Konvent – The Crushing Weight of DoomThursday, 9th January 2020
Konvent may be a recent start-up (their only previous work is that of a 2017 demo), but based on the magnitude of their upcoming full-length debut, Puritan Masochism, it isn’t going to take long for the word to spread about their massively heavy approach. A sound that oozes with doomy weight, but maintains a bit of death metal aggression to go along with it is something that many should find quite palatable in the extreme community. To prepare for the audio onslaught, we caught up with all four members of the band on Skype at the tailend of 2019 to get the low-down on the band’s origins, their upcoming release on Napalm Records (PRE-ORDER HERE), and some of their inspirations.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you best describe the sound of Konvent?
Sara Helena Nørregaard: Heavy, slow, and a simple formula with a twist.
Heidi Withington Brink: We don’t use a lot of really expensive gear. We have the tuner, and on the bass I have a big muff pedal and that’s my sound. It’s very coincidental, the sound that we ended up with. It’s very raw, and that was incredibly important when we recorded the album. We wanted it to sound raw, like the demo. We didn’t want it to sound like, “oh we are on a big label now and have to appeal to the masses.”
Dead Rhetoric: As your first release, what do you want people to take away from hearing Puritan Masochism?
Sara Helena Nørregaard: Basically, we do music because we like to do it, and we like the sound of what we do. But of course, it’s great if other people like it.
Heidi Withington Brink: When Sara and I start making the riffs for the songs, sometimes there’s a feeling with the song you are making – what kind of feeling are you putting into the song, and what feeling do you want the listeners to get and hear from it. That’s something that we’ve been talking a lot about lately. The lyrics that Rikke [Emilie List] makes afterwards are often also in a specific theme or mood. I would really like people to listen to it and get their own feelings listening to the music and their own meaning of the songs.
Rikke Emilie List: Hopefully it’s music where there’s nothing forced on the listener. We don’t like to go into too much detail with the lyrics, because we value the listener being able to create their own stories and images in their heads. Hopefully they will hear the record and they will go, “Oh, I need to see these girls live” [laughs]!
Sara Helena Nørregaard: And buy a t-shirt [laughs]!
Dead Rhetoric: I really like the cover with that minimalist feel and stark contrast to it. Is there any meaning behind the cover art itself? Was there something you were trying to convey?
Rikke Emilie List: Our album isn’t a concept album, but if you were to put a theme on it, or around the lyrics of the songs it would basically be losing control over your life. Our designer, Mads Berg, took the theme and lyrics and read them all. The first vision he had was water. So there’s a big whirlpool in the middle of the cover and the water fall is there, which was a natural element that you can’t control. Those were his thoughts on the design.
Heidi Withington Brink: We all really liked that. He first came up with another version of the waterfall that was pretty similar but it was more detailed and finer in the lines of the waterfall. He wasn’t really sure if it was simplistic enough, and so he came up with another one. We were really in doubt about which way to go, but we ended up going with the more minimalistic version because it fit more to the music.
Dead Rhetoric: As the first taste of the band for most people, what do you feel stands out about the track/video for “Puritan Masochism?”
Rikke Emilie List: Lyric-wise, it’s about how everyone has a tendency to do things, or thinking things that actually hurt us, but we keep thinking/doing those things because we feel we have to – in order to fit into something or to live up to some imagined expectations. It’s sort of our way to say that we don’t have to live like that. Maybe try to recognize try those things, because you are always on autopilot. We hope that people, if they read the lyrics, will say things like, “Oh yeah, I keep comparing myself to my sister” or something like that. And that they should stop doing that, because it’s not bringing them to a happy place in their life. But it’s not an easy thing to do, because we always do it. Hopefully when they see the video, they will say that these girls know what they are doing, or they seem cool live, so we should go see them live.
