I Was A King
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I Was A King

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Band Alternative Pop

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Nov
26
I Was A King @ Academy 2

Oxford, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

Oxford, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

Nov
23
I Was A King @ Sonic Cathedral @ The Social

London, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

London, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

Nov
20
I Was A King @ Tommy's Bar

Cardiff, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

Cardiff, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

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Music

Press


The Norwegian band I Was A King is the brainchild of Frode Strømstads. The new self-titled album, which follows 2007's Losing Something Good for Something Better, features Serena-Maneesh's Emil Nikolaisen on bass, drums and a co-production credit, alongside guest spots from Sufjan Stevens, Danielson and Ladybug Transistor, among others. But even without "star" contributions, the 15 tracks add up to pleasingly dense, tuneful, and ambitious batch of psychedelic power pop. The layers of sound will likely appeal to fans of Olivia Tremor Control as much as older tastes a la Strawberry Alarm Clock. (There's a song about "Golden Years" and some of this is vintage.) Teenage Fanclubbers might also want to pay attention; and, after listening to the burnt guitar soloing, you'll understand why Strømstads has Dinosaur Jr. in his Top 8. Today (1/27) I Was A King released a 7"/digital single for "Norman Bleik" and the piano-fronted "It's All You" (which includes one of Sufjan's guest turns). - Stereogum


"[I Was a King]'s self-titled album confidently weaves together shoe gaze, indie rock, and pop to create a product that can appeal to both the cynical and the cheerful." - NPR

"Norwegian power-poppers paint tie-dye melodies over cacophonous guitars." - RollingStone.com 'Hype Monitor'

"I Was a King features songs with genuine hooks...unlike Apples in Stereo and Teenage Fanclub, with whom they share a similar love of fuzzed-out power pop, there is some truly gonzo guitar work here to satisfy the biggest Hendrix fan...there are fourteen very fine originals here, all of them immensely hummable, all of them reminiscent of the days when The Electric Prunes and The Strawberry Alarm Clock were ruling the radio airwaves." - Andy Whitman, Paste.com

"even without "star" contributions, the 15 tracks add up to pleasingly dense, tuneful, and ambitious batch of psychedelic power pop. The layers of sound will likely appeal to fans of Olivia Tremor Control as much as older tastes a la Strawberry Alarm Clock." - Stereogum

"IWAK was in the very back of the sweatiest little bar/temp venue in Scandinavia but seeing them was worth the glaze of perspiration and fogging the sh!t out of my camera... Best In Show." - MY OLD KENTUCKY BLOG

"They're a noisy bunch, crafting hefty layers of distortion, yet beneath the grit lies utter gorgeousness... Royally Brilliant." - NME


"A '90s alt rock afternoon idyll - flat on the musty carpet staring intently at Breeders and Teenage Fanclub records, wishing you were somewhere else" - Spin Magazine on I Was A King's Norman Bleik

"...sounds like it was farm-raised on late-1990's indie rock. Frode Stromstad's androgynous vocals gravitate toward the upper register like Sophtware-era Jason Lytle..." - PITCHFORK - Various (NME / Rolling Stone /


We all have our weaknesses. For some it's a hairy chest, for others a blonde fringe. Kid yourself that the attraction's intellectual, emotional, even spiritual; but really, we're always attracted to the same half dozen traits in different configurations.

I'll admit that I go weak for a crusty Dinosaur Jr. guitar solo, the agitpop of early Flaming Lips, and Broken Social Scene's musical cacophony. So I'm a sucker for I Was A King's eponymous second album.

But for any relationship to last, the beauty has to be more than skin deep. What saves Norway's I Was A King from being just adept at pastiche is Frode Strømstad's superior 60s pop songwriting skills. Even if at times the sonic similarities to his pop canon are too close to home. 'Not Like This' sounds A LOT like Teenage Fanclub's 'Star Sign' and there is a lot of the Fanclub's signature sound herein. Which, again, is a great thing for TF lovers like myself, but hey - to each their own.

And they lived happily ever after. - Two Thousand


I Was A King - Norman Bleik

If an album, much like a person, can be judged based on the company it keeps, then I Was A King’s most recent album already has a step on the competition. With the help of folks like of Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Smith, Gary Olson, and Emil Nikolaisen, Norwegian songwriter Frode Stromstad and company have pieced together an album that hints not only at the wandering fuzz of early-90s shoegaze, but somehow, someway, intersperses it with the type of alt-country noodling you’d feel more comfortable attributing to bands like Wilco. The track “Norman Bleik” is pleasantly distorted, the sort of sonic grit that has you quietly nodding your head, not covering your ears in pain. This track feels dredged from a nostalgic yearning for the fledgling days of the 1990s, but filtered through the always startling pop sensibilities of Scandinavia. It’s no wonder that a roster of talented and well-known musicians agreed to step onboard to bring this project to light. - KEXP


Politiken (Denmark) rates I Was A King’s self-titled album to 5 of 6 hearts, and compares the opening number “Still” to flying an old propeller plane.

