tiistai 11. elokuuta 2015

Don’t mention the F-word

A fandom nerd interview with Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker


[disclaimer: This interview is specifically intended for people who have “above average interest” in Ylvis, and because of that the interview has not been edited very much. It’s more like a transcript of a conversation. I’ve removed a few redundancies and cleared up a couple of bits, but otherwise I tried to keep the text as close to the original speech as possible. This makes it a bit of a long read, which I believe won’t be a problem for the intended audience. The interview was made August 5th 2015. Niin ja sori suomalaiset, että tää on englanniksi!]

I’m sitting on a slightly damp bench outside the café called Hønse-Lovisas Hus, an idyllic little wooden red house by the Akerselva river in Grünerløkka, Oslo. It’s quarter to ten in the morning, but the café only opens at eleven. Luckily the owner has come in early and she makes me a cup of tea. I sit and wait and sip the tea. I don’t even drink tea. 

A few minutes past ten, Vegard Ylvisåker walks in through the garden gate and greets me. I get up and give my hand to shake, but he makes it a hug. “Bård is late”, he says. “He’s not answering his phone.”

We sit down on the bench and he makes another call. “Yeah, is Bård there? We have an interview.” It’s a short phone call. “I called his wife. He’s awake.” He looks at a map on his phone. “I can see where he is. Yeah, he’s home.”

He goes inside to get a sandwich. “Do you have this kind of ham in Finland? It’s called spekeskinke. It’s salted and dried.” I thought it was parma ham.

After a little while we decide to start the interview without Bård.

When I began planning this interview, I started a conversation online about what question you would like to ask Ylvis. I got a few very good questions, but then the conversation turned into what were everyone's favourite bacteria.

Okay. [laughs] It's funny with bacteria... When we made Work It, we were so exhausted. That was the first music video we made. We didn't respect the amount of work at all in advance. We had the shoot, that was our hard deadline. We lived in Bergen at the time, so we came over the day before the shoot, in the morning, with our laptops. We had a mic stand and a microphone with us on the plane. So we took the airport train into town, off to the offices. We fine-tuned the lyrics.

The director would normally have the song ready, so he could visualise every little bit of the song. At this point nothing was ready. He just had the broad lines the day before the shoot. I was like ok, let's have two locations, the bathtub and the club, and let's just see what this is going to be.

We had this ventilation system in the offices that contaminated the whole area with sound, so we had to wait until nine o'clock until we could start recording. So it was just me and Bård in a storage room. It had the most stuff on the shelves so it didn't have the echo. We were in there until 5 o'clock I think. Then we went down to the hotel and we slept for 1,5 hours. Then up again. It was like checking in at 6 o'clock in the morning and checking out at half past seven.

Then we went down to make the video, super tired. If you look closely, you can see that Bård's eyes are really red when he's in the pool because it was so awful. We were so tired when we did the lyrics that we didn't really check them. Of course it says "bacterias", with an s. It's funny. We didn't realize that until the whole thing was finished. Shit happens.

Rubbing it in

Who did the background track? Was that done in a studio?

Actually we had help from a friend there, Erlend Sellevold. He's done a lot of things with Ralph Meyerz and the Jack Herren Band, where Tarjei plays. Bård met him coincidentally at an airport, and they started talking about the song. He said “send it over, that's fun”. But it wasn't like just send it over and have a finished result, we had a lot of back and forth, a lot of comments. It was the first video and the first season.

Did you decide to do things differently after that experience?

Tried to, but very often we end up with... Not the same but almost. Doing things at the last minute, kind of.

Do you like to go over the details over and over again?

We tend to do that, but it's very hard to say when that pays off. Sometimes you do things really quickly and it comes out good, and sometimes you spend a lot of time on stuff and it doesn't really help. It all comes down to the original idea, if it was good or not.

You’ve made a lot of the songs at Phat Cat Studios with Lars Devik.

Basically it's just him and Stargate. Except for this guy for the Work It song.

Are you going to continue with the same people?

I think so. But Lars moved to Bergen a month ago. That's going to be challenging, but I think we can still work things out. They're all interested.

Is there a difference in the way that you work with Lars or with Stargate?

Oh yeah. Lars is a childhood friend. I met him when I was nine years old. From that point in time we've been making music together. We kind of just flow together when we do stuff. We know each other's weaknesses and strengths. We know what we don't like and what we do and don't have in common. Which is both a strength and a weakness in a way. It gets very comfortable both on the good side and the bad side.

But we have the same kind of humour in a way, the musical humour. It's a very narrow kind of humour I think, but it's nice for us to have it in there. For example in The Cabin. We're so lucky to have the bass player of one of our favourite bands to record The Cabin, Jonny Sjo. He's also in our band now. That's kind of awesome, because me and Lars, we used to sit and listen to his band D’Sound when we were kids. We've done that for 20 years, and now we're playing with him. And The Cabin has both the drummer and the bass player from that band.

At one point there Jonny Sjo does this run that is so typical of that genre and so typical of him. We had so much fun when we did it, me and Lars and Bård and of course the two of them. They always make serious music, that's the fun thing about this. We're kind of used to fucking around with music, but they're not. This is their chance to do something stupid with their music, and they're so happy about it. Everyone was laughing and everyone was having a good time. That's really cool.

