Talk Show Host: 044: V▲LH▲LL

Sometimes, acts intrigue by way of what they don’t tell you. Creating an air of mystique around themselves, they leave you with just the music and perhaps scant details to work out for yourself what you are hearing, what you are experiencing.

While the movement itself rather dissipated after a few short years – and the early leading lights vanished almost as soon as they faced the public gaze – a number of the acts have simply continued on, some of which have got even better as they shed what they saw as a limiting tag and began to evolve into fascinating, individual creators.

V▲LH▲LL are just one of those acts. These mysterious Swedes came to prominence through the Witch House “boom”, as no end of acts gained the tag, whether they were really part of a movement or not. There were some common threads – slowed down, distorted sounds, heavily-treated vocals and a general air of unease – but the actual resulting sound varied wildly from act-to-act, never mind country-to-country or state-to-state. V▲LH▲LL seemed to take a genuinely frightening, unsettling approach to their sound, so it was perhaps surprising to find them starting to shed the mystique as they entered 2018, ready to release a new album.

Needless to say, that loss of anonymity seemed a good place to start when talking to the people behind this most fascinating of music creators. on Facebook V>LH>LL, thanks for taking the time to talk. You've managed to retain an almost total anonymity until now, but there appears to be a clear photo of you. Is this a choice to step out of the shadows?

V▲LH▲LL: Our anonymity served a purpose when we started this out. It was a way to get people to focus on the stories we wanted to tell and not on us as individuals. During the years since we started playing live more or less clear photos of us could be seen online. We had a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of keeping the anonymity going when we approached the release of Grimoire. We decided it was finally time to reveal ourselves. There seem to be numerous nods to Scandinavian/Norse history through your work, both in song and in the sounds that you create, something that Ormens Offer seemed to make clearer than ever. Is this kind of history fundamental to your work? (And can I clear something up here? I initially thought Ormen – Ormen Lange was King Olav Trvggvason's ship? But then I translated the title online and got The Worm Sacrifice, and now I'm confused…)

V▲LH▲LL: Mythology, both Norse and other, is one of our main themes and personal interests. Our Scandinavian history and heritage is definitely a treasure chest of amazing stories and ideas, and one of the many things that inspire us.

Ormens Offer, in this case, translates to “The victim of the snake” and is a story about a person being chased and killed by the mythological Lindworm. It’s a kind of snake/dragon-like creature that has the ability to bite its own tail and move around by rolling like a wheel. Very few who meet a Lindworm survives. The only way to kill it is by tricking it to roll through three bonfires, where it will stop inside the third and die. They nest under big oaks, under churches or close to chapels where it lives by consuming corpses. The title track of the new album is not the first time you've made a nursery rhyme sound so menacing. I mean, I know many nursery rhymes have sinister origins…

V▲LH▲LL: True. We went down that path with our track Down In The Woods as well. There is something oddly satisfying about taking these well known, and supposedly comforting, tunes and placing them in an unsettling, odd atmosphere. Just by changing a few notes or choosing certain sounds when arranging the track the words take on a different meaning and puts you in a weird state of mind. You've also ended up with a prominent TV/music name performing on the new album, in the form of Jessica Pimentel (who performs in band Alekhine's Gun and also starred in Orange Is The New Black). How did that come about?

V▲LH▲LL: It was a stroke of luck actually, or faith if you beleive in that kind of thing. We reached out to Jessica a few years back when she tagged us in a video where she was listening to one of our first tracks. We later found out that she’s a schooled violinist and due to an injury put that aside to focus on acting. When we started working on Ormens Offer we thought it had a certain traditional Scandinavian folk music vibe to it.

We got the idea to put authentic violins on it and reached out to Jessica to see if she’d be up for working with us. And she was! We had a great recording session where she brought the ideas for the violin melody and nailed it in one take. We had completely different lyrics in English for the track initially, but while Jessica was warming up new words just popped into our heads and we wrote what became the final lyrics while she was in the studio playing. Jessica is extremely talented and a true inspiration and friend. Hopefully we’ll be able to work together again in the future. I first discovered your work in the split releases with M‡яc▲ll▲. How did they come about, was there any actual collaborative work, and are there any plans to continue working with them in the future?

V▲LH▲LL: We actually got introduced to witch house by the person behind M‡яc▲ll▲, who we’d known for a couple of years from other projects. We loved it from the start and knew this was what we needed to do. Our collaboration (except for remixing each other and doing artwork for our releases together) was mainly sending tracks in progress back and forth and giving each other feedback and suggestions. We are still occasionally in contact in this way and it is not unlikely that we will join forces again at some point. What's your view on the way that you were categorised as "Witch House"? While there were thematic similarities to the acts involved, each of you managed to evolve *entirely* differently. Did you feel any affinity with the other acts so labelled?

V▲LH▲LL: What drew us into the witch house movement was the diversity of the acts involved. There was a genuine love for dark themes and music in the community. Experimentation was encouraged, and you didn’t need to keep within any set parameters. If someone wanted to do a 7-minute noise track with robot vocals about dying at a discotheque they just did it. And if someone asked, “what’s this weird stuff?”, you could just answer “Witch house” and move on to whatever you wanted to do next. We have a lot of love for everyone, musicians and other, that we met through this community and we still listen to, and keep in touch with, many of them. I've not had the pleasure of seeing your act live yet. Are there plans to play more in Europe in the future, as I've got the impression that live dates are…selective?

V▲LH▲LL: Well, up until now we’ve only done one-off shows here and there. Most recent one was an event in Toronto in January. Hopefully we’ll be able to do some tours in the future both in Europe and North America. There will definitely be V▲LH▲LL concerts at festivals and clubs during 2018. We have a few booked already and announcements should be coming any day now.

Grimoire is out now on Artoffact Records.

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