Published July 9th, 2021, in https://npsmusic.no/
Translated by Karina Brandt, July 10th, 2021
In the middle of Pride Month, KEiiNO released a catchy song with a clear message, not to give up in the fight against supremacy. “ÁDDJÁS” is the name of the new single from the trio who have just finished their Norway tour.
June is the month when cities all over the world arrange pride, and the focus is on the fight for equal rights, regardless of orientation and gender expression. In all months of the year, minorities fight against those who use their majority power, and history shows that it pays to take up the fight.
During the development of the Alta watercourse, many Samis got to feel on their bodies how society at large took shape, and several in Fred Buljo’s family were affected.
The superiority does not have to come from outside. Tom Hugo’s husband, and KEiiNO’s lyricist, Alexander Olsson, has written a master’s thesis on «internalized heterosexism» among queers, and Tom recognizes himself in this struggle;
– Lack of queer role models when I was a teenager, made it difficult for me to accept how I was put together. Even though we in Norway have come a long way when it comes to minority rights, every day there are internal struggles to accept being different among very many young people. Therefore, it is still important to remember that it is nice outside the majority as well, and that it will go well.
Although she does not belong to a minority, “Battle of the Stars” -ready Alexandra can also relate to the message of ÁDDJÁS, and how feeling connected makes it easier to win both internal and external matches:
– We all come from very different backgrounds, but share values and a desire to fight for our own identity and be accepted for who we are. The bonds we have formed between us in KEiiNO are some of the best that has happened to me and have made me more confident in myself and my identity. The three of us have become family, and I feel a strong unity with everyone who feels a little on the side of what is presented as the “perfect”.
KEiiNO became really famous when they took Europe by storm in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 with the very popular and catchy song “Spirit In The Sky”, and since then they have toured country and beach, released a number of catchy songs, and the album «OKTA» which was released last year.
We talked to the busy band about, among other things, the new song, togetherness, sources of inspiration, the 20 + 5 playlist that they have made for us and the plans for the future.
Congratulations on the song, «ÁDDJÁS». Can you tell us a little about the process and the production around it?
Thank you! We sat together in Tom’s apartment with guitar and piano and made chords, melody and lyrics together with our main lyricist Alexander Olsson. Then we played a raw version on Tom’s mac before we went into the studio in Kristiansand with our live band. Then we sent it to Berlin where our regular co-producer, Rüdiger Schramm, lives. He refined the production and took it a bit to the ‘80s with his raw synths. We think the result was very energetic and nice.
What is this song about and what do you want to convey through it?
Áddjás is a song about not giving up the fight against supremacy. Minorities around the world are fighting against those who use their majority power, and history shows that it pays to take up the fight. During the development of the Alta watercourse, many Samis got to feel on their bodies how society at large can cope, and several in Fred Buljo’s family were affected:
“Áddjá” means grandfather in Sami, but should also symbolize the inner voice that gives you advice and courage to be who you are, never give up, but fight for what you believe in. Fortunately, all the original plans to dam the Alta watercourse were not carried out due to an enormous willingness to stand by those who fought against the superior forces.
How important is cohesion for you as a band?
The unity we have in KEiiNO comes naturally. We are very good friends and work just as well together on stage as off. We all believe that a good unity is very crucial both for the creative process to be the best possible, and for us to continue as it is now for a long time to come. We trust each other, share the same values and the joy of music.
What is special about KEiiNO’s musical universe?
We are a pop trio, who make music inspired by Scandinavian melodies from the 70s, riffs and synths from the 80s, the energy of the 90s Eurodance and playful pop. Sami joik and rap are also an important part of it, in addition to other indigenous expressions around the world. Our lyrics often deal with important topics that people can relate to, which are wrapped up in an energetic soundscape. The music hits both young and old, and we have something for everyone.
How would you describe yourself and what do you like to do in your free time?
We are all three curious about life, and try to get the most out of most situations. That is, when we are on tour we try to see as much as possible when we eat we try to find the best restaurant that the budget allows, and we like to try good local drinks. Fortunately, all three of us are happy to move in nature. And then we love music and experiencing crowds at festivals and clubs.
