The UK’s love of things hailing from Scandinavia is well established. Danish pastries, flat pack furniture, meatballs form said flat pack furniture supplier, Hygge, cop dramas, Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, 90s footballers, architecture and more. But there has also been a plethora of Scandi musicians whose tracks have found love on these shores. Most obviously there is ABBA but lets not forget the likes of Ace of Base, A-Ha, Roxette and Robyn. I know that, that is a very pop orientated list but there has also been a number of punk and punk adjacent bands too, like Refused (obviously), The Hives and Millencolin to name a few.
Excitingly, right now there seems to be a wave of emo and punk adjacent bands breaking through. I’ve picked out just some of the bands worthy of your attention and asked them all some similar questions about how their bands formed, their influences and their local scenes.
Onsloow (Trondheim, Norway) Questions answered by Mathias
How did the band come together? Johanne, Morten and Lasse had already played together for a while before I joined the band. They needed a guitar player to pull off their first gig, supporting one of my favourite bands from Norway called Beezewax. Of course, I wanted to join in! So we did the show, and have played together ever since!
What are your shared influences? Johanne and I are long-time fans of The Smiths, Ash and Swedish band The Wannadies, so we have to mention those at least. One of Marten’s all-time favourite records is Designing a Nervous Breakdown by The Anniversary, and I think u can hear some of those vibes in our sound too. Lasse is really into San Diego all-star band Plosivs these days, and I think he shares that with the rest of us, not to mention their other stuff like Pinback, Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu.
How did get into punk/indie/emo? I got into Green Day and that stuff when I was around 12 years old, and a couple of years later I bought my first CIV and Fugazi records and started connecting the dots. I grew up just outside of Oslo and there’s this record store there called Tiger. I can’t emphasize enough the impact that store had to me and to hundreds of others. Not long ago that shop tweeted that “not many people listened to emo in Norway, but everyone who did started a band.” I certainly did anyway! When I was 18 I started a band called Angora Static, and this was back when the DIY scene in Europe was still blooming. We toured Europe several times with our pals in Kaospilot (all over the UK too btw), and it was a really creative and fun period. I continued to play in another band called Snöras, and at a point I moved to Trondheim to at least try to focus on my college degree.
What’s Trondheim like, both culturally and otherwise? Trondheim is the third biggest country in Norway, but it’s actually pretty small. Culturally, I think it has always been the battlefield of this eternal fight between the boring mainstream and counterculture. Since I moved here, I’ve heard people in Trondheim complain about how nothing cool happens here. But I’ve lived here long enough to see that it isn’t true. There’s always someone who’s booking sweet gigs, running labels or a record shop (god bless their souls). That being said, I think it’s really hard to make a living from it here, so after a few years, enthusiasts pass the baton to someone else.
And more specifically what is the local scene like? I had played and hung out at the local squat called UFFA, and that was the one of the few things I knew about Trondheim before I moved here. In the 80’s and 90’s (before I moved here), UFFA was a driving creative force that laid the foundation for some of the biggest rock bands in Norway; Motorpsycho and Dum Dum Boys. When I moved here, American bands like Tragedy and Funeral Diner would come here to play UFFA, and the squat threw pretty epic festivals – all great memories. There were tons of local hardcore/emo bands as well; I guess you could call it a scene. These days, I think the town’s Music Academy has passed UFFA as the creative centre; a lot of good bands have formed there, like Pom Poko, who I think are getting quite a following in the UK these days. Our drummer Morten has pretty much been a one-man scene for years, through his bands Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson, You Could Be A Cop and his label How Is Annie Records. These days he is involved in a new emo band too, called Probleman. They sound amazing! But it is a scene? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like it used to anyways, but perhaps that’s too much to ask for. I think we have as much in common with bands from other cities than bands from Trondheim, to be honest.
Is there much of a DIY ethos? I don’t know, really. We’re a DIY band anyways; we put out our album ourselves and mostly book our own shows and stuff like that. It comes naturally for us, and we have friends in other bands that do the same.
Is your sound indicative of that scene? I’d argue that we’re not; actually we’ve been told that we don’t sound like other bands in this town at all! And our inspirations come from scenes and cities far away too, so I guess that could be part of the explanation.
How would you describe your sound? Catchy power-pop infused indie rock with a lean towards emo, with a strong focus on the power of the chorus!
What are the themes of the album? Johanne’s lyrics tend to circle around coping. Dealing with love, life and obstacles standing in the way. They’re about friendship, and sometimes more of a social commentary.
Any plans to come to the UK? Not currently, but I’d love that. Touring the UK with Angora Static and Kaospilot was a blast, we went to Belfast, Dublin, Brighton, and Edinburgh. And of course our van got burgled in Glasgow. Good times!
Onsloow’s self-titled album was released on How is Annie Records in January 2022 Visit onsloow.bandcamp.com
Forever Unclean (Copenhagen, Denmark) Questions answered by Leo
How did the band come together? We all played together in another band called Stars Burn Stripes which we eventually decided to shut down at the end of 2014. At that point the band had had countless lineup changes and it felt like we were a cover band of ourselves so it was time to start over with a fresh batch of songs and a new name that wasn’t connected to anything yesteryear.
What are your shared influences? Oh man, there are so many and they always change. But the proportions are always the same: Equal amounts of skate punk, guitar rock and indie music (whatever indie is)
How did get into punk/emo? Like anyone else our age. I mean we grew up in the 90s and 2000s so the “young” music of the time was very much punk and alternative.