(in Danish)

Støjende nordmænd spiller fænomenal 1990'er-rock
I Was A King betaler lånet fra musikhistorien tilbage med en af årets hidtil bedste rockplader.


I Was A King er som at lette i et gammelt propelfly.

Den oprustende guitar på åbningsnummeret, ’Still’, er lidt turbulens på vej gennem skyerne. Så intonerer harmonierne fra de smukke dobbeltvokaler, og pludselig er man over skyerne og bliver blæst omkuld af solens skarpe lys.

Det er den danske pladeselskabsmand Jesper Brodersen, der nu bor i Norge, som efter I Was A Kings første album, ’Loosing Something Good For Something Better’, nu udsender den selvbetitlede toer på pladeselskabet Morningside Records.

En udgivelse, der helt lever op til det lille indiepladeselskabs altid høje kvalitetsniveau.

En af årets overraskelser
Med fuzz i guitaren, psykedelisk svaj i lyden og popmelodier på læben burde I Was A King blive en af årets store musikalske overraskelser.

Først og fremmest på grund af frontmand Frode Strømstads smukke sangskrivning og lyse vokal, men også fordi man sjældent møder så energisk genopfriskning af 1990’ernes støjende indiebands.

Her er en håndfuld svimlende varianter over grundklodserne hos bands som My Bloody Valentine, Guided By Voices og Teenage Fanclub.

Som årets første forårsdag
Den støvgrynede vokal kaster lys gennem de organiske støjsange, som lysbrikkerne der falder ind ad de upudsede vinduer på den første rigtige forårsdag.

Igen har vi altså fat i et par nordmænd, der har været en tur i de musikhistoriske kasser, men I Was A King har været vidt omkring og formår at få alle de velkendte toner, temperamenter og melodiske tricks til at gløde på ny.

Forrygende sange som den slackerslingrende ’Golden Years’, den mere rockurolige ’Not Like This’ og den refrænfunklende ’Breathe’ er korte, men intense bekendtskaber.

Det er ikke originale eller nyskabende rocksange, men en helt igennem fænomenal og melodiøs forvaltning af arvegodset fra 1990’erne.
- Politiken (Denmark's biggest daily newspaper)


(translated from Norwegian)

TO HEAVEN IN HALF AN HOUR

January has become a classic month of strong, Norwegian indie-rock releases. Lionheart Brothers and Lukestar have over the two past years been the first ones out of the start blocks, but with records that have held their grip around the critics until the end of the year. I Was A King follows this tradition and can bang it’s chest with being the first brilliant Norwegian record of the music-year 2009. Or for that matter, the first brilliant record regardless of nationality.

This is fuzz-covered power-pop, shoegazing and psychedelic indie-rock on a sensational level, with such a keen nose for melody and an almost unheard of credibility in the support system that it will attract international attention, just as the mini-debut “Losing Something Good For Something Better” did in 2007.

ALL-STAR TEAM
Who, then, is I Was A King? Frode Strømstad from Egersund and his guitar-partner Anne Lise Frøkedal (also in Harry’s Gym) are joined by quite the crew this time, a sort of all-star team from the international Christian-indie scene, with Gary Olson of the lovely The Ladybug Transistor and Daniel “Danielson” Smith as producers, and active
contribution from Sufjan Stevens and his good Norwegian friend Emil Nikolaisen.

These are all people who know what they are doing, and who in combined roles as midwives and first-class experts contribute to Strømstad’s efficient, to the point, and tremendously comprehensive pop vignettes achieving depth, span and elements of surprise in sound and effects, throughout the album.

GLORIOUS POP-TRICKS
Strømstad is indebted to several sources of inspiration. J Mascis/DinosaurJr and Teenage Fanclub are perhaps among the more obvious ones, My Bloody Valentine and to a certain extent cult favorites The Apples In Stereo as well.

