Konvent – Eternal Hunt for HappinessThursday, 10th March 2022
Establishing themselves quickly for a potent brand of death/doom, Danish quartet Konvent put out a debut album in Puritan Masochism that made fans and critics appeased as a favorite of 2020. Although the ability to support the record in a live setting was quickly shut down due to COVID-19, these ladies went back into rehearsal/songwriting mode and cooked up the follow-up record for Call Down the Sun. Choosing to broaden their sonic landscape with more blackened elements beyond their established style, the record resonates for those who love atmosphere, heaviness, and purity in terms of raw emotion channeled into cohesive songs.
We reached out to vocalist Rikke Emilie List who was happy to discuss the development of the band for this new record, the production expertise of Lasse Ballade and how he aids the band, insights behind the videos for the album, thoughts on her vocal technique/development, the diversity of the Danish metal scene, plus talk of the first Konvent baby coming into the world soon.
Dead Rhetoric: Call Down the Sun is the second album for Konvent. Beyond the circumstances of the pandemic shutting down live gig/touring opportunities, how would you assess the development of the band on this release compared to your Puritan Masochism debut two years ago?
Rikke Emilie List: When we started writing the songs for this album, we all agreed that we really wanted to challenge ourselves a little more on this release. We were really happy with Puritan Masochism, but we wanted the next album we had to be able to challenge ourselves and hear it when we were done. And I think that we’ve succeeded with that. We’ve added some more elements to some of the songs – like the production, stuff like that. I hope that people that have heard Puritan Masochism can hear that we’ve developed when they listen to the new album.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you also discuss your producer Lasse and what he brings to the table to make things even stronger for Konvent and these albums?
List: When we recorded the first album at Ballade Studios, we just really got Lasse and he opened our eyes to sort of what we can do at a studio. He has a great ear for music, and sound in general. He is really a sound nerd, so we feel completely safe with him, and we know he is going to make the (material) sound really, really great. There is a red thread throughout the sound on the album. He also has a lot of really great ideas, things we don’t even think about, when we go into the studio, so he is definitely worth every penny.
Dead Rhetoric: The combination of doom, death, and black metal that the band integrates – would you say it’s important to use these varied influences to approach the songs with an openness to achieve the best results, focusing on the atmosphere based on the needs of each arrangement?
List: I think for this album, we wanted to incorporate some more black metal elements. We wanted to incorporate even more black metal, if we had the skill to play that fast, but not yet. Maybe on the next record. We definitely feel that the mood of the songs is very important. I don’t mind if it becomes a bit creepy, sometimes.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe your vocal and lyrical approach within Konvent? How much training and effort goes into achieving the mixture of growls and screams you achieve?
List: The way I want to do my vocals is this mix between a very deep growl and the black metal scream, high pitch vocal. I would love to be able to do more, like mid-range stuff. I feel like that’s something that I have on my to-do list. It’s funny because every time I talk to other vocalists and ask them about their technique and their approach, I always get a different answer. Very different things work for very different people. What works for me, I try to relax as much as possible and try to create space in my throat. And then the sound can resonate and become really deep. That sort of works for me.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the lyrical content for the band?
List: When we first started writing the album, Sara, she came up with the theme. She asked if we could make the album a bit about that, she wanted to write about the eternal hunt for happiness, and where people are not 100% really happy, you have to chase something all the time. We thought that was a good idea, so that was the starting point of the songwriting with that in mind. Of course, Heidi and I came up with some ideas, we just tried to approach this theme from different angles. And maybe try to incorporate some of our own personal experiences into this, without it being too obvious. I like to write in metaphors, imagery, stuff like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Mads Berg handled the cover art for Call Down the Sun. Can you fill us in on the abstract, black and white piece that properly frames the varied textures that the listeners can expect when taking in the songs? How did the process evolve from initial idea(s) to the final design?
List: Yes. Our designer Mads Berg, we have been working with him since Puritan Masochism. We just invited him out into our rehearsal space one day, and we gave him a rundown of the songs, the lyrics, we sent the lyrics to him so he could read them at home. We had a brainstorm, the themes about the style we wanted. We wanted it to resemble the Puritan Masochism cover, which we all really liked. It’s the same style, the same simplicity. I feel that even though it’s a very simple cover, you can still look at it for a long time and create your own stories in your head while listening to the songs.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve shot videos for “Grains” and “Pipe Dreams” – the former more of a conceptual piece, while the latter capturing more of the band in performance mode. How do you feel these video shoots went, any special moments you’d like to share, and where do you see the importance of video work to broadening the promotion and appeal of the band, especially in these internet/ social media driven times?
List: It was quite funny. When we were planning the video for “Grains” it was supposed to be a completely different video at the outdoor shooting last fall with the producer Martin Goltermann. We shot some outdoor scenes, it was really windy, it was really cold, but it wasn’t snowing. We spent an entire day by the beach, in the forest, and then we wanted to do a crossover between our drummer Julie who is walking around in the video and then myself singing lying in a pile of sand. Because the song is called “Grains” and one of the themes in the songs is sand. When Martin was editing the footage, he sent us some test shots. We didn’t really feel like it worked that well, the initial idea wasn’t that good. He went out for another day, and over the night it had snowed. We got these beautiful shots of this frozen landscape, and the snow, they went down to the water again. Poor Julie was just walking around in a dress, in the cold, for an entire day. She really sacrificed herself for this video. We are so happy with the result now; I feel the video is so beautiful. I feel that you can just lean back and take in the beautiful shots, the mood of the video.