How and when did it start for you with music and song, and what is your musical background?
Tom Hugo has been on stage since he was little and has played in bands and written songs since his early teens. With the solo debut “Open Up Your Eyes”, he was in 2011 the second most played Norwegian artist on German radio, and had several TV appearances. Here in Norway, Tom Hugo is best known through his three appearances in the Melodi Grand Prix but has also had five singles on the radio list on P1 and was behind the Pride song in 2018. But the years before we started KEiiNO, he travelled primarily around the world and produced songs for big Asian pop stars.
Fred Buljo joined Norwegian Talents in 2008 as leader of the rap trio Duolva Duottar, and quickly became one of Sápmi’s most famous young artists. Together with the group, Fred toured over large parts of Scandinavia and Russia. In parallel, he studied psychology and later pedagogy, and was elected to the Sami Parliament where he was a parliamentary leader. After his studies, Fred moved to Oslo where he worked as an educational leader in a kindergarten before KEiiNO came and took up most of the time. Fred had not joiked in public before MGP but has received joik and Sami music since childhood in Kautokeino, where he grew up with a musician father and a large modern family.
Alexandra has always loved music and began to develop her talent early on. In 2010 she participated in MGP Jr, and later went on Norwegian tours under the auspices of the singing competition. In 2016, she appeared on Idol, which resulted in her being picked up by Gunnar Greve to be Alan Walker’s live vocalist. With him, she held concerts in Asia, Mexico and large parts of Europe. Making a living from music and holding concerts regularly has always been her big dream, and she loves life in KEiiNO.
What is your strongest side as a band and are you fearless as types?
Perhaps our strongest point is that all three of us have long experience both from the stage and studio before we became a band. It makes us confident about what we can achieve, and fearless when it comes to experimenting with mixing elements into pop music that are not so common. That our producer, and Tom Hugo, have experience from K-pop, which in many ways is quite experimental pop is also an advantage, not to mention Fred’s rap background and Alexandra’s EDM past. But in addition to being colleagues, we are also good friends! It makes it easier to go through the roller coaster a career in the pop industry actually is. We want the KEiiNO universe to grow and last for a long time, and then it is a great advantage that we share values and a real passion for music.
Can you tell us a little about one of your most memorable experiences from one of your live performances?
The summer of 2019 was fantastic, and we got to perform at several pride celebrations around Europe. Something we all remember particularly well was when 30,000 people in the audience joiked and sang along to “Spirit In The Sky” in the centre of Madrid. It was a very nice experience that we look forward to doing again!
Do you have any musical role models or sources of inspiration?
Alexandra has always been inspired by great voices such as Whitney Houston, Beyoncé and Celine Dion. As a live artist, it is Lady Gaga who trumps, and she really looks up to her values, charisma and ability to include everyone.
Tom Hugo was a big fan of Michael Jackson and heard his mother’s LPs of ABBA, The Beatles and Elton John when he was little. In his teens, it went into a lot of Britpop and rock, and Radiohead and Muse were and are great role models.
Fred has always been very fond of music from several genres, and has his favourite bands like Nightwish and The Prodigy, to love the melody lines of Avicii, and to be a big fan of the presence that Freddy Mercury had on stage. As a child, he received a CD with Deep Forest, which aroused his interest in world music and making music across genres and other cultures.
There is a lot of good Norwegian music during the day – what do you like to listen to at the moment?
We all agree that Sigrid has solid and catchy songs and a fantastic stage personality. Dagny is also fantastic and is also a super cool lady.
Alexandra doesn’t listen to much music, but once she does, it can be anything from Highasakite to Ruben to Sigrid to Alan Walker. It all depends on the mood and the situation. Sigrid on a road trip and Highasakite before I go to bed.
Alexandra Rotan: On Saturday 28 August, Stjernekamp will start on NRK, and it is gratifying that you are one of this year’s participants.
