Timing is a crucial player in the game of life which seems to be constantly tangled between “right time, right place” and “missed opportunities” if you look at it in the grand scheme of things. The fact that you can’t time most of the moments that happen to you in life gives the entire thing a certain feeling of randomness which surely helps to deal with the consequences. Well, I guess that’s one of the most important lessons as you grow older. “Experience is the comb life gives you when you’ve lost all your hair.” It’s a brilliant old proverb Erlend Øye quotes in the press release of the new Kings Of Convenience album and it perfectly fits to the character of Peace Or Love, the first album by him and Eirik Glambek Bøe in twelve years. Arriving almost exactly twenty years after their iconic debut album Quiet Is The New Loud and in the summer the world is slowly recovering from a global pandemic there are many touch points for album and its content. Was it planned to have such a long break since their third album Declaration Of Dependence? Well, surely not. But that’s the thing with timing, isn’t it.
“It seems like a comeback, of course, but it doesn’t feel like a comeback,” explains Erik, summing up the process in the following words: “It’s been a very slow-burning project. We’ve fooled ourselves many times into thinking that now we know how to make records but the moment we’re in the studio we realize that recordings are really about capturing magic.” According to him and Erlend it’s a very hard struggle to make something sound simple and make it work. The music of Kings Of Convenience always felt like a light-hearted antidote to the noise of the music world, a Simon & Garfunkel-esque call to simplicity and easiness in a world of chaos. That might be one reason why the music of Quiet Is The New Loud spoke to so many people all over the world and still does. It became a mighty mantra at the turn of the century when the post-90s mainstream music world was loaded with bubblegum pop, nu metal nonsense and an overall sense of hyper capitalistic stimulus satiation. It was a true alternative and if you listen to it today it feels like it hasn’t aged a day. I mean, if you play them sequently, Peace Or Love could also work like a direct follow-up to their debut as if those 20 years in-between didn’t happen at all. There’s this special quality in their musical chemistry but capturing it was the most essential challenge in this long path as Eirik explains:
“We recorded the album about five times. A song has to be played with a certain ease yet everything needs to be right. It has to sound like we are enjoying ourselves and also communicating an emotional presence. To get all those qualities in one take is very hard.”
Listening to Peace Or Love it does sound so simple and easy that it’s hard to imagine the tough process behind it. Right from the moment Rumours opens the album with warm guitars and a soothing “Don’t Let Them Tell You Who You Are” form the two Norwegians you’re right back at where they left us more than a decade ago. Lead single Rocky Trail is a gentle nod to their 2004 single Misread and follows a similar path while other parts of the record show a new side of the band. The bossa nova vibes of Angel, for example, date back to the first sessions of the album in early 2016 when the duo was on tour in Santiago, Chile. Later that year Erlend and Eirik toured again and debuted many of these songs in front of an audience for the first time, for a brief moment it looked like the new album was just around the corner but then things got complicated – and the timing was once again against Kings Of Convenience.
Two different lives, connected through music
As you grow older life itself puts you at certain crossroads from time to time and I’m pretty sure you’ve all experienced moments in your life when friendships and relationships changed drastically and irresistible life decisions also had an effect here. Despite their musical harmony Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye are very different people. Eirik loved the studio while Erlend was more of an adventurer. Eirik chose to stay in Bergen, started a family, became a teacher in architectural psychology while Erlend preferred to travel the world, moved to different cities (currently settled in Siracusa, Sicily) and started various different projects, including famous indie pop outfit The Whitest Boy Alive before a tinnitus forced him to stop big scaled touring adventures. But of course, he’s anything but restless. When the Covid-lockdown put paid to some Whitest Boy Alive reunion shows in Mexico in 2020, he spontaneously recorded a sunny, intimate album with drummer Sebastian Maschat called Quarantine at El Ganzo. And if you haven’t listened to it yet, please do because it’s quite a mood-lifter.
These different lives made the whole fourth-album-project quite difficult. “If we were both nomads or both family men, it would be much easier,” explains Erlend. “But we’re still together!”
And yes … luckily they are. Peace Or Love is of course a typical Kings Of Convenience album, simply because all the familiar ingredients are back. And that also includes the wonderful Leslie Feist who’s joining the duo on two new songs, just like she did back in 2004 on their sophomore LP Riot On An Empty Street. The band’s comeback album is a sparse experience, ironically even quieter than its three predecessors. The songs are reduced to their essence, summing up all the difficulties they’ve been facing over the past decades. Erlend, for example, lost his parents, cemented a serious relationship while Erik’s marriage of 21 years was coming to an end. Life is upside down again. And that doesn’t even include the whole pandemic (which didn’t play a big part in the album’s process).
A timeless message, now more important than ever
And while the timing has been a tricky thing for Kings Of Convenience when it came to the recording process of the album the stars couldn’t have lined up any better for its release. An exhausted society is slowly recovering from the Covid-pandemic, cultural life is restarting (the band is also doing a few pandemic-conform Scandinavian shows before heading on a bigger tour in 2022) and the quiet vibe of the lockdown slumber might soon be replaced again by the noise of our society. Or maybe it won’t? Well, maybe it shouldn’t. The world hasn’t gone any quieter since that beloved debut album, society accelerated and the digitalization of pretty much every aspect in life appears to harm us more than it benefits us. Before the pandemic everybody was rushing for “more”, often not realizing how sick that restless chase has made many of us. Instead of extending everything, we need to embrace reduction again; something the band truly did on this album as Eirik sums up in the press release:
“Modern life is so full of options. You can go anywhere. By limiting the means we can use, paradoxically it creates a sense of freedom.”
And maybe that’s why the timing for Peace Or Love is actually quite good. Society can’t go on in the same way we did before the pandemic. Not just for psychological reasons but also for environmental ones. We’re at a crossroad. Maybe it’s not possible to have peace and love simultaneously in equal parts – at least that’s what the band thinks and that’s why they named their album that way. But those past months have taught us – partly in a very hard way – how important human connection and love are and how crucial it is to foster them on a regular basis. We learned a few lessons about the things that matter in life and that we can define our own timing when it comes to many aspects in life. And maybe two rejoicing friends, who learned to deal with their different life designs and all the troubles that came with it, are a great role model here. The music surely arrives just in time for this hopeful summer and it’s definitely the most perfect timing to (re)introduce Kings Of Convenience to your life.
Peace Or Love is out now via EMI and yes, there’s also going to be a tour.