Having embarked on this musical journey from one of the northernmost points of Norway, there is no going back now for the Kid Exodus bandwagon.
The last call rings out for the next departure from London to Oslo. As the crowds of people disperse, one soul remains still standing looking out on to the runway deep in thought and pondering the next move in this game of life. The burden of expectation from others has become overpowering and it is time for this kid to take flight and pursue his own destiny. That was then this is now.
Fresh from recent success with Norway’s Bylarm, Kid Exodus, consisting of Peter Estdahl, Benjamin Mørk, Kristian Olstad, Christoffer Stangness and Norvald Nikolaisen, is steadily beginning to turn heads with their intriguing live sets and recent EP ‘Northern Lights’. The ingenious artwork alone adorning this EP is enough to take note of this band of assorted characters from one of the northernmost parts of the country, Tromsø. Such is the extremity of the changing climate that during winter months people have to endure lights out moments of complete darkness only to be broken with the welcome relief of spring and almost 24 hours of glorious light, bringing to mind Al Pacino’s portrayal of a man deprived of sleep during ‘Insomnia’. Therefore, it takes a courageous soul to permanently reside in such a climate when the pendulum swings from light to dark and back again. Lykke til!
“Norway has a special kind of sound and way of thinking in terms of musicians and artists and Tromsø is definitely a part of sculpting that sound or colour. It is a harsh environment in terms of nature to grow up in, as winter is really long with several months of total darkness,” comments Benjamin Mørk regarding the band’s reaction to the harshness of Tromsø during winter.
There is the saving grace of the northern lights, however, to offer some hope during the harshness of those winter months as Kid Exodus acknowledge.
“In a way, that’s the title for the whole EP, with the northern lights being a metaphor for it,” explains Peter Estdahl. “You have the darkest place on the planet for several months as it’s cold and there’s snow and it’s windy and really rough by the sea. But still, you have this fantastic phenomenon the northern lights that only occur in these particular places in the world. So you have to live through all that…I’m not going to say misery, but still that harsh environment to get to see one of the most spectacular things our planet has to offer.”
No doubt the northern lights is a sight to behold, but Famous Last Words (FLW) is quite content to remain in the slightly warmer surroundings of Oslo and enjoy the first fruits of creativity from Kid Exodus with’ ‘Northern Lights’. An accomplished piece of work containing strands of electronic pop ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Are We Apart’ to the more acoustically driven ‘Brother’, ‘Northern Lights’ EP is an accomplished body of work considering Kid Exodus admittedly acknowledge that they are still searching for a sound which defines them.
“I think we need a couple of EPs to found out for ourselves what’s our sound because we had massively different musical backgrounds and I’m not going to say the EP sounds schizophrenic but you can hear it’s really far between the extremes,” comments Peter regarding the songs various influences. “I think on the next EP, we will try to boil things down to making a more distinct sound. Ideally, you should be able to listen to a song for five seconds and you should know who it is, but we’re not going to narrow it down as we will still try to find some core elements that makes that music sound particularly like that music. Also, it allows us to give something to people and something to the fans but still not bringing out the big guns yet, so it’s almost like a teaser for them of what’s to come and how the music looks like for us and a great opportunity to shape the music.”
Do you think Kid Exodus will incorporate a more indie-rock sound?
“That’s a good question!” replying in unison.
“We have so many strings to play on and will definitely have elements of indie rock and electronic music, but the soul elements have always been there. Look, I’m being careful about being specific with what it’s going to sound like and our producer also has some ideas. I think we’re going to dare to be even more poppy and even less at the same time. So when things are weird, let them be really weird, and when it’s catchy, let it be really, really catchy,” Peter explains.
Trying to forge a sound that defines Kid Exodus began in earnest some months ago due to largely being inspired by another transition occurring in the life of Peter Estdahl. The decision to board that flight from London, after a stint of living in Bradford, and head for his native homeland was the beginning of the start for the Kid Exodus frontman as he fought to bring clarity to his own very existence.
“Actually yes, it all started there [Bradford],” acknowledges Peter concerning this turning point in his life. “I mean…[pauses due to searching for the words] yes, some of the lyrics did have underlying religious contexts but those songs were written when I was a Christian, which I am not any longer. It has a lot to do with not just the lyrics but the music as well. The name Kid Exodus comes from the literal meaning of exodus; meaning exit or transition as it sort of refers to change in some way.”
This honest admission regarding the turmoil Peter Estdahl must have experienced, due to the various implications involving this life changing decision to renounce his religion, is seldom heard of in the current climate of music as topics involving religion and politics were often common themes of discussion during the 80s and early part of the 90s. Therefore, such is the size of this confession, due to the aforementioned rarity of such issues under the spotlight, FLW is curious to learn more of Kid Exodus’ renunciation of his former religious beliefs.
“I went to a Bible school in England, and it was part of a huge church with 3000 members, and all the people that I got to know there shared the same faith as me, so it was really easy to live with that. When I moved back to Norway and started college you certainly meet people of your own age. I wasn’t so much challenged by people but basically I had loads of ideas that what not being a Christian had to mean. I met people who had good lives and had morals and believed in something, even though it wasn’t religion, and that sort of destroyed my idea of this is the only way to live a prosperous life.”