With Stargate of course it's a little bit more difficult, but at the same time not a big problem, because it's the same with them: they always make serious music, and when they have the chance to do stupid things, I think they're having a good time.

I remember when we were making Mr. Toot and Yoghurt. That was fun. Norwegians are traditionally very much like "ok, we'll work tomorrow from ten to four and I have this appointment where I have to go". But with these guys, we were working on Trucker's Hitch or something, and then we just started jamming on another song. Suddenly we'd made another song. We'd planned to go home, but they said “this is cool, let's make this song. Write some lyrics, we'll do this, we'll order in some pizza and some beers.” They just put their life on the shelf and we made another song. 

Lars Devik behind the keyboard. Ignore the Turkish pop star. [photo source]

Where did Mr. Toot come from?

I just wanted to make a song about a mystical figure. I don't remember whose idea it was. I think Bård and Christian [Løchstøer] were sitting at the office, talking about this legend, and I came into the office and said "oh, that's Mr. Toot". And they laughed and it became Mr. Toot.

Why is he called Mr. Toot?

That was just something I thought about at that time. I just said it. People liked the sound of it. Then we started thinking: what does he do? Well he plays the toot of course. And I don't know. It came.

Who made the instrument?

I actually designed it in 3D. We had some different suggestions, but we ended up with a combination of an oud and a trombone I think. But we had it made down at the music store. There was some heavy engineering to do there.

Basic toot [source]
I'm a bit of a musical instrument nerd so I really love that. Is it at all playable?

Yeah you can play it as an oud, but it wouldn't sound good. And it doesn't have the same sound as on the soundtrack. It wouldn't make much sense to play it really. But we were thinking of playing the fancy midi toot. Because we bought one.

I remember one of you tweeting about trying to find one.

We bought it and we scheduled the shoot in Morocco. And then suddenly I realised it’s not coming in time.

So you were able to borrow one?

I spent a lot of time on that one. It's work that I enjoy doing, but it was nerve wrecking at the same time. But I finally managed to find one. I searched for the instrument name and only Norway, and found a guy, just a username on a BMW forum. For some reason the guy had listed up his studio equipment. But he didn't have any contact information, no e-mail, nothing, and I had to get a hold of him like today, because it would be too late tomorrow.

So on this forum I managed to filter all his posts, and I found one with some images. He had shared pictures of his new car. One of the pictures was from inside of the car and it showed a reflection on the window of the GPS. On the GPS it said Høgehaug, 600 meters. So I went to Google Earth, I put in Høgehaug and made a 600 meter circle around it. It had to be within that area. Then I found this road and thought this must be it. I went on street view and compared it to the original car picture. After scrolling a bit back and forth I found it. This must be the house. 

Fancy midi toot [source]
I called a number which I found for that address. I called his home, he didn't answer. Called his work, no-one answered there, but suddenly I found another number on the address. It was his daughter, and I said I have to get a hold of him. He has to call back today. She was like ok, ok… That was cool. It was very satisfying when I got a hold of him.

So you kind of work as producers on your videos as well.

Well yeah, we are producers in a way. Like co-producers. Of course a lot of things we don't do, like organise stuff. This was stuff that I just think is fun and I though this I could do pretty efficiently, so I did it. Normally we don't have time to do stuff like that.

The company that made Intolerant posted a video from behind the scenes. I was thinking the whole time that you really must have an efficient producer to be able to do all that in one day.

When you do a thing like that, you start the day with a sheet with the plan for the day. Of course we could have made that ourselves, but for these things we have good people who know what to do, so we had a lot of help for that. And in that particular case we outsourced the video to a company called Motion Blur, which then also used a company in Latvia. So you're kind of the producer on the top, but in that particular case we were just writers and performers. Of course we have a lot of things to say when it comes to the whole thing and we discuss them with the director all the time, but when it comes to logistics, we're not involved.

Where did the idea for the video come from?

I don't remember. I think it was Bård's idea. We just wanted to make a ballad about something mundane. And he's lactose intolerant, so I think it came from there.

What's your favourite song to play live?

I hate those favourite questions. I don't think I can answer.

Well what do you like about playing live?

It's the main reason why I do this for a living. It's just very rewarding to see that people like something that you perform. You get happy because people get happy from what you're doing. It's not that you go "oh, look at those people, they think I'm awesome". It's more like “these people are having a good time”. You get the response and there's a good thing going on.

I really think you're at your best when you're doing things live.

I think so too. We asked to do I kveld med Ylvis live for the first seasons, but people were afraid of it. Then at season four we just said ok, now we just have to cut the crap, let's do this thing live for real.

Two things with season four were groundbreaking for us. Doing it live was a good thing, and also having the huge audience was really cool. It's kind of hard to get 1400 people every night, though.

Yeah, I know you’re awesome and very popular, but even I was surprised that you could fill a huge theatre that many times.

We too. When we chose to do this, we had to go through it many times and think: “at which point have we fucked up for choosing this?” If you have less than 400 people in that room, then things start to look bad. You can cut out the whole gallery visually, and underneath the gallery as well. Then you have about 500 seats left on the floor, and some of it goes away to technics and so on. So it’s still possible to do the show without selling out the whole room, but of course it gives something special when it’s full. All that life and the response. It’s going to be exciting to see this year how we’re going to do it. We haven’t really landed on having it there, but I think we’re trying to.

