Dark, dreamy and decadent, Oslo’s Maribel are doing a very good job of capturing people’s attention at the moment. Just ahead of the release of their latest album Reveries and following an extremely well received support slot to Lanterns on the Lake in London last month, Maribel’s Paal Espen Kapelrud talks about the eventful life of the band up until this point, and what inspired the creation of their driving, enigmatic, sexy new release.
Who are Maribel and where are you from?
We are Paal Espen Kapelrud, Lewi Chlopiski Bekkesletten, Rebekka Von Markstein and Liv Inger Engevik. We’re based in Oslo, but Liv Inger is living in San Francisco now, Rebekka comes from East-Germany and travels back and forth a lot and Lewi’s half Polish. We have had different drummers through the years. Even Aarebrot recently joined us. We hope he stays.
What do Maribel sound like?
Someone wrote My Bloody Valentine soundtracking Twin Peaks. I guess that’s a pretty fair description.
You’re about to release your second album, Reveries – how did the album come about? Where did you write and record it, and what were your main inspirations?
Most of the tunes were written in my apartment. The basic ideas at least. I recorded a lot of demos before we went in the studio. We chose to work with Bjarne Stensli (Harrys Gym) again. He co-produced Aesthetics [Maribel's 2009 debut album]. He knows the band well and has been around since the beginning. And he owns his own recording studio which has become quite an institution here in Oslo. I even think Bruce Springsteen recorded there once. Pretty crazy.
We wanted the studio sessions to be experimental and open. We wanted the songs to evolve and grow while we were recording. We recorded and re-recorded, mixed and re-mixed the songs so many times. Some of them ended up close to the original idea. And some of them were re-written completely. We wanted to have that opportunity on this record and we got that opportunity with Bjarne.
As for inspiration… Lots of things. Music of course. We’ve been very inspired by J Dilla’s work, Erik Satie, Burt Bacharach, John Barry, Angelo Badalamenti, Adrian Younge lately. Movies. Especially, the works of Joseph Losey. Literature. Read Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire while working on this album. It had an impact lyrically I believe.
The band’s situation has changed dramatically since you recorded your first album, can you tell us the story of Maribel since Aesthetics was released?
It’s not that dramatic really. Bjarne has always been around. Rebekka has been in and out since 2007. The main difference is Rebekka being the lead singer on this album. She was away when Aesthetics was recorded. Well… maybe a little bit of drama was involved. It was a chaotic time back then. It just felt like everything was falling apart. We kind of lost the track. At some point I just knew we had to close it down for some time if the band was to survive at all. But I continued writing songs and suddenly the time had come to record a new album.
With the changes in line up, what are Maribel now able to do that they perhaps weren’t able to before?
Having a lead singer in Rebekka made a huge difference in the way the songs were written. There’s more focus on melodies and structure. She enabled me to write different kinds of songs. The same with Bjarne on drums. We worked a lot more with arrangements and dynamics. The first record was kind of accidental. Reveries is more worked through.
As a band, who and what would you say are your main influences? Musical and otherwise?
Sound wise we wanted to have a 60s vibe on the record without sounding too retro. Burt Bacharach, The Free Design, David Axelrod, Joe Meek. We wanted to make something similar to those great soundtracks from back then. The Ipcress File by John Barry, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud by Miles Davis or Repulsion by Chico Hamilton and Gábor Szabó. I’m a big fan of the Raveonettes. But where they do 2 minutes 3 chords bubblegum pop, Maribel is in a way closer to jazz and electronic music. Someone described us as a post-rock band. Fair enough.
Lyrically I have to say I was really inspired by reading Flowers of Evil by Baudelaire. Literature in general is important. I love Dostoyevsky. Rebekka does too. I remember her tipping me off on the novel White Nights. I read it and loved it. I watched the movie Le Notti Bianche, which is based on the novel by Visconti right after. Just lovely. I guess film noir would be another influence. Both thematically and aesthetically. It’s so dreamy in a dreamless sort of way. The black and whiteness, the lighting, the endless repetition, the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped, the feeling of an image being copied over and over again. Until it loses meaning. I could relate to it. It made sense in an odd way. And Twin Peaks of course. The greatest soap opera ever.
Do you have a certain sound and shape that you aim for with your music, or do like to write by getting together and seeing what happens?
It depends. On the first record we just recorded the songs we had been playing live for years. On Reveries we went in the studio only with my demos as guidance. We did some pre-production but most of the songs were shaped in the studio while recording. It comes to a point when the songs start to live on their own and you feel like you do what need to be done to make them the way ‘they’ want to be. It’s a process of continually trying and failing. Rebekka asked me the other day: “What’s the theme for the next record?” I don’t really know that beforehand. It is something that comes when a group of songs all of a sudden have something in common. You never really know how, why or when. But it happens. It happened this time. It will happen again.
You’ve played shows with all sorts of brilliant bands – what has been a highlight of your live career so far?
Playing in London at the Luminaire with Crystal Stilts in 2009 was great. We really enjoyed playing with Lanterns on the Lake at Cargo just a month ago as well. I guess we enjoy London a lot. Really hope we can come back soon.
Oslo is creating some incredible music at the minute – who do you recommend that we listen to?
How important a part has Oslo played in the life and music of Maribel? Do you think Oslo is a musically inspiring city?
It’s important because we live here. The band met here and nearly broke up here. Oslo is running through our veins. There’s been some talk about a particular Oslo scene. I’m not sure about that though. I feel people here are very individualistic. It’s a small city. We’re all living next door so to speak, but we rarely go visit. But when the night comes we meet at bars and have a drink or two or three. Then we go home. There’s a lot of excellent music coming from Oslo. But that’s mainly because of hard work. I believe you can find a strong work-ethic here. I find that very inspiring.
Does Maribel have a band motto?
If we had a motto it would have to be ‘Destroy and Rebuild’.
What are you looking forward to in 2012?
Releasing the new album. Playing live. A lot I hope. Hopefully touring UK and Europe. We are planning to release a remix album as well this year. There are some really good artists doing remixes right now. And we will record a new EP in the spring. It will probably have a cover of a Burt Bacharach tune on it. Pretty exciting.
Maribel release Reveries on the 13 February through Splendour.