Solvor Vermeer Interview Listen to Solvor Vermeer on Myspace
Solvor Maike Vermeer knows damn well what she wants out of her music. Or rather, the fiery haired 26 year old Norwegian knows precisely what she doesn’t want. Having gone solo after playing in various Norwegian bands for the best part of the last 7 years, Solvor has now irrefutably found her own unique and certifiably stunning voice, and she's not afraid to share it with us. So long as it's just a few of us at a time. “That’s how this all started” Solvor retorts, when I ask if striding out on her own gave her the freedom she needed to really enjoy making music again. “I just felt like I was playing some kind of music and doing things to make someone else happy; playing the kind of music someone else wanted me to play. It was like trying to fulfill or live up to someone else’s dream.” Her sound then. Is it a conscious choice I ask, and how is it influenced by her bucolic, Norwegian surroundings? "It just comes natural to me and I don’t know why, it might have something to do with... It probably reflects me as a person in a way because I’m very quiet and worry a lot. I'm melancholic but at the same time very intense. I don't really know how to say it in English, but I am ytterpunkt - very quiet and very loud at the same time, a kind of contrast. Probably influenced by nature as well, there are a lot of contrasts in nature in Norway! As a person I have a lot of them too and that goes into the music. I try not to be self aware because it’s easy to start adjusting it to what I would want it to be. It’s like, if you’re too aware of your personality and the person you want to be, you’ll start adjusting and being very conscious about it. Don’t doubt your instincts always, we have good instincts!" They’re wise words. Solvor’s admission evinces real maturity, or rather a crystal-clear sense of self. To say nothing of watching and listening to her perform (although we will certainly come to that), talking to Solvor is a real pleasure due to her uncluttered honesty and eagerness to just talk, and not just about herself. If anything, it’s in talking about herself that a faint note of shyness creeps into her voice. “I never thought I could do something with my own music, I didn’t have the confidence in it! It means alot to me so I don’t wanna hand it over to anyone.”
Solvor definitely has a preferred way of doing things, and what one might mistakenly call a very underground aesthetic when in reality she is just genuinely intimate, as a person and as a performer. “I had a small showcase in Oslo at by:Larm....we had a secret showcase in the studio of a friend of mine.” Solvor starts, as we talk about her penchant for really intimate gigs, after playing a particularly special one minutes before at The Bedford in Balham. She barely pauses for breath in her excitement at recounting what is evidently her favourite past show: “We painted the whole studio together, and that was the first real gig playing my own stuff... we taped the windows up so it was really dark, and we had candles everywhere, we made waffles and coffee and everyone had to take their shoes off and sit on the floor and there was a storm outside, it was wonderful!” I suggest the obvious; it certainly bloody sounds it. You should do something like that the next time you’re in London” I half suggest, half plead. “Hmmmm… I liked it so much maybe I should only do secret concerts? It’s a whole different experience and you get in touch with the audience in a whole different way.” It’s a sentiment often echoed by artists with the flexibility to pare down their personnel or arrangements, and why not? There is something to be said for the kinship felt with a huge crowd at a sell out gig at a massive venue but nine times out of ten the gigs you remember will be the ones where you are looked unmistakably in the eye, smiled out, where the singer or whoever is clearly loving every minute of it. Indeed, Solvor admits to stringing out her last song for fear of having to finish her set. She also admits to having been seriously nervous, to which I hurriedly reassure her that she didn’t seem it whatsoever. Is it the natural result of going solo after playing in a band for so long? “I have a bigger band in Oslo but it’s really nice to get back to how it all started, just me and the piano. It’s really scary but it’s so healthy because it pulls me back again to how it was, and that was enough at one point.” A rapt London audience was no doubt reticent to hear her finish too, but is it a vibe she can readily enjoy back in native Norway? “In Oslo you have a typical, very good audience for whatever is the hype, and if you’re not doing that type of music then you’ll have a really small audience, partly because we’re just not very many people!” More fool them. The contrast strikes Solvor in other ways too, something that becomes clear when I ask her about her favourite part of London and what she likes about the UK: “I love that there are so many different lives all tangled up in one city, it creates a special atmosphere. Oslo is the capital of Norway so we have a lot of different people there but London is inspiring because there is more room for different music; the scene is bigger.”
Being signed to the most excellent UK indie Lazy Acre Records (and more on them later too), Solvor has the freedom and the like-minded people supporting her to take her time getting around to recording an album that she’s happy with. I was curious as to what she fills the rest of her time with, hoping I’d make no faux pas in suggesting that she doesn’t yet make a living from her music. “I study music, but only part time. I thought I should do something more important with my life but it all comes down to not wanting to do anything else, so if I study it then maybe I can teach it or something…” Which in itself is of course a noble pursuit. I point out that you gotta do what makes you happy, though we all know it’s not always that easy or, at least, not all that many people know how. “I end up with that every time” she beams, “I know what I love doing and the others can do the responsible thing and become a nurse. I also work as a waitress in a coffee bar like ALL musicians!” Anyway, how did she get involved with Ben and Berkeley, the guys behind the label responsible for my hearing Solvor’s dulcet tones, as well as the Full Stop To Bad Pop campaign and a number of other fantastic imports? “Ben had stumbled into my concert [at by:Larm last year]; he hadn’t even planned on seeing me. He came up to me after the gig, we talked and said “are you gonna release anything?” and I was like “NO! I don’t like the industry…” ...He said “are you sure.,? We’re a small DIY label etc” I was really strict with him. “No I won’t release anything!” was the first thing I said to him because I’ve seen enough of the industry to know I don’t want to be involved in it. I want to do my music no matter the costs, and without worrying about them.”
But, obviously, he won her over somehow. “What is so good about Lazy Acre people is that they’re so into the music and not the other stuff. We talked about how random it was, for him to come into my concert. Such a coincidence we have the same view and they that they share my philosophy!” A very happy accident indeed then. So, Solvor Vermeer is no enigma but she is certainly fascinating. Her situation is somewhat ironic because she could so easily represent an indie import breakthrough, especially considering our current (deserved) infatuation with Scandinavian wonder-music, but chances are she’d shun the attention and stick to fifty-capacity venues regardless. After an incredible performance and a relaxed and insightful interview, I can only ask one more thing of the meek but intimate Norwegian; she keeps bloody coming back to England.
Solver is currently readying her debut album and has a gorgeous, hand-made EP for sale through Lazy Acre, out first week of May. There will be a launch party at The Bedford (in Balham) with Ingrid Olava on May 19th. Visit Lazy Acre Records MP3: Solvor Vermeer - The Beaming Light (Live From London)