But it’s quite occupied, isn’t it?

Yeah it is, but we have this advantage of doing this on Tuesdays, which is normally a day on which people don’t do anything there. That’s a good thing.

Do you know when it’s going to be yet, or is it still up in the air?

It’s not official yet, so we don’t know. It’s probably in the winter. Approaching Christmas.

This year still?

Yeah. Hopefully. It’s kind of unusual for us, because for four years we’ve always started in September.

You're welcome

Did you really decide it at the last moment?

Yeah, very much so. Or we had said no, because we wanted to do something else, and then we kind of changed our minds. And now we’re really into it again. You don’t get fed up, but it’s just our whole career, we’ve never like rested. We did that in the first years, and it killed us in a way. The first show we did we played for 3,5 years I think, and you get so tired of it that it really kills all your engagement. We’ve decided that’s not the way to go, so after a while we just move on. Let’s do radio, let’s do television, let’s do stage shows, let’s do different things, just to keep things organic. And now we did I kveld med Ylvis for four seasons and kind of decided to try something else. But then we found out that it would be cool to do it once more, as long as you just rattle the cage a little bit and try to find new ways to do stuff.

How was the 24 hour livestream?

It wasn’t as bad as we dreaded it to be. It was ok actually.

Whose idea was it?

I think it was TVNorge’s. I don’t really remember.

It was such a silly thing to do, but we got a lot of fun out of it.

I hope so. It was kind of fun in a way. It’s a stupid thing to do when you have the last day of preparation for a show. It’s not what you need. But in a way it sort of got us fired up, and we also just decided that our premiere is not the day of the premiere, it’s the day before. Everything has to be ready one day in advance. That’s how we have to look at it.

But still we did a lot of real stuff there, like rehearse for the dance on camera. The dangerous part of it is of course that after a little while you just don’t care about the cameras anymore, so you start doing things that you normally wouldn’t do on camera.

But it was ok. I was just skeptical, because first of all, the whole 24-hour thing had been done like half a year before by another Norwegian channel. They had this interview for 24 hours. We felt this was lagging a little bit behind. And I was worried that we would just ruin our focus and make the product worse, but actually I think it sort of sharpened us a little bit. And also we were afraid that it looked very… narcissistic. If you choose to broadcast yourself for 24 hours, you have to think that you’re very interesting in a way.

Well you are interesting.

Yeah but I mean for 24 hours, it’s just…

Nah, it was such a silly thing. I actually think that people would love to see more about what goes on behind the scenes. Like the video from behind the scenes of Intolerant, people were really into that.

We’re kind of secretive. We like to keep the magic. That’s because we know it’s no magic. It’s like the magician who doesn’t show what’s inside the black hat, he just pulls the rabbit up. It’s like the movie about magicians, I don’t remember the name [it’s Prestige (2006)]. It’s a movie about… is it two brothers that are magicians? [they’re actually two rival magicians] They do this amazing trick. They have this cage with a small bird in it. He puts a blanket over it and smashes it flat. And then a bird comes out. Of course it’s two birds, but the one inside the cage is like… flat. So if you tell that to a kid, he wouldn’t be very happy about it. And that’s the same with us.

So you’ve got multiple Bårds and Vegards and you just kill off one, and a new one comes along.

Yeah. We have harnessed the art of cloning. But you know, you see proof that these differences exist in how we perceive ourselves and our work, and how other people do that. Because from time to time you get these analyses of our stuff.

Did you get that book about that just now, by the way?

Yeah I got the book, like what is it called… The Chronicles… Not The Chronicles, it was…

The Nerd’s Guide To Ylvis.

Who made it?

It was this Canadian girl Robin, and Eve who is from Philadelphia. They started this thing in one of the groups in Facebook. They started conversations and a lot of people took part in those.

[laughs] It’s so funny… That is one of the coolest things about this job. You make something and it’s very often a coincidence who comes up with something and who says something. I mean Mr. Toot, whatever, you know. And then all of the thoughts that go into thinking what they really mean… Yeah, it’s really fun.

I think especially the character of Finn has been a source of lots of discussion.

[excited] Yeah, and it’s really just… It’s just nothing. [laughs] I was with Christian and I think I said “have you heard this song”, and I played the original song. He just started singing on the chorus with new lyrics, and I said “Jeg heter Finn! Jeg heter Finn!” and we started laughing about this guy whose name no-one knows. And that’s it.

And then there are pages full of discussion about his life and what he’s like.


A desperate Finn [source]

Have you known Christian for a long time as well?

Well it has started to become a long time. The first time we worked together was… You know Hvem kan slå Ylvis? He was at least on that project. I think he was also involved in the last show of Norges herligste, which was kind of a big gala event, an award show. I think he was involved in writing the script for that. But we really started working together on Hvem kan slå Ylvis, which was in 2009 I think. And after that we’ve been working together. He also co-wrote the last stage show we had, Ylvis 4.

Are you thinking of doing more of those kinds of stage shows?

