Storm Weather Shanty Choir
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Storm Weather Shanty Choir


Band Folk Rock


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"Storm Weather roughs up sea shanties in Ballard"

Apr 12 2010 in Events, Reviews by Marty McOmber

As a teenager I loved punk rock, but some of my fondest musical memories of that time were singing along to traditional sea shanties à la Burl Ives with my parents in the cockpit of our Catalina 30 sailboat.

I would have never admited this to my friends, but there was something about how those song lyrics tapped into the rough, tough, drunken and dirty world of 18th- and 19th-century sailors that echoed the live fast, die young ethos expressed by bands like The Clash. It helps explain why I fell for the Pogues and their mix of traditional Irish folk music and punk sensibilities.

That’s probably why the Pogues flashed through my mind when I first heard Storm Weather Shanty Choir. This unlikely collection of 30-something musicians from Norway manages a very tricky act of infusing the long-established musical tradition of sea shanties with a modern rock ‘n’ roll attitude. And, at least to my ear, making it better.

For those who hew to the old ways, Storm Weather provides all the melody, lyrics and traditional instruments you’d expect, including mandolin, guitars, banjo and concertina. It’s their attitude and approach to live shows that really set them apart. These guys sing with a raw energy and enthusiasm that makes the remembered world of wooden ships, hemp ropes and canvas sails once again relevent.

Once I heard them, I was hooked.

And you can be, too. Storm Weather Shanty Choir will play three shows in Ballard this week, part of its short U.S. tour. The band starts off Tuesday with a quick set at The Field House in downtown Ballard before moving on for a full gig that night at the Tractor Tavern a few blocks away. On Wednesday, the band plays the Nordic Heritage Museum.

“We have a very broad and very wide audience,” said lead singer and shantyman Håkon Vatle. “So we play in rock venues and we play in places like the Nordic Heritage Museum. We love that we fit as well in either venue.”

Three Sheets Northwest caught up with Vatle late last week by phone as he and the band got ready for a gig at the Parkside Lounge in New York City. He explained how a bunch of Norwegians came to be playing raw-edged sea shanties and how a wedding gig helped lay the foundation for the group’s second U.S. tour.

Singer Håkon Vatle learned shanties while working aboard the Norwegian sailing training ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl.
The way Vatle sees it, sailors were the original rock ‘n’ rollers. They were mostly young and liked to sing their songs in a hard, rough-hewn style that reflected their own lives aboard sailing ships.

“One of our main goals is to make the shanty tradition more popular with the young crowd so it doesn’t disappear,” he said. “Why have these songs lasted so long? Because they are cool. They are a gold mine of great songs.”

Vatle isn’t just some poseur with a fancy for sea shanties. He has a master’s degree based on his study of the musical form. And he learned the songs the right way — afloat on a traditional sailing ship.

He fell in love with shanties while working aboard the Norwegian three-masted barque Statsraad Lehmkuhl. The ship’s captain taught the songs to Vatle during the nine years he spent working aboard. Vatle eventually became the ship’s shantyman.

But he wasn’t content to just sing the music he loved on the water. So in 2000, he recruited a group of fellow musicians to help him fulfill his vision for updating the traditional shanty for the 21st century.

They’re an eclectic bunch. Roald Kaldestad is a children’s book author who plays guitar, mandolin and banjo. “Salty singer” Ronny Sætre is a diver and teacher. Rune Nesse is a drummer with a passion for death metal and brass bands, bass singer Vidar Vedå is a singer-songwriter and Gisle Østrem, a computer engineer, plays accordian.

The band just released its fourth album, “Way Hey (and away we’ll go),” and has played extensively around Norway but until last year, not in the United States. So it came as a surprise when a young American couple hired them to play their wedding. The bank packed up, flew across the Atltantic Ocean and as Vatle put it, “played to 50 very rich people.”

“They just found us on the Internet and were just big fans,” he said. “It was a really strange experience but it was very cool.”

Storm Weather Shanty Choir just released its fouth album.
While on this side of the Atlantic, they managed to scrounge up a few more shows in New York and Maine. Although they didn’t get top billing then, the audiences loved them. And the clubs wanted to bring them back for more.

So the band arranged for a second mini-tour, this time adding shows in Boston and Seattle to the mix.

Fans of shanties will recognize many of the songs Storm Weather performs live, including the classics “Drunken Sailor” and “Shenandoah.” They sing mostly in English, but Vatle promises to throw some Norwegian shanties into the mix.

Just don’t expect this to be one of those sit-down kind of shows.

“We are a live band, we have a pretty unique show,” Vatle said. “We include the audience in the songs.”

As for the Pogues, well, Vatle loves them. But. . .

“We don’t use them as a (musical) reference. They also do some shanties, but I’m more sober than Shane MacGowan,” he joked.
- Three Sheets Northwest by Marty McOmber


Full length:
2001: Cheer Up Me Lads!
2002: Off to sea once more!
2005: Let us be jolly, and drown melancholy!
2009: Way hey, and away we'll go!

2008: Drunken Sailor (first single in Norway to be released through news paper in 8000 examples, also got radiolisted)
2009: Boney

Several compilation Cd's as well.



Quoted from a blog after our US tour in April 2010: Storm Weather Shanty Choir is like imagine Gogol Bordello singing shanties"

Storm Weather Shanty Choir celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2010 and are heading for the salty stars. Through the last two years we have released our fourth album, did several festivals both rock and folk festival, three national tours and two tours to the USA (september 2009 and april 2010: New York (The Living Room, Rockwood Music Hall, Parkside Lounge), Maine, Boston, Seattle (The Tractor Tavern & Nordic Heritage Museum)

We claim to be the most hard working rock n roll shanty choir in the world, and always perform good shows either its rock/indie/folk or other kind of venues, whoch also makes us quite unique. We handle both the smallest intimate venues as well as big festival stages!

Storm Weather Shanty Choir consists of six singers and musicians with backgrounds ranging from rock, pop (guitar player from Magnet (N) and William Hut (N), Roald Kaldestad), metal and folk, and for credibilitys sake, a sailor/shanty man who has sailed for many seasons aboard the tall ship SS Statsraad Lehmkuhl who also has a masters degree on shanties and seasongs.

We claim to be one of the most curious live rock/folk acts in Norway and always give extraordinary liveshows, where songs from the seven seas get mixed from a capella to full instrumentation, rock n roll style!

Quoted in a concert review from the rock venue Checkpoint Charlie in Stavanger (Norway): "The untraditional Storm Weather Shanty Choir rocked the place with shanties from the seven seas, renewed with both Ramones and Slayer references and mindblowing mandolinsolos"

- Played more then 300 concerts, in clubs, pubs, rock and folk festivals in Norway, England, Germany, Switzerland and USA.
- Storm Weather Shanty Choir has played support for, and together with the most famous artists of Norway such as Kaizers Orchestra, Odd Nordstoga, Vamp, Katzenjammer,and also the Nashville pirate Dave Cloud and the Power of Gospel (US)
- Heading for JAPAN in 2011!

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