Einar Solberg Of Leprous Talks New Album "Bilateral," Working With Ihsahn, And More
Band Photo: Leprous (?)
Norwegian metal sons Leprous have seen their brand of progressive rock-meets-metal gaining traction in the scene lately, with new material coming out soon and recently reaching a wider audience by acting as solo artist Ihsahn's backing band.
"Bilateral," the band's third full-length, sees official release at the end of the month and will be a must-have for fans of prog rock or avant-garde metal. In anticipation of the coming opus, Leprous vocalist / keyboardist Einar Solberg got in touch with Metalunderground.com to discuss the sound of the album, working with Ihsahn in the studio, and appearing on the latest StarOfAsh album as a guest musician.
Einar also shared his thoughts on the band's changes over three albums, and how the recent terrorist attack in his native Norway has affected the Norwegian people.
xFiruath: When did you write the songs for “Bilateral” and what is a Leprous writing session like?
Einar: We started writing the first song “Forced Entry” right after the release of “Tall Poppy Syndrome.” The fall of 2009 I moved to England to complete my studies, so we didn’t get to rehearse as regularly as we’d done before. Due to the irregular rehearsals we had to be really efficient on the few writing sessions we had during that period. I moved back to Oslo, Norway the spring 2010, and suddenly we found ourselves in the luxury of living in the same city. That made it a lot easier to continue the creation of “Bilateral.”
There is no ultimate recipe of how to write a good song. We follow different procedures when we write music. Sometimes either me or one of the guitarists has created drafts at home, and then we all meet in the rehearsal room to make a tune out of it. Another procedure that I sometimes avail myself of is to compose the music at home (either on a piano or a computer), and then bring sheets for the rest of the band. Other times we just jam together on the rehearsal room, and we actually end up writing a song.
xFiruath: How would you compare the tracks on “Bilateral” to those on “Tall Poppy Syndrome” or anything else you’ve done in the past?
Einar: Even though “Bilateral” is more experimental in many ways than “Tall Poppy Syndrome” in many ways, it’s more thought trough. We’ve had more focus on writing proper songs this time, rather than experimenting just for the sake of it. If you compare “Bilateral” to our first album “Aeolia,” it’s actually hard to recognize that you’re listening to the same band. On “Aeolia” we played songs that were way above our skills at the time, and we had no will to throw away stuff. Now I feel we have come to the level where we know our strengths, but also limitations. That makes the songs sound way more convincing, and much better in our opinion. However, I would say that all our albums have equal importance in the development of the sound we have today.
xFiruath: Tell me about the artwork and how it connects to the themes of the album.
Einar: This is surrealistic art and we’d rather not ruin peoples imagination, hehe. We would rather want people to make up their own theory than serving them our thoughts.
xFiruath: How were the recording sessions for the album?
Einar: All the drums were recorded in only two days in an old and charming studio called Juke Joint Studios with Ihsahn as the technician / producer. Then we started recording guitars only with a line signal on our own laptops. After perfecting the guitars as much as possible before the deadline, we went to Ivory Shoulder Studios to re-amp them. For those of you who don’t know what re-amping is, that means running the previously recorded clean signal through proper guitar amps and then record them properly. That gives you more time to perfect things, without having to think about studio costs. Next up were bass and keys, which were recorded separately on our personal computers. The bass was recorded with a clean signal ran through a bass amp, while the keys were recorded with only a stereo line signal. After recording the keys, we ended up re-amping some of them in an old church in Oslo called Jacobskirken. By doing that we added a really authentic and original flavor to the already recorded sounds, and we actually ended up using only the proper church hall reverb. You can hear that on songs like “Thorn,” “Waste of Air,” and “Painful Detour.” In the very same church we also ended up recording trumpets. Lastly we recorded vocals in Ivory Shoulder Studios with StarOfAsh and Ihsahn as producers and technicians.
When everything was recorded we sent all the material to Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. As we expected he did an unbelievably great job with the mixing and the mastering, and after a couple of weeks in his hands “Bilateral” came to birth.
xFiruath: It seems like the Leprous lads have a fairly close relationship with Ihsahn and StarOfAsh. How did you guys original meet up and how did you end up as Ihsahn’s backing band?
Einar: Yes StarOfAsh (Heidi) is my sister, so I would definitely say that we are rather close, hehe. The reason why Ihsahn choose us as his backing band was because we’re already a rehearsed band which he knew he could trust. It was a win-win situation for both him and us. He can just meet up on rehearsals to an already rehearsed band that actually manage to play his music, while we get to play with one of the greatest artists in the metal genre.
xFiruath: I’m interested in hearing about you providing vocals for the latest StarOfAsh album "Lakhesis.” How were the recording sessions and what did you think of the finished product?
Einar: I might be a bit biased here, but I really love that album. Heidi wanted me to add some of my own personal flavor, and that’s exactly what I did. I was allowed to try out whatever I wanted, and she ended up being satisfied with what I delivered. I’m proud to be a part of that album, and I really do feel that it deserves way more attention than it has gotten so far.
xFiruath: A terrible tragedy recently occurred in Norway with the bombing and shooting. As Americans we obviously get information filtered through our own news agencies, and I was wondering if you could shed some light on the subject. Were you guys personally impacted by the events and what’s going on there in regards to the general feeling of why the attack happened and the impact it will have on your country?
Einar: The tragedy has affected us all in some way or another. We all live in Oslo, and some of the members were really close to the bomb. My brother is a journalist and was actually in one of the buildings that was hit by the bomb, but everyone in his office was unharmed. That being said, I’m really proud and impressed by how the Norwegian people and government have handled this situation. They answer to this crime by promising more democracy and unity than ever, rather than swearing revenge. I think that most Norwegians feels more united than ever now, despite race and origin. That’s at least the way I feel. All our thoughts go out to the ones that lost their lives, and everyone else affected.
xFiruath: What bands and albums are you listening to lately?
Einar: To be honest I don’t have that much musical energy left for listening these days, but there are of course some albums that I put on occasionally. Susanne Sundfør’s “The Brothel,” Michael Jackson’s “Everything,” Massive Attack’s “Heligoland” Shining’s “Black Jazz,” and and James Blake’s “James Blake.”
xFiruath: What’s your own personal history in music like, and what originally inspired you to want to get involved with music?
Einar: I started playing trumpet when I was seven, but I never took it very seriously. I actually played in almost seven years, but I never reached a high level. Many years after I quit playing trumpet, I started singing in a youth band after a request from my sister. I had always wanted to start singing, but it was really embarrassing when I was a kid. My mother had always tried encouraging me, as she’s a song teacher. The perfect timing was to start when I actually had a band to back me up. A couple of months later I started singing in a new band, which later the same year became Leprous. I picked up the keyboard (which I got for my confirmation but never used) as a tool for songwriting, and started taking lessons in both singing and piano shortly after.
Many years later I started studying music at the Norwegian Institute of Stage and Studio in Oslo, and completed the bachelor degree at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK. This fall I’m continuing my education at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where I’m specializing in Live Electronics (how to use music technology in a live setting). Well, that’s the very short story.
xFiruath: Will Leprous be touring or playing any live shows in support of the album?
Einar: We’re very eager to play as much live as possible, so I believe we will. There are only a few shows confirmed so far, but I believe and hope we’ll go on a bigger tour in the not too distant future.
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