Norwegian four-piece The Megaphonic Thrift have taken the shoegaze and noise rock scene by storm in recent years. Hailing from the city of Bergen, The Megaphonic Thrift formed in 2007, its collective members having played in various other bands such as Low Frequency In Stereo, Casiokids and Stereo 21. Having released their first EP A Thousand Years Of Deconstruction a year later on the Deadly People label, they soon came to the attention of esteemed UK independent Club AC30. With debut long player Decay Decoy already laid down, its release in the latter part of 2010 heralded a band at the start of their creative prowess, a point subsequently proven by their energetically ear-splitting live performances.
Earlier this year, they released the self-titled follow-up, The Megaphonic Thrift, scoring an impressive 8/10 on these very pages. Currently on a European tour throughout the whole of March, DiS caught up with singer/guitarist Richard Myklebust, fellow vocalist & bass player Linn Frokedal and second guitarist Njal Clementsen prior to their recent show at Nottingham's Boat Club.
DiS: How has the tour been so far?
Linn Frokedal: It's going really well. We just played the Botanique in Brussels two nights ago which is probably our favourite venue and then last night we played the Prince Albert in Brighton which was a lot of fun.
DiS: It's your second time in Nottingham in the space of a few months. That time you were also sharing a bill with Swimming. How do the two bands know each other and do you feel there is a connection between your music and theirs?
Njal Clementsen: It's actually quite a long story. Our manager used to do the Norwegian bookings for Amusement Parks On Fire, and we knew got to know their sound engineer from our first UK tour. We wanted someone from the UK, just to get some contacts and stuff, and Gavin, who was playing in Amusement Parks On Fire also happens to be a soundman, so we hooked up with him. Because he's from Nottingham it kind of paved our way into the Nottingham scene. Then we did another tour with North Atlantic Oscillation, and we had a spare date where we needed a show, so Gavin called up Swimming, because they were doing a show in Nottingham, and they were really nice and helped us out and we ended up playing with them at the Contemporary in November of last year. Since then we've become good friends.
DiS: I know several people who were completely blown away by your performance at that show. How have UK audiences responded in general?
Richard Myklebust: Very good. People in general seem to warm to us.
LF: We still aren't that well known in the UK so when we see people responding to certain songs it's really nice.
DiS: Although you've been together for over four years now, it's perhaps fair to say that you weren't that well known outside of Bergen prior to signing with Club AC30. Why do you think that was?
RM: We always try to find partners - whether that be a manager or record label - who are really into what they are doing, and not just people who see it as a job. We did speak to a few bigger labels and agencies but we found they seemed to lack the personal touch, whereas Robin (Allport) from AC30 is really passionate about what he does. He runs the record company in addition to his normal day job. He's been really supportive about everything we've done so far and we have an excellent relationship with him. I think it's so important to work with people genuinely interested in what they're doing.
DiS: Although making music is essentially a career, it's probably more important for a band like The Megaphonic Thrift to know they're working with someone who understands them.
RM: Totally. I can't stress how important it is to work with someone who loves what they do...
LF: ...and loves what we do.
RM: Not just sign to someone because they believe we can make them some money, you know?
DiS: There seems to be quite a vibrant scene in Norway with bands like yourselves, Maribel and 120 Days all making excellent records so far this year? More interestingly, they're all mostly guitar based compared to bands in the UK at this moment in time.
NC: Absolutely, it's a very good scene. In fact, you could probably say there are two scenes; the Oslo scene and the Bergen scene, which is where we're from. When we started recording our studio was just this big meat packing factory. Now it's literally four storeys high with studios and bands where everything is run by musicians and artists. It's a really cool place to be.
DiS: Are there any other bands in Bergen that you believe should be getting more recognition from people outside of the local scene?
NC: Absolutely, there's this band called Hypertext who've been going for about seven years now. They've never really been heard outside of Bergen, yet they really are an amazing band. They have two albums out already and are currently working on their third.
DiS: What about the scene in Bergen as far as the audiences are concerned? Are they enthusiastic and appreciative or is it difficult to promote the band outside of those involved in making music themselves?
NC: In one part I'd say the audiences are very appreciative of what we do, but at the same me it can also be very difficult getting Norwegian audiences to take part in the concert and be enthusiastic, but they are dedicated and they will listen.
DiS: And then of course you have the Norwegian metal scene...
NC: Oh, the biggest musical export from Norway is the black metal scene.
DiS: Richard and Linn are also a couple outside of the band. Does your personal relationship have an effect on the dynamic within the band?
RM: Not really. Or at least I don't think it does? We're all really good friends and have been for a number of years.
NC: What, are you questioning whether their relationship causes a problem? Look at Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore for example. They've got another thirty years together before it starts becoming a problem! But no, there's no problem at all. We're all equal in this band, although when we're on tour, they do have the advantage of always getting a separate hotel room whereas the rest of us have to share or sleep on someone's floor somewhere!
DiS: Is it a four-way democracy from the songwriting all the way down to choosing the setlists for your live shows?
RM: The setlist is a democracy in every way. We're struggling with what to play tonight for example. We've just released our new album so that's doubled the number of songs we can play live and it's created a dilemma in which tracks do we cut from the set. Before it was pretty obvious but now we have some difficult decisions to make, especially with the older songs.
NC: With the songwriting, it started off as just Richard but then over time it's just developed, and on the new record all four of us wrote the songs.
DiS: It must be quite different tailoring sets for people over here to back home in Norway for example, where they'll be more aware of your back catalogue?
RM: I think the Norwegian audience is kind of similar to the UK. We don't tend to change the sets that much according to the countries. We're more likely to change the set if we're supporting someone, usually because our stage time will be a lot shorter than when it's a headlne show. We'll sometimes play different songs if we're doing a showcase set. They tend to be pretty easy.