What’s Copenhagen like, both culturally and otherwise? Clean, hip, wealthy and windy as fuck.
And more specifically what is the local scene like? There isn’t one. There are many. It’s almost like every venue that are famous for putting on alternative music has it’s own scene revolving it. So in that regard you could say that Copenhagen is like a bunch of smaller towns with local bands that only play at the local pup and never venture off to the neighbouring villages.
Is the Copenhagen scene different to the rest of Denmark? Not really. The city is bigger so we’ve got more venues and bands but the quality of music and bands generally across Denmark is very high.
Is there much if a DIY ethos? Unfortunately not. There are of course your local punk houses and DIY venues but not at all at the scale we’ve seen it other places in the world. The problem is that almost no DIY bands from here are touring outside the country or even strive to do so, so the bands and everyone else involved in the scene don’t seem to understand the necessity of a DIY community. Also going here on a tour is fairly expensive for foreign bands so they tend to stay on the mainland.
Is your sound indicative of that scene? I mean it has to be, right? Whether we like it or not, we’re bound to be influenced by the bands we are surrounded by and also the local producers that we and everyone else work with.
Do you think you’d sound different if you were from elsewhere? Obviously. Anyone would and if they say otherwise they are lying and their pants are on fire.
How would you describe your sound? Loud and messy. Everything tries to be more than everything else.
Any plans to come to the UK? There are always plans to come to the UK. But does the UK plan on having us over? We are playing Manchester Punk Fest (hopefully considering everything) but other than that no concrete plans have been cemented.
‘Best’ by Forever Unclean was released on Disconnect Disconnect Records in January 2022. Visit: disconnectdisconnect.co.uk
Flight Mode (Oslo, Norway) Questions answered by Anders & Sjur
How did the band come together? [Anders] Sjur had written some songs that he wanted to record in his studio one weekend in June 2017. He asked Eirik and me to join him, and we practiced and recorded four songs over one weekend. I had known Sjur for many years and he had engineered and mixed my old band, Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson, but we had never played music together before. It was a fun weekend in the studio and we all liked the songs, but nothing more happened until Sjur rediscovered the songs in an old dropbox folder almost four years later. When our friends in the Trondheim band Onsloow invited us to join their Oslo concert in the fall, we decided to become a “proper” band.
What are your shared influences? [Anders] The Weakerthans! And The Appleseed Cast. And Braid.
[Sjur] And lots more, I’m sure. But that pretty much sums it up for Flight Mode.
How did you get into punk/emo? [Anders] My story is very unique for people my age: I saw Green Day on MTV one morning in the mid 90s! I listened exclusively to punk rock until the year 2000. That’s when I discovered the band At The Drive-In and started digging into the world of emo. I had already heard of Dag Nasty and Minor Threat through my deep love for Bad Religion, so the DC scene was a natural place to start. From there I just kept on digging.
[Sjur] I’ve got almost the exact same story. How good it feels to be unique!
What’s Oslo like, both culturally and otherwise? [Sjur] My solo project; The Little Hands of Asphalt also has a song called “Blue & Green”, that was derived from the Oslo tourist council’s slogan at one point “ The Blue and the Green & the City In-between”. So that pretty much sums up the “otherwise”-part.
And more specifically what is the local scene like? [Anders] Under normal, non-pandemic, circumstances, Oslo has a very active live music scene for its size. It’s never a problem to find at least one good show to go to every week, if you’re so inclined. My favorite venues in Oslo are Café Mir, Kampen Bistro, Revolver and Last Train.
[Sjur] What’s cool about the Oslo scene in my opinion, is the town being so small, small, the scene is quite varied and not too genre specific. You get to hang with metal people, pop people, jazz people, hip-hop people etc, and there’s a lot of cultural exchange.
Is the Oslo scene different to the rest of Norway? [Sjur] Although it’s not the biggest town, it’s still the capital and a regional cultural hub, so you get the benefits of that, as opposed to other places.
Is there much of a DIY ethos? [Anders] Sjur has his own studio, so I guess we’re DIY? When it comes to DIY shows, I’m not aware of any such local scene currently, but that might just be because I’m getting too old to keep up? Back in the previous decade, however, I did put on quite a few shows around town, and had a yearly all-dayer at an old disused train station in the woods north of Oslo. We had bands like Dowsing, Moving Mountains, Annabel and Human Hands up there. Good times! I also co-ran the very DIY record label How is Annie Records with the other guys in the YPoFH band for more than ten years.
Is your sound indicative of that scene? [Sjur] I wouldn’t necessarily say so, but I think we do carry some influences of that varied musical infusion.
Do you think you’d sound different if you were from elsewhere? [Sjur] I’m sure, though on the first EP I guess we specifically wanted to sound like we were from the deep south or mid-western US in the late nineties.
How would you describe your sound? [Sjur] Melodic, energetic, simplistic without being dumb.
What are the themes of the album? [Sjur] Specifically it’s about me being 16 and living in Houston, TX. More indirectly it’s about youth, memory, nostalgia, distance and time.
Any plans to come to the UK? [Anders] Yes, we are planning a short four-date UK tour this spring. It should be announced soon.
Flight Mode’s EP, TX’98 was released on Sound as Language in October 2021. Visit flightmodeosl.bandcamp.com