WORDS HUGO FERNANDES - INTERVIEW AND IMAGES FILIPE PHITZGERARD
Norwegian EDM record production duo Simen Eriksrud and Espen Berg - a.k.s Seeb - are no strangers to greatness. The duo has been producing tracks that have played across the globe from the major dancefloors to the most intimate house-parties and with a creative portfolio that includes producing alongside Bastille, Coldplay, One Republic, and Taylor Swift - to name a few - some of their tracks have become instant hits.
Their latest collaboration with indie-pop duo HIGHASAKITE is another proof of their creative touch. With an electrifying energy and perfectly balanced sounds, Seeb has become one of the go-to duos when it comes to remixing and elevating contemporary music. Berg and Eriksrud have become masters of sounds, their attention to the technical details is combined with their unique perception of soundwaves and the respect they have for the songs, and artists, they work with.
Besides working with these major names in the mainstream music industry, Simen and Espen have been creating their own sounds and infusing them with their unique creative fingerprint. Their history as recording artists and producers is composed of different twists and turns, failures and successes, and experiences with different cultures and their impact in music. These experiences have helped form their identity as well as cement their path for creative greatness. Following their worldly successful collaboration with Bastille and last week's release of "Free to Go" with HIGHASAKITE; we had the pleasure of speaking to the Norwegian duo to find out more about their story, their perception to music, and much more.
Filipe Phitzgerard: How are you guys doing? Simen Eriksrud: We're good. We had a great weekend and did a couple of shows in London with Bastille. It was really great. The venue and the crowd were incredible.
F.P: That's awesome. Had you performed with them before? Espen Berg: No.This was the first time. We actually had not met in person since the collaboration started but we spoke on Skype a few times. We did make sure to meet them before going on stage together. It was pretty fun.
F.P: How does it work when you are working with artists like them or Coldplay, for example? Do you meet beforehand or is there a lot of phone calls involved? E.B: It's both. Sometimes, when we have the chance, we will meet them in person and other times is all via Skype or phone. We are not big fans of sessions because it can be quite difficult and stressful for us because it is difficult to write. We tend to meet people and go out for lunch to meet the person we are potentially working with and then we two go into the studio and send things over and back and forth. S.E: There is not really a point of just sitting around waiting for the artist to write as there is a lot of work and time that goes into that process. We prefer to then let them work out the lyrics as they wish and just communicate along the way by sending samples back and forth until we have the final track ready. It's easier and more productive working like
F.P: That's interesting because the first impression we would have once you listening to the tracks is that you spent a good four months with the artist living and breathing the same air under the same roof. E.B: [Smiles] No. That would be a very interesting but difficult experience.
F.P: You've just finished a mini tour with Bastille. How do you guys feel about the whole touring life? E.B: It's difficult for me to say because I like quiet and tours can be quite stressful as well as tiring. We tend not to do unless is something we really feel it's important and necessary. S.E: Yes. When we were in America for three weeks it was quite exhausting and usually, we will play for three nights in a row. We do try to get some time in between shows to rest. We spent three weeks in Americana travelling all over the country and that was quite tiring.
F.P: Norway is definitely where you guys enjoy being. I've heard it is a pretty chilled place. S.E: Definitely. And we have family there as well and we really enjoy being with family. It fits our lifestyle better and that helps us work better.
F.P: When it comes to music; what is the movement taking the front carriage at the moment? Because you guys have worked with some pretty big mainstream acts so I am guessing Norway's inbred music would be a bit different. E.B: It is very different. Music in Norway at the moment is quite left-field. It's been like that for a long time but just now things are becoming more noticed by the rest of the world. It is very pop-oriented at the moment but we have a huge underground music scene. For every two people, one has music out. [Laughs] Norway's government has also been investing in music created by young people and you have a lot of funding going towards it so I see that as a good thing. S.E: You just need a laptop and internet connection to make music. Maybe the biggest reason for that growth is also the fact that publishing your music is much easier than ten maybe fifteen years ago. You can go on Spotify and promote your music there. Releasing music has definitely become easier.
F.P: Is it good music, though? E.B: A lot of it is. You still find the ones that are not really there yet and some which are simply bad. [Laughs]
F.P: I guess you'd find that contrast anywhere, not just in Norway. But I want to talk to you guys about this transitional process you have been going through. You have worked with many other artists from Coldplay, One Republic, Taylor Swift, and most recently Bastille by producing the tracks for them but now, you guys are investing more “me-time” on your own work and defining your identity outside the “producing to others” row. Since you've started this process; can you see any poignant moments when this change not only made sense but gave you the confidence to do it? S.E: If you look at our background you'll see that we have been producing music for other artists from a long time, especially in Norway and Sweden, and, around 2011 we started going to the U.S and from that, we started getting new connections with people and the record labels. When 2015 came we started remixing for fun and we got in touch with some of the labels we knew already and just started doing in by ourselves. It was more to have some fun and be creative because we would be waiting for artists to get new material ready but that was taking too long. We started by remixing the tracks just for fun and eventually it worked and we started working with these amazing artists.