Dead Rhetoric: I hate to even bring this one up, but I was really impressed when I looked through the comments on the video. I didn’t see any of the typical comments I expected – there was another all-female band that people were laying into in the comment section. But there wasn’t anything like that on your video.
Rikke Emilie List: We were too. YouTube comments are the worst [laughs].
Heidi Withington Brink: I’m not trying to say anything bad about women who do this, but I think we try in our appearance to be overly feminine, with boobs everywhere and short skirts/leather. We try to focus on the music and have neutral clothes on. As women playing together, I think it’s very easy to get those comments based on their looks. The women who do that should do whatever they want to with that, but we just do what we want to.
Rikke Emilie List: If one of you showed up with a bikini top and a short skirt, and you wanted to go on stage, I wouldn’t say “No, you shouldn’t do that – you should cover up or people will get the wrong idea.” I think our approach in the band has been that people can wear whatever they want on stage. If you want a hoodie and baggie jeans, that’s fine. If you want to wear heels and a corset [laughter], that’s fine as well.
Heidi Withington Brink: But mostly we’ve seen eye-to-eye on what to wear.
Dead Rhetoric: You had a demo two years ago – how did you get hooked up with Napalm Records after that?
Heidi Withington Brink: Last year , in January we played in a festival in Copenhagen called Copenhell Freezes Over, which is the big festival in Denmark. It’s a one-day, networking type of festival where they invite a lot of business people from around Europe to see the newest in the Danish metal underground. A guy from Napalm Records was there, and right after our show he came out backstage and wanted to offer us a deal with Napalm Events, which is a booking deal and said he could probably get us a record deal as well.
Sara Helena Nørregaard: He also told us that we were quite boring on stage [laughter].
Rikke Emilie List: He was very honest with us, we liked that about him.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the mission statement of Konvent?
Sara Helena Nørregaard: Of course you always want your music to be loved by other people. But our mission statement is just to play music and have fun with it.
Julie Simonsen: If it’s fun we keep going, if it’s not fun we stop. That’s basically it.
Rikke Emilie List: I don’t think we’ve ever had a discussion or a conversation about what our statement should be. I think we have just been doing it.
Heidi Withington Brink: I don’t really think we need it – this is going to sound stuck up, but that’s not what I want it to be. But playing the type of music that we do, and being four girls coincidentally seems to be a statement in and of itself. Oftentimes, I see comments or I hear people saying how nice it is to see four girls playing music and just being focused on that. Having growled vocals and no clean vocals – having someone say to us, “My daughter listened to your music and she likes it so much,” that’s just the best thing ever! That’s really big when I hear that.
Rikke Emilie List: It’s not really a statement though, that we think about – we just go on stage and play and people just see it as a statement because we are women, and they aren’t used to seeing that I think.
Heidi Withington Brink: Especially in Denmark. That’s not really normal here.
Dead Rhetoric: What drew you all towards this doomy/death metal sound to begin with?
Rikke Emilie List: Also coincidence [laughter]! When we started the band, we knew we wanted to play some heavier stuff. But we never sat down and said, “We are going to be a thrash metal band, or death metal band.” Sara and Heidi just brought the riffs that they had been working on, and our former drummer just put some drums to it, and we agreed that I should do the death metal vocals, and it evolved from there. When people started asking for a genre, we were quite confused ourselves. We didn’t know what we were playing, we were just playing it [laughs]. Still to this day, we call it doom/death, but it could be anything. It’s ‘whatever’ music [laughter].
Dead Rhetoric: Heidi, what can you say about your involvement with the She Can Play organization?
Heidi Withington Brink: It’s an organization made from three women in the music business here in Copenhagen that thought that there weren’t enough platforms for young women to start playing music and to be helped. So She Can Play was started to get more young girls playing music, and then they just started something new called She Can Manage, which is for young, future women in the music business and I was one of five women who were chosen to be a part of that. We get school in A&R and publishing, PR, music law, and stuff like that. We meet up every month to talk and learn about those things.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you found that helpful in applying it to Konvent?
