The Kings of Convenience – Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe – are determined, quietly determined, to write songs that will "make the world stop and listen." Their debut album, 'Quiet is the New Loud' does exactly that. Quiet in the way of Belle and Sebastian or Simon and Garfunkel, KOC avoid their worst excesses, managing to charm rather than aggravate.
According to Øye, he and Bøe have been working as Kings of Convenience for the last three and a half years although they have been playing together for much longer than that: "when we were 16 or 17, that was when we first started playing guitar. We weren't very good in the beginning, we spent a lot of time learning how to be a band, learning about music." With other friends they formed a band called Skog. Øye describes them as "trying to do something like what Coldplay are doing" but singing in their native Norwegian meant it was difficult to earn recognition outside their home country. As Kings of Convenience they sing in English: "it was a wish to want to communicate with other people and not just have to relate to Norway."
It certainly makes it easier to get heard if people can understand what you are saying. And the Kings of Convenience are well worth understanding, with their sad and broken-hearted songs, many of which are peopled with unkind girls. Øye does not agree; "you cannot say that someone is being cruel when they don't fall in love with you…life is cruel on Sundays when you realised that the girl you met on Friday has made more of an impact on you than you thought and you think that you didn't make very much of an impact on her."
Throughout the album failure is tempered with gentle optimism, nowhere more so than on 'Failure', with its refrain "failure is always the best way to learn". Does Øye really believe that? "That's a song I wrote when I was living in London. I was there with another band and things weren't going real well. I moved there with my girlfriend and we split up and I didn't really know why I was there any more. It was something I said to myself to help me to feel optimistic, to comfort myself – 'failure is always the best way to learn' – I usually think it is, you know. If you always get what you want you'll never ever discover reasons for you to really work at something."
Quiet songs being their raison d'etre, it can be difficult for the band to find suitable venues for live gigs. One way around this was a Cinema Tour of England earlier this year: "Because we are such a quiet band, when we play live you can't just turn up the volume because it would give a lot of feedback in the guitar (laughs). We need to play venues where people sit down and where people can listen and there's not a bar or anything so we do try to find different venues. It wasn't really the best to do the cinemas because we went on before a film and we could only play four songs. The films that went on afterwards, some of them were quite harsh. You get people into this nice little mood and then the film comes along and you're like aaragh!" One of the films that they played before was 'Requiem for a Dream' (which Øye describes thus: "young people are happy, they take drugs and they go downhill, everything goes wrong").
Øye's own plan for the future is to "have some time off to have a life, not just go and play and do interviews because you don’t have a life anymore and everybody keeps asking you about your life and it's like 'well, I'm getting really good at talking to journalists' – that's not even that interesting, is it?" And when he gets some time to have that life he's got one further plan for 2001; "I maybe hope that maybe this year I will fall in love with someone…"
Quiet is the New Loud is out now on Source.