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Jonas Thire (drums), Torgeir Kjeldaas (bass), Espen Helvig (guitar), Larsh Kristensen (vocals, guitar)

Following a record that set out an impressive stall isn’t easy. Late Love was an invigorating debut that saw Oslo-based Wolves Like Us delving into dark post-hardcore with massive riffs, angular melodies and commendable tightness. It effectively revived the spirit of such acclaimed 1990s collectives as Quicksand and Drive Like Jehu, ditching the trends that have subverted the genre in the last 15 years. Black Soul Choir manages to sidestep the dreaded second album slump by expanding the quartet’s winning formula. The skeleton of the tracks still revolves around traditional post-hardcore attributes like throbbing bass lines and frenetic drum-beats, yet the focus is shifted towards atmospheric soundscapes that make the group’s brand of post-hardcore even more brooding. This shift also informs a more expansive approach to songwriting. The tracks usually take more time to unravel, which makes for a significantly more nuanced and moodier effort. Here’s my interview with the act’s charismatic frontman, Larsh Kristensen.

You’d played in lots of groups before forming Wolves Like Us. What compelled you to play together and form the band?

I think we all still had the desire to play. We all love playing music, and to a certain extent is is the only factor that has remained constant in my life. I’ve always played, and this band is just an extension of that. I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing music. So that’s it, I guess.

Your style harkens back to post-hardcore of the 1990s. What are your main musical influences?

All the members have different tastes, backgrounds and record collections so I can only speak for myself, but the Afghan Whigs are pretty huge to me and to this day are still my favorite band. I love their style, lyrics, aesthetics and especially their guitar playing – which is really simple and quite punk. I came from punk rock and metal scenes as a kid, and 80s hardcore was big for me, like Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, but also weirder stuff like Killing Joke and early Depeche Mode was the music I listened to along with Slayer and Iron Maiden as a kid. These days bands like Young Widows, Wovenhand and O’Brother are my jams.

Black Soul Choir is quite different than your first full-length release, delving into a more atmospheric side of rock music. What exactly dictated this shift in style?

I wanted to do just that. It was a reaction to our debut. I wanted more dynamics, more room to breathe. And I wanted it to be heavier. I think we nailed it.

Your music is heavy, but also darkly melodic. What did your songwriting process look like this time around? How did it differ from Late Love?

It was drastically different from our first record. The whole process was much more complex as we went through a lot of different moods and songwriting approaches this time. Some of the songs were jams, others were created in the studio. Plus, we had producer Mike Hartung this time. He really helped us through a lot of the harder conversations, even fights within the band when we wanted to go in different directions. The new album was hard to make, I’m not going to lie.

I really dig your vocals, and it seems your performance is even more diverse on the new album. How do your vocals come together?

Thank you. I usually write the music first, then I hum some melody lines and try to make it work together. This time I was really forced out of my comfort zone by the producer, and he made me do things I didn’t really want to do, like high harmonies and tripled main vocals and so on. But then I did it, and we all loved it. I guess I learned to take myself very seriously this time. I swallowed a lot of punk pride.

Which songs of yours are you particularly happy about? Which ones do you find the most fun to play live?

My favorite tracks are ‘Dig With Your Hands’ and ‘Days Of Ignorance’. The most fun to play (so far) have been ‘I Don´t Need To Be Forgiven’ and ‘Days Of Ignorance’. I think the track that carries the most emotional weight is ‘When Will We Ever Sleep’.

You come from Norway, a country which despite its size has a formidable music scene. Which Norwegian artists are you fond of?

Well, I’m old now, and I really don’t follow the scene anymore, but Noxagt and older Haust are pretty great. Kollwitz is also killer. I really like Obliteration and Nekromanteon. Kvelertak too, obviously. Blood Command from Bergen are dope. I like Tremoro Tarantura too.

Nowadays such websites as spotify, bandcamp and facebook are playing a major part in the promotion process. Are you pleased with the changes that have recently been taking place in the music industry?

I like that bands can distribute and sell their own music, like on bandcamp. It’s DIY as fuck, and right up my alley. I’ve found a lot of great music that way, Paypal’d them some cash and gotten their record a few minutes later. Great stuff.

What do you think the future holds for Wolves Like Us? Do you have any specific touring plans?

We are touring Norway in March, Europe in April and hopefully the US in the fall. There may or may not be another European tour, depending on the circumstances. Apart from that, I wish I could see into the future too, but unfortunately I can’t – so I don’t know what will happen with the band in the future. I DO know that we have a record out now and that you should check that one out as well as go to a show, get a beer with us and talk about this more in person.

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Sputnik’s Review of Black Soul Choir

Feel free to stream the entire album on Spotify:

Wow you've been really active lately with these interviews, Greg. Keep up the good work!

Thanks. I will.

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