Heidi Withington Brink: Yes, definitely. But the thing is, the two times I’ve been there I’ve mentioned the band a couple times and they would respond like, “What? You did that? Or didn’t get that?” So I was like, “Oh my god, we should have asked for more. Or we should have done this or that.” But they are also working on a higher level. They are working with really big music stars. It’s very commercial as well, so it’s sometimes hard to apply to the band, as the metal community is something different.
Dead Rhetoric: Rikke, did you get any sort of lessons in regards to your vocals? They are super low, regardless of gender.
Rikke Emilie List: Thank you – I did start taking metal vocal lessons with a guy here in Copenhagen who used to be a lead singer in a Danish hardcore/metal band. He was giving lessons and I had been very fascinated by the technique for a long time. I couldn’t get my mind around how you could do that with your body without hurting yourself and having to do it every day for maybe months in a row. I was so curious about the technique so I started to take lessons with him. It was about six months before I was asked to join the band. So it was never with the goal of joining/creating a band, it was for my own curiosity and to figure out what goes on in your body to make those inhuman sounds.
I also took some speaking lessons from a woman who used to be a punk singer in the ‘80s here in Copenhagen. I thought it would be really stupid of me to just damage my voice by speaking – I needed to start really taking care of it. Those classes really helped a lot too – even in using your voice in an extreme way, even if we were just talking. Then I also used the Melissa Cross warmups, like everyone else, before rehearsing or playing.
Dead Rhetoric: I wasn’t going to ask since it’s kind of a clichéd question, but as it keeps kind of coming up – how did all of you get together as a band?
Heidi Withington Brink: Back in 2015, I really wanted to start a band and none of the guys I knew wanted to start anything with me. Probably because I didn’t know how to play anything [laughter]. Incidentally, my roommate at the time was giving drum lessons to a girl that I sort of knew in a distant way. That was our former drummer, Mette [Marie List], and because we were on the same level – like newbies, we fit really well. She knew Sara, who had been playing guitar. Rikke was our former drummer’s sister, so Mette knew Rikke had been taking vocal lessons. That’s how we sort of got together. There was never any ‘let’s do an all-girl metal band’ thing. It’s just that the people we knew who were around the same level and wanted to do it where girls. So we got together in a rehearsal space and started jamming “Seven Nation Army” and that’s how it all begin [laughter], because we couldn’t play anything else at the time.
Rikke Emilie List: We had a couple of beers and we decided to do it.
Dead Rhetoric: What are three albums that impacted you in becoming a musician?
Julie Simonsen: It’s a tough question – for me, I really like the Deftones, Tool, Black Sabbath. Of course, Guns & Roses.
Heidi Withington Brink: Maybe we should choose an album each?
Rikke Emilie List: I’m thinking about three vocalists in my case – I feel like every time I saw bands onstage, you would always get wrapped up in it. Not necessarily that you wanted to be up on stage, but the vibe of being in a band was appealing. I think every band I ever saw live [laughs].
Heidi Withington Brink: I remember the very first band I saw live – I was very young. I went with my sister to see The Darkness [laughter – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” sung in background]. In the music videos, they had such good time together, and live they were really good too. I was just getting into rock, and it was so appealing to me to be in a band and just have a blast. Just play music and have fun together.
Rikke Emilie List: I think one of the most important albums for me was Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers. When it was released, I was like 12 and completely wrapped up in the whole Spice Girls thing at the time. I was the right age, and all of my girlfriends at school were superfans. But Red Hot Chili Peppers released that album and it was played all over the radio. I thought it was really good music and it gave me the butterflies. I couldn’t wait to get that album. I played it nonstop in my room. I liked all of the songs on the album. I didn’t want to skip a single song. So then I started listening to heavier and heavier stuff. There’s a lot of metalheads who really hate them, but they have a special place in my heart even if they totally disappointed live.
