Music Interviews
6:37 am
Sun June 23, 2013

Bernhoft: A Norwegian Hard Rocker Dives Into Funky Soul

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 8:53 am

Back in 2005, Norwegian musician Jarle Bernhoft was known for a hard rock sound: His band at the time, SPAN, was sort of like Norway's Foo Fighters. But Bernhoft, who plays multiple instruments, in addition to singing and composing, had a nagging feeling he wanted to make a totally different kind of music.

"This friend of mine gave me a Sly & the Family Stone album, and I couldn't really come down off that wall; I was nailed to it," Bernhoft says. "So it was a profound need to try and do something in that vein."

Since then, Bernhoft has been living that ambition. He recently stopped by NPR's studios in Washington, D.C. — with an armload of music gear — to speak with Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin and perform a few songs live. Click the audio link to hear more.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If I said let's listen to some Norwegian music, what sounds might be conjured up in your mind? Maybe some electronica, maybe some obscure rock. But I am willing to bet you probably didn't imagine this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

MARTIN: This is Jarle Bernhoft, a Norwegian singer-songwriter, and this is a song called "So Many Faces" off his album "Ceramic City Chronicles." It was a departure for Bernhoft. Back in 2005, he was known for a very different sound. He was in a hard rock band. It was sort of like Norway's Foo Fighters. But Bernhoft had this nagging feeling that he wanted to make a totally different kind of music.

JARLE BERNHOFT: This friend of mine gave me a Sly and the Family Stone album. It's such, I really couldn't come down off that wall. I was nailed to it. It was sort of profound me to try and do something in that vein.

MARTIN: Since then, Bernhoft has been living in that vein. And recently, he stopped by our Washington studios to play some songs for us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO MANY FACES")

BERNHOFT: (Singing) I got the big city blues, I don't wanna stick around, and I know that she knows. I got the big city blues, I don't wanna stick around, and I know that she knows. This here is on concrete and I miss my little town. I know that she knows, that she knows. I miss the houses, I miss the sweet sound, I miss all the people that greet me with a smile.

MARTIN: That was amazing. And for people who might not know this, that big, textured sound, that's just you. We're in the studio right now with a whole lot of equipment. Can you walk us through what's happening here?

BERNHOFT: Yeah, it, basically, it's a set-up where I can record stuff. So, it goes into this cable. It goes through a pedal that says (makes sense) and a pedal that says (makes sounds) and another goes (makes sound). And then it goes into this recording device that I can, like, you're hearing (makes sound). And the trick is to not get into chaos.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Controlled chaos.

BERNHOFT: Yeah, I guess it is.

MARTIN: Well, let's listen to another song, if you don't mind. We're going to hear "C'mon Talk."

BERNHOFT: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "C'MON TALK")

BERNHOFT: (Singing) C'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be honest with you, try to be honest with you every single, but c'mon and talk to me. I will try my utmost to be rhythmical, try to be, c'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be honest with you, try to be honest with you every single. Well, c'mon and talk to me, I will try my utmost to be rhythmical, try to be, c'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be honest with you, try to be honest with you every single. Well, c'mon and talk to me. I will try my utmost to be rhythmical, try to be, c'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be honest with you, try to be honest with you.

C'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be rhythmical, try to be, c'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be honest with you, try to be honest with you. Well, c'mon and talk to me. I will try to be utmost to be rhythmical, try to be, c'mon talk to me. They get lost in the end, of a family affair about the things that went wrong in a matter of speaking. Should've been more forthcoming about the things I needed to say. Seem to be talking to someone else. C'mon, c'mon talk to me, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon talk to me. So, what matters most in the end (unintelligible) in these streets. (unintelligible) different kind of species. I'm unable to handle the way the (unintelligible) and now you got me feeling so stupid when I couldn't understand. You've got me reeling out in circles, (unintelligible).

C'mon and talk to me, I will try my utmost to be honest with you, try to be honest with you. C'mon and talk to me. I will try my utmost to be rhythmical, try to be. Now, c'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be honest with you, try to be honest with you. Now, c'mon talk to me. I will try my utmost to be rhythmical, try to be. C'mon talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon on talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah, to me, yeah. C'mon talk, talk, talk, talk to me, yeah.

MARTIN: That was great. I'm going to date myself here, but for people who grew up in the late '70s, '80s - that would be me; you may be younger than I am - but beatboxing was huge. And at the top of that song, when you're laying down those fundamentals and those riffs and those sounds, I mean, that's just fun. That's like stuff you did as a kid making all kinds of weird sounds. And now it's you put them together and these textures becomes something really vibrant.

BERNHOFT: I guess that's a big part of it, yeah, just playing around and stuff and - 'cause I get bored very easily actually seeing solo performers 'cause they might do the same trick over and over. When I was through with exploring the guitar, I used, you know, synthesizers and stuff like that and doing being beatboxing was always something that I didn't think I could do but then why, hey, the hell with that, let's just try it.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Why didn't you think it was something you could do?

BERNHOFT: Because in many ways, I'm a very modest person. We're getting deep now, aren't we?

MARTIN: Well, I wonder what you're saying: there's something about beatboxing that...

BERNHOFT: No. I didn't see myself as a beatboxer - I still don't. But at the same time, it's just I think I'm a musical person and I understand rhythm and I understand singing. So, beatboxing is just, it's a part of that.

MARTIN: You are between albums at the moment, I understand.

BERNHOFT: Yeah.

MARTIN: And what's happening for your musically now? Are you going to stay in this vein for a while?

BERNHOFT: I probably need to stay in this vein for many reasons. It just, like, felt coming into my own in many ways that I don't think I can ever get out of this kind of soul music. It's never going to leave me, I think.

MARTIN: Jarle Bernhoft. He is the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist. He's also a songwriter. He joined us here in our studios in Washington. Thanks so much for coming by. It's been so fun to talk with you.

BERNHOFT: My pleasure.

MARTIN: Well, can you play us out on another song? Let's hear "Come Around with Me."

BERNHOFT: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COME AROUND WITH ME")

BERNHOFT: (Singing) Come around, come around with me. Come around, come around with me...

MARTIN: That'll get your Sunday off to a good start. If you'd like to hear more music from Bernhoft, go to nprmusic.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.