What expectations and ambitions do you have for being there, not least considering all the other talented participants who are participating this year?
I’ve always wanted to be in Battle of the Stars, so it’s an honour to be asked. I look forward to throwing myself into genres that I have never done before, and not least to be on stage often again. There is an incredible number of talented participants this year, and we have already become a good group of friends. This will be a memory for life!
Which genres do you enjoy and dread most and least?
I’m really looking forward to stadium rock. Then I finally get really loose on stage, and there is a lot of energy, band and pyro – just the way I like it. I do not usually go bananas on stage during the KEiiNO concerts, but I feel that if there is one place I can test it for the first time, it is on this broadcast in Battle of the Stars.
I’m very excited about opera, for the reason that it’s the most technically challenging. Those who can really sing opera have been doing this for several years, and now I will learn it in less than a week – and show it in prime time on national TV. Scary!
You have put together a 20 + 5 playlist for us. How has it been, have you had a specific focus regarding the selection of the songs that you wanted to include in the list, and have you encountered any “challenges” along the way?
The list is a mixture of our Norwegian musical heroes and role models such as Røyksopp and A-ha, fantastic songwriters and communicators such as Ina Wroldsen and Susanne Sundfør – and some of the best new Norwegian artists. In addition, we have tricked in some retro hits that we still love.
What is the craziest or most special thing you have experienced so far as a band?
The craziest thing must be when we parachuted during Ekstremsportveko in Voss in 2019. It was spontaneous, nerve-wracking but fun. Something else very special was the recording of the music video for Monument. Then we packed the car and drove to absolutely amazing places and filmed. On this trip, we also climbed Slogen, which is a very demanding mountain, with heavy bags with costumes, makeup and camera equipment on the back. When we got to the top it was really worth the effort, and the fantastic pictures can be seen on our YouTube channel.
Can you name a guilty pleasure or a pleasure?
We love the shameless pop bangers of the ‘90s from artists like Britney and the Backstreet Boys, but we are probably not ashamed of it.
Alexandra: my guilty pleasure is probably a charter trip to Granca with All Inclusive. Then I’m in my ace.
Fred: I like to call myself a curious soul in everything in life, it also means that I LOVE watching the program How it is made.
Which place do you dream of playing in, and which scene has surprised you the most?
We have many dreams, and one of them is to play on the main stage during the Glastonbury Festival. We also want to be able to tour all year round, and visit big cities around the world! The Eurovision stage is probably what we all look back on and remember very well. The whole hall joiked and sang along, and that was the start of our whole career.
If you could work with a Norwegian musician, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Alexandra: KYGO had been fun!
Tom: I would have liked to have written a song with Anne Grete Preus before she passed away, she was an incredibly good songwriter.
Fred: I think it would have been a fun result to work with Edvard Grieg. What a musical journey it would come out of mixing joik, folk tunes, classical music, and pop together.
How will the summer be for KEiiNO in terms of concerts and holidays?
We have just completed a long tour, where we have visited cultural houses in large parts of the country. It is fantastic to be back on stage again, and after a whole year without concerts, we are really looking forward to the summer. We are going to Treungen, Markomeannu and Allsang on the border, among other places.
how has the Covid19 / korona period faded for their part, and what are their musical plans for 2021?
The period has been challenging and scary. There was no clear plan for when cultural life would reopen, which made us very anxious. But if we are to highlight something positive from the period, our highlight in 2020 was to write “Monument”. Had we not had the extra time last year gave us, we would probably have spent the time on other things than writing new music. We would probably have played concerts and promoted our album “OKTA” instead, and had it not gone as we wanted, it is not certain we would have had a large enough audience to survive. So it has not only been negative.
We have just completed a tour, so there are some festivals on the way before we finish the album that comes next winter. After Alexandra finishes in Star Wars, we will do some concerts abroad before we play on 20 November at Vulkan Arena. In addition, we will go on our “Christmas Spirit in the Sky” tour in November and December. So there will be plenty to do in the future.