It all started with a mandolin, a rubbermaid tub, and a batch of songs written while shuttered away for a year in a Siberia shared between two friends to birth what is now known as Norwegian Arms. With just these simple instruments, the group was able to give body and weight to their earnest, upbeat and thoughtful freak-folk. Things have changed since then, they’ve moved beyond the rubbermaid bin in favor of a floor tom and added a wash of synthesizer, filling out the sound while maintaining their stripped down stage presence.
Although the two had been playing before mandolinist/vocalist Brendan Mulvihill was sent by the Fulbright program to Tomsk, Russia, it’s easy to see that the defining moment in this young group’s sound came after Mulvihill’s return, when he, along with Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog) would rehearse in the windowless depths of the Ox, seeking to refine their minimalist sound.
After an intense week of recording at Dr. Dog’s Meth Beach studios in October of 2011, the group is readying the release of their debut LP, Wolf Like A Stray Dog, comprised of eleven introspective songs written during Mulvihill’s year long fellowship in Tomsk, Russia, nestled in the heart of Siberia. Self-described as an “ember glowing in the distance of an otherwise frozen taiga”, Wolf Like A Stray Dog deals with themes of homesickness, discovery, frustration, and wanderlust.
People seem to find it difficult to classify the group, saying everything from ‘freak folk’ to ‘mando punk’ to ’minimalist psych folk’ to ‘elf rock’. But this isn’t an attempt to make the music more digestible, the group’s songs are instantly memorable, well crafted, and melodically rich. These are deeply personal songs, and it shows. People find themselves easily identifying with the constant themes in Norwegian Arms songs: a quest for self identity, a resistance to permanence, adapting to new environments, questioning one’s knowledge and perspective, and never being satisfied with what you know. It’s Wanderlust and curiosity, distilled and neatly packaged into sonic bursts of intense energy. Simply put, it’s apparent that Norwegian Arms constantly suffers from a chronic case of the human condition.
In the past two years of their activity, the band has been able to share the stage with talented acts such as Architecture in Helsinki, Here We Go Magic, and Future Islands, and have attracted an enthusiastic fanbase on the east coast.