A strong camaraderie and similar tastes in music sees Damokles create something of a near masterpiece in Nights Come Alive.
Famous Last Words Records (FLW) was so smitten recently with the post-punk and 80’s indie references of Damokles’ debut album ‘Nights Come Alive’ that we decided to extend this appreciation further with a follow-up interview, and one that focuses specifically on this first album release.
From the bleak minimalist panel that greets you of its artwork that is suggestive of a future world, to its full of flavours playlist which, surprisingly, remains watertight considering its tendencies for genre hopping, but understandable once its contents unfurl revealing an exceptional level of invention that tantalizingly leaves clues for album #2. In fact, the album ‘Nights Come Alive’ is about as close to perfect a debut entrance by any band could wish for, and even more remarkable given the brief time Damokles has been in existence.
Delve a little deeper though, and one will discover that the members of Damokles continue to operate in other music combos, meaning that their combined years of experience mounts up to a relatively high figure and hence the reason for the near perfect creation ‘Nights Come Alive’. But was this how Damokles experienced the writing and recording of their new LP because the impression given is of a debut album coming together rather quickly or was it in truth a much longer process?
“The band started late 2019 when Kristian approached me with some demo ideas for a new band, and that first idea was the track ‘Our Special Touch’,” explains lead vocalist and lyricist of Damokles Gøran Karlsvik. “I immediately jumped at the opportunity and recorded ideas overnight, and not long after we were somehow a band in the works. Band members, song structures and pieces of the puzzle were not in place at the time, but that somehow magically worked itself out. Kris and I hit the ground running, writing songs at a very swift pace, and that went even faster once Ronny, John and Fredrik joined. I do not recall the order in which everyone joined as we are all friends and part of the same band circuits that tend to hang out. We all contributed to the song writing process, and are quite experienced recording in our own ways, so ideas just bounced back and forth naturally. Having two complete studio facilities in two towns during a pandemic lockdown was extremely helpful. So, the short answer is that the writing of the album happened in a very organic manner and was creatively fulfilling. We knew we were onto something special with this band.”
What were Damokles’ favourite and least favourite aspects of writing and recording the album?
“Favourites included bonding as a new unit with a fresh set of ideas and no genre boundaries,” begins Gøran Karlsvik. “We write what we like, and our respective backgrounds help set the flavour. We have become extremely tight as friends and bandmates during this period. Even though the subject matters and sounds are extremely dark and punishing at times, the process has been loaded with laughs and there is a camaraderie, almost like a cathartic support group. We all have our demons and that’s perfectly fine because we support each other and lift each other up.
“Least favourite, I would say being anxious and impatient during a pandemic, hungry for gigs and action, but we quickly adapted by focusing on the writing and recording. A result of this deep focus saw us sign to Vinter Records, which consists of even more friends from the Oslo music scene, so we cannot really complain.”
Who was responsible for the album’s artwork and the ideas behind it?
“The artwork is from the renowned Swedish painter Christopher Robin Rådlund,” answers Gøran. “The artwork is taken from his “Kollaps” exhibition, which consists of huge oil paintings portraying mankind’s demise in an extremely aesthetically pleasing manner. The venue where we have our studio complex, Mir, hosted that very exhibition. My first experience of his work happened when I decided to take a break during a late-night recording [session]. I dropped by the exhibition and was flabbergasted by what I saw. I loved the artwork as a cohesive whole, it really spoke to me. Christopher Robin was there, and we started talking and soon bonded over a common interest in 80’s post-punk bands. I gave him some copies of my other band’s (This Sect) records, and he liked that. I became a fan of his work, and he became a fan of mine. We kept in touch after that, and when the ‘Nights Come Alive’ album started to become a complete thing, I reached out and asked if I could use his “Kollaps” paintings for the album artwork, in addition to explaining the general dystopian theme I was going for. He was very forthcoming and helpful. I visited his atelier with a photographer friend and took pics of the paintings. I then produced the graphic design for the album and put everything together. The artwork ties in great with my apocalyptic plus deeply personal subject matter [of the lyrics] and the overall mood of the album, so I am incredibly pleased with that.”
Ok, let us get down to the nitty-gritty of the album’s contents with a track-by-track breakdown of your ideas and thoughts behind each song, and how easy or difficult these songs were to create.
Bodies Get Bored
“The first album track is the last one we wrote for the record. Sonically, we went for an angular and snarky fucked-up hardcore-tinged post-punk track with some experimental elements, like the electronic noise at the end, which we did on my weird synth gear. Lyrically, it touches on an element of mankind’s ID; the need for conquest and instant gratification, whether it be in a sexual or an imperialistic manner.”
Our Special Touch
“The very first music that came together! The first demo I heard and recorded for, a special song about ‘Our Special Touch’ [laughs]. Basically, this track is a good introduction for new listeners because it has the emotional aspect we go for, as well as the dynamic noisy stuff. As you might expect by now, it also touches on some negative traits regarding humankind. For example, what we touch, we exploit and corrupt, and therefore history repeating itself over and over a.k.a. ‘Our Special Touch’.”
