There must be something in the water up there in Oslo, Norway. So many lovely musicians and bands are coming through from there, like Ole Kirkeng, Louien and Malin Pettersen to name just a few. There seems to be a nice americana (or as they call it: nordicana) scene, and at its center might be this band, Darling West. I met up with Mari and Tor Egil Kreken and their band in Tilburg, where they recorded covers of Aaron Lee Tasjan and Radiohead and their own After My Time.
Dutch musician Oliver Pesch let us use his living room in an old monastery for this session, hours after Mari, Tor, drummer Torjus Gisnås Nevland and guitarist Sander Eriksen Nordahl flew in from Norway. On arrival, they found out one of their guitars was damaged on the flight and all their stage outfits disappeared. Nonetheless, they didn’t let it get them down and gave their all in this stunning session.
Mari and Tor were kind enough to write an essay on their background and influences, so please read that below and enjoy the videos.
Playing around with influences from both worlds.
By Mari and Tor Egil Kreken
As kids we both listened to a lot of American music. Tor grew up in a small town in the mountains with an older brother that introduced him to Ry Cooder at the age of 9. From that moment he was all about bluesy guitars and spent most of his time trying to learn how on earth the old masters were doing it. Mari’s dad was super into country music, and that was mostly what was played in the car, until the whole family were tired of Billy Ray Cyrus singing Achy Breaky Heart and asked her dad to come up with something else. Then a Norwegian country band would normally be played next.
Growing up in Norway we’ve always had a lot of musical influences coming from America. There has always been a lot of exchange between Norway and the States, all the way back from when a lot of Norwegians emigrated there in the 1800’s. And later, when we found oil in the North Sea, they were quite heavily invested in the beginning with a lot of Americans working on our West Coast. It might be that or something completely different, we’re not experts on the matter, but American pop culture has had a solid standing here for a long time.
Radiohead on a banjo
Our formative years, in addition to the Coen Brothers movie Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou, probably laid down the foundation for how we came into playing folk and americana when we started this band. Although, between our childhoods and the beginning of this project there have been a lot of different kinds of music occupying our playlists. In fact, for Mari, she was so tired of the twang that she kept away from that style for at least ten years, listening to mostly British 80’s indie, and a lot of Radiohead.
And that’s where this cover of No Surprises comes in. OK Computer was a record that opened her mind to listening to music in a new, and more dedicated, way. An eye opener, if you will. We love how the banjo, that’s so central to the americana sound, can be incorporated into almost everything. So, when Tor picked it up for the arrangement of this song, we just felt like it fell into place. Playing around with influences from both worlds.
Living to make a better day tomorrow
Americana is a genre that is extremely wide, which is what’s so alluring to us. There are a lot of artists and bands making music under that umbrella that sound very different and are evolving in different directions for each record. One of our favorites is Aaron Lee Tasjan who has a way with words that we admire greatly, and he is not afraid to play around with different styles as his music career and songwriting evolve. This is so inspirational and contains a courage we tried to adopt when working on our upcoming record. You’ll see. This song is from his second album Silver Tears. Probably not the most played track from the record, but certainly one of our favorites.
(We might add here that we got to write a song with him and Erica Blinn a few years back. It’s called True Friends and can be found on our latest record We’ll Never Know Unless We Try.)
One thing about the folk songwriting which is so appealing and liberating is the tradition of writing about serious matters in a natural and intuitive way. You can write about depression and suicide, alcoholism, death row, heartbreak and loss without people feeling that you’re shouting your opinions at them. It’s more about reflection, recognition in their own lives, and comfort. This song, After My Time, was written about refugees and the unfathomable strain some people experience, and it felt like the right time to dig it up now.
Want more Darling West?
Lastly, we did a cover ep with a few contemporary songs during the pandemic called Interpretations. A little pass time project in a time when we wanted to play but couldn’t do it live. If you want, you can check that out on all streaming platforms, as well as our other project on YouTube, called Friday Sessions (changed to Family Sessions now) where we play songs live, sometimes with some incredible guests.