Yeah, I mean we don’t have any plans for it now, but… We’ve been away from it for a long time, but what we do now with the concerts is kind of similar. It’s not the same, but it’s still performing live. It almost has the same length as well.

One of the questions most people wonder about is are you going to release Ylvis 4 on DVD?

[pensive] Yeah… I don’t know why we haven’t.

You could do it as a digital download.

Yeah. Well we should. We have too many things to think about. And you don’t make very much money on these things so… We have it on tape. Has it been aired? No.

I don’t think anybody’s seen it except if they were there.

Maybe it should be just, you know, a cult thing. Because people would be disappointed if they saw it.

You think so?

I don’t know. If it has already become like this mysterious project that no-one knows about.

Maybe you should just release it bit by bit, one minute from the middle of the show appears in some secret place and somebody finds it. People are pretty good detectives, because you’re so secretive. They start looking for stuff.

It’s kind of freaky sometimes, yeah. No, we should do that. I’m not sure what we’ve done with it. I think we just recorded it and we haven’t done any post-production at all. So it’s going to take some effort. These times are hard, you know, not for television, television is fine, but for selling DVDs and CDs and stuff like that. I don’t understand that business. There are so many strange things.

The record industry is just fucked up. I was just shocked to learn how the industry works. I wasn’t hoping to earn a lot of money on record sales, so that was ok. But especially in America the way it goes is you make a song and it sells copies around the world, digitally and physically, mostly digitally. And you would think that now of all times the means of measuring how many sold items you have is better than ever, because everything is digital, you just monitor it just like that. This is how many one dollar downloads you’ve had.

We have our own record label, which we have all the back catalogue on. Which I manage myself. It’s the easiest thing in the world. You just get a chart and get a number: the publisher has sold this many copies, this percentage goes to the publisher, this is for you. But in the big labels, they go: “ohh yeah, now it’s been like 1,5 years, you’ve sold this much.” And we say: “nooo, it can’t be that. It must be much more.” “Ok, let’s say this much then.” Then our agents and their agents negotiate and they just achieve a settlement, where they agree on like “ok, let’s say you earn this much. Is everyone ok with that? “ “Well yeah, you’re not going to give us the real numbers, so we’re going to be happy with that.” It’s just strange.

That whole business, we don’t really think much about it. It’s so much easier to do a concert. Either someone pays you for it, or you go like how many tickets have we sold? This many. And how much goes to us? This much. Then we know how much it is. 

Playing American in Sweden [source]

Have you thought about taking the concert abroad, further than Sweden? For example Finland.

Yeah, sure. We have. It’s just hard to know how it’ll play, like how many people will come. But our main problem is time. We’re now producers on the Magnus show, and we have our own show, and we have family that makes stains like this on the clothes [scratches off some unknown white substance on his thigh]. It’s a lot of things. It’s ok for us to go to Sandefjord and wherever to just play, but if you have to go on a tour, that’s another thing. And doing just one concert in Poland or whatever... You can do it for fun. We wouldn’t do it for money. But you would have to have a tour. At the moment we don’t have time for fun anymore. Or we have fun, but for extra fun. So it’s a luxury problem for us.

Is there anything you can tell me about what you’re doing in LA?

Not very much. We’re just experimenting with stuff. Some people said it was a pilot. It’s not a pilot. We’re trying out stuff. A lot of things won’t work, so people will never see these things. The only thing that is to tell there is that we are in collaboration with Lionsgate and trying to find out if we can do something. We’re kind of comfortable in Norway, so we don’t want to rush over to America just to do something in America. It would be cool to do stuff in America, but we don’t do things because it’s cool to be in America. We just want to do things that are fun and if we can do that over there, that’s cool.

I think even the Americans are worried that you’ll do something really American there, not like what you normally do.

I think so too. The American way of working is very different from here. One should not underestimate the cultural differences between the strange country of America and the rest of the world.

But it’s probably getting more difficult to do pranks and stuff here in Norway, when everybody knows you.

Yeah, sure. We just have to find out first of all what they want over there. What can we make that is funny over there and what can we do there that we can’t do here? But we’re really relaxed about it and we have our stuff back here. That’s our main hub.

Seems you can do pretty much what you want at the moment.

It’s a truth with modifications, I would say. It is coincidentally true, because we can do what we want, and what we want is what they want. So that works out. Yeah, we have our liberty here. TVNorge knows we’ve made things work before, so they gave us kind of a carte blanche.

[looks at his phone] I’m just going to see about this late guy. It’s been an hour now.
[looks at the map app on his phone] Oh he’s very close. He’s like really really really close. He should be at the parking lot, I think. [He calls Bård. “Where are you? Are you coming? Hønse-Lovisa was your suggestion. We’re sitting and waiting. I thought you’d just come down here. Yeah, ok.”]

He’s coming.

So are Magnus and Calle going to be with you next season?

Yeah, I think so. They’re interested. There’s a lot of things to be worked out, because this was kind of a last minute call, and everyone’s been to vacation. But probably they are. I can’t confirm it for real. Calle is going to have a premiere on a new show [the Raske menn show in Oslo]. And it all depends on when we’re going to start. But we hope so.

