Denmark Desert: Talking Call Down the Sun, Recording During COVID, and Being a Beginner Musician with Konvent’s Rikke Emilie List

As we tell readers all the time on this blog, we really are living in a golden era for extreme underground music. It’s not just because of all the

2 years ago

As we tell readers all the time on this blog, we really are living in a golden era for extreme underground music. It’s not just because of all the good records that are coming out these days, though that is indeed an important aspect. And it’s also not just because it’s much easier and cheaper to record, produce, and distribute your own music, though that too is critical. I think a key element has been the sheer creativity. As music listeners, we have had a lot more access to far more music in the last decade than we had in the previous hundred years of recorded music. With that access came musicians with wide and varied interests listening not just to death metal or even just to metal. As a result, more music is defying genre categorization now. We now have far more bands who love many forms of our beloved genre and smash them together to create something entirely new.

Konvent is just such a band. For their entire career thus far, the band has combined elements of death and doom metal but have always flirted with other concepts. Their 2017 demo mixes occult stoner metal ideas into their music. 2020’s Puritan Masochism lost some of the stoner elements for a more straightforward death-doom sound, but this year’s Call Down the Sun introduced some elements of black metal by creating an oppressive atmosphere to live in. Many of the lyrical concepts further reinforce this environment, showing ideas that are just out of everyone’s reach like the pursuit of happiness or the desolate landscape of a desert. It’s an impressive addition to sound that we’ve only yet begun to examine.

It’s an incredible time to be into this music because so many artists are willing to experiment now and try new things. They can do that because of the wealth of knowledge they have access to now. And as you’ll discover shortly, some artists do it because of the challenge of it. Call Down the Sun for Konvent was like going to music college for them. They had a lot of challenges for them in putting this record together both voluntary and involuntary. But they rolled with the punches to put this record out and figured out ways to make it work. It shows because that effort paid off. Call Down the Sun is one of my personal favorites of the year thus far, and I wanted to have a chat with people who helped make it. Vocalist Rikke Emilie List was kind enough to offer me a few minutes to discuss the record and so much more.


Pete Williams: Rikke, I am so glad to be talking to you today! I listened to your first record a bunch. I just listened to your original demo for the first time, and I’ve listened to Call Down the Sun…well, I couldn’t tell you how many times. And I just found it at my record store so I had to pick it up. I was super excited for that, and just really glad to be talking to you today!

Rikke Emilie List: No problem!

PW: Well, let’s just get right to it. Y’all started in 2015. And your overall sound is pretty niche and very specific sound, and it’s gotten darker over time. Call Down the Sun is definitely your darkest yet. Is that a conscious decision you made as a group? Or what happened?

REL: I don’t think there was a conscious decision to make it darker, as you say. I think there was a decision to challenge ourselves on this record and incorporate a few black metal elements. It’s very few, but we tried to move in that direction on this record.

PW: I agree. In what ways would you say y’all challenged yourselves?

REL: We all agreed right after we left the studio after recording Puritan Masochism that we were just so inspired to write the next record. We all agreed that we need to, for the next record, that we wanted to challenge ourselves. We wanted to hear that we’ve all grown as musicians and singers. And…I think I forgot your question already!

PW: Hahahaha! Well, after I’ve listened to the record several times, there’s an obvious theme on this record with images of a desert and sand and all that. Where did that come from? What inspired that?

REL: On the first record, water was a big element, and we immediately thought about using sand or dust as an element for Call Down the Sun. When we started writing, Sara (guitarist) suggested that we could have a main theme about the eternal chase for happiness. It’s something very futile and a never-ending circle that can just go on and on. We thought sand was a very obvious element because you can grab sand but you can’t hold on to it. It’s so futile in a lot of ways, and sand can be a lot of things. It can be a huge desert that’s fatal if you walk into it. It can also be the tiniest grain of sand. So we felt like it had a lot of different elements. It can be something that takes up a lot of space in your life. It gets in through every single crack. It’s constantly there and you can never get rid of it. It can just be the tiniest little grain that’s been shaped and polished over time. It’s life.

PW: Speaking similarly to the recording process. I would assume you guys did this in the fall of last year.

REL: When did we do it? Yeah, it was probably the fall. It was so long ago!

