the finer points of punctuation, and why they’ve only toured the U.S. once over the course of two albums.
How did you two meet/start Barren Womb?
We met in Tromsø around 2005, but Barren Womb didn’t get started until the tail end of 2011 when our previous band split.
Your band seems to take a more multifaceted approach to genre. How do you balance so many sounds and influences to make them your own?
It doesn’t feel like a balancing act at all; it comes quite naturally. Basically we try to do interesting things with the air by funneling what we hear in our heads and have in our hearts out through our instruments. It’s not exactly rocket appliances. Being slaves to sound, there are no right or wrongs, only a world full of music to be absorbed with love.
What is the “Dark Americana” designation you penned for yourselves? What does that mean outside of America?
Don’t really know if Dark Americana is a thing, but to us it’s moody/melancholic American Folk sandwiched somewhere in between 16 Horsepower, Pygmy Lush and Tom Waits. We don’t feel music neither is nor ever has been held back by borders, otherwise banjos wouldn’t exist and rock ‘n roll would never have been born.
So many of the song titles (“Make sure you get yr whole head in front of the shotgun,” “Man fucks burning goat,” “You Can’t Fire Me, Because I Quit”) are entire sentences, and the punctuation, capitalization, and abbreviations all seem very intentional. Why name your works like this?
People should read more, and as Yngwie Malmsteen so eloquently put it, “more is more.” The titles are usually inside jokes, quotes, homages or anything else we find intriguing and/or funny at the time.
What does “Alyämpäri” mean? At first it seems like a drinking/partying song, but then there’s a reference to “the one percent,” which has a taken on a very political connotation here in the U.S.
It’s Finnish and means, “gravity bong.” Or, directly translated, it means, “intelligence bucket.” So yeah, it’s a partying song, but in Finland we party with knives and if there’s someone we’d stab, he/she would be among the one percent.
And while we’re asking about specific songs, what about “White Raven?” Why the dichotomy of pitting the color of peacefulness and purity with the animal of doom and death?
White ravens are eaten by their [mothers] a few days after they hatch. They are not as rare as one might think, they just don’t make it to become adults. White ravens are not albinos; they simply have no melanin in their body. Few of them grow up full size and when they do, they get bullied from other ravens because they are different. They never breed because nobody likes them. They are on their own for their entire life.
You guys have only toured the U.S. once last year right? What was that like and what’s the chance for another visit to America soon?
Touring the U.S. was an absolute blast and we would love to do it again. We got to play SXSW and tour with Grizzlor, who are just face-meltingly awesome. If you haven’t heard them before, you should give them a listen immediately. The only downside is that it’s financially taxing for a band of our modest size to tour overseas, but as soon as another opportunity presents itself, we’ll be on the first plane over.
What’s coming up next for the band?
We’re recording some acoustic songs for a new EP at the start of October. There’s some pretty rad tours in the works as well, but nothing set in stone just yet. We’re continuously writing for our next LP as well, which we’ll hopefully put to tape in the spring of next year.