"Don't think that you are anything, don't think that you're better than me, you're not special... that's the law of Jante."
Konvent are one of the newest and exciting metal bands to emerge from Denmark in recent years and having unleashed their thunderous album "Puritan Masochism" via Napalm Records back in January, it was only fair that GMA gave the ladies an interrogation... of course we played nice, after all their own brandished style of Death / Doom Metal should not be taken lightly, nor should the musicianship of this fearless foursome. Bassist Heidi Withington Brink and vocalist Rikke Emilie List spoke to us about the fortune they've had with the debut album, the label signing and the growing international fanbase they have. In addition to this they spoke about what the whole Jante law concept is about, why vinyl is a gemstone of Copenhagen and how the Danish Metal scene is embracing a new wave of bands.
Heidi, Rikke, can you tell us how the band name 'Konvent' came about?
"It came about because Heidi suggested the Danish word 'kloster' which means 'monastery' or a 'convent', but that name was already taken by another band, but we really liked that word and we kind of fell in love with the 'k' in the beginning. Then I [Rikke] suggested what about the English word 'convent' and then just replace the 'c' with a 'k', we thought about it for I think about 3 months; we just tried to brainstorm band names and in the end Sara was like "what about that word 'Convent'"? I kinda like that and we all agreed that we actually like that, so yeah that's how the name came to be. I really like the idea that Heidi suggested because I think it's funny to have a word that indicates an institution; monasteries and convents, there's no storytelling in that word."
How did you choose Death / Doom Metal as your sound, what or who inspired you?
"[Heidi] It was never something we decided upon, it was just when we got together; at the time Sara and I were jamming riffs together and this is what just sort of come out, we never decided that we're going to play Death / Doom Metal. We all knew that we wanted to play something heavy, something evil sounding and we wanted to use grow vocals, that was only the few things we thought about. So it was a little bit accidental that this is is what came out, Sara and I will always agree a lot when it comes to riffs, I feel like we've never been very against things when it comes to music; we agree a lot upon the genre, what we play and the different things we want to explore."
Being an all-female metal band, do you feel there is as much stigma towards female musicians or has it lessened over the years?
"[Heidi] I wouldn't know how it was before, I can only of course talk about how it is now and I feel like the stigma is the thing that people want to call it 'female" and put that in as a genre as well; but it doesn't really define the genre. A lot of people don't even know that we are girls when they listen to our music and I feel like maybe it's getting better because more women are getting out there and doing it; showing other women that it's normal and the more we normalise it, the more people hopefully won't see it as something special.
But of course we as only most girl bands do, we were just on tour and I experienced a few times getting called some kind of sexist remark - trying to sell out my gear and stuff like that, that's annoying... that's really annoying because you're trying to do your job and what you love the most and it's kind of like, it hits you, gets you out of the bubble of how awesome it is being in doing this and then suddenly someone says something, and you just have to go out and just breathe and be like OK it's just one jerk and the rest of the audience is really nice, so you still have to go out and do your best, and not let it affect you.
[Rikke] It is a hard question to answer, but I feel like personally I'm seeing more and more women in metal, mainly as the lead vocalist or bassist or keyboardist. But I think that more and more women are popping up on bands you would stumble upon through social media, metal blogs, whatever I think it's becoming more open, or I think that more women are thinking 'hey we can actually do this as well, this is not just a boys club'. So I think that we're seeing a slow but steady increase on women in the metal scene."
Having released your debut album 'Puritan Masochism' earlier this year through Napalm Records, this must have been a dream start for the band?
"[Rikke] Absolutely and the album has been received so well, we've had a lot of positive reviews and have sold a lot of our records on tour this February and we honestly cannot believe it (laughs), it's been a very overwhelmingly positive reception of this album, so we couldn't be happier."
Can you tell us more about 'Puritan Masochism', how you came up with the title, the song titles, the creative process duration, etc?
"[Heidi] Regarding how long it took to put together, it's been a process ever since the demo which was recorded back in 2017, back then we already had one extra song which was too new to put on the demo... I can't remember which one but it's one of the songs on the album, ever since the demo we've been working on and writing more material for an album, but it wasn't really before we got in contact with Napalm Records that we really started being more serious about 'OK we really now have to get started', even that took us a while because it's not always easy; especially if you're new to making music and you have to figure out 'how am I best creatively?'; what do I do when I feel a lack of creativity?
