Kings of Convenience: honest music about desire and love

Article: Zsuzsanna Deák

Translation: Nóra Fehér

Soulful plainness, pure melodies, nostalgia: the secret to the success of indie folk-pop duo Kings of Convenience is their unparalleled clarity of sound and unpretentious sentimentality. The Norwegian duo of Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe comes to Budapest after a long international tour to relax the audience at Müpa Budapest on the evening of 26 September, after the Philharmonie in Paris, the Southbank Centre in London, and other concert halls of the like.

The tour will include Budapest, where the band will present their latest album Peace or Love. Fans had thought that the duo’s fourth album would never be finished. The long-heralded album was more than 12 years in the making. But Øye and Bøe, who have only recorded four albums in twenty years, believe not in quantity but quality polished to perfection and stripped of all unnecessary extras. Peace or Love was five years in production, recorded in five different cities around the world. It all sounds complicated, and you might fear that the result will be something eclectic and grand, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

From their first album, Quiet Is the New Loud, the duo’s motto was to bring acoustic sounds back into fashion after the electric guitar-heavy music of the 1990s. “The quiet is the new loud”, they proclaimed when they burst onto the scene with their acoustic guitars and boyish vocals. Just as Scandinavian art and design have never been known for their exuberance and baroque opulence, this music is joyfully simple and clean.

Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe met in primary school and were already playing in a band together as teenagers. In 1999, they formed the duo Kings of Convenience, initially performing at festivals. After the release of their aforementioned album Quiet Is the New Loud, they became the leaders of a new acoustic movement that started in 2001. In 2004 they released their second album Riot on an Empty Street, followed by Declaration of Dependence in 2009. As well as being regular chart-toppers, their music has been featured in iconic series such as the blackly humorous Shirleyant and the edgy and innovative American independent series The Girls.

Twenty years on, Øye and Bøe continue to be the best known of the new loud. Twenty years on, Øye and Bøe continue to be advocates of understatement, or “less is more”.

“It is very, very difficult to make something sound simple”

– Bøe said of the new album. So it was worth the wait of more than 12 years. The eleven evocatively simple songs on the album tell with an almost childlike joyfulness about love, desire, and what it’s like to have your heart broken. The songs of Kings of Convenience are not accidentally compared to the music of Simon & Garfunkel: they are innocent and fresh, with pure emotions that are easy for everyone to experience, but also with a touch of mischievous humor and sometimes absurd irony.

The release of the album last year was accompanied by a half-hour documentary with English subtitles on YouTube. Subtitled ‘The Kings of Convenience Return from Hibernation’, the film was directed by fellow musician Stin Saving, bassist of Bergen-based band Kakamaddafakka. With loving honesty, it shows Øye and Bøe’s friendship, their creative work together, their frequent disagreements, and their art. The film, which is worth watching for the wonderful Norwegian-language dialogue and cityscapes alone, is a portrait of two perfectionists, honest and endlessly sympathetic people who bring joy and serenity to the listener’s life through their joyous music. If you want to escape from the slightly numbing saturation of the Indian summer for a few hours of springtime, emotional northern soul-searching, the Béla Bartók Concert Hall is the place to be on 26 September to hear one of the most influential pairs of acoustic popular musicians live.

Article: Zsuzsanna Deák

Translation: Nóra Fehér