There are times when we all just need a little bit of fun. To have a sing and a dance and spend some time laughing with friends. And that’s exactly what I See Rivers are offering, albeit in musical form. As an all-female trio hailing from three corners of Norway, they’ve been making waves with their self-proclaimed brand of float-folk since the release of their delightful debut EP, ‘Standing Barefoot’, and have already developed a reputation for delivering “pure joy” with their live performances.
Their harmony-laden sound has drawn obvious comparisons to fellow Scandinavian outfit First Aid Kit and the trio have mastered the art of using cleverly layered vocals and memorable melodies to add an extra-dimension to their songs, as evidenced by their pitch-perfect second EP ‘Play It Cool’, released last year. With the band currently in the studio to work on material for their debut album, set for release in the second half of 2019, we caught up with them to talk about moving to Wales, swapping float-folk for pop, dream collaborations and how to earn yourself a reputation as a flat-fish queen!
For those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Lille: I See Rivers is three people, all the way from Norway. I’m from the South, Eline is from the West and Gøril is from the faraway North and we’ve been a band for a few years. We met in Liverpool, where we studied at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). It was a mix between a lovely, organic process where we all became friends and also something that resulted from us all needing something to do for school!
Gøril: The whole process just kind of happened. We didn’t have any universities at the time in Norway that would do popular music. We had some places to learn classical and rhythmical stuff, but no popular schools with production and song-writing. LIPA has a good reputation in Norway for this sort of thing, so we were all very happy to end up there. We met there and here we are today!
Eline: We’ve released two EP’s so far, ‘Standing Barefoot’ and ‘Play It Cool’ and we’re excited to be working on more new music at the moment.
You moved to Wales for a little while – what made you want to do that?
Eline: We’ve recorded our music in a studio in Pembrokeshire before. We went there for the first time two years ago and really fell in love with it and found excuses to go back a lot of times. In one year we went there six times – we went back to film our music videos (Da Ram and Play It Cool) then when Lille finished uni after me and Gøril, we wanted somewhere to go and knew that we didn’t want to be in a city, but we wanted to stay in the UK and see where we could take the band.
Gøril: It also means we could all still live in cottages, which was great! I’m back in Norway now and Lille and Eline are still in Wales for the time being.
You’ve described yourselves as float folk and that description has been around for a little while now. What made you come up with that term and do you think it still applies to you today?
Gøril: We’ve been waiting for this question! We just talked about this, because when we started, we never discussed any genre, we just started writing. After we found a name, we never talked about how it should sound. It turned out quite vocal-ly, harmonising a lot and sounded very floaty, so I guess that’s where it came from. And we also floated between pop and folk. But we think it’s changed now!
Eline: Should we just say it?
Together: We’re just pop!
Lille: This is our coming out as a pop-band moment.
Eline: We talked about this and weren’t sure if we could really just call ourselves pop!
Gøril: But pop is just popular music. So it means we can be whatever we want to be.
Speaking about the name of the band, who was it that came up with the name I See Rivers?
Lille: We all did together. It was such a difficult thing. We sat for hours at the time.
Gøril: We had a few alternatives. Fabel, but it didn’t really work in English. Lavvo, which is a sort of tepee tent in Norway, but that also didn’t really work.
Eline: I don’t remember this!
Gøril: We played around with “I See/Icy” a lot being from Norway, and someone suggested I See Rivers and we loved it so it stuck!
You’ve been in the studio this week working on some new material. What can we expect from ISR in 2019?
Lille: Some pop music! We’ve been working with Alec Brits and Emilie Krogh Johannessen at a studio in Norway. Alec owns a studio in Liverpool called The Cabin and he mixed our last EP (‘Play It Cool’). He’s a really good friend of ours so it was great to spend time in a new studio with him this week. It’s actually our first time recording in Norway!
Lille: We hope there will be an album out in 2019, which will be all brand new material.
Eline: We haven’t decided on how many songs yet, because we’re still writing, but it’s so exciting to talk about, although it definitely won’t be out before March.
Gøril: There’ll be a new single out soon too, but we don’t know exactly when
Lille: We are also playing at Focus Wales in May which we can’t wait for. We’ve been part of the BBC Horizons sessions recently which we were chosen for and it’s been amazing. But we’re trying to keep at least until the Spring quite free to focus on the album.
How do you approach writing together? And what are the best and worst parts of being a trio?
Lille: We’re all songwriters and it’s such a fun, creative thing to be three songwriters, because there’s always a new recipe to how we write the songs. In the past, for example, Gøril would have a whole song idea and we’d write it together, or Eline had an idea for a chorus which we built on, but now we’re learning how to bring all of our ideas together in the studio.
Gøril: When we lived together, we had loads of sessions where all three of us sat down and wrote the whole song, which is what happened with ‘I Don’t Know’.
Eline: Most of the time now we each bring a little something to a song and work on it together.
Lille: Everything is a lot more fun as a trio
Gøril: And a lot less scary!