So it's been a process, but I feel like the guitar and bass have gotten into a really good rhythm where we write riffs at home and then we send it to each other, trying to get a feel for it and then we try and record it into a program on the computer and then we send it to the guys, and then try and go into the rehearsal space and soon as we have a song it usually goes fast, because Rikke is very fast at writing very good lyrics and Julie is also good at finding drums when we're set. It's been... I'm excited for the next album, because I feel like we know each other better now, but regarding 'Puritan Masochism', the title would you like to talk about that Rikke?
[Rikke] Initially it was just the title of the song, but we really really liked that and we decided that we also want to use that title as the album title and then maybe change the song title, but we couldn't just come up with another song title and so in the end we just keeping it as both. I think it's just us not being organised and taking the time to think about all these things (laughs), because you know when we were recording the album there were so many things to keep a track of and plan, suddenly you've reached your deadline and [panic]."
What do your parents think of your music?
"[Heidi] They are very, very supportive; all of our parents and I think our parents are our biggest fans because they've been with us from the beginning. They were some of the first people to hear the first few songs, they're at our our shows. My mum and Rikke's dad have been with us on tour as drivers from the recent tour and we've had several of our parents as drivers heading to different gigs. So they're very, very supportive.
[Rikke] As for them liking the music, my mum has been very open and was like... 'no' (laughs), but she still supports what we do so (laughs)...
[Heidi] Actually the other day, my mum was sitting outside in the garden in the sun and she was listening to music and I just came out and thought she was listening to some of the music she likes listening to, then she took her earphones out and gave it over to me and she was listening to our album!!! So she likes it, I think she likes because she knows it's her daughter who made it because you wouldn't listen to it otherwise I think [her mum starts shaking her head]."
With that in mind do you feel that people who don't listen to metal, sometimes just don't understand it?
"[Rikke] Absolutely, I think that a lot of people who don't usually listen to metal hear a song and they completely shut down because all they can hear is someone screaming, and that it's an uncomfortable noise, but the thing is with metal you need to invest time in listening to it and listening to it again in order to try and get into it. When you do, it just becomes great, not all the music I listen to now is from the first time I heard it, but you've just got to give it one more shot and one more shot again and suddenly you get it; that's how I feel about it. It's about giving it a chance."
Would it be easier to do Death / Doom Metal in Danish or English in your opinion?
"[Rikke] Actually we're working on a new song right now where I've incorporated some Danish...
[Heidi] What? I didn't know that.
[Rikke] Yeah well maybe actually get with the programme? (laughs)
[Heidi] I've been sick and doing my exams just for the record (laughs).
[Rikke] But yeah so everything is kind of up in the air right now, maybe we'll change it, maybe we'll keep it, but that was just a feeling I got when I wrote the riffs for this new song and I was just like 'Ok I feel like singing to this in Danish, let's try it out', but yeah I feel like it depends on the song and not necessarily the genre."
Denmark has had a long history in metal with the likes of King Diamond, Hatesphere, etc., do you feel that we're nowadays experiencing a 'New Wave of Danish Metal'?
"[Heidi] I definitely think so, I think that there are so many bands right now doing really great both in Denmark and outside of Denmark as well; I haven't seen a time like this since I've been listening to metal. I think it's unique and I think it's very, very and really cool that we're [Konvent] able to be a part of that because there are so many other great Danish bands right now... it's insane, so many different genres as well.
[Rikke] Yeah I agree actually, I feel like we can really see new bands want to experiment and not fit into a certain genre, I think people are sick of seeing bands just trying to sound exactly like Cannibal Corpse or Slayer or whatever, so I feel like a lot of bands right now are really trying to do their own thing and are succeeding in doing a really good job. It's a great time to be in Denmark, except for when there's a lockdown and you can't actually go to concerts."
With that in mind, are you discussing new music and merch ideas for Konvent frequently during the lockdown?
"[Rikke] Yeah I think we're in touch almost everyday, talking about new riffs and keeping each other updated on what we're working on at home, trying to plan as much as we can; getting inspiration and seeing how much we can do from home. It's very frustrating at not being able to be at our rehearsal space.