PW: The reason I ask that is because with COVID here in America, things were starting to open up a little bit more in the fall. There were more crowds in different places and things like that. I know in Europe, and especially in Denmark and central Europe. It was a little different experience. What was the recording process like? Did you have to worry about quarantining and doing all that? As a working musician right now, I have to imagine that COVID has made a very significant impact on how you just do things.

REL: Yeah, absolutely. When we were still writing the record, there was a period of five months where we couldn’t go into a rehearsal space. The municipality of Copenhagen who owns it, had decided to shut all of their locations down. So we were pretty screwed in the process. You can write lyrics and riffs at home, but at some point you need to add those drums to move forward with a song. We’re still proud of the record we’ve made, but a part of me also feels like I really would’ve loved to see what we could’ve made if we had those extra five months to rehearse and writing process. So that kind of sucks, but you have to work with what you have. Regarding the recording process, we recorded at Ballade Studios which is in central Copenhagen, and it was very flexible for us. We could always just jump on our bikes (because everybody rides a bike in Copenhagen) and swing by the studio if we ended to do something. We didn’t have to be there altogether from start to finish. So it was pretty flexible who could be there, and we just made sure we got regular tests before we could meet up. It’s so funny because now the testing options are so few and being phased out, but we were very aware of that when we were recording.

PW: I’m always interested in that part just because it has such an impact on what you do. Just like what you were saying, you can’t really rehearse or get into a real group setting. What did you do to get around that? At some point, you’re going to have to all get together in a room and work this stuff out in order to record.

REL: Actually, the guy we just signed with as our manager, Søren, who’s a friend of the band, is in a band called Pectora. They leant us their rehearsal space. It was privately owned, so they could still use it. So for the last month where we couldn’t rehearse in our own space, we were getting very desparate. THey were sharing their room with another band who was moving out, so we had about a month where we could use it. It was a lifesaver. Our deadline was approaching, and we were getting more and more stressed about the album. We got so much done in that rehearsal space. It was in a basement with no windows, no facilities, no chairs, no nothing. We couldn’t go down there to sit and have a chat. We were forced to go down, rehearse intensively, and get stuff done.

PW: Yeah, like you’re not allowed to do anything else!

REL: Yeah, nothing else. Not allowed to sit down!

PW: I really like talking to musicians like yourself. Metal tends to be a straight white male-dominated space, but I really appreciate talking to people who aren’t of that persuasion. Do you guys feel like you stick out, maybe in your local scene or the metal community at large? Do you ever feel like you’re the odd ducks?

REL: Yeah, I guess, but not in a bad way. I think when I joined the band when we first started it, we expected a lot of adversity. And of course we get the odd stupid comment online and stuff like that. But I think the metal community, especially in Denmark, has been pretty open to seeing what we could contribute and see what we’ve got. I feel like people have been very open. No one is saying, “Oh, it’s all girls. It must be a gimmick band,” or “THey were just put together by a record company.” I feel like people have been pretty open and welcoming into the community. As a band, we’ve all been metal fans for years, and we know a lot of other people who have been in bands for years. I feel like there’s a lot of curiosity for what we come up with.

PW: Do you feel like you’re contributing something that other bands can’t or don’t? There’s a lot of death metal bands, there’s a lot of doom metal bands, and there are some death-doom bands and even fewer that do what you guys do. Do you feel like you’re contributing something new or growing?

REL: Yeah, I definitely feel that way. Especially in Denmark, there are so many interesting new metal bands around right now. These bands don’t just show up, rehearse, and play a concert. They really have a vision of the direction they want to go in, about their image, their stage presence, all these things are really thought through. THey’re also really skilled musicians with lots of experience and maybe even degrees from music colleges. None of us in Konvent went to music college. We’re not really professionals. When Heidi (bassist) started the band, she started it just to rehearse her bass playing in order to grow as a player since she was a beginner at the time. It’s nice that there’s room for those people as well. You don’t have to be an expert when you start. You don’t have to be the most skilled bassist or drummer when you start a band. We’ve never tried to be anything other than what we are and be at the level that we’re at. We don’t pretend that we can do a lot of things that we can’t do live and completely fails. We’ve always been keen on showing people what we can do at the level we’re at, and I think that’s paid off and people can tell when we go on stage.

