Picking It Up Where the Last Generation Left Off
Norway’s Razika is winning fans all over the world with the kind of dreamy, effervescent indie pop that only Nordic nations seem to produce. But there’s an extra catchy … something to their 2011 debut album Program 91. There’s something not quite Norwegian about those bouncy rhythms and bubbly hooks. That something will be instantly recognizable, and in all likelihood instantly lovable, to anyone who remembers the second-wave ska of Madness and The Specials. Yep, you can trace this quartet’s sunny infectiousness back to England, and finally, Jamaica’s shores. Call it dream ska?
And it turns out that they aren’t the least bit coy about their influences. Why should they be? Children of the ’90s, the women of Razika are childhood friends from Bergen who grew up listening to their parents’ music.
Given Razika’s awesomeness, we weren’t surprised when drummer Embla Karidotter was more than down to get detailed with us when we wanted to talk about ska, ska, and some more ska. But we always love it when a band opens up about their inspirations, it shows a true love of music. And, boy, does she know her stuff.
What is your favorite wave of ska?
I must say my favorite wave is the first one. I mean, that’s where everything has its roots. It’s also more soothing music, I can listen to this wave for hours. Toots and the Maytals, The Zodiacs, Tony Tribe, The Skatalites, Stranger Cole, George Regent, Prince Buster, Horace Faith, Roy Panton, Shawn Elliott and just the whole Trojan Records were great. But the second wave brought us the whole 2 Tone scene, which is the wave Razika first discovered and is most inspired by. (Of course, and most, The Specials, but also Madness). The third wave I really don’t listen to …
Do you think there should be another wave?
It would definitely be fun if there were a fourth wave! I mean, we know like two other Norwegian bands who play ska, but the scene for this genre is so small and people think of it as “old” in the way that you have to for example mix in some indie-pop, like we do, for people to be interested in it and listen to it.
Of course, there is a much bigger scene and environment for ska in England, and we’ve been invited to play at the Ska festival in London and so on, but to be honest, I don’t think there will be another real wave. It’s a shame though.
What do you think keeps bringing generations of musicians back to the ska sound?
Because it’s one of the greatest sounds of course! And most people like reggae, if not only Bob Marley & the Wailers, but this can lead them to other reggae bands, which lead them to the ska bands, because many reggae bands started out with playing ska. When people ask us what we play, and we answer pop and ska, they haven’t heard about it, so we say it’s like upbeat reggae.
So many bands are inspired by ska, because it’s a very catchy sound which makes you want to dance, or skank. It can be calm, like the first wave that makes you want to make love with someone, or hard like the second wave which makes all the hooligans want to fight …
If you had to pick a Specials song to cover right now, what would it be and why?
Tough one! Our favorite songs are “Blank Expression,” “You’re Wondering Now,” “Do Nothing” and, of course, their version of Dandy Livingstone’s “A Message To You Rudy.” I think we all would agree on “Blank Expression” since this is the song that would be most fun to play and sing for everyone, and it’s quite like some of the songs we have in how the song is built up.
Do people skank at your shows?
No, unfortunately not. I don’t think there are so many fans of ours that actually know what skanking is, and that we’re influenced by ska. Although there are always two or three men in their fifties who come to our show, wearing their 2 Tone t-shirt or whatever who skank a little bit.
Who is the best dancer in the band?
Our bass player Marie. She went to dancing for many years and still got it in her body.
What are some of your biggest inspirations for the pop side of your sound?
This is a bit hard for me to answer since I don’t write the lyrics or melodies, but I know that Marie, the vocalist, and Maria, the guitarist, both are inspired by very different things. It can be everything from a new wave band from the ’80s here in Bergen called The Aller Værste! or Arctic Monkeys or simply just a film they saw or a book they read.
I mean, they really love the Beatles and wanted to be like them at some period in the beginning of the band, but the pop side of us is just something that comes natural. We’re not a hardcore band. We like happy tunes with sad lyrics, and nice melodies you know.
Do you think someone who doesn’t speak Norwegian would be surprised by any of the lyrics?
We have some lyrics in Norwegian that people get quite shocked by and make a big deal out of. But if you’re English I guess you’ll have to use Google Translate or something to get this, ‘cause our English songs are all gooood.
What are you working on next?
Our next record! We have some old songs, from when we were sixteen, that we’re going to start playing again. And also we have many new songs, most in Norwegian. This record is going to be even better than the first one. Much tougher, and much more like how Razika actually is.
Do you think you’ll always have a ska influence on your sound?
Yes, I do. The next record is going to make the people who like ska love us, and make the people who don’t realize we’re influenced by the genre want to check out Trojan Records and 2 Tone. We’re not trying to be a ska band. We’re more a pop band that’s strongly influenced by ska, and just get really excited when people notice that.