But his song-writing also possesses a natural, flowing melodiousness, and there is something signature-like about the composition of chords (and small, subtle sprinklings of country music here and there) which makes Gene Clark a just as natural point of reference. Listen also to how the world’s most glorious pop-tricks takes place in the depths of “It’s all you” - the album’s centre of gravity halfway - with the fluttering echoes of Spector-productions and ABBA-piano, of “Born To Run”-high spirits and the blissful melodies and harmonizing of the aforementioned Teenage Fanclub. And to how he manages to make the world’s least concealed tribute to Teenage Fanclub - “Norman Bleik” - jingle and jangle with a loving force that the said band itself has hardly been near since the mid-90’s. Pop-bliss!

GOLDEN SOUNDS
What makes Frode Strømstad such a terrifics songwriter lies, in other words, in the way he economises on his self-imposed limited time. He squeezes 15 more or less perfect song-ideas into 31 minutes and 28 seconds, which in this case means a minimum of shell or decor, leaving practically only the core. It’s intense, and positively oozes with golden sounds, and few songwriters are granted such an efficient pop-vision as their foundation.

NEW COLOURING
The other major aspect of this is the fact that Strømstad’s possible lack of originality as a songwriter, in the sense that he often sounds like something one has heard before, is completely insignificant.

The masterpiece is that he and his all-star helpers give these well-known themes from the indie- and shoegaze-scene new colours and shades, texture, complexity and a sort of new, revelational framing. The combination of sharpness and density of ideas, abundance of impulses and the well thought out arrangements makes I Was A King’s full-length debut into a craft-wise triumph, in a landscape of genres one would think was relatively outplayed and emptied of potential newly cleared ground.

The only question is really which Norwegian artist - or international of comparable dimension - will be able to outdo this during 2009. To the extent to which it is possible.
- Dagbladet - Norway's 2nd biggest daily


I Was A King are a Norwegian indie-pop outfit; being Scandinavian and melodic can make one immediately think they’re in for the clean, sculptured sounds that so often come from groups in this region. It’s certainly true that frontman Frode Stromstad creates classic, chunky power-pop melodies, but there’s something loose and slightly anarchic about the band’s approach. Opening song Still begins with what sounds like the Polyphonic Spree in soundcheck, before eventually collapsing into a propulsive power-pop tune. The combination of three-minute nuggets with brief flashes of experimentation, or potential tour-de-forces stripped down to under one minute, brings to mind both Guided By Voices and Apples In Stereo – the former recalled in the short, sweet Breathe, the latter in the soaring 57 second California and the choral psychedelics of Extra Number. Like the pun title suggests, Norman Bleik is pure Teenage Fanclub, hazy indie melodies combined with Byrds-charged guitars. The album’s longest song, the 3:43 of It’s All You begins with over one minute of sombre neo-classical piano and still has room for a complete, satisfying pop anthem. Such is the carefree charm of I Was A King.

**** - Rave


Cultural globalization spurred by the development of new media technologies like the Internet was the best thing to happen to Scandinavians since strawberry-bearded Beowulf slayed Grendel. Years could pass without a Scandinavian band ever getting a review in a major Anglophone publication, to say nothing of places on record shelves. Once it was represented almost exclusively by Abba. Now just look at the number of them charting and trendsetting. To name some: The Hives, the Raveonettes, Dungen, Peter, John & Bjorn, Jose Gonzales, Taken by Trees, Tobias Froberg, Sigur Ros, Lykke Li, Loney Dear, the Kings of Convenience, and the Shout Out Louds. I could go on. Add another promising Viking contribution: I Was a King.

The eponymous sophomore effort by Norwegian trio I Was a King continues frontman Frode Strømstad’s love affair with moderately psychedelic ‘90s indie-fuzz-pop and a dose of shoegaze, recalling Grandaddy, Mercury Rev, and My Bloody Valentine. In addition, a contagious guitar pattern emerges across several songs on this new album, apparently haunted by Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis. The modernist touchstone of newness need not bring condemnation of this album’s ambitions. Unlike a good deal of indie post-post-rock that’s gone atmospheric, ambient, wordless, African drummified, or has reworked ‘80s synth pop, I Was a King has a slightly traditional aura. The album proudly embraces ‘90s indie-pop movements as an unfinished project worthy of more attention. Judged on its own terms, the album succeeds. So if you’re looking for the next band who breaks ground by combining the oud with theramins, metal guitar, and calypso drums (which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy contemplating), then stop reading now.

As with their first album, I Was a King’s second is lean, though far from mean. It clocks in at about 30 minutes. Nothing is overcooked. The songs never get tiring. While the entire album is infused with pop melodies galore, it also shows some stylistic variation. That variation comes from singer-songwriter-guitarist Strømstad’s imaginative uses of piano, strings, and horns on several songs, thanks to fellow Norwegian Emil Nikolaisen (Serena Maneesh) and special appearances by Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Smith (Danielson Famile), and Gary Olson (Ladybug Transistor).

