It’s a long way from the backwoods of the Appalachians to Oslo. Grand Island are set to bridge the gap with their unique concoction of bluegrass and mountain music, 60s soul and up-tempo rock
Says Grand Island’s Espen Gustavsen: ‘Grand Island is a culmination of a life-long project that involves me and my brother Paul. We’ve been toying with ideas of making a band for years, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2004 that we finally managed to bring together the right people and form a band’. The two brothers brought in Jon Iver Helgaker (vocals/Hammond/Rhodes), Nils Ulset Brodersen (drums) and Inge Kristian Brodersen (Bass), thus conceiving Grand Island.
The two brothers share a strong fascination for bluegrass and mountain music from the backwoods of the Appalachians. Couple this with the other band members’ backgrounds in such diverse styles as hardcore, jazz, rock and prog and you have an outfit that’s not an average off-the-shelf band. Grand Island’s distinctive sound is a result of a fusion of traditional bluegrass instruments such as banjo with a rich and organic organ and a pulsating rhythm section. Subtle tempo changes, clever use of dynamics and instantly identifiable vocals create a brew that lacks any equal, at least on the Norwegian scene.
The first Grand Island tunes saw the light of day at a roadtrip across USA a couple of years ago. Says Espen: ‘Me and my brother spent a summer driving through the backwoods of West Virginia. We really soaked up the atmosphere in the Appalachian Mountains with fire- and brimstone preachers, snake handlers and the music of classic mountain music performers such as Bill Monroe. The ambiance of the places we visited started a creative process and we began to write some songs that have since evolved into the tunes that we now play live.’
Espen admits that it’s comforting to have a certain distance to the band’s southern USA roots: ‘Being Norwegian we’re not pigeonholed as just another Southern band. I definitely feel that we’re representing something new, something that’s fuelled by an abundance of energy. What we play is what we want to play and in my opinion it is unique.’
At the 2006 by:Larm festival in Tromsø, Norway, Grand Island played two well-received gigs at the NME stage which garnered rave reviews in domestic media. Norwegian daily Dagbladet awarded the collective 5 out of 6 stars and wrote in its review: “The next big thing in Norwegian rock? All scepticisms were washed away by the outfit’s extremely full sound, in which well-played bluegrass, prog, soul and 70s freedom rock lives side by side.”
March will see Grand Island recording material for what will be the outfit’s debut album. The band is currently in talks with several record labels and if discussions turn out to be fruitful it is expected that an EP will see its release in early summer and an album in early autumn. Grand Island is also scheduled to play the vibrant Oslo festival Øya in august.
Listen to Grand Island audio here.
Bare Grand Island facts:
Formed in 2004
Line-up: Espen Gustavsen (vocals/guitar), Paul Gustavsen (vocals/banjo), Jon Iver Helgaker (vocals/Hammond/Rhodes), Nils Ulset Brodersen (drums) and Inge Kristian Brodersen (Bass)
Debut album scheduled for autumn release.