Ancient tales from the North – interview with ’Vévaki’

Hi Will, I am really glad to do your interview and to hear how your amazing music for ’Vévaki’ is born! How’s it going?

I am very happy to be doing this with you, I love Dark Folk Nation! It’s going really well, just got back from a camping trip in the south of England. Got to see some ancient sites including Stonehenge which has been on my list for quite some time. 

Would you like to tell us a little about ’Vévaki’? Is it a one man project or are there other musicians involved?

Vévaki is mostly me, I write all the songs, but I often recruit my good friend Sigurboði Grétarsson to play things like tagelharpa, percussion, vocals, whatever is needed really. I also feature a very talented Nyckelharpist named Florian Baudrain from the band ”Les Compagnons du Gras Jambon” a medieval folk band from France. 

Does the word ’Vévaki’ mean something?

It does, simply put it means “Sacred Dance” Vé, the name of one of Oðinn’s brothers, means Sacred, or something so sacred it’s beyond words. “Vaki” means dance and is taken from the word “Vikivaki” which is a type of traditional circle dance in Iceland where they sing old songs, hold hands, and dance in a circle. “Vaki” can also mean to watch over, so I guess a Vévaki could be someone who watches over the sacred.

You have just released your new album ’Edda’ some time ago which includes 9 new songs. How were these songs born?


The conception of many of these songs started years ago before I ever thought of recording them. I was brought up on all different types of mythologies at a young age, when I got older and started to fall in love with Germanic myth, I naturally wanted to try and put some of the poems to song. It was more for my own personal spiritual practice than anything else. For example the song Hétumk Grímr, which is based on the poem Grímnismál, was originally written as a simple chant with my drum to kind of ..call upon Oðinn.. by chanting his many names or “heitir” during rituals. I eventually decided to record it years later at which point I think it took on a much more evolved form. Then there are songs on the album like “Sigtíva” which just kind of came to me during the recording process. A melody would pop into my head at random, and the rest of the pieces would fall into place around that melody.

What instruments do you use when writing music for ’Vévaki´?


I actually used a lot of Cello on this album, I really enjoy the warm tones and it was fun to also experiment with processing and creating different drones and atmospheric sounds using the cello. I also use different percussive elements, like frame drums, shakers, and bones. The occasional tagelharpa appears on the album, and of course my voice. I also like to record rain, wind, and more natural sounds to get that sort of “out in nature” kind of feel. 

How did you become familiar with these instruments and how did you learn to play them?

Well, my father is a professional Jazz drummer and got me to start playing drums at a very young age. Later in life I developed a love for frame drums, for the more trance inducing ritual aspect. I like to zone out with a drum, I think everyone should try it wether they consider themselves a musician or not, it can be a great form of meditation. I always sang and played guitar in bands growing up, and then I got into a lot of traditional folk bands which sparked interest in learning instruments like the tagelharpa. The more traditional folk instruments came pretty naturally to me, and I love the challenge of learning a new instrument. As for the cello, I was inspired by an Icelandic cellist named Hildur Guðnadóttir. I fell in love with her music, especially the way she loops the cello and creates these eerie soundscapes. It lead me to getting one on somewhat of an impulse buy. I started to fool around with it and it has become one of my favorite instruments, but I am by no means a trained cellist. 

When it comes to writing lyrics do your songs have a certain theme or how are the lyrics born?


The lyrics for this album are all taken from the Poetic Edda, a mix of some of my favorite stories and verses. The song ”Þá Kvað Völva” for example is the first 9 verses of the poem Völuspá. I had committed these verses to memory and was playing them live with just a tagelharpa for quite some time. The song ”Vafþrúðnir” was my attempt at recreating a flyting, a sort of war of words between two main characters in a poem. I had Sigurboði do the part of the giant Vafþrúðnir while I sang the part of Gagnráðr, or as he’s more well known, Oðinn. 

How does the songwriting process work for you?


Usually if a verse or a story speaks to me I will try to put it to music, that is mainly how my process has always worked. Often times a melody for a verse will just pop into my head, I will then play around with it, maybe with a drum or a stringed instrument of some sort. Once I feel it has reached a certain point I will record a very basic version of that song and then build on it with different instruments and ambient sounds as I see fit. 

Have you done any collaborations?

Me and Sigurboði collaborated a lot on Edda, he is predominantly featured on the songs “Vafþrúðnir” and “vegtamskviða” which are probably my two favorite songs on the album. I also have some collaborations coming up very soon that I’m really excited about. 

What inspired you to write nordic influenced folk music?


Growing up I was exposed to a lot of different mythologies, and then when I was about 18 my mother introduced me to the runes. I started to study them and read more into the Eddas and various Sagas. I always had weird spiritual beliefs growing up and was always kind of “vaguely pagan” so it wasn’t long until I fell into Ásatru, heathenism, whatever you want to call it. I enjoyed these folk traditions but it was really the music associated with them that drew me in the most. This kind of music just really resonated with me as I think it does with a lot of people. I feel very privileged to be able to share my love for the gods and these stories with people all over the world. 

Do you play live?

I have only played live a handful of times, usually just me and an instrument around a fire pit or something in front of a handful of people. But I do want to play live more in the future and there are some talks going on trying to figure out how to make that happen on a bigger scale.

What’s coming next for ’Vévaki’?

I am very excited to be collaborating with Andreas Axelsson and Sigurboði on an upcoming Ursprung album. Im not sure if I should say much more than that, but I think it’s really going to blow people away. 

Any wisdoms you’d like to share with the world?

Yeah.. do what you love, always, even if some people might think its a bit strange.. especially if people think its a bit strange.

You’ll find Vévaki’s music and more at:

https://vevaki.bandcamp.com/

https://www.instagram.com/vevaki/

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