It’s nigh on impossible to pigeonhole quirky Norwegian outfit Casiokids, so we probably won’t even try. This curious, dare-devil patchwork of afro-beat, synth pop and electro noises is thrown against a wall of bizarro instruments like donkey jaws and cow bells. And it’s sucking ears to stereos – “the best thing to come out of Norway since Black Metal”, NME recently raved. Their first album ‘Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar’ was the first Norwegian-language album ever thrown to U.S. and U.K. lions, and now they’re back! with ‘Aabenbaringen over Aaskammen’ (the Revelation over the Mountain), a mature and highly danceable party of tunes laced with typical outlandish oddness. We met up with the troupe before a show in Brussels to talk about a certain Dr. Tarzan, getting sponsored by a-ha and gigs in lighthouses.
You’re known for using very original instruments, what have you got for us tonight?
We use Casios of course, a shaker made out of an artificial donkey jaw that we found in Mexico City, and lots of other stuff. Unfortunately people started to steal all the special and strange things from the stage, so now we are forced to be as boring as possible. Three quarters of our stuff are cowbells I think, no one has more than us!
When you started, why did you decide to sing in Norwegian? Wouldn’t it have been more logical to sing in English in order to be successful outside of Norway?
When we started we really didn’t think about that. We never thought we would become big. We just wanted to sing in the most natural way for us, to make it as personal as possible. In the end it also makes us unique and original. Even if people don’t understand the language, they will understand the honesty behind it. We just toured in Japan and even there we met someone who spoke Norwegian – in the end we found out it was the guy who translates the books of Haruki Murakami!
How did it come about, your getting signed with Moshi Moshi?
They saw some of our gigs and then came to see us in Oslo at a festival. First we released some singles and then they signed us. It’s a great label because it’s small and they know how to work with a band that is not made for the masses. We are very lucky, also with Polyvinyl and all the others.
Your new record ‘Aabenbaringen over Aaskammen’ seems much more mature.
Definitely. It was a natural progression. It’s been a long learning process, becoming more mature. We had a lot of time to explore different possibilities.
Where did you record the album?
We moved into a new studio located in a big old slaughter house in Bergen that hosts a lot of artists. They have some good acts there, Röyksopp are our neighbours, for example.
What is the album about? I heard there’s a certain Dr. Tarzan Monsoon involved?
Dr. Tarzan is an adventurer. He discovers a new world, a rainforest. We used his story as a backdrop, but it’s not a concept album, just a loose theme. You have to imagine a mystical rainforest with strange animals. We use the moods that come with it as a tool to make the music.
What are the main differences between this and the previous record?
Before, we basically did a collection of singles. We toured a lot and we would spend a week in the studio, here and there. After, we gathered everything and made an album out of it. For this record, we spent four months in a row in the studio which enabled us to dig deeper and develop a better flow. It’s a much more prepared album. But it’s still very diverse, because of all our different musical backgrounds.
What’s the writing process like, with so many people involved?
It’s quite rare that we are all together. We write in different constellations, sometimes just two of us make a piece together.
I really like the song Dresine, it’s more rock-y than your usual sound. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes, it’s much more guitar-based. That’s actually the oldest song on the record. We wrote it in 2008 and it was used for the computer game Pro Evolution Soccer. I think they sold 150 million copies of it.
How do you choose the first single?
We do use input from others because you become blind after a while. We hear the songs so many times that we cannot tell anymore.
You have a very unique sound, it’s hard to put a label on it – how would you describe it yourselves?
It’s pop music, music that wants to make you dance and party, but with a special and unique element to it that’s very difficult to pigeonhole. When we were in Tower Records in Japan we found our CDs in the guitar pop section. In the end we just do what feels right. World music, indie, dance pop – and the secret are the 1% of classic rock (laughter).
How did Kevin Barnes end up making a guest appearance on the record?
Of Montreal had some days off in Bergen and came to hang out in the studio with us. We were just in the process of finishing and their violinist played with us a bit and Kevin added guitars on some of our songs. It was a lot of fun.
You’ve been touring quite a bit with Of Montreal. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from them?
His creative output is unbelievable. Kevin is so productive and his songwriting is intense. I remember we were travelling on a ferry together, everyone was relaxing and doing nothing, but he was constantly writing and soaking up everything around him. He is really inspiring.
What’s been your craziest experience so far on tour?
Once we went from Norway to Russia and then Mexico in one single weekend. In Australia we played at New Year’s Eve and did the countdown on stage. And once we were flown with a helicopter to a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean to play a gig there. Oh, and in Berlin the police shut down one of our concerts because it was too loud. Now imagine our songs played a capella – that was weird!
You’ve really toured a lot, more than many other bands. Why is that?
It’s a very good thing for a band, especially when you want an international career. There more you play live, the better you become as a band. In the end it’s all about playing live. It’s important to build a solid foundation, and very advisable.
You recently received a 125.000 € grant from Norwegian pop veterans a-ha – what did you do with all that money?
We invested it in three things: touring, being able to have time off to work on the new album and building the new studio. It was really a great help.
Aabenbaringen over Aaskammen was released on Moshi Moshi on 16th January 2012
Available from iTunes here