Photo: Kenneth Gran
I am in one of the rehearsal basement rooms of OLYP at Carl Berner in Oslo. On the walls hang tens of Polaroid pictures of various Norwegian artists and bands who use the not too fancy and spacious bunker. Around me are piles of guitar amplifiers, cables, microphones, instrument bags and shopping bags.
Span was started in 2002 by Earl Bernhoft on vocals and guitar, Fridtjof Nilsen on guitar, Vemund Stavnes on bass and Fredrik Wallumrød on Drums. They did not take long to become one of the biggest Norwegian rock bands of the turn of the millennium, through frequent “schpelling” in the form of tournaments high and low, back and forth. They released 3 records before going their separate ways in 2005. At one point, Stavnes was replaced by Kim Nordbaek. Today, however, all five are sitting in front of me (-if you ignore the fact that Trommis Fredrik is a little late).
Less college and burp vibes, but for God’s sake: no less rock. Span played his final concert 19 years ago. Now the boys are back together to first play a double sold-out double concert at Rockefeller, before they will play at Tons of Rock’s 10th anniversary this summer.
«It’s easy to hide behind a wall with an upside down wall. Then you make a lot of noise, and that’s cool. But, you don’t have to play so well, because you hide behind sound. With old age comes the lesson: When you turn the volume down a little, the music gets better – and that way, all the more rock.», says Jarle.
When the band played together at the beginning of the 2000s, they were a 4-piece. This time they have an extra guitarist, with Vemund on guitar and Kim on bass. They believe this will help raise the level of the live experience. The band feel they now have the opportunity to bring more musical treats from the recorded versions of the songs with them on stage. Kim warmly describes Vemund as a “musical swiss army knife”. They legitimately pride themselves on the fact that Span, unlike many other artists these days, is too good at playing live “with tæip”. Playback is a cardinal sin that middle-aged rockers refuse to resort to.
«We are proud dinosaurs.” says Jarle.
Photo: Kenneth Gran
The band’s frontman lies with his arms behind his head on the floor and looks towards the ceiling with confident swagger. He takes a breath before speaking slow words of wisdom in a baritone voice.
“When I think about it, maybe we’re less rock and more roll? Isn’t that one Keith Richards-manage? If you don’t have rock, you don’t have roll, and vice versa. Without roll, I think the music will be clunky. So just as well to be the most roll – I think.”
There is no doubt that he is the band’s leading star and “musical guru”. The rest of the guys openly express a respect for everything he’s accomplished since they last played together. With a twinkle in her eye, Kim says how awkward it is to be late for sound check, only to discover that The Voice judge is excelling on his bass – stripping him of all self-confidence.
The guys may joke a lot about being “old”, but it seems like they’ve slipped right back into their respective roles as meaty band mates in the run-up to their reunion. A playfulness, if frozen in time, has at least come to life. It is noticeable that the gang are fired up and enjoy each other’s company. It’s not just playing together again after 20 years. I ask if your fingers itch.
«In any case, it is better that the fingers itch than that the race itches! Now we’ve been scratching our heads for 20 years, so it’s about time we got the finger out!» Kim exclaims, grinning.
“DO NOT quote us on it“, Jarle says sternly. Oops.
They haven’t even started the rehearsal, but as the conversation fades, Fridtjof finds the foodora app. With seriousness in his voice, he lists suggestions for the type of food to order: “Vietnamese? Indian? Mexican? Turkish?Finally, Fredrik appears. I point out that he missed all the fun. He smiles slyly and says that it suits him just fine. Me and photographer Kenneth stay in the room for a while to take a couple of pictures of them rehearsing. In what they play through the first song makes me look forward to tonight’s concert.
Photo: Kenneth Gran