Contacted by Arlequins, who liked the come-back of the Norwegian band, Jacob Holm-Lupo kindly answered our questions about the newest White Willow album "Storm Season". Enjoy!
What changed in White Willow's music since the first album?
I guess we've gone through a process of maturation. And I guess our range of expression has widened a bit. We're less nervous about bringing in strange influences and ideas. People tell me that we're less folk-oriented than we used to be. I don't know about that. To me there's still some folk in our melodies, but the arrangements are maybe getting a bit more dynamic and rock-oriented.
Storm Season is somehow similar to Ignis Fatuus, expecially for particular tracks such as "Chemical Sunset" which recovers several folk influences: What made you choose these sounds and atmospheres?
For Storm Season I wanted to paint a sort of apocalyptic picture of a world that was on the edge of disaster, and people who were on the edge of some sort of breakdown. "Chemical Sunset" is sort of a sad love story, so for that aspect of the lyrics it seemed fit to use a wistful, Celtic-style melody. But the setting is one of urban decay and pollution, so the sounds and arrangements needed to reflect that - hence the heavier guitars and rhythms, and some "chemical" sounding synths...
Why did you feel like adding a second cello in your new album?
Well, I gave the job to my friend Tirill, who played violin on the first WW album, to write some string arrangements. She decided to write exclusively for cello, to get a dark, earthy sound, so that's how it came about. And Sigrun Eng, who plays the cello, did an excellent job, so I'm sure we'll use
With Storm Season a new change of line up occurred. What took yourselves toward this change and how do you feel it influenced your music?
It's a long story, but basically I needed a second guitarist, so Johannes switched from bass to guitar, which meant that we needed a new bass player. I had already played with Marthe in another band, and I really wanted her in the band, and she obliged. She brought depth and weight to the record. Lars Fredrik came in because Brynjar Dambo decided to quit the band. And it was a very lucky turn of events for us, since Lars is brilliant, and the wall of mellotrons and analogue keys on the album is all his contribution.
Is there a particular reason why you wanted an external producer for Storm Season?
I wasn't sure I could pull off the heavier sound I wanted on my own. But in the end it worked out fine, and I learnt a lot from the experience. Originally we were going to work with Sandy Pearlman, but family obligations made us unable to travel to his studio in California.
Do you feel White Willow as your OWN project?
I feel that White Willow is centered around my songs and ideas, but everyone contributes, and these days I'm not really running the band anymore, like I used to. It's become more of a democracy, which is probably good.
Where did the idea of creating an unusual song like "Storm Season" ( a sort of a gothic adagio inspired by Albinoni) come from?
"Storm Season" was originally the introduction to an orchestral piece I wrote a few years ago. I couldn't incorporate the whole thing on the album, so I chose this, because I thought the vocal melody was quite nice. As you say, it's an obvious nod to Albinoni, but again, to get that slightly apocalyptic feel I added electronics and some weird noises into the mix.
Do you ever try to direct willingly an album toward a definite musical genre, that is making it sound more or less "Prog"... more or less "Gothic"...?
Well, for each album I want to go in a new direction. Usually after I'm done with one album, I'll get this sort of "vision" where I see what I want to do with the next album. For "Storm Season" I knew from the beginning what the imagery and the lyrical themes would be, so the album was built around those ideas from the start.
"I would like but I didn't make it: what does White Willow's music lack or miss?
Pheww, difficult question. I would of course like much larger budgets, because I'm quite obsessed with production, and ideally I would want to be a Steely Dan perfectionist in the studio, but we can't afford that. Another thing that I think the future might bring, is a larger focus on vocal arrangements. When Sylvia was in the band we tended to focus mostly on her voice, but on the next album we'll be doing a lot more background vocals, and incorporate the lead vocals in a larger vocal framework.
What is the main factor of satisfaction concerning your last album?
Mainly that we pulled off making an album that is quite different sounding from our previous ones. And that I managed to squeeze some of my Blue Oyster Cult influences onto it...
Your songs are always so melancholic: do you feel music as a way to express your emotional tensions?
Absolutely. Writing music is a kind of therapy for me - anything that I experience strongly, anything that moves me in my life, ends up as a song! And yes, I guess I'm a melancholy person. But then, so are most Norwegians...