I Was a King definitely have a penchant for psychedelia, manifest from the getgo track “Still,” which is more ‘60s Nuggets than the rest of the album. That song starts slow with whirring tripped-out guitars, discordant piano, and a reluctantly structuring snare, all of which gradually build into a tamer psych-pop infused with a rhythmic piano reminiscent of Springsteen’s E Street Band or the Hold Steady. “It’s All You” has a similar piano feel about it. “California”, “Fading Summer” and “Extra Number” are slow, steady fuzz-pop songs, most reminiscent of Grandaddy and Mercury Rev. “Not Like This” shows all the bursts and short halts mixed with blaring guitar solos made famous by Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis in ‘90s indie anthems like “Feel the Pain”. “Step Aside” and “Breathe” also make similar homage to Mascis-style guitar rhythms and guitar fuzz.

If the guitar in several songs is stamped by Mascis, so Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle haunts the kazoo-like vocal style of Strømstad. Moreover, not just the vocals, but also the guitars on many songs have a kazoo or cicada buzz about them. In “Golden Years” the cicadas sing to a steady stream of simple guitar and drum quarter notes. Layered on top is an intermittent guitar-generated siren’s whine that immediately recalls Yo la Tengo’s fabulous track “From a Motel 6”. “Hard Luck and Bad Years” is much closer to country-psych, slightly reminiscent of the Beechwood Sparks. “Stay Warm”‘s piano and string’ also have a twangy aura, but with horn sections. The extremely ingratiating “Norman Bleik” also has a hint of roots/alt-country rock to it, something like the Jayhawks meet (by the end of the song) Dinosaur Jr.

The lyrics are perhaps the most unremarkable part of the album. But then one might say that is also the pop side of it: straight-up love, loss, and dreams. The wordsmithing of Morrissey or the Old 97’s is a rare pop phenomenon. But neither are these “who put the bop in the bop shooh bop shooh bop?”-type lyrics. “We should know by now,” Strømstad kazoos in “Golden Years,” “that the golden years were spent in this town.” Indeed, and “this town” is called “the ‘90s.” Love it or leave it. - Popmatters


Discography

2007: Losing Something Good for Something Better LP
(Hype City / Scandinavia)

2009: I Was A King (The Control Group / USA)

November 2009: Norman Bleik 7" (Sonic Cathedral / UK)

January 2010:Title TBC (Too Pure / UK)

February 2010: I Was A King (Hype City / UK)

Photos

Bio

Having only been in existence for a few years, Norwegian group I Was a King has quickly gained recognition from the media, musicians, and fans alike. Front man Frode Strømstad has been said to have a unique gift of creating addictive melodies that hold distinctive roots to the 60's, distorted through a 90's indie scene filter.

In 2007, I Was A King released their debut, Losing Something Good for Something Better. It was labeled "Royally brilliant" and given 8 out of 10 by NME. The Independent, and The Sunday Times gave equally flattering praise and The Guardian said, " Norwegian wunderkind Strømstrad takes ol' lankhair's ramshackle rock and squeezes it through a dreampop filter...If Alan McGee hadn't wound down Creation, this lot would have been first in the queue to sign on the dotted line. File next to: Fountains Of Wayne, Apples In Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Strawberry Wine-era My Bloody Valentine."

I Was a King's second and self titled LP was released in the US summer 2009 and will see the light of day in the UK in February 2010. The album features collaborations from Emil Nikolaisen (Serena Maneesh ), Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Smith (Danielson) and Gary Olson (Ladybug Transistor) . The album was recorded at Marlborough Farms (Brooklyn, NY) and mixed by Nick Terry (Primal Scream, The Libertines, Klaxons ).

The band will release a 7" single through Sonic Cathedral in the UK in November 2009, and will follow up before the alb release in the new year, with a release for Too Pure's 7" singles club, of new material to be recorded with Gary Olson (Ladybug Transistor) during CMJ.

I Was a King have toured Europe several times, performing with bands such Magnolia Electric Co, Ladybug Transistor, Herman Dune, and Why? The band undertook their debut US tour in June 2009 with Crystal Antlers and The Constantines.

Live, the band consists of Frode Strømstad, Anne Lise Frøkedal (Harrys Gym), Håvard Krogedal (ex Serena-Maneesh, Loch Ness Mouse) in addition to a revolving door of friends.

Booking: trey@billions.com (US) / mark@ufa.no (NO) / emma@itb.co.uk (ROW)

UK Press:sam@freemanpr.net
UK Online: paul@ladigit.co.uk

US Press: brooke@bighassle.com