Lille: It makes everything three times as big. If I mess things up, it doesn’t matter so much!
Eline: It also makes it a lot more fun!
Lille: The other side of the coin is that we have to make sure everyone is happy. Which can be challenging. But it makes it a democracy, which is good.
Gøril: I can’t really say any bad or difficult things about performing as a trio, everything is positive!
Eline: We tend to be on the same page with stuff musically most of the time too. If we do disagree, it’s about small things, like how a certain drumbeat sounds.
You’ve received a lot of comments about how much fun you seem to be having when you perform live. What’s the secret behind that?
Lille: There’s no secret really. It’s just because we love what we do.
Gøril: We’re lucky that we are really good friends as well and we work well together on the stage.
Eline: We’ve been playing together for a while now so we kind of know what each other is going to do and that helps. But really we just feel incredibly happy to be able to write music and then play it for other people!
You’ve toured previously with Newton Faulkner and Cosmo Sheldrake. How did that come about?
Gøril: We played the same show as Newton at a Sofar Sounds event and he did the most amazing acoustic set with his brother. We were both doing a Sofar Sounds show together the next night too, so he asked us to do some backing vocals for him.
Eline: It was so embarrassing. We sung on one of his hits and everyone in the audience knew the words and we got it wrong. So when we got an email from Newton, we thought he was going to say we’d done a bad job. But he asked us to come on tour with him!
Lille: Both the Newton Faulkner and Cosmo Sheldrake tours involved big scale venues and some of them were so incredibly beautiful. Like Dublin and Manchester.
Gøril: The show at The Albert Hall in Manchester was the first show of one of the tours and it was so scary, but so pretty.
Eline: We played Village Underground and EARTH in London with Cosmo, both of which were crazy and really fun!
Lille: Such a surreal experience at EARTH, because it’s a massive place, like an auditorium, with the audience above you. It was just really fun.
Which artist would you choose to tour or perform with the tomorrow if you could?
Together: Sufjan Stevens!
Gøril: We keep mentioning him in interviews in the hope that he will see this and call us!
Eline: Sufjan, where are you?!
What do you all listen to when you’re travelling for these tours?
Eline: Sufjan Stevens!
Gøril: We can only play CD’s in the car, so the plan was to make a mix-CD for each tour, but we keep forgetting. So we have this one that we play over and over again, which has a lot of good pop songs on. For when you get tired and need songs to sing along to. There’s lots of Sigrid and some Neiked. Lots of Scandinavian artists.
Lille: Lots of Fleet Foxes too. They can also call us if they want to!
Eline: Susanne Sundfør is obviously an incredible performer and she has an air of ‘something out of this world’ about her. We always enjoy listening to her.
If I See Rivers wasn’t a thing, what would you all be doing?
Lille: I would work with animals. I would want to be a Norwegian Steve Irwin. There must be a market for that. “Look at this little Moose, isn’t she amazing!”
Eline: I would probably still be in the music industry. It would be cool to be a booking agent, going to gigs and working with interesting people.
Gøril: I have spent a lot of time at sea, working on boats and I love doing it, because it’s completely different. It’s still a dream of mine to be a fisherwoman in the winter.
Lille: You should tell the story about the time you caught that humungous fish!
Gøril: I started working on a new boat and didn’t know anyone and there was one man who’d caught a huge flat-fish and they called him the flat-fish king. Sometimes as a girl at sea you don’t get all the respect you deserve and I was joking and told him “that’s not a big fish, I’m going to catch a bigger one”. I didn’t even have a fishing rod so I used a net to catch a small fish, then made a fishing line myself and used the small fish as bait. After one or two minutes I thought the line was stuck, but I started pulling and it was a huge flat-fish. We got it to shore and it weighed 46kg. So now I’m known as the flat-fish queen.
Lille: We also knit lots of our own merchandise so we could always spend our time being professional knitters too.
Finally, can you recommend three Norwegian artists to look out for in 2019?
Lille: Einar Stray. He was played on P3’s ‘Urørt’ (Untouched) (http://urort.p3.no/#!/) and the first time I heard it I thought “whoa, you can really make music like this!? It’s crazy!”. And he doesn’t play much in Norway, but there’s something about his music that pushes it in a direction that other people in Norway don’t do. He’s very creative – it’s like folk songs, but with the arrangements it sort of turns in to something else.
Eline: Ingrid Frøsland (Come Back – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmBjXKecRYc). We met her in Liverpool and she is the most beautiful human being and we hope she’ll release some new music in 2019. Definitely one to watch out for.
Gøril: I’m going to go with Pom Poko. I haven’t seen them live yet but I really want to – I’ve listened to all their stuff and watched a load of their videos.
Firmly on our radar as one’s to watch in 2019, keep an eye out for I See Rivers’ debut album in 2019 and if you’re in the mood for some music which is all about fun, you know who to turn to!
Top photo: Jodie Canwell.