Now we head over to Norway to speak to Thomas from Husmo Hav about one of his projects that he’s been working away on, the numerous bands he is connected to, and explains the difference between swearing in the North and in the South of Norway!
Tell us who you are and what’s your sound?
I’m Thomas Husmo Litleskare, and Husmo HAV is my main project. Hav means ocean in Norwegian. I chose the name because our sound is very vivid and rich in detail, and in that way it’s somewhat of an eco system of its own. The ocean is so vast, and home to so many things, which is kind of what I envisioned for this band. It also sounds nice because of the alliteration.
The band also consists of three other amazing musicians; Marte Eberson, known from her former work with Highasakite, and recently the pop outfit LöV; Tore Flatjord, who plays with The Switch, a Norwegian Grammy winning indie band; and Stian Andreas Egeland Andersen, always involved in a variety of projects, from the contemporary jazz band LASSEN and the cool jazz of Baker Hansen (where we both play, along with Tore), to the Taarab playing Matona’s Afdhal Group.
Husmo HAV makes ear-catching cinematic music with icy synths, atmospheric trumpet screams and haunting melodies. We consider it to be post-apocalyptic jazz (music for our time…), but I also think it appeals to people who don’t follow jazz at all. This is probably due to the melodic and cinematic quality of the songs, and the synth-infused,, immersive soundscapes.
Our music has been described as a “stormy blend of ambient, post-jazz and post-rock”, and compared to the Blade Runner soundtrack and Jaga Jazzist. I think that’s pretty accurate.
What exciting projects have you got coming up?
Well, the Never Ending Summer single release has been taking up most of my time of late. Now the focus turns to the next release this autumn. Nothing has been announced properly yet, but it’s safe to say that another album by Husmo HAV is in the works. Our debut, Ripples, was released last September, and I’m really happy about how Husmo HAV is turning out; for a brand new DIY-project, there’s been quite a lot of buzz around the band.
I also have to give a shoutout to Kjetil Jerve of Dugnad rec, who we’re currently collaborating with. The label is his one-man operation, and I have to say that the amount of exciting music he’s released is incredible. From the much-hyped duo of electronic music wizard Bendik Baksaas and slampoet-turned-actor Fredrik Høyer, via Kjetil’s own solo piano and cool jazz projects, to free improvisation and ambient releases – there’s just so much going on there. I’ve been listening a lot to Joar Renolen’s brilliant ambient album «Været» during lockdown. Check out their website!
(Oh, and Kjetil also plays in Baker Hansen with me, Tore and Stian. It’s all connected, man!)
Where did you grow up and what music influenced you?
I grew up in Trondheim, Norway’s third biggest city, located somewhat in the middle of the country in terms of north and south. As a kid I listened a lot to The Beatles, Elvis, Daft Punk and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I was also introduced to Trondheim’s blues and jazz festivals, which my father used to take me to.
As a young trumpet player I was heavily influenced by the city’s famous jazz scene, revolving around NTNU’s (the university) jazz department. I had this big dream to study there, but it never turned out that way; I auditioned for the jazz department at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, and got in. I’ve been living here since.
I was very drawn to the lyrical trumpet playing and singing of Chet Baker – and Miles Davis of course – and in turn, Tomasz Stanko and Kenny Wheeler. These are the «big four» for me. I’ve always been attracted to melancholic, bittersweet tunes with melodic finesse, so Stanko and Wheeler have inspired me greatly as a composer. Try going for a walk on a clear winter’s night while listening to Stanko’s Lontano – it’s as cinematic as it gets.
Being a music student in an experimental field, I still enjoyed listening to pop and rock bands with a flair for good melodies and original ideas. Realising how experimental The Beatles were in their day, for instance, was quite mind-blowing. So listening to them, but also Yo La Tengo, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Vampire Weekend (had a huge hangup on last year’s release The Father of The Bride this spring, it’s fantastic) has meant a lot. Also: Kendrick Lamar. When good kid, m.A.A.d city dropped in 2012, I was immediately a fan. How he manages to renew himself with every release, is beyond me.
What cool places do you recommend to visit in your city (bars, restaurants, etc)?
Hmm, Oslo has such an abundance of places to go and food to eat these days – the last ten years have seen a plethora of new bars and restaurants pop up. Off the top of my head:
Himkok: They make cocktails that are out of this world, in a bar with a genuinely good atmosphere. The word itself comes from a Norwegian dialect word meaning «moonshine». I think this place was mentioned in the New York Times, even.
Cielito: This place is a gem – they serve traditional Mexican cuisine, it’s amazingly delicious, and the staff is super friendly. The cochinita and al pastor are just out of this world.
Koie Ramen: If ramen is your jam, then Koie is the place.
Døgnvill: The best burgers in Oslo, hands down.
At Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene you can catch both world-renowned legends and exciting Norwegian jazz artists, in a venue that used to be a cinema back in the days. It has the atmosphere of a bygone era, and it makes for a pretty good nightclub as well. Blå holds a legendary place in Oslo’s club history, and it’s also next door to Ingensteds and Bortenfor, which I prefer personally, they’re just cosier places.
We love recommendations – what have you been listening to, watching, or reading recently?
I’ve mostly been listening to a lot of podcasts the last 5 months, like The Daily and Sam Harris’ Making Sense, in order to try and make some sense of what is happening in the world. But lately I saw the movie ‘Mandy’, and the soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson simply blew me away. It has a unique, chilling vibe which instantly sets the tone for the neon-infused images of the film. A perfect balance between ambience and melody, just listen to ‘Mandy Love Theme’. A two-in-one recommendation right there!
Currently I’m reading ‘The Spy and the Traitor’ by Ben Macintyre. It tells the true story about the perhaps single most influential spy of the cold war: The Soviet KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky, who was flipped by the MI6. It’s very fascinating to read how one man can shape history and the geopolitical landscape. Gordievsky’s work also had a huge impact on Norway; the information he provided made it possible to catch and convict Arne Treholt, a rising star in the Labour Party who spied for the KGB some 13 years before getting caught.
Finally, what was the last thing that made you swear out loud?
Oh, I can’t even remember. It happens on a daily basis, and I like to blame my dialect for it: In Norway, swearing is a more integral part of your dialect the further north you’re from. I’m from Trondheim, but my mother is from just outside Bodø, further north. For a person from the north of Norway, swearing doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re angry or that something is inherently bad. It just becomes a part of the palette of the language, so to speak. Here in Oslo, swearing is – if not directly frowned upon, it immediately sounds more aggressive – so for everybody who have moved south to the capital, there’s some adjusting to do.
Interview by Alex Minnis