Would you say that this decision to renounce your faith has in a way inspired your music and/or lyrics?
“I had written the songs [EP] during the transition, so things have happened in my life that I needed to deal with,” offers Peter. “I don’t write the songs because I want to in a way; it’s really a therapeutic thing to do. I was at the airport taking my plane from London and I had all these thoughts in my mind in terms of how to deal with my parents voicing their disappointment at the whole thing, and tried to, for my own sake, write something down so that I could make sense of it all. ‘Are We Apart’ is very much me trying to make sense of that whole thing. I’m not trying to be angry and rebellious against it, I’m trying to put it into words. In a way it’s a song to them, to my old friends and to my parents and family by saying this is how I feel in the sense that I feel like a villain. Obviously, I feel that I’m doing the right thing as I feel that I’ve had an awakening, but I still place myself in the role of a villain.”
There are underlying tones of this inner turmoil rolled out in the wonderfully compelling theme of superhero turns villain with a ‘me against the world’ mentality of the video to the equally compelling ‘Are We Apart’ single. The video was filmed in Tromsø and was funded by a project initiative helping to promote music and arts from northern Norway.
“Basically, we received money from a fund, which was a brilliant project, as they wanted to show music from northern Norway and combine video with music from this part of the country. They had a big meeting with loads of directors and producers and there were five artists. So we presented the song and roughly what it’s about and the ideas behind it,” explains Benjamin.
“Then we chose one director, who was also the director of that idea which he called Renegade and was basically about a superhero who became a villain. There were many good ideas, but that one really struck a chord with us,” continues Peter.
“I think maybe it had something to do with the new Batman movie because we had all watched it and loved the film and that was something that perhaps made us or made you, at least, choose that concept,” comments Benjamin referring to Peter Estdahl.
“Yeah, as I’m a huge Batman fan! I mean, how many 19-year-old guys get to make their own superhero movie?” Peter states excitedly.
But just like any superhero, there seems to be some form of guilt hidden away in the wardrobe somewhere; something of which Peter Estadahl duly recognises.
“Yeah, it’s inevitable,” he replies. “It’s not like I chose to not believe anymore, but it was just impossible to engage in that sort of mindset any longer. If you listen to the EP, you can hear that transition, lyrically, as you have ‘Northern Lights’, the title track, which does have religious references to it, and then you have the already mentioned ‘Are We Apart’, which is a song about leaving religion and asking some questions back to the people who taught me all about it. But the same musically, as ‘Brother’ is very acoustic whereas ‘Are We Apart’ is very electronic.”
“That was one of the reasons why we decided to go for it [under the banner of Kid Exodus] because we wanted to create artistic freedom from the thing that people thought when they heard the name Peter Estdahl, as that suggested more singer-songwriter whereas we have delved much more into an electronic landscape,” Benjamin explains.
With a meeting that took place four years ago, Kid Exodus is creatively moving at a steady pace with a new EP pencilled in for just after the summer with the intention of establishing Kid Exodus in their own backyard before venturing overseas.
“Right now, we’re strongly focusing on making [it] in Norway with a full tour in the autumn, but it would be really cool to do a couple of shows in England next year. We have already played there, as we did a mini-tour two years ago and that was really cool. We’re definitely going to go back, as I lived there and we all love Britain, especially the humour!”
Humour is one commodity Peter Estdahl has in abundance having learnt his trade no doubt on UK shores due to the deadpan nature of his delivery when responding to questions throughout this interview. Even FLW was duped on one or more occasions by responding with, ‘You are joking, right?’
“The humour in this band is almost fatal, it’s gonna kill us one day. It’s almost inbred because we share so much time together that when we joke people don’t get it anymore. I don’t joke live anymore because I only have that sort of humour and people will think that we’re mental!”
“It’s also gone as far as that we don’t understand when each other is joking,” concludes Benjamin.
Kid Exodus and their brilliant ‘Northern Lights’ EP is now available on Sony Music Norway.
'Are We Apart' is very much me trying to make sense of that whole thing. I'm not trying to be angry and rebellious against it, I'm trying to put it into words."
Peter Estdahl, Kid Exodus
FLW - From the Tapes
“I played acoustically at Rockefeller in front of 2000 people and that was strange; amazing but definitely strange. That was just before Christmas as our football team [Tromsø] was in the cup final and they had this huge gathering with just Tromsø supporters and then I performed two songs acoustically in front of these football fans!” recalls Peter Estdahl.
“This party or concert was the night before the actual game was played,” adds Benjamin Mørk. “So they [Tromsø supporters] were basically celebrating that they were going to win. So the next day, they f****** lost to a total underdog!” he finishes shaking his head in utter disbelief at the memory of this.
“Tromsø is in the premier division whereas the other team were in the second division! So that means that all the good players of that team basically works at the 7-Eleven! Then on the tram on the way home, there was this guy who was drunk and sitting there and he said to me, ‘Are you that boy who played yesterday?’ I said, ‘Yeah’ and he replied, ‘I wish they had played as well as you did!'”