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Interview: Razika

Norway's Razika made a sweet, sweet album Program 91 (91 as in 1991 as in the year they were born!) that's so sugary it almost gave us a toothache. That's a compliment. They're 20 years old, high school's over, things are good. So many people are trying so many complicated things with music, it can be nice to hear something that's just about the joy of being young and wanting to go on strolls in the park with boys you like. The Ramones understood that, and so does Razika. We interviewed the band's very excited singer Marie Amdam, who only lost her bubbly vibe once, and rightfully so, to talk about the recent tragedy in their home country of Norway. Read what she has to say about that and lighter subjects, and pick up Program 91, out August 16 on Smalltown Supersound.

Do you hate doing interviews? No! I think it’s fun. Especially talking in English. It’s a little bit challenging because we don’t speak that much English normally.

But you sing in English. Yeah, we sing in English, but it’s easier when you've written out your own lyrics before.

Is that why you write lyrics in English, because you sort of like the challenge? Everybody in Norway writes punk in English, so that was the natural thing for us to do. It is more of a challenge for us, because when we started we were 15 and 16, we didn’t have the greatest vocabulary. We thought it was really cool writing in English. We were young and wanted to be "cool." And having just written a song in English, you feel very cool.

Your long friendship really shines through in your songs I know what you mean because every time I listen to it or when we listen to it together, we get really happy. Mostly because we feel like, Oh my god, we made this. We’re only 20 years old and we managed to create an album, and we’re really happy about the songs and the recordings. The melodies are very light. They’re light and poppy, and are just really positive in a way.

Were you happy teenagers? You know, we’ve been playing in this band since we were 15 so we’ve been going through a lot of different phases. Our drummer [Embla Karidotter Dahleng] was emo when she was 13 years old. She listened to a lot of dark music. But by the time we started the band we were like, Okay, we love Avril Lavigne and we listen to The Ramones and Sex Pistols, and we just wanted to be a rock band. And then we started listening to The Beatles and Bob Dylan and so on, so we were like, Oh my god, maybe we should try and even more poppy sound. And then we got into ska.

The band has been growing in a way since we were so young. I think we have finally reached our goal, we have found our sound and we’re happy about the niche of music that we’re playing right now.

At 20, I remember feeling really good about life. Yeah it’s a really good stage in your life, you know. It’s great that we can do it at this age, because our manager, he wanted us to release a record when we were 17 and 18. But we actually just said “No, we don’t want to do it yet.” We just didn’t feel old enough or experienced enough. We wanted to graduate, we wanted to keep practicing, and we wanted to make better songs. To grow.

Do you like black metal at all? No, no, no. We’re not into that at all. Mostly, when people hear about Norwegian music they think about heavy metal but we want to change that. There’s so much more.

You guys are sort of the polar opposite of black metal. Yeah, it’s nice.

What are some of the ska bands that you really like? The Specials, Madness. But actually we listen most to Norwegian ska bands from the early ’80s. Friends of our parents played in this band Program 81 and we named our record after that band. They’re really great. They both sang in Norwegian and in English so when we discovered them we were like, Oh we can try that as well.

Do you want to say anything about the tragedy in Norway? It's just so sad. When the bomb struck, everybody thought it was some Al-Qaeda terrorism. But when people discovered that this was a Norwegian guy, everybody got really shocked, you know. We felt really backstabbed in a way. It’s so creepy, and he killed almost 100 people at a summer camp. People our age. Actually, we were going to play there the next week at another summer camp, but we actually said no at the last minute. It’s a really special time in Norway right now even though it’s tragic. It’s really nice to experience that people actually care so much about each other and everybody is affected by it. So it’s nice to see how people can react to a thing like that.

Has the mood changed a little since the day it happened? I think it’s such a great shock for people. It’s something that’s really hard to understand and people need time to swallow what’s happened. And so many have lost their friends and their family and so on. Everybody is in shock. I just think that Norway needs a little bit of time to understand and work with the sorrow.

Interview: Razika