“In my head, this is where we go into some of our Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds meets Afghan Whigs phase, a mode we will dive more into on album two. The song includes personal lyrics that I don’t want to dwell that much on, but [in short] life and death stuff. Utopian expectations that don’t go into fruition.”
It’s Closing Time
“This was the second song that really came together. We all love Dischord Records, as well as Quicksand and Helmet, and this is where some of those elements mesh together. We wanted a chunky and angry “fuck you”, a middle finger to the assholes pulling society’s strings. I wanted to point out that we are onto their scheme and that dire consequences are coming.”
Nights Come Alive
“The title track and, in my opinion, the centrepiece of the album. A song where all the bleakness comes together and elevates into a giant black hole that swallows us all. No days left, only nights that come alive, with one singular focus; to shape us into new forms, for sheer survival, or death.”
“A secret favourite of mine. The song is about the fragility of life and how minuscule and insignificant we all are in the grand context, hopefully being able to deal with our own demise. I like how we transcend into something post-rocky and meditative on this one, and it’s a thoughtful sound-phase we shall revisit.”
Dead Don’t Care
“About learning to let go. What’s dead is dead and it’s never coming back. Seek solace in that and grow from it. Almost goth-like in its vibe sometimes, yet also digging into some 90s sounds, like Faith No More, which we all are fans of.”
“Contrary to the sound and title, this is probably the most “upbeat” song we have. Aggressively upbeat [laughs]! Misanthropy, depression, gloom, it can be all-encompassing and can kill you. It has certainly killed many of our friends and loved ones. This one’s about us misfits getting together to collectively rise above. In other words, let’s just not die, and party instead.”
Carry Or Crush
“When the judgment day arises, and it will arise, where do you put your last thoughts and trust? Into some spiritual entity, or into something based in the real world? There is no judgment in judgment, it’s a blind thing. Choose yourself which way you want your final sentiment to go. Sonically, this one is somewhere between The Cure and Fugazi; an extremely sweet spot for us.”
Let’s Be Nothing
“The track is about being so emotionally worn out that your thoughts veer into some sort of intellectual nihilism. Longing for nothingness because everything in life is too much of a burden. Also, the song is a pointer for some of the second album’s direction, where we will dive into more of the above-mentioned Nick Cave/Afghan Whigs-vibe, but also some Queens of the Stone Age influences as well.”
From listening to, and reviewing Damokles album, FLW also noted that Damokles sound like a band already in the process of moving onto album #2, especially during the second half of the album. What are your thoughts regarding this and the next album?
“This band has always been somewhat forward thinking in the ways we record and perform,” Gøran replies. “We are all seasoned players with rich music backgrounds, and we constantly want to challenge ourselves. The next album will certainly not be a departure from our sound because we have already established “a sound” with Damokles, and that sound is just what it is. We will go from a whisper to a shout, from a gentle caress to a punch in the face. That’s just how we roll. Album two will be stacked with mischievous influences from all of us, with no genre rules, just like album one.”
Overall, did the debut album ‘Nights Come Alive’ meet all the band’s expectations, and what has been the reception to the record, and what are your hopes for the album?
“Personally, I couldn’t be happier with the reception of the album!” enthuses Gøran. “Listeners seem to “get” the intent of it and the slightly varied genre aspects, and we really appreciate that! My huge fear was that maybe some purists would freak out, such as the hardcore or post-punk communities, but no. Gigs have gone well, and more are lined up, and people seem to understand. We’ve had great reviews, lots of radio play, interviews, and podcasts. Also, we have a very fruitful relationship with our label, Vinter Records, and are stoked about being in that family of bands. Overall, the Damokles camp is having a rad time doing this, and more to come!”
(Photography courtesy of Damokles (Press shots) & live images courtesy of Al-x)
The album ‘Nights Come Alive’ is out now and available on Vinter Records
Listeners seem to “get” the intent of it and the slightly varied genre aspects, and we really appreciate that! My huge fear was that maybe some purists would freak out, such as the hardcore or post-punk communities, but no."
Gøran Karlsvik, Damokles
FLW - From the Tapes
Reasons to get excited! An excerpt from Famous Last Words (FLW) review of Damokles new album ‘Nights Come Alive’.
It’s no wonder that once ‘Nights Come Alive’ gets underway, it immediately gives the impression of a band having strained at the leash for too long, given the wave of emotions that pour out and with only the ventilation holes of its ten-track playlist offering an outlet to do so. No matter, as the short, sharp bursts of post-punk, mixed with indie-rock and emotional 90s post-hardcore provide ample coverage to what lies at the heart of this Oslo-based five piece, which may not always be easily decipherable, but makes it even more fascinating and worthy of repeat visits.