In Conversation With: Gundelach

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Often regarded as a Norwegian electronic music artist to watch, Gundelach cleverly weaves different instruments and melodies in his songs. Having made regional waves with the release of his 2018 debut album Baltus, the singer-songwriter has grown into his artistry a great amount since then.

Today, he releases his latest offering aptly titled Shape, the first part of his upcoming album Shapeshifter. The EP is joined by previously heard songs including “Vinter” with production handled by the artist himself as well as additional contributions from fellow band members and frequent collaborators Knut Sævik, Georg Krank, and Ole Ulvik Rokseth to name a few. The B-side to the album is slated to arrive towards the end of April, with plenty in store for Gundelach this year.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Gundelach about his new EP, songwriting, and transitioning into a semi-normal world. Read on for our conversation below.

Congratulations on your new EP Shape—what is the significance of the title and what does the project as a whole mean to you?

I’ve always been fascinated by the paintings of Theodor Kittelsen, especially those of the Nix (“nøkken” in Norwegian), a mythical folklore figure who shapeshifts in order to lure people into the water and drown them. These paintings were my biggest inspiration during the making of the EP – I wanted to create an album that felt like you were looking at them while listening. The nix can shapeshift into a white horse or a beautiful young man, and I reference it lyrically a few times throughout the record as well, telling part of the story. So, this is what the record is vaguely inspired by, but it also integrates my own personal inner workings.

Did you learn anything about yourself as a musician during this time?

Definitely! I made this record during the COVID lockdown, so it was a much more isolated experience than usual, and I had a lot of time to really try out new soundscapes and practice playing the guitar more and learn new stuff. It felt like a really natural and not rushed process – there were no urgent deadlines as there sometimes normally are.

Also, I included my friends in the process a lot more than usual (co-writing and jamming stuff out together) which gave the whole thing a really flowy laid back feeling. In the past when making records there has sometimes been a lot of tension and the chemistry between everyone working on the record has got quite tense, but this time round I didn’t overthink so much or worry about who will be listening or judging the music I am making. 

With it arriving a bit later in your career, does the writing process get easier each time, or is it still a challenge?

It’s still a challenge, but I think at the same time it also gets easier. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because while it becomes more challenging to have to always invent something ‘new’, I have also developed a lot of paradigms and ‘recipes’ that have made me feel more confident in my writing now.

But now I just try not to overthink so much – the main goal is that what I do feels nice, and I am not worrying about if it resembles something else or is ‘original’ – it is impossible to write something 100% original anymore. My most successful songs are the ones which I don’t re-touch or re-listen to too much, they just flow out of me naturally. 

Songs like “Vinter” encompass some of the musical elements that fans haven’t previously heard in your music, how does it set the tone for where you want to go sonically?

This EP is a lot more guitar-driven, I won’t say ‘rock sound’ but it also kind of is. As an artist I feel like I try not to stay in the same lane over several albums – I want to change up stuff and have the guitar in the front seat of this album, for example. So that’s what I went with sonically this time, and I hope that my fans will enjoy it too. While I am incredibly grateful for people listening to my music, I also make music for myself, without thinking too much about who is on the other end, because I think it’s toxic to think too much about what other people think.  

What are you hoping listeners will take away from the album once they’ve been able to hear it?

I hope that it will make them feel something similar to how I feel looking at the Kittelsen paintings. Maybe they haven’t seen those paintings before and then they might feel that kind of energy when they listen to my music, and then imagine my process more after looking at the paintings. 

I believe there’s a lot that other musicians can draw from your artistry—what would you say are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned as a musician?

I think it is really hard being a musician/artist at the moment, because of the amount of stuff coming out all the time, and the digital revolution that we are in. There is a huge pressure of trying to be original, and I think that my best advice would be trusting your own ear – you are the only person who is like you. You need to do what you do best and not listen too much or compare yourself to people around you – just keep it simple. 

Music aside, what are you most excited for this year as we seemingly shift back into a semi-normal world?

Traveling! I went to New York a month or two ago to film the “Vinter” music video and it was the first time I had traveled since the start of the pandemic. It was really nice

Elsewhere in music, we spoke with Toronto artist 12AM about tattoos, touring post-pandemic, his latest single, and more.