LF: It's normally ten minutes and that's your lot.
RM: Our headline set is what we're having difficulty working out right now because we're trying to see what fits together with the older material and even how many old songs are we going to play. Most of the shows we've done in the UK has been to totally new people who've never heard us before, so should we start from the beginning with the old songs or just play the new record? I don't know.
NC: It depends on the sound system as well. Some of the more noise-influenced songs we wouldn't do if the sound wasn't right.
RM: We also try to do requests, not necessarily from the audience but if there's a promoter who wants to hear a specific track we will try and play it.
NC: Usually people tend to ask for the most extreme stuff!
DiS: You all came from different bands and in some cases, completely different musical backgrounds having played with the likes of Casiokids. Did having such a diverse array of influences have an impact on the way you approach writing the songs?
NC: Absolutely. Fredrik (Vogsborg, drummer) being in Casiokids actually played a huge part in the recording of this album because we were sharing a studio with them at the time, so with some of their synthesizers and drum machines lying around we got to play with them as well. I'd like to think that there's pieces of Low Frequency In Stereo, Casiokids, Stereo 21 and everything else that we love on this record.
DiS: There seems to be a lot more focus on the melodies and vocal harmonies on this record than on your previous releases. In places it's reminiscent of people like The Pretty Things, The Byrds and more recently Drop Nineteens. Is that a direct result of records you were listening to at the time?
RM: The biggest thing from our point of view is that we've allowed ourselves to step out of our comfort zones. I mean, we have developed as a band, there's no doubting that, but we also want to challenge ourselves with every record we make.
DiS: It's interesting you say that because although you're primarily linked to the shoegaze scene and signed to a specialist label in AC30, I don't really see The Megaphonic Thrift as being exclusive to that genre. How would you describe yourselves?
NC: Loud. Psychedelic. It's a question that we get all the time and we rarely give the same answer simply because it changes on a regular basis. Like any band, there are obvious reference points with some of our songs.
RM: There's so much music within our music. Everything from improvised pieces to people like Wilco to Sonic Youth and as you pointed out, sixties music like The Byrds too. Anything that feels right, we just put it in the pot and see where it takes us.
DiS: There are numerous highlights on The Megaphonic Thrift for me. My favourite song changes from day-to-day. At the moment it's 'Raising Flags', whereas on your previous records it would be 'Son Of J' and 'Queen Of Noise', which are I guess polar opposites. Was it deliberate in making most of the songs on this record more accessible, radio-friendly even, than on its predecessors?
NC: No, we'd never write a song just to try and get ourselves played on the radio. At the same time, we did try to plug some of these songs on Norwegian radio and it didn't work out, so maybe there isn't enough commercial value there at all? I don't know.
RM: There's definitely no element of that when we sit down and write together in the studio, but afterwards you hear comments like this has got potential for radio or whatever, and to me that's quite a cool thing. It's not like we're trying to be devoid of radio or anything. The more people that get to hear our music the better as far as we're concerned.
DiS: What are your plans for the rest of the year once this tour is finished?
LF: We have plans to go to Japan and the United States in the fall, but it hasn't been confirmed yet, so we don't know exactly when that will happen.
NC: We're not finished with this tour until May really, as we're heading back to Norway and Sweden when we've finished the rest of Europe and doing a few shows there. Then it's the start of the festival season.
DiS: Are you confirmed to play any festivals this summer?
NC: It's still up in the air at the minute. The booking process is still ongoing at present.
LF: There are a couple of festivals being mentioned but nothing we can talk about yet, not until it's been confirmed. We don't really know yet.
DiS: What about new songs or ideas for the next record? Anything in the pipeline there?
LF: Not yet, no. We've only just properly learned how to play the songs on this record! We made the album in the studio piece by piece so now we have to make it work in a live setting.
DiS: Was it quite difficult trying to translate those songs into a live performance?
NC: Some of them were, yeah. It's been a bigger challenge with this album than the previous one. Decay Decoy was actually a result of being on the road and playing sets and then once the tour was finished we went into the studio and pretty much recorded the live set. This time it was a totally different process. We all had bits and pieces of ideas that we worked on in the studio and eventually created the songs together. Playing them live took some time to figure out with this record. We had a lot of rehearsals and now we've done quite a few shows it's finally getting there.
DiS: Where would you say the band are most comfortable? In a live setting or in the studio?
NC: We're all quite different. Our drummer Fredrik would always choose the studio.
LF: I love playing live.
NC: Me too.
LF: It's a different energy. You can try different things.
RM: When you play in a band you have so many different things to express. It's mainly the reason you choose to do it in the first place so for me, it's great to be able to go out in front of an audience and be able to do our thing.
DiS: The album's had very positive reviews so far. Do you pay much attention to what the music press say about the band?
RM: I tend to read them during the first week of release and that's pretty much it to be honest.
NC: It's funny because you try and tell yourself that we know what we made and we're proud of it so it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks, but at the same time it can only take one lukewarm review to make you have a rethink. It's like in Norway, all of the reviews were great bar one and in that moment when I first read it, it kind of ruined everything but then you move on.
DiS: Finally, Mat Flint from Deep Cut recently remixed 'Tune Your Mind'. What did you make of his version and do you have a wishlist of people you'd like to collaborate with in the future?
NC: When it comes to remixes it's very difficult for us to listen to it. You have a relationship with a certain song because of how you made it so essentially a remix changes that. It's more about the audience finding something else that they like.
LF: Mat did a great job with 'Tune Your Mind'. It's very different to the original, and he's definitely taken it in a completely different direction to where we are.
The album The Megaphonic Thrift and single 'Moonstruck' are out now on Club AC30.