Heroes and sidekicks in Oslo Spektrum [source]

You hate the favourite question, but are there some favourite segments that you’ve made for IKMY, something that you like to do?

I think the core idea or ideology of both me and Bård is that when it has reality in it, then it’s funny. The more we go away from reality, the less funny it gets. Among the things that we’ve done trough these seasons, you see very little of us being characters, or sketches and such. We don’t do that. The only thing where we do that is the music videos and such.

[Bård walks through the gate and gives a hug.]

You’re awake!

B: Hello. Sorry. I misunderstood and I overslept. What have you been talking about?
The weather.
V: All kinds of stuff.
B: Yes. Good.

We were talking about what segments you’ve liked doing for IKMY. And he was saying that you like the ones that have an element of reality in it.

B: Yeah. Like the attack on Farmen, that reality project.

I liked the thing where you went to Kirgisistan. That was one of my favourites.

V: Yeah that’s real. That’s just us going over there. Of course we had some plans. We had staked out things and had our local people that fix things and stuff, but at the end of the day it’s just us two going over there and we didn’t know what to expect. And that’s fun.

B: Yeah I agree. Also to plan things overly much is fun, like the Farmen thing. We liked that. And some things we like when they’re done, but we don’t like doing them. Like when we’re walking around in fish costumes or fly costumes last season. It’s not so much fun to do that, but when we see it after it’s done, we think it’s funny.

Krasota [source]

I was saying before that I started this discussion about what would you ask Ylvis. So I got a few questions that I can ask. Yeah and then it all turned into a discussion about everyone’s favourite bacteria.

B: Nice.
V: I don’t really have favourite bacteria, but I just made my third batch of yoghurt.

What bacteria did you use for that? [totally not thinking about THIS]

V: I guess it’s some kind of a lactose… It’s not a lactose bacteria, but it eats the lactose.
B: Could it be LLG?
V: Not necessary-lee.
B: Milk acid bacteria.
V: Maybe. But it’s fascinating.
B: Lactobacillus.

So ok, here’s some random questions. 
Are you more like your father or your mother?

V: I think we’re more like our father in a way.
B: Yeah, probably our father. He played in a band when he was a kid and he’s a funny guy. So probably father, yeah.
V: They’re not very different though.

I actually met them in Stockholm. They were so proud of you.  And they made sure everybody knew you have your third brother as well.

[both laugh] V: Yeah, he couldn’t be there.

What’s your best feature?

B: My best feature…
V. It’s my ability to find direction from sun.  If the sun is out, I can come out of a subway station in New York and always know what’s south and north.
B: I don’t have very many good features.
V: You have that navigation thing, the internal…
B: The magnetic field? No.

You’re good at sleeping?

B: I’m good at sleeping! Thank you.
V: Yeah. He’s very good at falling asleep. I don’t have that.
B: I’m very good at sleeping.
V: I’m good at sleeping too, but not good at falling asleep. He can do that wherever he wants.
B: I saw a clip yesterday of a kid, probably four years old, who he has an electric car toy car. He’s driving around in his yard in circles, and he’s falling asleep while he’s driving. And then the car stops and he wakes up, and the gas goes on again. And the parents are just filming this whole ride of him falling asleep and driving and turning. He ends up smashing into a tree. Very funny.
V: I have some videos of my kids who are eating and falling asleep when they are eating. It’s funny.

Who packs a bigger suitcase when you travel?

B: I bet everything is like five frames per second in
Moominworld.  The animators on Moomin are really
lazy. It’s like the Japanese cartoons.
Me: Well it was actually animated in Japan.
B: Lazy fucking Japanese animators.

B: [points at Vegard] But that’s mostly cables and…
V: I’m very redundant.
B: He packs to survive wherever he goes. And also it’s a lot of clothes, because he doesn’t know what to wear, so he brings everything.
V: [laughs] Yeah. If we’re working on something not on camera, I don’t care. Then I pack…
B: Four t-shirts.
V: One for each day. But when I have to think about it, then I pack everything I have. Which is not very much.

What’s your favourite word? In any language.

B: Any language? In Swedish it’s utskottsledamot [committee representative]. In English it’s hence. In Norwegian… It’s no. It’s a good word to know. We wouldn’t have been anywhere in our career if we wouldn’t have had the ability to say no.
V: True dat.

Yeah, it’s difficult. How about you, Vegard?

V: English: alas. That’s fine. Norwegian… You know I hate those questions. I think my favourite word in Norwegian is shut up. Hold kjeft. My kids wouldn’t be what they are today if I didn’t use that word.

Have you ever done something embarrassing to impress someone?

B: I’ve done something embarrassing once that seemed like I did it to impress someone, but it wasn’t actually to impress someone. There were a lot of people standing on a dock, and I for some reason got up on my hands and flipped over to dive. There were a lot of people there, and just as I hit the surface of the water I though oh my god that just looked like a bragging thing to do.
V: I don’t think… I can’t think of anything.

Do you ever get embarrassed about things you do for work?

V: Yeah.
B: Oh yeah, all the time. That’s what we do for a living. It’s not hard to run up to people and make songs about how stupid they look with their hair. It’s just embarrassing.

Like the bit when you sang to the drunk people. I bet they didn’t care.

