Norwegian Dream-Pop Duo Alfred Hall Release Hazy New Album
We can't get enough of Alfred Hall. You can't even blame us. The Norwegian dream-pop duo just dropped their sophomore album, Since I Saw You, last week, a hazy half-hour collection of sweet, smooth indie tunes. We caught up with the band (Hans Thomas Kiær on guitar and Bjørn Tveit on vocals) to talk about the album, musical influences, and more, but first we're gonna prove to you why this record is such a dream.
Since I Saw You opens with "Pearl Diver," a spellbinding synth-pop stunner. The track wraps you in a trance of billowing summer rhythms and fuzzy melody as silky vocals are veiled by a cloudy sonic reverie. The album's title track comes next, bobbing with an insistent surf-pop rhythm line before the vocals grow in urgency and tropical guitar wails around them. Following this is "I Wanna Take You Away Now," an infectious psych-pop romp beginning with a minimalist percussion-led arrangement and ending in a swell of groovy electric instrumentation.
On "Something Real," the guys experiment with beach-rock rhythms, opening with a slight folk line then combining it with breathy harmony and colorful synth explosions. "Quite Some Time" follows, ringing with blooming keys and drenched in creeping, marching band style percussion, somehow -- dare we say -- giving off a Beatles vibe briefly before remembering that this is a Norwegian dream-pop duo in the modern day... that's just a testament to their skill and versatility, though. "Castle In The Sky" marks one of the strongest points of the album, a tender track built on an emotional guitar line, a seriously decadent horn section, and wistful lyrics like "I don't want to leave my heaven behind."
"Morning Dew," the shortest track on the album, is another revelation. Little happens here, but the sparse arrangement has that heart-tugging quality about it, soft howls resounding in the background while melancholy musings are sung and a piano crescendo takes over. Things change on "Time Is Moving Faster," returning to Alfred Hall's buzzy dream-pop tendencies, slapping and thumping and dancing with twinkling melodies. Since I Saw You ends with "So We Get By," a neon 80s-treated track drowsy with synth, floating with the haziest vocals yet and swollen with glossy rhythm.
Since I Saw You acts like a dream, softly churning through scenes of gentle reflection. Together, Hans and Bjørn merge their equal talents for a mouthwatering blend of lush indie-pop and sunny psychedelia. The result is nothing short of entrancing, nine tracks of hypnotic windows-down, volume-up summer sweetness.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourselves and your music?
Alfred Hall: Hi. We are Hans Thomas Kiær and Bjørn Tveit and together we make up the band Alfred Hall. We both live in Oslo and have been friends since we were 15 (almost 15 years ago).
We started the band in the summer of 2009, when we were both working at Hans Thomas’ family farm in Drammen, outside of Oslo, raking leaves and cutting down rogue trees. That year we’d discovered a lot of inspiring music, and while working, we listened to artists like Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, and MGMT. I guess at some point we thought we’d better start making some music if we were ever to get out of this cutthroat leaf-raking business... so without knowing anything about music production, we bought some recording equipment and got going.
I find it a bit hard describing our music, but I think we make pretty laid-back, melodious, and catchy pop songs.
TMM: You guys just released Since I Saw You, your absurdly delicious sophomore record. Congrats! What was the production process like for this album?
AH: Thank you! For this album we used the same producer as the first one, the extremely talented Anders Bjelland. He has a studio in Bergen, so that’s where all the recording and producing happens. We’ve recorded this album over a few years, recording new songs as they are completed -- probably not the most efficient way to record an album, as there's a chance you’ll end up changing the whole production of the song because you no longer like what you did two years ago, but we’re really thrilled about how this turned out.
TMM: What is the songwriting process typically like?
AH: That can vary a great deal, but it typically requires me to have a weekend (or longer) by myself, where I can fully get into the process. That usually involves staying up late, having a few beers and trying not to get distracted by less demanding activities.
TMM: How have your music, work ethic, or influences changed since releasing your debut album, Wilderness, a few years ago?
AH: Our taste in music has definitely changed some since the debut album came out. It would have been weird if it hadn’t. I think we’ve grown to appreciate music that is more challenging than we used to, both in terms of sound and composition. There’s also been an increasing attraction to more 60s and early 70s pop and funk. A lot of our favorite bands from six or seven years ago have just completely lost us with their new material. Luckily we’ve found some new ones.
TMM: You guys aren’t just musical masterminds -- you’re also ridiculously smart in other ways. What's this about engineering and med school?!
AH: *laughs* That would be an overstatement. As awesome as it would be to live solely from making and performing music, we’re both realistic enough to know we need a plan B. So as the years have gone by, Hans Thomas has been working on his degree in engineering and I just finished my medical degree.
TMM: We know this is a tough question, but bear with us. Which track off Since I Saw You do you each feel closest to, or most proud of, and why?
AH: "I Wanna Take You Away Now" is the one I’m most proud of. I like the vocal melodies and the overall feel to the song -- it has a vintage quality to it that I find very appealing. Hans’ favorite is "Since I Saw You."
TMM: What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
AH: I just hope we’ve made something that can put a little extra joy into people's lives. A Grammy would be sweet also.
TMM: What has been your most memorable moment of your careers so far?
AH: Playing Øyafestivalen in 2013 was pretty neat. It’s a festival we’ve attended for several years before we started making music. If someone had told us then that we’d be on the biggest stage there performing, we wouldn’t have believed them.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Alfred Hall?
Alfred Hall: We are doing a tour this fall and plan on doing a few gigs outside of Norway as well. Will be fun!