The new band signed by The Laser's Edge made everybody talk about them even before the release of their debut album. Bassist Kristian Karl Hultgren and keyboard player (also member of White Willow) Lars Fredrik Frøislie explain the reasons of this popularity which once more puts the glances of the Prog World toward Scandinavia.
Even before its official release Hinterland already make people talk about it: what is the reason, in your opinion, for this interest?
Kristian: I think it's because of all the attention that our two demo songs got through our webpage. We didn't know it at the time, but it seem that these two songs contained something of a "fresh" progressive vibe. I guess the word spread in forums and talkgroups that Wobbler was a band worth listening to. Clearly, when a hype builds up like it did for Wobbler, it's only natural that the expectations also run high. That Wobbler played at NEARFest 2005 made the band more "real" for the audience, I think. We sort of stepped out of being just "a band on the net" and became more physically present on the progressive scene, even for the people that weren't attending the show. Besides, The Lasers Edge is a serious and well established record company with a good reputation for signing bands that are musically interesting and I think people recognises this by paying attention to the bands that are on the label.
What impressions did you receive at the NearFest? Did you hear a particular band which impressed you or that you listened to with pleasure?
Kristian: I think all of us really enjoyed the PFM show Friday night, seeing the legendary band still rocking like they did was great. It's clear that these guys know how to make a good show and still play intricate songs. I think all progressive bands can take a lesson from them and the way they performed, Wobbler included. Another great band was Present, it's always inspiring to watch top class musicianship unfold just meters away from your seat. I'd like to mention Matthew Parmenter as well, although a solo act, he filled out the stage with his great presence, and he really made me want to check out his releases as well as his former band, Dicipline.
Especially in the title track some musical influences recalling big groups of the '70s are unmistakable. Are these strong resemblances intentional?
Kristian: Well, it's hard to get away from the sound of the bands that made us fans of progressive music in our youth, but I sincerely hope that we don't actually sound too much like them. We like the sound that many 70s band had, but it will always be a goal to create something new musically. I think there's a difference there, between the approach to the overall sound on one hand and the creative development of any band, on the other. We don't want to make songs that are resembling Genesis, for example, but I feel that the Genesis' "storytelling" approach used on much of their material, is an element for inspiration. But if you ask whether we made the Hinterland track with an intention to make it musically like the big groups of the 70s, I would have to say no, we didn't, but we did use a lot of vintage instruments that the good old bands also had at their disposal.
Lars For me much is intentional. Almost like a tribute. Like when I do the Moog-filter sweep some 20-minutes into Hinterland, I want people to think "PFM's "Per un amico". Other things are coincident again; like I've never heard Uriah Heep or Barclay James Harvest, and still people are saying we're stealing from them. Still I hope we brought something new and fresh to it all.
Where does the wish to create this parallel project come from? Are you finding with Wobbler an environment to express yourself in a wider way, comparing with the music of White Willow?
Lars: I was with on starting Wobbler, while White Willow had played together for 9 years with 4 albums when I joined. Besides it's musically two different things. When that's said, I play in all kinds of orchestras, from black metal to pop. So Wobbler is my pure over the top symphonic progressive rock band, while White Willow is more quiet, pop oriented with influences even after 1974. Still, we're both fans of 70's Italian prog rock. Jacob is the main writer in White Willow, so it's naturally different by that simple fact.
Beside classical prog influences, we can taste kind of a northern feeling. Did you want to impress to your music something recalling your country?
Kristian: I'm not sure what I should answer to this, what is the "northern" feeling? It's true that many bands from Scandinavia have a sort of melancholic twist in their expression, for example Anekdoten, and maybe this melancholia is a "northern" feeling. But it would not be fair to those bands in the rest of the world that also love mellotron and minor chords and melodies to claim a supreme nordic melancholia. We didn't set out to make a "Norwegian progressive rock album" per se, but we can't deny that it exists a Scandinavian legacy, nor the fact that we come from Norway. But I think it would be right to say that there is a lot of nature in our music, I know that Lars has made a lot of music after, what shall I say, contemplating nature and its shifting expressions. Maybe we respond more to our surroundings while in a creative mood.
Lars: I guess the northern feeling can be compared to your Italian feeling I love so much. PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Museo Rosenbach and so forth give me a kind of warm Mediterranean feel.
Jacob Holm-Lupo provided his contribution in the recording and production processes. Do you think he managed to impress to your music any particular characteristics? Where can we mostly hear his input?
Lars: Jacob has lots of studio experience and a good ear. It's always good to have fresh ears when you sit in the studio like I did for 6 months. He basically helped during the final mixing. He is also very open to my weird ideas, and gave advice - what was too far out and not. Still, I was definitely in charge. He was the boss on the previous album we did with White Willow, so now it was my turn.
Some musicians believe that using modern synths which can reproduce the sound of old instruments might be a good chance to obtain vintage sounds. Do you think that the use of authentic instruments is an extra value for your music?
Lars: Yes. Definitely. Sound and sounds are very important to me. We used samples and soft-synths on the demos. And for me it sounds different. You can of course improve it by running it thru an amp or use effects, but you play in a totally different way with the real thing. Lots of the things you hear are just improvisation and toying with the instruments, in a way you can't do with samples. We did stretch things quite far on the Hinterland album, using exclusively the real stuff, all vintage pre-1975 equipment. But that gives us in the same time the same premises as the 70's bands had. For me it's also good to know that there's no tricks or midi or bad samples. Plus it was a great opportunity to use all of the keyboards I have spent so much money on.
The songs of your album are characterized by styles that are different each other, still keeping a common background; which aspect of your sound do you expect to develop more in the future? A hypothetical new album which direction might take?
Kristian: That is a difficult question since we have been concentrating on the Hinterland album for so long now. Many elements in the songs on this album are more than six years old, and since then we have hopefully developed musically. We are proud of Hinterland, and being able to record this material has meant a great deal to us, but there are some things that we feel we could develop further. More vocals for example, and I think all of us wants to explore and improve our songwriting skills. We will always be a progressive band, but what does it mean to be progressive? The term "progressive" has become the name of a musical movement, but I think that underneath this is another level of meaning, where experimentation and development are hidden. A new album may take any direction, but I think that the audience still will be able to recognise it as a Wobbler album.
Lars: It's hard to say. I haven't really made any new prog-songs lately. I do hope the new songs will be as youthful and daring as it was when I made my riffs only 17 years old.
The last track "Clair obscure" seems to be based upon contrasts and shows some elements which were typical of Anglagard (Epilog above all). I read in your site that they are among your bands of reference. I guess that you've been impressed by contrasts and opposite pushes.
Kristian: Änglagård is famous for this, and it's no secret that Wobbler is being accused of being a band similar to Änglagård, even by some as Änglagård copyists. And, yes we like Änglagård very much, but we're absolutely not trying to copy them. The musical components that you mention, contrasts and pushes, are something that you can find in every interesting piece of music, and I hope that we will be able to continue to use these two components, along with others.