Sara Helena Nørregaard: It Nirvana for me, because it was easy to play when I first got guitar. There were easy songs and it sounded great. Nevermind – maybe that one.
Heidi Withington Brink: The metal people are going to be so disappointed. [laughter]
Dead Rhetoric: Actually, Red Hot Chili Peppers were a band I started listening to on the way to metal myself.
Rikke Emilie List: It was a gateway drug [laughs].
Sara Helena Nørregaard: The opening act [laughs].
Rikke Emilie List: But I think my favorite album of all time is definitely The Anthropocene Extinction by Cattle Decapitation.
Sara Helena Nørregaard: Of course, of course! She likes everything by Cattle Decapitation [laughs]!
Rikke Emilie List: My favorite band! I’m actually into a lot of technical death metal. Doom is okay but it’s not my favorite genre.
Heidi Withington Brink: She plays in the wrong band, we tried telling her [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: The idea of having fun together on stage, is that something similar to to how you want Konvent to work?
Sara Helena Nørregaard: Yeah, it is. But I think it’s a process too, to come to the point where you can just enjoy ourselves. Of course we are happy on stage, but earlier, I don’t know if it’s proof that we could do it, but you are more occupied with doing a good job. Later on, now it has become more and more enjoyable. At the beginning, it was fun but we were very nervous on stage. Now we tend to enjoy it more.
Rikke Emilie List: It’s hard not to feel a certain sense of pressure. You need to learn to let go and get loose on stage – to be able to improvise. We actually had a gig in Germany a few weeks ago, and there were maybe 5-6 people there when we started. I think that really made me relax. There was no pressure, and it was like a tiny group of friends. I wasn’t disappointed that there weren’t more people, I just wanted to make the most of it and really connect with the people who showed up. I felt more loose on stage and walking around the audience. I can’t really do that with a packed venue.
Heidi Withington Brink: But I think the thing about having fun as a band is that have talked a lot. Since getting the record deal and booking deal – it’s a lot of work. When you are trying to grow as a band and get bigger, you still have to focus on spending some quality time with the band. You aren’t just meeting because you have to do something like rehearse. But try to meet up because you are still these four friends also, besides the music. That’s something we are more aware of. We just had a Christmas lunch party on Saturday with the four of us and it was really good. We got to get drunk, scream to some really bad music, and have fun without doing a bunch of band stuff.
Rikke Emilie List: We’ve really figured out that we need to priority those times as well – even if we are busy and don’t think we have the time. We have to make time. That’s important.
Heidi Withington Brink: You are basically married to three women in a band.
Rikke Emilie List: We are each other’s wives [laughter].
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for Konvent in 2020?
Sara Helena Nørregaard: We have our debut album tour, and we are going to a lot of places throughout Europe. We just announced for a UK festival in November, and also two festivals for the summer.
Heidi Withington Brink: One called Gefle Metal Festival in Sweden, which is really cool. Then two days later in South Germany there is an open air festival. We are hoping to maybe get some more shows in the fall. Perhaps a small tour.
Rikke Emilie List: Maybe around the UK or Belgium. Places that we haven’t been before, that would be cool.
Heidi Withington Brink: Or France, or 70,000 Tons of Metal [cheering].
Rikke Emilie List: We are kind of hoping one band will cancel and we will get booked for that.
Sara Helena Nørregaard: We want to be in that hot tub [laughter]! Make it happen!
Rikke Emilie List: We have also started to write songs for the next album, so there’s a lot of concerts and maybe a second album.
Heidi Withington Brink: There was quite a long time between the demo and the album. There will be three years in between, so we are hoping to move faster for the next one.
Rikke Emilie List: But you never know. We don’t want to compromise on the quality of the music to get an album out. But it would be nice to have something out before three years.
Sara Helena Nørregaard: When we finished recording the album, I think all of us wanted to write even more material. So we are getting that creative vibe going.