F.P: And that has propelled you into a whole new space which is the actual stage, right? S.E: Yes. Our second gig was in 2016 at Tomorrowland where we played for thirty-thousand people.
F.P: Wow! How did that feel? Both: Surreal. [Smiles]
F.P: That must be quite a nerve-wracking experience. To leave the comfort of your studio where you control everything in the environment and step onto the stage with thousands of people watching you. S.E: Yes. The connection is completely different than when you are in the studio with just a couple of producers or managers with you. E.B: But what made easier for us is that, because we are in our forties, we see this as a weird trip we are on... S.E: It's a glitch in the Matrix. [Laughs] E.B: Yes. It would be really stupid of us not to go for it and enjoy these experiences. We have to do it. If I was on my twenties I perhaps would not do it because I would be too worried and anxious but not I see it as an opportunity we can go for. We can still have fun with it as well, which is an extra.
F.P: That fuels your own identity as artists. E.B: Definitely. As artists, we can do our own thing and we control what we produce and release. It's helping to cement our own identity.
F.P: Was there a specific moment or move you guys made that caused this chain reaction of change and even creating your own identity? E.B: I think there was a point when we wanted to create and experiment where we took some songs that were already out there and we remixed them. We did it very respectably because you always have to be respectful to the artist and their songs. We made a few remixes and sent to the producers and some artist like Rihanna and as we did that some of the tracks we put out were well received by the artist, the labels and the public. They seemed to do well so we continued to work that way. Once we had produced some of these tracks and people liked it that gave us more exposure and that made it much easier to produce. With Coldplay, for example, Chris Martin got in touch with us and he wanted to work with us but that added some pressure on because we have massive respect for Coldplay.
F.P: And was the process of working with Coldplay straightforward? E.B: It was challenging but not because Chris or the band made it difficult but because Simen and I have a lot of respect for them. Initially, we were very careful with how to remix the track in a way that preserved their style and heart. We tried a few different things and had some back and fourths but in the end, we found our balance of respect for the original track. That has also influenced us as artists when it comes to creating our own music. S.E: I think the vocals are the main thing to respect. You have to be able to preserve it while working on the other elements surrounding it. If you find that balance then you can create something good.
F.P: From working more locally with Norwegian and Swedish artists through working with big mainstream ones until this point that you are now; has much changed? S.E: Oh definitely. Before getting to this point I think we both had a different vision of what an artist really is in terms of the work they produce and the way life changes as well. There was quite a bit of adaptation for us but we still have our foot on the ground in order to stay focused on creating our own music and not losing sight who we are as artists. We will still do collaborations and work with other artists but we are realistic that this could change at any moment. There are so many things around it as well and you have to be aware of them.
F.P: Is there a formula for making a big hit? S.E: No. [Laughs] I think that you can develop methods you will use to work a track but ultimately it is difficult to have one formula. E.B: I think it has a lot to do with learning how to balance and refine the sounds. But even that doesn't have a recipe for how to make a hit single.
F.P: Have you developed this method? E.B: I think we definitely have some rules but they are not stiff that we can't change them if we need to. We also bring some techniques we have learned along the way but besides the technical side, I think the rest could be changed if needed. It depends on what we are doing in terms of the song and beat.
F.P: With 'Grip' how has the process been? Did you have any involvement with the music video as well? E.B: Yes. It's kind of our very own music video. It was mainly Dan (Smith) and us communicating and he was very open to anything really. He had this idea he could not finish for a while, which we didn't know at the time, and he sent us the track and we started working on the track. The song ended up making a big success and we are very happy about the outcome. I think the common thing about big artists is that they are open to listen to your ideas and try them. It's great when you are working with these great voices who also have great personalities. It's very inspiring.
F.P: How about your own creations. What have we got coming up? E.B: Oh we have a lot of music ready to be released and we are always working on new ones. We will have videos coming soon as well. S.E: Yes. We can't say too much but we have a track video coming out soon in anime style. We really love that kind of stuff.
F.P: What other bits are you interested in? Simen mentioned photography earlier on. S.E: We like arts and photography and other things that can inspire you or influence you visually.
F.P: And that will be translated into your own visual work even if subconsciously. E.B: Yes. It all becomes part of it. You just need to learn how to refine it so it doesn't become too much and without any power in it.
F.P: You had an EP out in 2018 and now you are working on more stuff for 2019, right? E.B: Yes. We had an EP last year and it was a bit of a difficult year for us because we had a lot of things to work out and we stopped doing gigs for a while but after that time we had the chance to take some time off and then work on new solid material. We have at least two singles ready.
F.P: Taking into account all the time and experiences you have acquired over the years; what would be your advice to younger people who are moving into this industry? S.E: For me, the most important thing to know is to work with people who are on the same page as you. Work with people who are wanting to go in the same direction you are while still being able to take risks. The competition is really high and tough today. E.B: And be really careful where you put your music and don't stress too much about things. Or don't stress at all. [Laughs] Learn how to take rejection as well. You will definitely get rejected some times but everyone is. It's part of the journey. Just keep going and stay focus.
Words: Hugo Fernandes
Interview and photography (Polaroids): Filipe Phitzgerard