A search for singer “Ola Kvaløy” turns up references to an economic professor at Norway’s University of Stavanger. Yes, it’s the same person. Before giving himself over to the halls of academia, Ola Kvaløy was the vocalist and songwriter for indie band, Lano Places, part of the “Bergen wave” at the turn of the millennium. The band is probably best known for their single, ‘Isolation Street’, which was not just a huge radio hit, but whose intro was also used for many years as a theme tune on the Norwegian broadcaster, NRK, and came from their critically acclaimed album, ‘Everyone Likes To Be Lonely’, released in 2001.
In 2018 Ola was asked to perform at the Economics Festival (yes, there is such a thing), Kåkånomics. He assembled a new band, The Rent Seekers, consisting of Torkild Viig and Stene Osmundsen from Mods and The September When, as well as Trond Vold, Monica Kloster and Ingfrid Straumstøyl Råheim. They went down a storm, singing new songs, but also Lano Places songs. The concert motivated Ola, and he recorded the EP ‘Laughing Days’ together with seasoned musicians, while a performance by The Rent Seekers became a regular feature at Kåkånomics. This year, Ola Kvaløy is set to release his first solo album, recorded in Elektrolüd studio, and produced by Norwegian pop star Morten Abel, and Thomas Gallatin. He first met Morten Abel at a chess event, and after talking about Lano Places, Abel asked Ola for some demos. A few months later, they began collaborating – Ola providing the songs and vocals, Abel and Gallatin producing and playing the instrumentals, along with Dag Sindre Vagle and Torjus Vierli. Thomas Gallatin also provided backing vocals. Initially a three-song project, the end result was a new record label, Elektrolüd Records, and an entire album, ‘Any Other Life’, set for release this Autumn.
First single, ‘Fair Weather’, started out as some ideas Ola had in the late 90s, combined with some more recent insights. It’s a song as appropriate for today as it was in the 90s – about longing, the desire for peace of mind.
Ease my number, ease my plea, ease my air when I can’t breathe
Tell no others, tell no friends, tell no faith there is no end
Hey, if it is conceivable give me reliable fair weather
Hey, if it ain’t over, give me another fair weather
The repeated guitar chords, the steady rhythm of the drums, and Ola’s light and airy vocals, all give the feeling of being on open water, hoping for a safe haven at the end of the journey. While the music is even and ordered, there is nonetheless at the back of it all a sense of urgency, exemplified by the lyrics and the occasional thrumming (You can hear it around the 1.35 mark). Two thirds of the way through the song the instruments start filling what empty space there was; acoustic guitar, bass, electric guitar, keyboards. Abel’s vocals are more present as well, and the combined effect is slightly anxious in intensity – still arm and welcome but now with an added edginess.
When Ola Kvaløy was about to perform at that first Kåkånomics show back in 2018, a colleague advised him to not quit his day job. He certainly hasn’t done that, but music has come more to the forefront in his life. We’re happy about that.