[Heidi] Yeah we actually just last night, Sara and I updated our riff library where we share the riffs that we have made and we just updated it with all the new riffs that we've had on our phones and it was actually quite long all of a sudden, all different riffs and was almost like an album that we have here, we just have to like put the puzzle together; that's the hard part. But yeah it's going to be fun to get to play together and try some new things out, because 2 weeks before the lock down I was at home and not in the rehearsal space because I had an exam. So I really, really are longing to get out there again because the other guys started doing a new song and I really wanted to be there as well, it's going to be good."
Have you had any instances where you've had fans reach out to you from unsuspecting places?
"[Heidi] (laughs) yeah from all over the world, it's crazy. Especially, this is something we had happen a long time before the album, we would get contacted by several people from around the world but especially with the album we have gotten a lot of attention from North America because Napalm Records has a base out there who are really good at doing PR and getting reviews, interviews, etc., so we're getting a lot of attention from over there. But also South America, Asia, Russia, Australia, all over Europe."
For metalheads visiting Copenhagen, in your opinion what are the best sights, attractions and venues to go to?
"[Heidi] Loppen in Christiania is a very good venue for music, they have put on a lot of metal as well, then there's Pumpehuset where we played our release show and then there's a lot of smaller venues also - places like Amager Bio, Basement, Vega... [Rikke] - you can go for the building alone, it's just so beautiful (around the 14th-15th century) and is protected by the Government, meaning it cannot be knocked down.
[Rikke] I've seen a lot of concerts at Vega, such as Gojira, pop bands also play there, it's a venue you can go to for everything. But when it comes to the sights, I feel like that there's a lot of craft beer, bars in Copenhagen and it's like, just pick one and its going to be great (laughs)."
Could you please explain to non-Nordic people the concept of Jante law?
"[Rikke] That's if you feel like another person is showing off, or bragging and you get a feeling inside that they shouldn't do that or that they should be humble, I think that that's what it means. Or it's a feeling that you can't yourself be ambitious or aim for the stars, it's about knowing your place and staying humble, not bragging, keeping quiet I think.
[Heidi] Which can be good and bad in different settings, it's kind of like don't think that you are anything, don't think that you're better than me, you're not special... that's the law of Jante."
Is Jante law still very much engrained in Danish society?
[Heidi] Of course there's always going to be people who like to tell the world how great they are, you will always have those kinds of people, but most people in Denmark I would say are pretty humble, you don't think about how much you make, you don't really speak about it if you have a lot of wealth - you keep that to yourself because you don't want to try and make the other people feel bad or inferior. So we're like the opposite of the USA, here it's like don't think you are anything.
[Rikki] But I think it can also apply to bands as well, like some people think it's not OK to go out and say 'I want to go play on the other side of the world, I want to do this where I am living, travel the world and tour and be a professional musician and just aim for the stars, go 100% out on this idea - this could result in bands holding things back in case they're concerned about what other people might think. So they're lowering their own ambitions because they don't want people to think that they're bragging, when you look at the band Volbeat - they have made it, they're doing this for a living and are touring the world; people worldwide love their music, when you hear Danish people talk about them, sometimes it can be a bit negative and you just want to feel like, is it because of the music? Do they not like it or have you actually not heard of the music, but you just don't like the idea of them succeeding, which one is it? I think there is a bit of Jante law when we're talking about a band like Volbeat."
Your debut album "Puritan Masochism" was released on Vinyl, are you into Vinyl yourselves and are you used to it?
"[Heidi] Yeah we're all so used to it because, I feel especially in the metal genre here in Copenhagen, vinyl is a pretty big thing if you're into this genre, I have collected vinyl since I started getting into the music business since 2013, I don't have a lot but I always used to buy the ones from the bands I was always putting on as a promoter and I used to have a vinyl club, where I would meet up with 3 of my friends; we would have some vinyls with us and discuss about music, so it's definitely not a new thing to me."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"[Rikke] Since we played in the UK about a month ago (around February), we just want to say thank you to the people who gave us a warm reception in the UK; we're so surprised that people actually showed up, yes OK we played along with a bunch of local bands, but it was packed when we got up on stage and people were just awesome. I think we just want to say thank you to everyone who showed up, we can't wait to come back and see more of the UK.
[Heidi] Yeah we're coming back in November to play in Sheffield at the HRH Vikings Festival, somehow we ended up playing a Viking festival (laughs), but the UK was so much fun. Other than that we would like to send thanks to all of our colleagues at Napalm Records because they've done such a great job, we know they must be having a lot of work these days with the cancellations and everything so, keep up the good work."