The Rise of The South – Bergenfest 2012 – a talk and some pictures

All photos by Hallgeir (click on them to get better quality, if you want even better resolution, feel free to contact us)

Concert review from Bergenfest 2012

From their official Facebook page:

A band calling themselves “The South” in spite of being from Trondheim, Norway need to have their compass in order

When you hear The South’s self titled second album, produced by Bent Sæther of Motorpsycho, it becomes clear that this sextet has a remarkable grip on their rock history, both the map and the terrain.
They actually lift what many hold to be the zenith of rock, the music of Little Feat, Grateful Dead and The Band from the first half of the 1970’s, into our time.

Bringing with them marvellous songs, the tightness of a good oldfashioned BAND and vocal harmonies to die for.

When we decided to go to Bergenfest this year we decided to try to get an interview with The South, they’re so obviousley right up our alley, they embody most of the musical styles that JV is about. They use the rich musical past to create fresh new songs. The press people at Bergenfest said we could get a 15 minute talk, we were happy just to get an interview.

We met in the “lounge” at the hotel where both The South and we stayed. We talked for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

I’ll be the one:

The South are:

Alexander Pettersen – Vocals, guitar
Terje Uv – guitar, steelguitar
Stein Spjelkavik – Guitar, Keys, vocals
Sander Olsen – Keys
Pål Brekkås – Bass, vocals
Stian Lundberg – Drums, vocals

A Talk with The South

We met with Alexander Pettersen and Stein Spjelkavik an hour and a half before they were playing a small concert at the Apollon record store (as a duo). We had a few questions written down, but this was not a formal interview, it was a talk about music between passionate music fans.

The Second Album

We like the first album, but we love the second. We asked about the recording of the album and the different sound, more keyboard and more “California” (we think).

“The first album was produced by ourselves and the second by Bent Sæther (Motorpsycho) that made a huge difference. He was extremely well prepared, came down and listened at our rehearsals and when we started recording he knew the songs well and could consentrate on other aspects like sound and band dynamics. Bent Sæther only works with people he respects and music that he likes, he don’t have to do production jobs. He only does it when he finds something that he think is worth doing, we’re very grateful that he chose to work with us.”

We at JV have a huge respect for Bent Sæther and his work with Motorpsycho and also with their journey into the country/west-coast rock landscape with The Tussler society. Egil was at a Tussler concert 9 years ago and the crossover Motorpsycho/Tussler has meant a lot to us.

Alexander: Bent Sæther works in details, he would say: “Listen to that part on that particular song, listen to what that part of the song does for that song. Then try to play your part in a way that makes it do the same for you song.”

“Bent is a true music nerd, after recording for nine hours, we would sit down to eat, expecting some quiet time. Then he would crank up a track by Captain Beefheart, “Listen to this, it’s so good!”, “Shhh, listen to this!”, he was unstoppable, he listens to a lot of different stuff all the time. This have found it’s way into our album, we think”

“The Album is very much a live recording in studio, it has many flaws and errors, but we’ve kept them, it must be one of the records with most errors released!”

Tell us about the “Trondheim scene”. “There is no “scene”, there’s just a bunch of guys with an eclectic musical taste that lives fairly close to each other”. “Norway must really be the hardest country to break this sort of music” they tell us when we ask about their ambitions in foreign markets. “but we have some plans, yes”.

It is so strange to sit and listen to “The South” and wonder, “Why don’t everybody get it?” You’ve discovered the best band you’ve heard in many years, and they’re not superstars! They play small venues in Norway, they are not the subject of the big web sites or magazines, in a just world they would be on the cover of Rolling Stone. They are the salvation of rock’n roll, do I hear an Amen?! It may sound crazy, but in a just world, everyone would see it. We need to tell people!

“The Band is the ultimate band, and we really like Little Feat”. “Alexander is especially fond of Little Feat” Stein says.

I tell him that I like the Little Feat T-shirt that I have see him wear on some photos. “I bought that on E-Bay”, Alexander Pettersen says. “It was quite expensive, and I’m affraid to wear it in concert, I don’t want to wear it out, it’s an original from around 75-76”. I love that, I love the nerdiness and the love of the influences, as a music-nerd I completely understands what this is all about. The respect of music history, not just through their own music but through their whole life.

We also talked about their appreciation of Delaney and Bonnie/Derek and The Dominoes, thinking about it… this is music where guitar is the main instrument but the organ/keyboard is also very prominent.

Alexander also mentioned Manassas second album, but just as much for the fucked-up album sleeve, maybe one of the worst in music history. “I really like it, but Bent Sæther hates that hippie-bullshit, “it represents all that is bad with that period”, he says, hehehe”.

The inclusion of more organs/keyboard is the main difference between The South’s first and second album, they have given more room for soul in their country-rock.

“I’m not that preoccupied with bands or albums, the band dynamics are more important”. “To sound right as a band, to sound right together” Stein tells us and Alexander nods in agreement.

Alexander tells us a story: “We are three friends who meet something like once every other month, the thing is, we each burn a cd with ten tracks on a given theme. We are meant to find stuff that the other two haven’t heard of, and that is hard since Bent Sæther is one of us”. “It is so strange because we end up with very similar cd’s, just a little bit different, but strangely similar”. “Only the titles on the CD’s differ, where one will call his cd “Autumn” another will call it “Drugs”!!”

The reason I smile at this is because I think it is an exercise that thousands of music enthusiasts are practising all around the globe, we do, albeit in a slightly different version. These guys really love music!

It sure was hot in Magic Mirrors this afternoon!

Are you seeing any of the other acts here on Bergenfest? “Jonathan Wilson, he’s great. But we would have loved to stay and see more, it’s a good lineup”. It’s funny you would mention J. Wilson because I think I can hear a bit more  California/Laurel Canyon in you new album compared to the first. “Well I have heard a lot on Jonathan Wilson’s Gentle Spirit, and it may have found it’s way over into one or two songs” says Alexander.

We talk a bit About “heartland- rock” and Tom Petty and especially Stein Spjelkavik could relate to that, “I believe I have all of his albums, that’s rare for me, to have that many albums by one artist”. I can hear Petty’s influence on some songs (“Love (is a dog from hell)” quite Bukowskian also…) but again it is mainly about band dynamics, The Heartbreakers is a great band, They sound great, they are great together, that is what The South is aspiring towards. Just to be a great band.

The best live act in Norway right now? Yes, they probably are (only competion is their producer’s band, Motorpsycho).

Their second album is a masterpiece, and The South deserves world wide recognition.

You owe it to youself to check them out:

20.07 Tromsø – Bukta
21.07 Brønnøysund Rootsfestival
26.07 Oslo – Comfort Xpress
27.07 Fredrikstad – Månefestivalen
28.07 Storåsfestivalen
29.07 Røros – Malmplassen, support for Dum Dum Boys
31.08 Veiholmen – Småbåtfestivalen
12.09 Sogndal – Meieriet
13.09 Bergen – Hulen
14.09 Stavanger – Folken
15.09 Førde – Studentuken Superveka
21.09 Oslo – Parkteatret (+ Last Heat og Jens Carelius)
22.09 Odda Bluesfestival
27.09 Arendal – Munkehaugen Kultursenter
28.09 Kongsberg – Christians Kjeller
06.10 Rennebu – Sandbrekka


– Hallgeir