V: Oh they didn’t care. That wasn’t embarrassing.
B: It’s still embarrassing, just walking around with a guitar.
V: Kind of.
B: Just the feeling.

Fishboys [source]

Are you naughty or nice?

B: Nice.
V: We’re nice.

Would you ever have plastic surgery?

V: It depends. I would have it for like…
B: For fun or for medical reason? Not out of vanity I wouldn’t do it, but…
V: Or it would be vanity in a way, like if I had an electric cigarette and it blew up in my face, and half of my face was gone, I would have done plastic surgery for sure.
B: I would have fixed my penis if it got injured.
V: Yeah you already did, right?
B: Yeah, I shortened it.
V: [comedy laugh]

What’s you biggest fear?

B: I have claustrophobia. And the fear of being burned alive, I think.
V: You could just name a lot of fears.
B: Rollercoasters.
V: I have a fear of clothes.


V: Yeah, I hate clothing.
B: Makes you sound like a nudist. You’re afraid of the choice.

I was just about to say that you don’t have to wear any clothes if you don’t want to.

V: No, it’s not that. I’m very comfortable with wearing clothes, but I like the North Korean and Chinese way of just saying “Everyone wears blue. With a hat.” I loved the military. You were told what to wear. Everyone had the same. Loved it. My wife always puts this pile of clothes for each of the kids the night before, because I always get up with them. And if she hasn’t done that for some reason, I get all sweaty.

Would you want her to do that for you as well?

V: Well yeah…
B: I think she already does.
V: No she doesn’t, but I occasionally put on things and she says “you can’t wear those things together” and I say ok.

Do you have nicknames for each other?

V: Not for each other, no. Well I call him Bårdle-san, which would be like his Japanese name. For some reason.

Oh, this is an important one. What products do you use for your hair?

V: I use KMS.
B: Molding paste.
V: Molding paste.
B: I use partly that and the American Crew… What’s it called? I don’t know. It’s a brown bottle. I have a very fluffy hair and I have to put stuff in it. It’s a fine line between hair that looks too greasy although it’s clean and hair that is too fluffy, frizzy.

Men with little hair [source]
Did you enjoy being bald?

B: Yeah. Loved it.

Are you going to do it again?

B: Probably when time comes, when I can’t have a lot of hair. I think it’s too early to go bald now because I’ll probably spend the last 40 years of my life bald, so I might as well have some hair now while I can. But it was very practical.
V: I was almost bald in the army as well. I had 3 mm shave. Loved it.

Have you thought about doing that again?

V: Well yeah, I would love it, but at the same time I won’t. It’s kind of like with clothes. I don’t really care about what kind of clothes I have, but still I care in a way. I know that I would care if I saw a picture of myself.

Why is flying the family business?

V: I just think it’s the natural… He was actually first [points at Bård].

Really? Do you fly as well?

B: I don’t fly. I was supposed to. When I was in high school, I was trying to decide between going to pilot school and being an architect. I never really got that far because we started doing this all of a sudden. But I did like the flight simulator stuff.
V: He flew model airplanes long before I did.

Do you regret that you don’t have any kind of education after high school?

B: No. I think this is the best education you can get. In our business you don’t really need papers. Because if you suck, it doesn’t matter if you have nice paperwork.

Doesn’t matter if you suck on paper.

B: True. That’s true.

So where would you be, if not in entertainment?

B: You’d be a pilot.
V: Yeah. Or no, not necessarily. I was actually admitted to a school just before we started doing this. I was going to Lillehammer to start working on media technics. It’s like being a camera operator and stuff like that.
B: It’s a bit funny I think, because we’ve never thought that we could do what we have wanted to do for a living. Like we never even considered doing entertainment stuff for a living, even though we probably would have wanted to.
V: And our father, he had this saying that it’s better to be a surgeon and a hobby musician than a musician and a hobby surgeon.
B: But I think that you have always wanted to fly. For some reason you didn’t think that you could do that for a living because it would be too much fun. That being said, I think I could have had any job…

V: [interrupts] Do you want waffles? For this smell.
B: The smell of waffle?
V: Yeah, you want one?
B: I’m ok. Have you eaten waffles?
V: No, but I want to very much now.
B: You can buy a waffle. I didn’t eat breakfast.
V: You want one?

No I’m ok.

[V gets up]
B: Well if you buy one, you can buy for me as well.
V: There you go.

[Vegard goes off to buy waffles]

So, you were at Fana skoleteater. How did you end up there?

B: I ended up there because my brother ended up there.

How did he end up there?

Bård at Fana skoleteater in 2000 [source]
B: He went to an audition because my mother forced him to. She said that he should try and he did and didn’t like it, because he wanted to be in the band. But at Fana school theatre they were always short on men. A lot of girls applied but no guys, so they kind of encouraged him to do it. And he did one audition and then he came home and he said “naw, I don’t want to do it”. My mom forced him and drove him back for a second audition. And then he did it.

We had always been messing around and having fun as kids, but we didn’t think that we could do it on a stage. We just did it for fun. So he ended up on stage, he did a show and I remember I went to the premiere and I saw him doing what we had always done, but with other actors and some lights and makeup, and all of a sudden it looked kind of professional. And I was really surprised. I think that’s the first time I thought that wow, maybe we can do this. So then I applied. I applied to that school just to get in the theatre.