PW: Yeah, because so many people have this image of what musicians do, what a band does, how they create music, or even who creates music. I think what we’ve seen in the last decade or so is that there are people who create music at their own pace. Was that everyone’s experience in the band? Heidi helped create this band to get better at her bass playing and all, but was that everyone else’s experience as well? Or was everyone coming in at different levels?

REL: So Heidi started the band with our original drummer, my older sister, who were both completely beginners. THen they got Sara in who had played in bands before and performed in front of audiences. She started playing when she was about 15, so she had some experience but didn’t feel like a professional at all. I had taken a lot of singing lessons when I was a teenager and in my 20s. I was trying to pursue a career in acting, and singing is always a good idea at auditions and stuff like that. About 6 months before I started doing metal vocal lessons. I didn’t think I would start a band or anything, but I was curious about the technique. So it was definitely a first time for me trying to perform metal vocals as an actual band. We were pretty much beginners when we started!

PW: It’s interesting you mention your vocals and singing. What is that transition like, going from traditional singing to growling and grunting and the metal vocal style? What does that involve exactly, and what was your experience with that?

REL: I felt really lucky that I found a teacher who was also a friend of mine that I felt 100% safe with. If I needed him to turn his back to me if I was trying something new, that was no problem. I could focus on doing my own thing and not, “Do I look stupid?” Because you do look stupid! But you have to embrace it, and that’s something I really love about being in a band or be on stage. You can go up on a stage in front of a lot of people and look stupid, silly, or weird or anything you’re trying not to be in real life. It’s kind of like a safe space where you can just be ugly or not pretty. I remember the first lesson I took with my teacher. I don’t know, something just clicked when I got it right. It felt right and something I wanted to keep doing. My gut feeling was very positive, and it just felt right.

PW: When you’re learning that style, as I understand it from what little I’ve read about it, it’s not that you’re necessarily putting all of your energy behind it to really shout or scream. Is that correct, or am I off about that?

REL: So I’ve talked to a lot of metal singers to get tips and tricks and learn more. Every time I ask someone what their technique is, I feel like I get a different answer. It’s very individual to some people. There are some people who are very consistent about their warmups and taking lessons. But there are others who think that taking lessons is the opposite of what metal is. It’s like a rebellious thing to do. I can see it from both sides. But if they have found a way to do that every night for several weeks in a row without hurting their voice, then great! What works for me is to just relax as much as possible, so it fits me very well that we play the slow death-doom that we do. Just sort of relax and let the sound resonate in my body and trust that the monitors and speakers do enough to get the sound out to the crowd.

PW: One thing I’m wondering: when you’re creating a very specific kind of sound, I want to hear about your influences. Who or what do you listen to that tells you, “This is the kind of music I want to make”? At some point, what you listen to is going to help you create what you want to create. What bands or music influences what you do?

REL: SO like us as a whole band? I thinkwe get our inspiration from various sources. I know Sara was very inspired by Amenra, DVNE, Alcest, and I know Julie (drummer) has also been inspired by Amenra as well. For me for this album, I tried to put a bit more melodies in my vocals at time. I don’t think I quite succeeded with my goal, but I’ve taken a small step in that direction that I want to test. Maybe I’ll be able to develop it more for album number three.

PW: And on the flipside, what is something that influences your music that people might find surprising.

REL: Well, my favorite band is Cattle Decapitation. VERY different music from what we do. I just love that stuff, I suppose you might call it tech death or something. Bands like Archspire. Travis Ryan’s vocals are the best in the world. People might think that’s surprising. It’s very complicated stuff.

PW: Yeah, pretty outside what you guys are doing. Are there any tour plans?!?

REL: Yes, absolutely! We are going on tour in northern Europe in two weeks on April 8th. There’s a two week leg, then a week off. And on Mayy 11th, we’ll be out for two weeks again.

PW: Like I said, I’ve listened to Call Down the Sun several times, and I think there’s gonna be some great opportunities live with this stuff. It’s very groovy music. It seems like it speaks to something more inborn. I’ll listen to it and realize I’m bobbing my head without noticing it. I think that’s going to be really cool. I’m so glad you could take the time to talk to me today.

REL: No problem!

PW: Anything else to mention here?

REL: If you’re in Europe, check out our tour dates! We’ve got a lot of merch and a lot of records. We cannot wait to get back on the road again. It’s been too long.

Pete Williams

Published 2 years ago