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Music | Interview: Simeon Kirkegaard has a chat ahead of his Irish shows

Simeon Kirkegaard is heading over to Ireland for a number of highly anticipated intimate shows next month.  Ahead of the shows, Simeon talks about his connections with Ireland, his new album, and bumping into The Kink’s Ray Davies in one of most unlikeliest places.

Simeon’s connection with Ireland begins with the numerous gigs he’s played here before.  From both Academy venues to Whelan’s, Simeon has probably played more Dublin venues than some Dublin musicians have.  Many of these dates were with his previous band, one of those shows being a support slot to Welsh rockers Feeder.

Moving forward to the past two years, Simeon played Whelan’s last year, taking in visits to tourist spots in the City such as the Guinness Storehouse before filming his first video, for what was then his first single ‘Animals In Your Bed’ last November.  So what is the attraction for a young Norwegian musician to make so many trips over here?

I think we captured Dublin from a nice angle in that video, it was my first video and first single so a bit special I have to say. Dublin is like a second home to me. I love Dublin, but in a different way than Norway, you know. Actually, I and the band came to Dublin last year to do a gig in Whelan’s, that was in November. I think they ended up loving Dublin as much as I do, but I’m not sure if it would be for the same reasons as me though, but we had a great time.

Actually my little brother came along too, so I showed them around town. We did the tourist thing and went to the Guinness Storehouse, then to Ranelagh for some fine dining and Camden street for lots of drinks, all over two days in addition to radio interviews, photoshoots, soundchecks and the gig. It was a pretty hectic schedule to say the least!”

Clearly liking Ireland a lot, Simeon thinks that music in pubs adds a lot to the atmosphere and community aspect of the live music scene here.

I’m from a small town called Akkerhaugen in count Telemark. It’s a great place for music actually, don’t know why though, but I think it’s probably because there’s not much else to do there, especially in the winter! There are so many bands from that place it’s unreal. It’s a bit funny too you know, because the drinking culture in Norway is so different to Ireland. In Ireland in a place like Dingle or somewhere you’d have tons of pubs, in Norway you’re lucky if you find one decent pub in any town.

Akkerhaugen is a place with a population of about 500, but there’s not one single pub, we’ve got a live music venue though. It’s called ARS or Akkerhaugen Rocksamfunn and it’s great for gigs, so if any Irish or British bands are looking to go to Norway to gig then they should look them up.”

So what would the music scene be like in comparison?

In general the music scene in Norway is great. It wouldn’t be a big music export country like the UK or Ireland, but it has lots of grants for musicians, lots of music festivals with an emphasis on independent musicians and bands. We’ve got this thing called Urørt (which means untouched) in Norway which is great for new bands and artists, it gives them a proper chance to get some national airplay and publicity.

Once a year they do a final where the best artists from Urørt compete to become the Urørt of the year. It’s quite a big deal in Norway as you get playlisted on national radio and you get to play many major festivals and so on. I think one of the biggest exports through Urørt was this artist called Ida Maria who had that song ‘I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked’ if you remember that one. The biggest challenge for the Norwegian music scene now the way I see it, is the export of bands.

Simeon KirkegaardAlthough there are only four dates in Dundalk, Galway, Dublin, and Cork this time round, Simeon will be busy going to and from with commitments in the middle.  Another added bonus for those attending his Workman’s Club show in Dublin is that it will be recorded for a possible live album.

Simeon is also bringing his band the Existentialists – bit of a mouthful that – for the shows, which will give his sound an extra punch in the intimate venues.

Great musicians and people who are an absolute delight to go on tour with. They’re not just adding their playing, but also adding to the whole touring vibe and atmosphere, you know. We’ve done lots of gigs in Norway together and we always have a great time which is why we keep doing this I suppose.”

As influences go, most of Simeon’s would easily point out how his music is described as a ‘mix between 60’s and 90’s pop’.  A few of those include The Beatles, Oasis, Blur, and The Kinks, who provide quite a story for Simeon.

Many years ago I played guitar in this band and we had this gig in Gothenburg in Sweden. It was the smallest little place where you’d never imagine there could be a music venue. It looked like a Chinese take away place only it was a bar.

Anyway, we did the gig and after we’d finished this guy came in the door. I didn’t think more about it, but in the back of my head I think I thought he looked a bit like Ray Davies from the Kinks. So I and the band were staying around for a few beers and at one stage I was standing outside beside that guy. Didn’t say anything just stood there looking at random stuff while drinking my beer.

The guy eventually left and I went back in and the bar man asked me ‘So did you say hello to Ray Davies?’… Turns out his girlfriend lived up the road so he used to come down there quite a lot.”

Speaking of influences, I asked what direction the new album has taken? And what we could expect to hear when he brings it to Ireland in October.

I’d say the new material has a bigger emphasis on lyrics and is a bit more experimental maybe than before. I’m working with a good friend of mine Feileacán McCormick a lot, who I met while studying architecture in Bergen in Norway. He’s great with lyrics. While before I’d often write the music and then come up with the lyrics, now usually Feileacán is coming to me with some lyrics that I try to turn into music instead of the other way around, so that’s a new thing for me. It kind of generates different patterns or something which I find interesting. We’ve been writing a few new ones so we’re playing a few of these on the tour so it’ll be exciting to see the response they’ll get.”

Simeon Kirkegaard and the Existentialists play Dundalk’s Spirit Store on 9 October, Monroe’s in Galway on 10 October, The Workman’s Club on 11 October, and finally Cork’s Crane Lane on 13 October as part of the IndieCork Film Festival.