[Vegard comes back and asks if Bård wants the waffle with jam and (sour?) cream or without.]

B: Yeah, so that’s how we ended up there.

[Bård takes the one without the condiments and heads inside.]

We were talking about Fana skoleteater. You went there because your mom told you to.

V: Yep. I did. I applied for that school because of the theatre, because I wanted to play in the band with Lars.

Vegard in "Hotel Nufsefjord" (1997) [source]
And then they forced you to be on stage?

V: Yeah. Yes they did.

Are there any plays in specific that you remember from there, that you liked maybe or that you didn’t like?

V: I remember from before I was in it. They were kind of my idols. I remember Rosenbuskemordet.

A murder mystery?

V: Yeah. It was always that. They followed the same prescription for years, because the instructors were really just actors that had played there like two years before, and suddenly they master the art of writing an entire play. They were always pretty similar to the preceding ones.

Was it one production per year or…?

V: Yeah. It’s always a musical criminal comedy. They always say that on the poster. I don’t know how it is now.

Have you gone there after?

V: Yeah, a couple of times.
B: Still the same.

Is that where you met Calle or did you meet him before?

V: I met him there, at the theatre. He’s a little bit older than me.

So Lars was also there, and was there anybody else that you work with now?

V: There are some of our friends.
B: Your brother was there.
V: Yeah, he was there. He played the drums.
B: You know Raske menn? One of the guys from Raske menn was there.
V: Øyvind, yeah.
B: Anyone else?
V: There are some friends of ours, like one of the backing vocalists, he was also there [Frode Vassel]. We were actually backing vocalists together. But he was our friend from before, that counts for more than being in Fana skoleteater.

Seems a lot of people in the band are basically your friends.

V: Not that many. It’s actually just Lars and Frode.
B: And Tarjei.
V: Yeah. But they’ve become our friends of course now.

Band boys in Bergen: Lars Devik, Jonny Sjo, Kato Ådland and Johannes Groth [source]

Where do you know Tarjei from?

B: From Bergen. We played in a band, me and him and Sondre [Lerche].
V: We had some common friends.

Did you hang out with the same friends when you were at school or did you have your own friends?

V: No, we had our own friends back then I think. After we finished school, then we started to hang out with the same people. All sort of just merged together. He’s the youngest one in our group of friends and there are some in the middle. He’s kind of the youngest one and I’m almost the oldest one.

So you had a band together with Tarjei.

B: Yeah, me and Tarjei, it was just for fun. We worked, tried to keep things professional otherwise, so we had this stupid mock band called The Batmans. And it was just me and Sondre and Tarjei, a couple of others. Kato, who plays the guitar with us.

Did you play gigs?
Knutsen & Ludvigsen and "The Train Conductors" (2006) [source]

V: Oh yeah.
B: Yeah we did play some gigs.
V: They played a festival with 10 000 in the audience.
B: It was the biggest thing we did. As a backing band for a legendary Norwegian children’s band [Knutsen & Ludvigsen]. Apart from that, it was like this anti-band. We had a Christmas concert, where we did things purposely bad, just because we thought it was funny, like playing the same song twice and wearing stupid costumes.

What kind of music did you play?

V: You played Divo stuff.
B: Yeah, Divo stuff, and Presidents of the United States of America. One of the guys, he had a side project band called The Giraffes. We played a lot of their stuff. Nothing to remember.

So were you in any bands, Vegard?

V: Yeah. I kind of started out the band tradition. In the world. [laughs]
B: In Norway.
V: No, but of us two, because I played in a band for a long time when I was a kid. A band whose Norwegian name was “Smelly Socks”. Sure Sokker. That was me and Lars. We were, I don’t know, maybe 12, 13 when we started. We had that for a couple of years and after that I started a dancing band with Lars.

Did you play weddings and stuff?

V: [laughs] Well…
B: One wedding.
V: One wedding. That was after we’d already worked for a couple of years. Lars had a friend who asked if he could play at a wedding, and Lars just said “let’s do this for fun”. He asked if I want to play bass. I said I haven’t played bass in a long time, but if you get a stable drummer, then I guess everything is fine.  And then after a couple of weeks I went like “ok, so are we going to do this?” And he said “yeah, sure”. “You have a drummer?” “Yeah. It’s Bård.” I was like “oh, ok…” We played three sets, and the progress was remarkable during the sets. I mean we got so much better as a band during the whole gig. [laughs]
B: I’d never played drums. The first set was my first set ever. The second set I played, my experience was doubled. By the third set I was awesome.

Too bad the people were probably progressively drunk as you were playing.

B: Absolutely.
V: And I remember I put a drumstick in my shoelaces like this, and the drumstick was out like that. And I taped a cowbell to the floor, to the mike stand, and I was doing like this while playing [tapping foot to hit the cowbell]. It was fun.

Are there any movie lines that you always quote?

B: No, don’t think so…
V: “Romans go home” from Life of Brian.
B: Now you’re just thinking of lines.
V: Yeah I know. “We found this spoon, sir.” But I don’t quote it, I just like to say it.

