During their current tour with Between the Buried and Me and The Dear Hunter, Leprous acted as a tremendous opening act. The quintet doesn't often come to the states, but I'd very much so urge anyone to go see these guys perform as I was blown away.
Last year, I reviewed the band's fifth album, Malina, and while I initially wasn't a huge fan of the release, I'll admit that it most definitely has grown on me. And after finally seeing the progressive Norwegian group live, my likening of the material even furthered increased.
I sat down with vocalist Einar Solberg to discuss the latest LP, lineup changes, Haken, Ihsahn, and more. Check out the full interview below.
You’re about a week into this tour with Between the Buried and Me and The Dear Hunter. How’s the tour going so far?
It’s been really great and a door opener for us in the states. We’re playing full houses every night. The other bands are both really good musicians and really friendly. We’re already good friends with Between the Buried and Me from Europe. We’ve never toured with The Dear Hunter before though, they haven’t been so much in Europe. We did a really long tour with Between the Buried and Me and Devin Townsend. We ended up bonding with them as we’re both in the same category like calm people in it for the music, not the partying.
And you have a cellist this tour?
Yes, he’s joining us for this tour. He’s an incredible musician. We brought him along for Europe too and he just learned everything. It was pretty random, we met him in 2016 in Canada during our North American tour. He was just local support playing by himself. We were actually looking for a cellist for our album and we were impressed by him. Now, he’s joining us for most tours.
A lot has changed since you were last in the US. You officially added Robin to the lineup and released your fifth album. Just to clarify, Øystein’s departure was to focus more on his family, correct?
Yeah, Øystein left for family and work. It was something that both he and us kinda saw coming for many, many years, but wasn’t something we wanted to happen still. It was just getting more and more difficult. When he decided to drop off, it was a really tough decision for him since he’s been in the band for a long time. He’s still playing with Ihsahn actually though. We kinda swapped; Robin used to play with Ihsahn and now plays with us. It’s more convenient because Ihsahn plays a lot less live than us, which suits Øystein’s needs much better.
So your latest album, Malina, is the first one to feature Robin. Would you say that this member change allowed for a shift in style?
It has nothing to do with the lineup change because the album was already finished by the time he got into the band. It’s just a natural evolvement of the band. However, the guitar sound on the album is something he contributed. But the actual songwriting, he came in way too late. He came in to the band about a month before we recorded. We want each record to have its own distinct character. Sometimes people seem to forget that is something we do with every single album. The two most similar are maybe Coal and The Congregation, even though we had a big lineup change up, but they’re still pretty different. From Bilateral to Coal was a very big style change and I think an even bigger change from The Congregation to Malina in my opinion. I know a lot of prog fans are into Bilateral for the reason that we hadn’t found our self and it is kinda all over the place. We’re more into having a very clear and distinct sound for each album though.
Can we talk about the album’s title? I believe it’s about a woman you met in Georgia.
Everywhere you see tragedy, and to be able to live, you close most of it out because it’s a lot to take in, but sometimes there are things that really touch you and you really think about how it must feel to be a certain person. I got really hung up on this one woman who could barely walk because she was so old, yet had to go the whole day trying to sell raspberries to people. So, I decided to write lyrics about her.
And the opening track, “Bonneville,” where does that title come from?
The thing is that the Malina album is too personal for me to go into detail. I want to go into depth, but I want to keep it subtle, so people don’t know exactly what it’s about because it’s about things of my life and things I don’t want to share with the world completely openly. That’s why many of the songs are pretty melancholic. There are things I wanted to write about for a long time, but didn’t have the guts to do it. I waited until it was a really good period to write about because it was easier to handle emotionally. It’s about a tragic event with someone close to me. If it was only me talking about it, I think it’d be ok, but I have a family and they don’t necessarily want their life to be public. Us Norwegians are good at keeping our feelings to ourselves.
Back in 2016, were featured on both Haken’s new album ("The Architect") as well as Ihsahn’s last one ("Celestial Violence"). Can you talk about those experiences?
When I get these kind of requests, they are all very impulsive. When I go into the studio, I like things thirty to forty percent done and then I’m in the zone from there. What I love with Haken and Ihsahn is they let me do my thing. With Haken, they just wanted me to do screaming, which was weird because I barely do that myself anymore. That was fun to do though because they’re good friends of ours. With Ihsahn, it has been collaborations back and forth for many years. He showed me the track and I loved it. It was immediately right up my alley and stylistically not too different from something I could do myself. I remember I had a very rusty voice that day, but that’s cool sometimes because it gives off a certain character.
Do you have any further guest appearances coming up?
Yeah, I just don’t know what is official. I don’t want to be the one to announce that. I haven’t seen it announced yet, so I’ll keep that a secret for now, but there is something.
Anyone you’d wish to collaborate with in the future?
I would love for our cellist to be more involved in the earlier stage of the process. He’s kind of a metalhead playing cello. He comes from a classical background, but has always been into rock and metal. He has this rawness and depth that I haven’t seen in many other players. It fits our style so well. I would love for him to be included more in the writing process. For Malina, I had written a string arrangement quickly and there wasn’t much time to mess around with it.
Going back to Ihsahn, I understand you’re pretty tight with him. Have you been able to hear his new record at all?
Yes, he gave it to me a little while ago. My family and him own a cabin together, so we were there for the holiday and he gave it to me then. He’s really great at getting out of his comfort zone. It’s a really brave move for him. It’s super dry and raw, not like a typical metal production nowadays, which I really like. The songwriting is really, really good. It still has a very distinctive Ihsahn character to it.
Anything else coming up?
It’ll be a touring year and some writing. We’ll likely hit the studio next year. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that we’ve done an album every other year. It’s nice for me to have that pressure and schedule. So yeah, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we hit the studio next year. We’re not going to rush it. I haven’t written too much yet, but once it starts rolling it goes fast.