DATE OF INTERVIEW:
18th February 2012
HERI JOENSEN; KÁRI STREYMOY
Oft labelled as Viking, pagan and folk along with other permutations of the multifarious subdivisions that, nowadays, constitute the overly fragmented metal genre, Týr unpretentiously and unequivocally declare their style as simply "Heavy Metal". However, during the course of a 10+ year career that has, thus far, spawned six studio albums, each featuring prominent Viking themed lyrics and imagery drawn from Norse-based mythology and history, the Viking metal tag has been a convenient one in people's pigeonholing proclivities, albeit misleading for describing the actual music of the talented Faroese quartet. And it was seemingly Týr's Viking association that afforded them their first ever UK headline slot for a sold-out show in Fibbers at the climax of York's annual Jorvik Viking Festival. Metal Discovery spoke to frontman Heri Joensen and sticksman Kári Streymoy in the confines of a rather small dressing room three hours before they were due to hit the stage...
METAL DISCOVERY: So this will be your first ever UK headline show tonight, did it surprise you that it sold out?
KÁRI: Yeah, it’s really good.
(Heri Joensen on the future direction for Týr's music)
"...I would like to make the lyrics more contemporary than mythological or historical. That’s been a development over the last two albums at least and we’ll probably go further in that direction."
Heri Joensen and Kári Streymoy in their dressing room, Fibbers, York, UK, 18th February 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
HERI: Yeah, I didn’t expect that and, by the sound of it, nor did the arrangers.
KÁRI: Yeah, I was told this was the first time the show has sold out at this festival so that’s really good.
MD: Good for everybody!
KÁRI: We’re happy, yeah!
HERI: I hope that maybe we can come back to the UK sometime.
MD: Absolutely because I was gonna ask if you think this sends out a positive message to promoters to book Týr over here more?
HERI: I really hope so. Big promoters – you can make a lot of money hiring us!
MD: Some bands say it always takes them one or two shows on a tour before they hit full stride and perform at their best, so do you find it hard to get into the vibe doing one-off gigs like this or are you always ready to go whenever, wherever?
KÁRI: Well, we’ve done this for a long time so we kind of just do it. But, of course, if the audience just stand there yawning and just looking at you it’s difficult to find the energy.
HERI: I think there is a difference in playing a long tour and doing a show every other weekend maybe, and you get in a much better routine on a tour. You don’t get that for single shows. If you have long tours frequently then it’s better, even for small shows, because you’re in very good practice, but if there’s too long between the shows then you feel sometimes you could’ve done a better job.
MD: I gather you two participated in a discussion last night as part of the Viking Studies Research Group at the university?
KÁRI: I didn’t say much, I mostly listened. He did the talking!
MD: How did that go?
KÁRI: It was really good.
HERI: I was pleasantly surprised by myself at the risk of sounding arrogant!
MD: So how did you get involved in that, out of interest?
HERI: The organisers asked us. I think one of the students of the archaeology professor, John Schofield, introduced him to our music and he liked it so he asked the promoter here if we could come and talk to them. So they arranged that we fly in one day earlier and did the presentation yesterday.
MD: Have you been out and about around York apart from that?
HERI: Yesterday and this morning.
MD: Did you go to the Jorvik Viking Centre?
HERI: Yes! Yes, we have.
MD: How did you find that?
HERI: Really good. Fascinating really. Really well done.
KÁRI: And there’s some big tent up there, some kind of market. We went there.
HERI: And we went to York Minster also, the old cathedral.
MD: Ah yeah, that’s a fantastic building.
HERI: It’s made of stone, it doesn’t catch fire!
MD: Exactly, you’re safe in there; you’re not a black metal band!
MD: Pagan and Viking are two words often used to describe your actual music but I gather you used to favour the label “Progressive Ethno Metal” although that never seemed to catch on in the press…
KÁRI: Yeah, when we started out we didn’t really know what to call it, so…
HERI: We had no idea that there was something called a Viking Metal scene when we started. Nowadays, we don’t care what they call it. It’s journalists and the record label that wants to call it Pagan, folk, Viking and all that, and they can do that all they like but I think music isn’t really classifiable like that. Not just us but many other bands. The labels use that only to sell more music.
MD: Does it bother you that you get called Pagan or Viking Metal because it’s sort of misleading for what you do and might put off some people checking you out?
HERI: Yes, sometimes I think Viking me here, Pagan me there but, I mean, who cares.
KÁRI: We are very often labelled, when we are on tour, we’re put on tour with bands that are a lot more aggressive than we are and I don’t think any of them use clean vocals, so we’re the softest band on tour. We are pop music compared to them!
MD: Although Viking and Pagan are kind of redundant labels in describing your actual music, do you think they’ve also been advantageous to your success and perhaps got you a bigger audience as well?
HERI: That could be because re-enactment circles have promoted our music really well in the US and, apparently also, in the UK now, and certainly in Germany. So I think we owe them some thanks for promoting our music to whoever’s part of these re-enactment circles. That’s usually what catches on first so I have to admit that it has helped and the label probably knows what they’re doing.
MD: Last year’s ‘The Lay of Thrym’, as with your previous album, ‘By the Light of the Northern Star’, has a more straightforward kind of vibe to it with the song structures, and maybe more accessible dare I say?
MD: You also maintain the elements from your general sound of what people have come to expect from the band, but would you say you’ve naturally evolved in that direction or did you consciously decide to start writing more accessible metal songs?
HERI: It was a conscious decision, definitely, because to write an album like ‘Ragnarok’ takes a long time and we shouldn’t have three years between albums, I think, to begin with. So first, you don’t have the time to write such elaborate music and, secondly, there are a lot of fans and supporters of progressive music who like the ‘Ragnarok’ style, and ‘Land’ also, but we just didn’t think that was the way to go. I mean, you also have to think that, even without being a sell-out, you should be careful that you have to think that someone has to like this music; someone has to listen to it and you think you should sell enough albums, or play enough shows really, to make it go round financially. So I hope we’ve balanced it well enough.
MD: It’s the perfect balance because it still sounds like Týr but you have a more accessible style now. It gives people something more to bang their heads to at gigs too.
KÁRI: Yeah, and I think, also, we have quite a few fans now, more than before.
HERI: Yes, absolutely.
MD: So it’s worked! So is that a direction you think you’ll continue with or do you think you’ll continue to progress and diversify?
HERI: Well I, at least, like to keep the folk influence in the music whatever happens so it will always be folk-inspired even though I don’t care personally to call it folk metal, I just like folk music. So I think that element will always be there. And, for me also, I would like to make the lyrics more contemporary than mythological or historical. That’s been a development over the last two albums at least and we’ll probably go further in that direction. And as long as we can keep the catchiness of the music at such a high level and still sound like the same band, I think that will be the way we’re gonna be going.