An Interview With Norway’s Ai Phoenix (page 1 of 5)

Among the many alluring musical acts in Norway, Ai Phoenix are clearly a standout. They have two wonderfully captivating vocalists (the sleepy-voiced, emotionally direct Mona Mork and the more laid-back Patrick Lundberg), and a gifted drummer/multi-instrumentalist in Bosse Litzheim. The Norwegian label Racing Junior released their third and most recent album Lean That Way Forever in April 2002, followed by the Glitterhouse release elsewhere, as mentioned in our main article. Glitterhouse recently re-released the band’s second album The Driver Is Dead, but no U.S. release has occurred at this writing for any of the band’s work, which means that pricey imports are the only way most listeners will have heard them. Yet they are worth whatever effort one must undertake, because they make sublimely natural, romantically old-fashioned pop-folk. They’re like the big, colorful quilt your grandmother made by hand, not the one you’d buy at the department store. Every stitch is visible in an AI Phoenix song; little mistakes are there, but they are oddly endearing, and they are captivating in a manner far beyond the reach of much more polished music. Several tunes on Lean are arranged with a waltz beat, and a handful, like “Ice-Cold Storm” and “Different Strauss” are outright gems. From the opening chords and off-kilter harmonies of the opening “Mountains and Castles,” AIP’s record had me completely hooked last summer. I jumped at the chance to interview them via email.

KR: “Lean That Way Forever” is a beautiful and emotional work. Yet it has a relaxed, almost lo-fi production in which it seems like technical details were not fussed over too much. Was that the case? How long do you spend on a song typically?

Mona Mork: The song with its mood and its story has always been most important. When it comes to technical things, we do our best. The arrangement is mostly determined by what suits the story. It’s supposed to emphasize the meaning and the atmosphere of the story. But, then again, it must not be over-emphasized. There’s always been very few discussions about these things. I think we’ve always had this immediate understanding, and each song has been transformed and interpreted by the band in a way that pleases the songwriter. We’ve had members (for a very short period, and for quite a long time ago) that were really good musicians, but we didn’t share the same view on certain elements, like the melancholia, the low-fi-thing or the arrangement.

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