Like I Never Left is the follow-up release by Megan Kovacs and Gunhild Kristoffersen (aka Bow To Each Other) of their 2014 debut album, The Urge Drums, which was produced by Susanne Sundfør.

The Oslo-based duo took the opportunity to record and share files and ideas through emails with their producer, Snorre Bergerud, who is based in Vilnius. Their online creative process, which dared the ocean between them, birthed an EP of defiant pop songs and mysterious lyrics, without being in the same.

Andrew Darley spoke to Megan and Gunhild about how the record came together, their progression as a band and their goals for the future.

What was the first experience like when you first met each other?

Gunhild: Megan performed solo at an open mic at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts where we were both studying. One night, I went up to her afterwards to tell her that she did a good job and that I really liked it. She says she doesn't remember me because she was too focused checking out this other girl she had a crush on at the time.

How did you come to set up the band after that?

Megan: We were both playing in a freak-folk band in England together for a couple of years playing accordion, violin, glockenspiel and acoustic guitar but when my visa expired I couldn't find a way to stay in the country. We had to leave that band and decided to move to Norway. We are both trained pianists and had been wanting to go back to playing keys and we wanted to keep playing music together, so we started a new project with keys as our main instruments which became Bow To Each Other.

Was there a period when you had to figure out how you could use your voices together?

Gunhild: Not really. Seeing as we had been writing and playing together for some time in different constellations, we both fell very naturally into our roles in the band.

As a duo, there must a high level of trust between you to make these songs?

Megan: It is always a scary thing showing a new song to someone for the first time, or showing an arrangement idea. While waiting for that first reaction, there are sweaty palms and fast-beating hearts, while wondering "Damn, is this song actually really shit? Does she hate this? Will I have to do it all over again?". Even though we are married and share everything with each other, we still get nervous showing each other new ideas. However, we have talked about it a lot and if we ever disagree with the other's idea or opinion, it never ever means we think the other person sucks or is not talented. We both respect each other's musicality very much and think the other is amazing at what they do, so we are only ever trying to get the best out of each other. There were hurt feelings in the past, but we have moved past that (for the most part!) and now are just trying to make the best music that we can together and leaving insecurities out of it.

Was making The Urge Drums a learning curve for you both?

Megan: Definitely it was a learning curve! It was our first album and even though we had been in the studio before recording with other bands we've played in, this is by far the most professional and serious project we have done. It was a challenge sometimes to give up and compromise arrangement ideas working with Susanne Sundfør, but at the same time, we really love her ideas and wanted her to put her mark on our music. In the end it wasn't really a challenge after all! Just hard to let go and get used to something new. We feel we made an amazing record together and wouldn't change a thing.

Susanne has gotten huge praise internationally for her latest album, Ten Love Songs which is fantastic. What did she bring to your songs on that album?

Megan: Working with Susanne was very inspiring. We think she is one of the greatest artists that is alive today and to have her so focused on our music for a time was such an honour and privilege. She gets ideas so quickly, and has such a huge knowledge of music genres and styles. Once she knows what she wants to do, she is like a machine and just works non-stop with ideas flowing constantly until the song is done. It's amazing to watch. On some of the songs, Susanne had very clear ideas of completely new places she wanted to take them, and on others she just continued with arrangements we had started and developed them. She has done everything from drum programming to synth and vocal arrangements. We don't know if she wants to produce another band (other than her own music) again, but we think she is a fantastic producer and would love to work with her again in that way again some day.

How do you feel this EP has progressed from that album?

Gunhild: This EP definitely has more of a pop feel to it than The Urge Drums. The writing and recording process of the EP was also completely different, everything happened over a much shorter time span. We were never in the same room as our producer, which was an interesting way to work. In some way it forced us to be independent and trust our own decisions. The soundscape we envisioned was more focused on the electronic on the EP - almost mechanical sounding. We definitely think it has a different feel from the album, but still keeps the essence of the sound of Bow To Each Other.

You worked with a new producer on this EP, Snorre Bergerud. Was it a little nerve-wrecking working with a new person and presenting your ideas to them?

Megan: Actually Snorre is a good friend of ours who went to school with us in England, and we have worked with him a lot in other projects. We trust him - we know he has great ideas and understands the kind of music we do. We also trust that he is honest with us and would say whether or not he thinks we have made good songs with good ideas. We are very open with each other (like Gunhild and I have learned to be when presenting ideas to each other) so working with Snorre is comfortable and we feel safe and in good hands.

The Internet really made it possible for you to make the songs on Like I Never Left - sharing ideas and sending files back and forth. Was it sometimes frustrating not being in the same room making this record?

Megan: We were on Facebook chat with each other almost constantly for a month while recording this EP. It is nicer to be with each other in person, and would be a faster process, but we were efficient and feel that we made it work. If we record with each other again in the future, we will carve out time to go to Lithuania to record with him in his studio. Snorre's studio is in the main TV station building in Vilnius and it's huge and amazing! It would definitely be more fun to be there, than just on Facebook chat in our living room, that's for sure.

Do you ever discuss what the songs are about or leave it to the imaginations of each other?

Gunhild: We always discuss what our songs are about, and the meanings are usually quite obvious to both of us. It's hard to not know when we both know everything about each other and what the other person is going through and thinking at the time. Sometimes because of imagery we choose to use it's not completely clear and we need to explain a bit, but it's never been a mystery - yet!

All four of the songs on this EP have very strong pop choruses. What artists, pop or otherwise, did you listen to and learn from about songwriting?

Megan: With me being the main songwriter in Bow To Each Other, I can say that I grew up singing worship songs and listening to worship music until my early 20s. I didn't really start listening to any secular music until I was 23 and by then was writing a lot of songs, which I must admit were clearly inspired by the music I was singing every Sunday morning and evening. However, since then, discovering hundreds of amazing artists and bands that I had never heard before (and seriously loving it!) my main songwriting inspirations have been everything from Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright, to Sigur Rós, Regina Spektor, Robyn and Sia.

Megan, you arranged the horn section on 'When They Kick You'. How did it feel bringing this brass instrument into the realm of electronic pop? Do you think you'll bring it forward with your next work?

Megan: I really love the sound of the horn. It plays with my emotions every time I hear it, whether it be pulling my heart-strings, or filling me with anticipation and sense of victory (they can be so pompous and cut-throat!). Combining these sounds with electronic pop works seamlessly to me. They belong together, and there will definitely be horns on our upcoming album.

The EP also contains three remixes of songs from The Urge Drums, how does it feel when you hear other artists' interpretations of your work?

Gunhild: We love hearing other artists interpret our music. It feels very intimate and like we are having a very serious connection, even though we haven't officially met each other.

Have you thought about the second album yet and where you might go creatively with it?

Gunhild: We have started working very intensely on our second album and have a lot of ideas recorded already. It is going to have a lot more pop and dance-based, as well as quite a bit more acoustic elements compared to the EP. We're also exploring working with other artists, producers and musicians, and are planning to include quite a few co-produced songs on the album.

Overall, do you have any goals in mind as what you would like to achieve as a band?

Megan: Yes! We have a lot of goals, and sometimes it seems like too many to be able to accomplish. If we speak them out loud, and they don't happen, we'll feel like failures though so we don't want to mention too many. However, some things we will mention are, that we want to play live and tour a lot (in Europe and Canada, and Norway of course!), have our band be a positive force in the fight for equality for LGBTQ people, and to keep writing, recording and releasing music that we think sounds fantastic.


You can visit Bow to Each Other by heading here.