Harrys Gym are the latest synth-toting band to emerge from Bergen, Norway. With their dreamy second album, What Was Ours Can’t Be Yours out now, we spoke to singer, songwriter and guitarist Anne Lise Frøkedal.
Their pastoral, ambience-strafed electro-pop has confused critics. When we released our debut album we were described as prog. We thought it was nerdy and cool, but it was definitely new to us. We’re a rock band really. We just like to use electronics in our music. You have to play extremely well to be called prog in Norway, and it’s a term that’s rarely used. To us it was like people were blowing dust off a phrase found in a museum.
Not all Norwegian bands sound the same, you know. It is odd. People do like to bunch us together. But our influences all come from outside Norway. People always say they hear a Nordic melancholy in our music but I’m not sure if they say that just because they know we’re from Norway. Maybe the weather and landscape has influenced us, I don’t know.
Weirdy-beardy folkies are a much bigger influence on them than electronic duo Royksopp. You go through phases. I’ve been through my singer-songwriter phase. I’ve had a rock ’n’ roll phase and a Grateful Dead phase. Then a friend of mine played Vashti Bunyan’s album Just Another Diamond Day and it just got to me – it’s such a peaceful, beautiful record. I love early T Rex too, and Linda Perhacs.
Anne Lise reckons XTC’s ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ is the benchmark of pop. The first time I heard it I thought it was the best pop song ever. It’s simple, repetitive and rhythmical, and you can definitely hear traces of it in our songs. I’ll always attempt to write something that perfect.
Anne Lise has been playing in bands since the age of 12, so she knows. We were the only band in the village. Everyone helped us just because there was no one else around in bands. So we had free rehearsal rooms and everything. It was a village of only 4,000 people, so it wasn’t fame exactly.
When she’s not unearthing folk curios she’s lost in Murakami. I’m fond of the stories and characters in Murakami books. He uses magical realism, but very strictly. And I love Miranda July’s stories. Murakami dusts real life in magic, while July just sees weird things in everyday life.
They transcend their rather musty-sounding name. The name chose us – really! Initially it was the name for our rehearsal space, which was inspired by an old abandoned gym. But without noticing it, we’d become Harrys Gym. People just started calling us that.
No, they don’t use an apostrophe. It was a choice we made. It’s funny how UK people have to talk about it. In Norway people haven’t got a clue about grammar, not small things like apostrophes, anyway. People in the UK are much more aware of their language. But I have been working as a proof-reader so I do feel the pain of sub-editors.