Who’s your favourite Python? From Monty Python?
B: I was watching Fawlty Towers yesterday.
V: [laughs] Yeah he has the…
B: What’s the name of Fawlty Towers in Finnish?

Pitkän Jussin majatalo.

B: Which means literally…?

It means “the guesthouse of tall Jussi”. Jussi, that’s a man’s name.

B: You know what it’s called in Swedish? What was it…? I saw it on the Swedish network the other night.
V: In Norway it’s called “a hotel in its own league”.
B: It was so funny, the Swedish name for it… No but Mr. Cleese. He has some powers.

I love the nazi episode, when there are some German guests at the hotel and everyone’s like “don’t mention the war” and in the end he’s just going like that [doing nazi salutes and marching].

V: Yeah [laughs]
B: This one was “you know nothing about the horse”.
V: [manuel accent] “I know nooothing!” That’s classic.

So yours is John Cleese. Do you have a favourite Python, Vegard?

V: As always, I don’t like those questions, because I think John Cleese is funny, but I also love Michael Palin, I love Eric Idle, I love… [starts laughing]

I love how Michael Palin always looks like he’s about to crack up.

Don't crack up
B: Yeah.
V: I love his travel shows. Around the World in 80 Days. Loved it. [looking at Wikipedia on his phone] Now I’m going to read this in Swedish… “Pang i bygget”! [“Bang in the building”]
B: Pang i bygget! [both start laughing] Pang i bygget!
V: [reading from Wikipedia] “Pitkän Jussin majatalo”.

Do you have a Pepsi Max problem?

V: Yup. I do.
B: Less and less, I think. We don’t drink coffee. It’s something to wake up without getting too much sugar, but now we’re getting too much aspartame, so…
V: We’re going to die of something. Might as well be aspartame. No, I don’t know. Probably it’s not very good for you.

What do you splurge on? What kind of things do you buy when you have too much money?

B: I rarely buy stuff. I’m so boring. I eat out. That’s how I spend my money.
V: You wash in champagne. You know washing champagne?
B: Yeah.
V: The most stupid thing I know.
B: I hate all the time spent when you prepare a meal. It takes so much time.
V: Unless you sort of go in for it. Like if you want to master it.
B: Yeah but then it’s a different matter. I think in Norway you can’t have people working for you, which sounds strange. But I know a guy who works with computer engineers from India. They come to Norwegian companies to learn, just a standard IT job. And they’re like: “you cook yourself??” [laughs] They have a cook, they have a maid, they have nannies, they have everything, because labour is so cheap. In Norway labour is so expensive. So you do everything, even though you work a lot. You still go home and buy groceries.
V: But isn’t that the same all over the Western world? And that’s how it should be?
B: It should be like that.
V: [valley girl accent] Indians are fuucked. 
B: [same accent] I knoow.

So you don’t like buy golden shoes or diamond jackets?

B: No. He buys parts for flight simulators. They’re really expensive.
V: Not really expensive. Expensivish. I bought one expensive part. No, it’s not expensive in context. I paid like one thousand dollars for this part. That’s the most expensive part I have. But it’s the MCP you know. [I don’t know. I googled it. I still don’t know. Also first googled MTP by mistake.]  
B: Yeah, you know me.

B: I love that smell [the inflatable plastic hand].
It reminds me of Portugal. Estoril.
V: Reminds me of sex.
What children’s shows do you like?

B: I don’t like children’s shows.
V: I love the Narnia books.
B: Have you filmed them?
V: And films.
B: I love violence and bad things.
V: All kinds of adventure things I like.
B: I like Pocoyo.
V: There was this Norwegian production a couple of years ago, the Christmas calendar. What the fuck was it called…
B: Julekongen?
V: Yeah. “The Christmas King”. I liked it.

I think I’m just about to run out of questions. [I wasn’t, but we’d already been talking for almost two hours and I felt I needed to let them go.] Do you have any questions you want to ask?

B: We’re not very curious guys. My wife often asks the same question. “Do you have any questions?” “Nope.”
V: “Do your thing, wifey.”
B: “Do your thang.”

- interview by Anna-Maija Ihander for Ylvis Suomi

6 kommenttia:

  1. This is the best interview I have ever read! Good job!

  2. (This i my third time, attempting to comment on your interview with the boys; hope it works; I don't understand Finnish, so I've just been clicking buttons to see if my message(s) have gone anywhere.)

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. Your interviewing skills were amazing, and it's apparent the boys enjoyed talking with you, much more so than when they're subjected to "professional" interviewers from the media. Great work!

  3. Really great interview, thank you very much for sharing it with us!

  4. This interview is great! It sounds like you had fun talking to them :)
    I never usually want to meet famous people, but reading things like this makes me wish I could hang out and chat to them one time. In fact, guys if you're reading this, you are sincerely invited to come over to my place for tea sometime - I'm sure you can figure out my contact details and address considering Vegard is apparently a fucking MASTERMIND at tracking people down over the internet!! haha
    Anyway, thank you for sharing this gem with us!

  5. I love this. The rhythm changes when Bård gets there. They answer for each other and bring out the best or maybe the sillier side of each other.

  6. Thanks for the comments guys! I'm so happy you liked it too. :)