The Loch Ness Mouse were formed in Oslo in 1992 by brothers Ole Johannes Åleskjær and Jørn Oddvar Åleskjær. The band’s current line-up is Ole,Jørn, Christina Høgetveit, Ådne Hovda, Ingar Sandvær, Kristoffer Solvang and Svein Bergsaune.
We featured the band’s single “Bamboo (Love Is Not Cool)” a few weeks ago and in the process discovered their 2016 self-titled album as well as an extensive back-catalogue of really brilliant pop songs. Their latest album is a thing of beauty, both in construction and delivery, and for anyone who likes Roddy Frame, Everything But The Girl and such like then it really is a must listen. We caught up with Ole to find out more about the band, their music and influences.
I’ve been listening to the latest album, it’s really beautiful! With 7 people in the band how does the dynamic work? Do you always agree on musical direction?
Well, thanks! We have been around for a while, and since the songs are all written by my brother and me, and the melodic elements come in pretty finished shape from the writing desk, I guess it’s right to say that the rest of the band has to put up with that, for better or for worse. That’s not to say that we don’t discuss ideas or agree on certain things after having tried them out etc., but the dynamic is usually that I bring a song to the rehearsal space, and then everyone puts their fingerprint on it through their playing.
Have changes in the band’s personnel changed your sound?
Yes. With what I just said in mind, it has still never been so, that the band name is merely a vehicle for me and my brother’s ideas or anything like that. We have very much been a real band all the time. It’s just that we’ve been going for such a long time that we’ve sort of had a Mark I, a Mark II etc. of the band, with each of those staying together for some years. I still see every phase very linked to the people involved at the time. The band that made this last album has been together for a very long time now, and everyone’s way of playing is important to the way the songs end up sounding.
The Loch Ness Mouse is an interesting name – how did that come about?
Just a phonetic thing, really. Someone misunderstanding something said in Norwegian, thinking it sounded like those words in English. No meaning to it to begin with, but we’ve later heard people say that we are “Norwegians sounding Scottish”, so maybe it’s not so totally out of place after all.
I hear echoes of Scritti Politti and Prefab Spout in the music, and obvious jazz references also – what artists have been the biggest influence on your sound?
Well, I certainly like both of those. For many years in the mid- and late 00s I practically didn’t listen to pop music at all, although it was where we came from in the beginning, with the C-86 scene and all that. Won’t bore you with all the reasons for it, just saying that the jazz element might be traced back to that time. But at one point I started to re-orientate and find my way back to pop. And I was also at some point beginning to realize that the pop thing was the only thing we knew how to do, what we should embrace and shouldn’t be running away from. So that’s also why we ended up with a self-titled album now, because it feels like the one record that is us. I guess Todd Rundgren would be an artist that has always inspired us, then also Style Council, Aztec Camera, Talk Talk, The Blue Nile, well, the list could go on, but I’d better not make this a telephone book of bands…
- the LNM playlist
Have you recorded in Norwegian? Was it an automatic choice to write/sing in English?
We have never done anything in Norwegian. I was asked this question very recently by a person from the UK, and I had to re-think it, because it’s become such a habit that I usually don’t give it a though. I started out by stating some more obvious aspects, like the fact that most of our listeners are non-Norwegians etc. Which may be true, but it’s clearly not the real reason. I suppose there is a more universal pop aesthetic that we want to occupy a little Nordic corner of through the use of the English language.
Do you think Non-UK/US groups get enough exposure in the major British and American magazines? Does it matter to you?
I get the impression that some Norwegian pop bands get a fair deal of press coverage in more mainstream international press, but it’s not always something I can relate much to. You sometimes get the feeling that it’s all sport metaphors and business lingo in certain segments of today’s Norwegian pop, and that’s often how dull it sounds, too. That’s not to say that there isn’t lots of good music here outside of that, and some of it get its deserved attention abroad, too. We have noticed more interest for this new record from the UK and continental Europe. I can’t quite explain why, because it’s not because of any major press. Guess it’s just the word of mouth and underground circuitries.
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
There was always a lot of music in my upbringing, but in terms of pop music, I remember that I thought that the song “Life in a northern town” by Dream Academy, when it came, was something really different, in a good way, than whatever else I had heard at the time that was “just music”.
What is your favourite song that you’ve recorded and why?
I think both I and my brother agree that “Tristessa” from the new album would be the best song we have written. Either that, or maybe the other ballad, “Restore my ears”. On paper you could also say that we don’t really have a budget to fullfill the ambitions for such songs, as we are certainly no Costello/Bacharach team with the means to record with a full orchestra in an expensive studio etc. But there were ideas in there that we thought we just had to take the consequence of. Strings and mixing courtesy of the loans department of our local bank, hah. Also with the lyrics, I guess I’ve had an ideal over many years, to aim for a kind of modest or non-sentimental language. But many things leading up to this new record made me really want it to be a full on pop record also in the thematical aspects, and not just in the music itself. So, and maybe especially in the ballads, I sometimes agreed to let go a little, let a little sentimentality win, so to say, almost like I observed it happen from the outside in conjunction with how the song was forming, which was interesting.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
Difficult question, but to name one: “The waiting game” by Todd Rundgren is a pretty incredible composition, I think. There are some lines that lift immensely in that song.
Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?
Iggy & The Stooges “Search and destroy” would be one. The ridiculous amount of power in that makes me happy.
What music are you listening to these days?
I’ve been listening a bit to a couple of the mid-career Everything But The Girl records these last couple of weeks. Just wonderful sound and production, that I can easily be completely obsessed with. Just recently also saw The Clientele play in Copenhagen, and I’ve re-listened to their records again. Very, very good band. As for new stuff, I’ve enjoyed the solo project from Jamie Gash, drummer of The Pearlfishers and BMX Bandits. It’s called Jello64, and from what I understand it’s just a lo-key home recorded side project he has going, but the songs and performance are just great. I recommend people to look it up on Soundcloud.
What, outside of the music world, influences your art?
Landscape, manual labour, local/family/personal history, literature.
What do you think of music streaming sites like Spotify and Deezer?
We’ve noticed with this new record that in Japan (where we have our biggest audience) they hang onto the CD medium, which also says a lot about how certain aspects of experiencing music are maintaned in different ways there, whereas most people don’t care much about those same aspects here. Like art work, liner notes, lyric sheets. For someone who comes from that time where you would take the bus into town to buy records every time you could afford it, it’s easy to think that these new formats also lead to music being less important to people, in a way , but I don’t know. It’s a bigger picture and the times are different. Generally I don’t have a format nostalgia an such, and I’m positive as to how sites like Spotify and Deezer make music immediately accessible to people. To a band of our form and size, it’s a blessing that the music spreads like that.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
“Maiden voyage” by Herbie Hancock.
Finally, we ask everyone for a drawing, a little doodle or a sketch of anything (could be a self-portrait, a cat, a line….) to add to our artist’s gallery –