Norwegian band Hajk muse over intimate memories attached to 12 songs

Written and edited by Tiffany Wong. Artwork by Olivia Reaney.

During the day, four members of the five-piece band Hajk are music teachers, teaching either guitar, bass, piano, drums, songwriting, or choir. Surrounding themselves with music at almost all hours of the day might seem exhausting for some, but for Hajk, it’s ideal.

Preben Andersen (vocals), Sigrid Aase (vocals), Einar Næss Haugseth (keyboard), Johan Nord (drums), and Knut Olav Buverud Sandvik (bass) first met when they attended the same school a few years back, playing jazz and contemporary music.

“When we graduated, I guess we wanted to ‘break free’ somehow, so we decided to form Hajk (which means ‘hike’ in English btw),” Preben writes in an e-mail.

From there, the Norway-based band would meet up as often as they could, tinkering with sounds and getting inspired by each other and music that’s already out. Citing the Dirty Projectors, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Amason as their influences, Hajk released their self-titled album earlier this year.

“We wanted to make the best musical ‘environment’ around the written melody,” Preben says. “And that’s why there are a lot of different sounds and styles on our album.”

Riding high on their latest release, Hajk will be touring all over Norway and writing new music, with the hopes of attending a few music festivals in the U.S. in early 2018.

Here, Preben, Knut, and Johan share their 12 songs and the personal memories they have with each of them.

“Swim and Sleep (like a Shark)” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

These days, we have our own little studio where we record music and make demos. This song and this band are two of the reasons why we chose to buy studio equipment and learn how to record on our own. I instantly fell in love with the sound of this song — the lo-fi feeling that also felt so modern and fresh. Later, I heard that the lead singer, Ruban NIelson, recorded this on his own, and that made me feel like we could do anything.

“A Case Of You” by James Blake

If I enjoyed a song when I was a kid, I would put it on repeat until someone told me to stop. Unfortunately, I don’t do that too often in my adult life, but when I heard this Joni Mitchell cover for the first time, I had no choice. The simplicity is captivating, with just the piano and vocals. Blake floats through the lyrics with a gospel-like piano playing in free tempo to fill in the blanks. The phrasing is also quite busy at times, but never too much. I guess everyone would kill to sing like that. I sure would.

Fan The Flames” by Sheer Mag

If you are going to put together bad-ass, sleazy, distorted rock music and funky disco pop melodies–this is the way to go. I was at an after party late at night, tired, when I heard this song for the first time. I immediately woke up from slumber and started moving around with my terrible dance moves, playing air guitar. I thought, “What is this? It’s weird, but it’s so damn good!” The next day I couldn’t wait to hear this song again and learn how to play it. Today, I play this riff at every soundcheck. I’m sorry, guys!

“Couldn’t I Just Tell You” by Todd Rundgren

The best rock song ever made. It’s hard to put into words why this song is so important to me, but it puts a big smile on my face every time. It’s a beautiful and clever song, but it’s also a punch in the face that makes me want to get out on the dance floor. And of course, there’s a twin guitar solo that kicks some serious ass.

“Golden Days” by Whitney

I read somewhere that Whitney sounded like they had been around forever, and that their songs were like old friends even though they were just released. That was just how I felt too. A “timeless” sound is hard to achieve, but this song and this record from the Chicago-based band did it.

“Suffragette City” by David Bowie

The second best rock song ever made. Bowie’s attitude on this one makes it all come together perfectly. I can’t remember the first time I heard it, but I remember the second time. I had been wondering for years who made this song and what it was called. I finally connected the dots, and listened to it over and over. It’s a bad-ass song with a great chorus. “Wham bam thank ya ma’am!”

Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson

My cousin gave me a home-copied “Bad” cassette tape when I was seven or eight. That record gave me my first real music kick. The rhythm and the energy just made me feel so incredibly good, and it still does. My favourite track was “Smooth Criminal.” I remember bringing it to school and showing it to all my friends. They hadn’t heard it and I was real proud. The kind of ostinato riffs and layered grooves you find in those classic M.J. records have always been my bible when it comes to reminding myself just how amazingly fresh pop music can sound and feel if you manage to get it right.

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles

I remember my dad coming back from a visit to my uncle’s in Bergen when I was a little kid. He brought with him the blue “The Beatles 1967–1970” cassette tape, plus some big, funny-looking hats and colourful scarfs from my uncle’s jewellery store. My brother and I put on the hats and scarfs, and marched triumphantly around our living room while listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” I loved how the tempo just suddenly changed between the verses and the chorus. Getting the chance to listen to lots of imaginative, organic and rule-breaking music from a young age is something I’m very grateful to my father for — especially the music of the Beatles.

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band

When I was around 14, I saw “The Last Waltz” for the first time on TV. It instantaneously blew me away, especially “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” I thought it was so cool that the drummer was the singer. The concept of The Band’s three different lead vocalists and the whole funky, collective team was something I really dug. I became a huge fan. The grand saga-like mood of this song, the haunting horns, Levon’s magical voice, the chords, the harmonies: it is one of my absolute favourite songs of all time.

“On a Neck, On a Spit” by Grizzly Bear

I remember seeing Grizzly Bear for the first time in 2006 in Gothenburg, Sweden. This concert and their music was a huge turning point for my musical life, and they still have the same impact to this day. I always keep coming back to this song and this album (Yellow House). It starts light and breezy, continues to build up and falls hard when the drums and guitars can no longer hold the chaos together. The use of harmonies and instrumentation is so colourful and full of details, it makes you want to hear it again and again.

“Mr. Driver” by Black Lips

Uncanny and dark vibes processed through the uncompromising world of Black Lips. This is a song that takes you somewhere. I always get visuals in my mind of dark woods and flare guns that suddenly light up the trees with pink light. Highly recommend this song for late night drives. I actually remember one night when I drove home and listened to this particular son. It wasn’t finished when I’d parked my car, so I had to drive around a few blocks more just to hear the whole song and stay in the mood. That’s how good this song is.

“The Bird” by Anderson .Paak

The rhythm and offbeat signature in the bass, along with the dry sound of the drums, is so simple, but at the same time so mindblowingly good. I first heard this tune on a train ride heading to my summer house in Sweden, while looking out on fields with cows chilling and eating the green grass. The sun was setting and making the sky orange. Everything was ridiculously idyllic. At the same time, the lyrics in the song describe the struggle of growing up with a mom who has gambling problems and a father in jail. Anderson .Paak keeps inspiring me with his honest and interesting soulful music.

Listen to Preben, Knut, and Johan’s 12 picks and self-titled album on Spotify.

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