Pom Poko are a four-piece punk band from Norway who released their critically acclaimed second album Cheater last week. As a huge fan of their music since their debut album Birthday in 2019, it was a privilege to chat to their bassist Jonas Krøvel about Cheater, the writing process and the year ahead. (Photo: Jenny Berger Myhre)
TCOS: I’ll start with the start! The opening track ‘Cheater’ is an incredible composition that takes extraordinary twists and turns – was the writing process a combination of multiple ideas or a more improvised approach?
JK: ‘Cheater’ was made quite spontaneously, if my memory is correct. The first bars of drums, guitar and bass came together quickly and never really changed throughout the writing process, so the foundations were laid early. No specific idea sparked this song, we were just playing together, had a break, then made this out of nothing really, though I suspect maybe we wanted to make something Autobahn-like at the time – quite straight forward and constantly strolling. The bass part with the loud harmonics pattern was initially played throughout all of the verses, but we found the song lacked some low frequencies. The ‘normal’ bass playing in the verses was actually made minutes before recording them.
On a broader note, how did the album develop over the writing and recording period and which artists influenced the sounds on Cheater?
The first writing period was in February 2019, right around the time Birthday was released. We spent two weeks in Italy, first writing music, then trying to record what we had. Our studio engineer and producer Marcus Forsgren was with in the time we were recording. In Italy we recorded and wrote ‘Like a Lady’ and ‘Baroque Denial’, while the beginnings of ‘Danger Baby’ (called ‘Via Saracco’ at first, named after the street we lived in) and ‘Body Level’ were made, but not finished.
After Italy we played a lot of concerts, so writing didn’t resume until 2020, during the coronavirus lockdown. The rest of the songs were written during three or four weekends in April and May, before recording them shortly afterwards. In 2020 we played a massive amount of shows and had built a lot of energy and lust to make some new material. We were just really open as to what this new material should be, and maybe anxious to see if we were at all able to make something new. I think that the long pause from writing made a song like ‘Andrew’ possible, in that we were more aware of what kind of energy we possessed and which we didn’t really possess yet.
Artists that influenced all of us? Couldn’t say, but our songwriting is heavily influenced by what we listen to at the time of writing. I can name-drop Weather Report, Valkyrien Allstars, The Breeders and Skadedyr for myself.
You’ve recently announced new European and UK tour dates – how does it feel to have live shows on the horizon again?
For the time being the situation still feels volatile, maybe even for September shows, and it feels like we’re always planning with backup plans. But still, it’s beautiful. Ragnhild (vocals) said she started crying the other day because she missed playing live so much.
‘My Candidacy’ promises to be huge a song when you return to playing live – which tracks are you most looking forward to playing?
‘My Candidacy’ will be really fun! To be honest I’m also wondering how ‘Andy Go To School’ will pan out, since it’s so to-and-fro.
Cheater was delayed by a few months due to the pandemic – how have you and the band passed the time when you haven’t been recording or promoting the album?
After we finished recording, mixing and mastering the album last July we actually played one show in Oslo in August, when regulations were easy and a maximum of 200 people were allowed to go to shows as long as they were sitting. That was strange, but rewarding.
As there were no festivals that summer we all had a lot of time to do whatever we liked. I mostly rock-climbed. It was strange for us to not meet at least every week/two weeks, so I actually don’t really know what the others were doing then. Ola and I drove to the north of Norway together, but spent time at different places up there. The autumn was spent in school for Ragnhild and I, while Ola and Martin were working as a drum teacher/encyclopedia editor and a music education literature writer, respectively. We also met on several weekends to write new music, and even a kind of cover song/ballad, maybe inspired by Deerhoof’s cover album from last year Love-Lore.
Which artists do you recommend readers be on the look-out for in the coming months?
I’m hoping Black Midi will have something out at some point soon. And Penelope Isles! I’m looking forward to seeing them, maybe this year even! I should also mention some Norwegian artists, although they’ll be very obscure. A long-time friend called Magnus Skaug is releasing some innovative and counter-intuitive music soon, and Pom Poko’s guitar player Martin has recorded and mixed it! Should be released digitally when the time comes.
And finally, your promotional talk show (available until the 27th) was one of the most wonderfully surreal viewing experiences ever – who decided that you should be interviewed by a giant silver worm-man?
Thank you! You should also thank the director, Marin Håskjold, and the man inside the silver worm, Herman Breda Enkerud, more than us. They were largely behind most of the ideas for that one, and Herman made the costume himself. The costume, Lucile, actually appeared on-stage at one of our shows in 2019.
A huge thanks to Jonas for taking time to answer my questions! Pom Poko are made up of, from left to right (and excluding Lucile), Martin Tonne on guitar, Ragnhild Jamtveit on vocals, Ola Djupvik on drums and Jonas Krøvel on bass. Cheater is out now on all streaming platforms, CD and vinyl from Bella Union. It’s a riot.
UK tour dates:
16/09 – Brighton – Chalk
17/09 – Nottingham – Metronome
18/09 – Hebden Bridge – Trades Club
20/09 – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
22/09 – Manchester – Academy 3
23/09 – Newcastle – Head Of Steam
25/09 – Edinburgh – Mash House
26/09 – Glasgow – Stereo
27/09 – Birmingham – Hare & Hounds
28/09 – Southampton – The Loft