For “Pipe Dreams”, as you said it’s more of a performance video. The energy of that song is completely different, it’s much more in your face. We wanted to find a cool location, playing the song, but not sort of performing for the camera. That was in the winter, we were in this giant, old water tower, and it was absolutely freezing. We spent the entire day there, and it’s funny because Sara our guitarist at that point was eight months pregnant, and you can’t see that at all in the video (laughs). She did a killer job, freezing while being pregnant and tired, aching. I feel like the two videos have great results, but also (are) very different.
We have been talking about this. I don’t know how many people sit down and watch music videos, as opposed to the 80’s and 90’s when you had MTV. For us as a band, it’s fun to have these videos and another way for us to experience our music in a different way and having a different artistic approach to the same song. It’s an achievement, it takes a lot of planning and a great director to create something cool. I look at our videos and this is a cool achievement to have as a band.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Konvent when it comes to live shows and what you want the fans to absorb versus the records? Do you have a preference for one aspect or the other – or do both equally captivate you?
List: We are actually currently trying to sort of jazz up our live show (laughs). I want to incorporate some extra props and stuff without it being too circus-y. I feel like, for me personally, it’s great to come out there and perform. It gives you a kick. It’s a good reminder to yourself as a musician or an artist that playing live is a great experience, and it’s a challenge. You need to be prepared, you need to be ready and focused. Of course, playing in a doom metal/ death metal band, it can be a little bit of a challenge as a lead singer, because if you play thrash or quick grind core, or tech death, you can always head bang. When you are in a doom band and the pace is slower, it can feel a bit awkward to stand there on the stage. I often don’t know where to put my hands, where to look. You learn as you go along. Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge to feel like you are entertaining people, live. I definitely enjoy playing live with the others from the band. Playing your music in front of people who hear it, meeting people who want to hear your music, that’s great.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe that’s where some of your background work in drama comes into play as far as stage presence and comfort level?
List: Yeah, definitely. Sort of playing with where to focus my energy. When you are on stage, you can be very introverted into yourself on stage, but you can be big on stage and reach down to the person in the back. Playing with that diversity is really fun, and hopefully that gives something to the balance and the dynamics when people watch us on stage.
Dead Rhetoric: You got the bug to become a singer through the work of fellow Danish act Illdisposed after seeing them live. What made the biggest impression about their work, and have you had the chance to meet or talk to members of the band about their inspiration for you to become a metal vocalist?
List: I went to a lot of their shows about ten years ago. I have talked to the guys plenty of times, mainly over a beer (laughs). I never talked to them about their impact on me becoming a singer. That was many years after. Their guitarist Jakob Batten, he helped us a little with one of the sound clips we used on our demo, many years ago. We owe him a thanks, he helped us out with the files and stuff like that.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the Danish metal scene? Are you impressed with the diversity in terms of bands and styles?
List: Yes, absolutely. I feel like the metal bands, the Danish bands, are kicking ass. We are seeing a lot of bands who aren’t afraid of taking chances, afraid of playing around with various genres, and just doing it 100%. Really having ambition and aiming for the stars. That’s such a great inspiration. I feel like the Danish metal scene is so interesting these days.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges Konvent currently faces at this point in your career?
List: Well, we all have full-time jobs. That can be a challenge for the band. We need income to pay our producer, pay for the records we are going to print, pay for the tour buses, stuff like that. Also, right now the coronavirus has been a huge challenge when it comes to getting out there and playing live. That’s been the main challenge these past two years at least. I don’t know if doom metal really sells that much. We would love to tour all around the world, but we have been wanting to do that for many years. I think people need to give us a second chance.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a degree in English communications and also are fluent in multiple languages. How have these skills helped you when it comes to your career and musical aspirations?
List: I don’t know if my education has an effect. I went down that path because I have a huge interest in languages and writing and learning about languages. English has always been a great interest of mine, so it’s natural that I ended up writing English lyrics in a band.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the band chemistry between the four of you? Do you share any interests outside of the music you work on?
List: I feel like when we hang out outside of our own music, it’s when we go to concerts. I went with Heidi to see a spoken word talk a few years ago, that was fun to go out and do something completely different. We mostly meet up though when it has something to do with music. Oh, I went out to have dinner with Julie the other day. We don’t really end up hanging out very much if it doesn’t have to do with music.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve months shaping up for Konvent when it comes to touring, festival appearances, and other activities?
List: Sara is about to become a mom, so that is the first Konvent baby. It will be interesting to see how much she can do after that. Her boyfriend plays in a band as well so they both know how important it is to each other to have time off and play with the band, obviously. I have my hopes up, things will be fine. All around the world, venues are opening up, festivals are opening up, we are going to get more out there within the next couple of years.