Sibiir: metal band seeks work/life balance

By Leila Baxter

Sibiir opened the second day of the Tons of Rock festival in Halden, Norway with a dynamic performance. Half-way through their second song, a screaming Jimmy Nymoen, the band’s vocalist, leapt into the pit of photographers below the stage. Concerned for his  safety, security stuck close by Nymoen when he jumped onto the barrier and sang into the crowd. The energy was infectious. The crowd grew louder and more rambunctious as the performance went on.

Sibiir is a Norwegian band of five 30-somethings who juggle their musical careers with their families and 9 to 5 jobs, so they will only commit to 30 shows per year.

heavy metal vocalist holds microphone
Sibiir vocalist Jimmy Nymoen pauses before belting out another line during the metal band’s performance at Tons of Rock in Halden, Norway. Photo by Leila Baxter.

The band members had all previously been in other groups and had met while playing the same gigs in Oslo’s tightly-knit metal scene in Oslo. When they formed Sibiir in 2013 they didn’t have a vocalist. Bassist Kent Nordji had a friend –Nymoen – who had just moved to Oslo and was begging for an audition, said Nordij.  When they offered him the job, however, he was unable to start right away since he had already booked gigs for the next three months. But within a year Sibiir was complete.

The band members enjoy playing all kinds of festivals because they are exposed to audiences they might not have reached on their own. “Tons of Rock gives us a chance to play in front of people that maybe don’t check us out because we’re not metal enough or, like, we’re not in their specific genre. And then we get to play like mainstream festivals, like, maybe bigger festivals and then we get to play for a mainstream audience who might not have listened because we are rock or metal,” said guitarist Tobias Gausemel Backe. “It’s like you get the best of both worlds, kind of, because we’ve played so many different kinds of festivals.”

They’ve been able to play so many different venues and for many different people. The small population allows musicians and venue owners to create lasting partnerships. It’s an even tighter relationship among the metal groups in Oslo, “if you start a band and you’re kind of good it doesn’t take so much time before people know who you are or who you are or know your band.”

One of their first tours was with a metal group called Kvelertak. Kvelertak attended one of Sibiir’s shows as a part of the audience. A few weeks they called to ask Sibiir to open for for them during a European tour.

Disappearing for two-and-a-half weeks would mean calling off at work and leaving their families behind, but they decided to go anyway. Joining Kvelertak on tour would be their first international exposure, so they agreed it was worth the sacrifice.

Steffen Grønneberg and his girlfriend had a month-old newborn at home, but even she  supported the decision to go. He said she couldn’t live with him if he weren’t an active member of Sibiir. He agreed, “I think, for me, I need to be able to go play.” The guys use the band as a sort of escape. While the goal is to make it their only job – and they believe that’s their next step – they know they are not there yet.

Sibiir is recording songs for their next album. and are hoping for a 209 release date.

Daniel Kvammen’s unexpected appearance at Miniøya

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By Leila Baxter

Lissie, an American singer-songwriter from Iowa was the scheduled headliner on the first day of Miniøya on June 9. She was booked on a flight to Norway right after her performance at Bonnaroo in the U.S. on June 7.

The festival had an autograph tent for all the headlining acts and yet Lissie’s name was not on the list. The day’s performances went smoothly and were filled with kids dancing and parents enjoying a day out. But after the second-to last-act the volunteer staff began asking us – the media – who the last act was going to be.

Lissie made an announcement on Twitter about her flight to Oslo. The flight was cancelled and she would not make it in time to perform. She apologized profusely saying had tried to find another way to get to Oslo, but she was unable.

Lissie's tweet announcing the flight cancellation and her apology.
Lissie’s tweet announcing the flight cancellation and her apology.

The volunteer staff appeared confused for about ten minutes and then let us know the organizer had secured another act on short notice – Daniel Kvammen, a Norwegian folk musician from Geilo, Norway. The two musicians are pretty equally well-known, but Lissie has an international following while Kvammen is almost exclusively known in his native country.

After his set Kvammen had to rush to another venue for his previously scheduled gig of the night. Kvammen has appeared at several Oslo festivals this month, including Musikkfest and Piknik i Parken.

No one seemed to be bothered by the change in artist. As long as the music was playing the festival-goers appeared happy.

Lissie is expected to make it to her other concerts in Norway. The next will be June 22 at the Steinkjer Festival in central Norway, followed by five other appearances in Norway in the coming year.

Checking out the Oslo Swingers Club

The Oslo Musikkfest has a wide variety of acts — 400 performances at 52 venues in one day. At 3:30 in the afternoon the Oslo Swingers Club was scheduled to take a stage at the edge of Oslo harbor.

There are many types of swingers. We were curious what we would see.

Emily Brannigan sings both covers and original tunes with the Oslo Swingers Club.
Emily Brannigan sings both covers and original tunes with the Oslo Swingers Club. Photo by Leila Baxter

“We’re gonna do some swinging today,” said Emily Brannigan, one of the group’s leaders. “With our clothes on.”

Then the band launched into their unique brand of music — playing in a style reminiscent of 1930s swing music from Oslo, but with influences from New Orleans.

A few people began to dance, which is a little unusual in Norway. But it was clear the audience liked what the Oslo Swing Club was playing as the group neared the end of the set and the audience chanted in English and Norwegian for an encore.

The band members come from a variety of backgrounds, only one person in Norwegian. Brannigan and Jacob Kronen used to run a vintage store together. The EP is available on their website and Spotify.

Performers from the Oslo Swingers Club watch a couple dance to their music during a performance at The SALT, a bar located by Oslo harbor. The band performed three times during the first day of Musikkfest, a city-wide free music festival. Photo by Jessie Shiflett
Performers from the Oslo Swingers Club watch a couple dance to their music during a performance at The SALT, a bar located by Oslo harbor. The band performed three times during the first day of Musikkfest, a city-wide free music festival. Photo by Jessie Shiflett