Kings Of Convenience set the tone on 24-25, the opening track of Declaration Of Dependence, with the line: “What we build is bigger than the sum of two.”
The highly anticipated new album by the Norwegian duo carries many declarations. After declaring independence from one another after their previous album, Quiet On An Empty Street, the two Kings from Bergen, Norway have declared themselves back together again.
Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambæk Bøe have kept busy during the past five years with side projects, especially singer Øye. His two albums with dance-poppers The Whitest Boy Alive were a real departure from the Kings’ melodic, acoustic sound, but may have helped pave the way for Declaration Of Dependence.
Which is in itself a fascinating title. “Well, it means a lot of different things, like being in a relationship. It can be a good thing to depend on somebody,” says Øye. “It’s easier to accept another person’s annoying parts. You realise that you are dependent on them for something else. If they make food for you, it’s easier to accept that they talk in an annoying way. The title doesn’t have a definite answer but it’s a good topic of conversation.”
He may have the key to how to make a relationship work, but does this theory really apply to Kings Of Convenience as artists? “We realised when we were beginning to work on the third record that we weren’t depending on each other anymore. We could have had a musical career regardless of each other, but we still choose to do a record.”
Declaration Of Dependence first began in sunny Mexico. “We met up there in 2007 to go through all the ideas that we had. And it was a nice place to do it!” They worked on it for “two and a half years,” a rather long and slow process for these perfectionists. “We have to be happy with what we do and it takes a long time to realise if something you recorded is really good or not. It needs several months to grow on you. In order to feel happy with a specific song, you have to feel like you’ve done it justice.”
They both showed up in Mexico with a lot of ideas they had each been working on. “On the other records, it was more of a collaborative effort,” says Øye. The lyrical content was also less collaborative this time. “But I think those songs are less autobiographical than the ones we have now on this record. On this one, they’re more autobiographical so you have to write them yourself.”
Thematically the record ranges from romance to global politics, and he refers to the songs as “public letters to people”. But he admits he often toiled at being the scribe. “The initial idea comes quickly and then you struggle. That’s the part that takes longest to finish of the song.” It’s also what he believes is the most interesting part of their songs. “The interesting part is in the lyrics, not so much in the production.”
Bøe refers to the breezy album as “high-brow bossa nova,” but Øye irks at that label. “I have no idea what he means! It only works for some of the songs. To me, what we’re doing is Kings Of Convenience.” The band’s MySpace page reassures reticent parents who usually cringe at the musical choice of their offspring, claiming that their music sounds like something mom and dad would like too. “I know that the friends of my parents like our music. It’s important to me to be able to communicate to people not because of age, but because of your personal taste, that our songs resonate with you. It’s important that we don’t have a specific sound that’s only for young people or only for old people,” he says.
“We are very classical in one way, but we are kind of inaccessible because we don’t use big sounds. You have to listen to it a good couple of times to really appreciate it.” It is their unique sound – quieter is the new quiet, it seems – that sets them apart, like those other Kings, the Leons, have done in rock. But Øye doesn’t appreciate having his band’s name usurped. “It’s so irritating that they’re called kings of something that I don’t really want to listen to them!”
In between touring with Kings Of Convenience, Øye will continue The Whitest Boy Alive and is even due to play some live shows. “I’ve been working on it parallel to this for the last two and a half years,” he confirms. His side project is to “make people dance!” Not that he listens to dance music anymore. “I used to. I got really bored because that music has gone in the wrong direction. It’s become less interesting. If you listen to Dexter by Ricardo Villalobos, that’s a real interesting song and it took dance music into a different direction. And I remember when all the DJs would play it in the middle of a set – it was very exciting. But no one else made records like that so that music is boring now.”
Any suggestions to make it fresh again? “It was underground for a while. It needs to become uncool, improper and go down to the underground again for it to be interesting. It has become too commercial in the last four or five years. People like Ed Banger do interesting stuff, but what they have inspired is music that is very simple and low quality. It’s the music scene of this MP3 dance music, which is a lot of sugar and very little content.”
Øye is fully intent on concentrating on his two bands, claiming he’s “done with collaborations”. However, he wouldn’t say no if he were approached by a certain member of music royalty. “It would be nice to have Prince produce a track,” he exclaims. But Øye quickly returns to his pragmatic self. “But that’s very unlikely!”