Astrid Swan interviews Ingeborg Oktober from Norwegian audiovisual band Likholmen who play in Helsinki and Tampere this week. They discuss influences, lyrics, sound and feeling.
Astrid Swan: Nice to meet you Ingeborg Oktober. Can you tell One Quart readers about yourself. Who are you and how did you become a songwriter and a performer? I understand that you have a couple of different projects, please name them too.
Ingeborg Oktober: Thank you for having me! At the time I’m recording my second album as Ingeborg Oktober and studying for a bachelor’s degree in Art and moving images in Lofoten in Northern Norway. I’m performing my own songs solo and singing in the audiovisual band Likholmen, who’ll perform in Helsinki and Tampere this week.
Music has always been very important to me and works as some kind of anchor in my life. I’ve been writing songs since I learned to write – and the urge to create is always prioritised before food and sleep. One day I might dare to label myself as visual artist, painter, film director or author, but I’m only 22 so I’ll give myself some slack on that point.
One day I might dare to label myself as visual artist, painter, film director or author, but I’m only 22 so I’ll give myself some slack on that point.
Astrid: What kinds of things inspire you to write and how do you decide what instrumentation works for a specific song/lyric?
Ingeborg: “If I knew where the good songs came from I’d go there more often”, Leonard Cohen once said and I couldn’t agree more. I rely a lot on my gut feeling and I always bring my notebook wherever I go, so I can write things down before it disappears in the void of my head. I do write a lot about human relations, mental health and I try to be aware of the political debates and things going on locally and globally. I want to make the type of music that is important, not only for a short period of time, but the type that always come back to you years in a row.
Our first album, Lillelivet:
Astrid: Please, talk about your influences, musical and what ever else has been important to you on your path?
Ingeborg: My favourite musicians have always been the ones who manage to describe something I haven’t been able to describe myself. I already mentioned Cohen, who was a true poet, but musicians like Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell and Nick Cave have also been very important for me. Their lyrics resonate in me and their music is as original as their personalities. Stefan Sundström and the artist known as Æ, which I’m honoured enough to play with in Likholmen, both writes amazing lyrics and has influenced me a lot over the years. I’ve collaborated a lot with Æ, who is also the producer of my first album and one of my closest friends, and I feel very privileged to have such amazing people around me.
Astrid: I don’t speak Norwegian, so I have very little idea what you are saying with your lyrics, but that brings a freedom to listen to the music and the way you sing. What is your relationship to the Norwegian language? How is it to sing and have you ever written songs in another language?
Ingeborg: As a young teenager I used to write English, singer/songwriter love songs – but as I decided to record my first album, Hjerteræk (Drifting Heart), I decided to only record the Norwegian ones. Writing in my own language allows me to become more personal. As an example I remember how I as a child I would use the phrase “I love you” in English instead of the Norwegian phrase “Jeg elsker deg” because it felt more distant and less serious in a way.
I remember how I as a child I would use the phrase “I love you” in English instead of the Norwegian phrase “Jeg elsker deg” because it felt more distant and less serious in a way.
Norway has a huge variety of dialects and I’ve grown up with quite a broad dialect around me. As the dialects dissolve in the globalising world I feel a certain responsibility for preserving and documenting the dialect I’ve grown up with. Therefore it might be hard to understand all of the lyrics even for a Norwegian person, as I use a lot of expressions and phrases from my hometown named Hamarøy.
Astrid: What is the purpose of music on this planet? How do you envision its role in the future?
Ingeborg: As the music industry is turning into a digitalised world where no one is expected to pay that much for the products produced it can be hard being a musician with a smaller audience. Still I believe music has a very special place in people’s hearts and that we rely on it for identifying ourselves and connecting with each other.
I believe music and rhythm is one of the most primal and common, international languages we’ve got. Sound can communicate in a way where words cannot reach. It always feels funny, performing for an audience who doesn’t understand the words I’m singing, but I’ve experienced that it really doesn’t matter. I’m really looking forward to play in Finland for the first time! The only Finnish word I know is “perkele” so I’m also looking forward to learn a few more words while staying there.
Likholmen play in Finland this week: