Hans Olav Settem is an active artist in the diverse and vibrant Oslo, Norway music scene. As the songwriter and creative artist behind the nine-piece band Benedikt, he’s also a music producer. He co-produced Simen Mitlid’s dreamy folk album, Birds; or, Stories from Charlie B’s Travels From Grønland to the Sun, and Back Again (read our review), released on October 30th. And on November 13th, Benedikt released My Killer, a stunning single that Hans wrote, recorded, and produced with Tuvaband. Intrigued, Puddlegum talked with Hans about his music, his work with Simen, and the creative community in Oslo.
Benedikt on recording My Killer with Tuvaband
Benedikt is a nine-piece band that Hans started, a group that includes Mitlid. In 2019, they released their first full-length, Communal Work, a folk album that has a quiet-natured and relaxing feel. The album is not as predictable as I just described; it takes surprising turns with electronic sounds and instrumentation you don’t expect.
Since they released their debut LP, their growth has been evident in the beautiful singles Pope Francis and Old Friends. As the pandemic set in, Hans wrote and recorded My Killer with Tuvaband, an Oslo artist who has had over 30 million streams on Spotify. (This single will be on the next Benedikt album, set to be released early 2021… an album we’re excited to hear.)
“‘My Killer’ was written and produced in one single day in our studio in Oslo, together with the extremely talented Tuva Marschhäuser, also known as Tuvaband. This was in the middle of the worst lockdown period of the pandemic, so it was only me and Tuva in the studio this time.”
Writing and recording a song in one day is not easy, especially when it’s the first time you’ve written together. But when a song comes together in this environment, it can add dynamic energy that is difficult to capture again. My Killer has this emotion and energy.
“Tuva had never written a song together with someone before, so it was a nervous but really exciting vibe to the studio atmosphere. I guess you can hear this extra nerve and excitement in the final result, as almost everything we did this first day is still in the mix.”
Hans explained the meaning behind My Killer. “I always find it hard to analyze and explain the music and lyrics afterwards, everything happens so spontaneously. But I guess the lyrics were kind of a mental picture that we came up with together, based on how we’d been feeling lately, books we had been reading, movies, news etc. So just a creative, nervous stream of consciousness, culminating into a weird little indie ballad.”
Co-producing with Simen Mitlid
Birds; or, Stories from Charlie B’s Travels From Grønland to the Sun, and Back Again was the second album Hans has produced and recorded with bandmate Simen Mitlid. “I know it’s been a really inspirational and meaningful journey for both of us.”
The production on this album is incredible, as is the songwriting and performance. As a recording engineer, I’m always interested in hearing about the recording process of other artists.
“We usually go to a remote location near Simen’s childhood home several hours north of Oslo. When there, we just isolate ourselves in the studio for hours, take walks, eat the world’s best cinnamon buns that Simen’s mom makes for us, and try to create something new and inspiring every day.”
Moving to Oslo
Hans began writing songs while attending a boarding school, prior to moving to Oslo seven years ago. “It started out with just me writing quiet songs to cope with everything while living at a conservative boarding school on the west coast of Norway,” Hans shared.
Relocating to Norway’s capital city of 1.5 million people, “felt like ultimate freedom, after living on the premises of a conservative boarding school, and before that in my small rural home town. Ironically, it felt really safe living in the midst of so many people, so much traffic and stuff going on. Now it’s just everyday life, I guess, but I still think about it from time to time, how much I enjoy living here.”
Hans continued to write music, and as he met like-minded musicians, Benedikt grew. “After I moved to Oslo the band grew and grew organically as I met all these amazing people that I wanted to collaborate with. We’re a nine piece project now.” Hans joked, “After five more years the band will probably consist of 20 or more people. We’re kind of like a cult that keeps on gaining followers!”
Oslo Music Community
“The music community in Oslo is very big and diverse. Norwegians are very lucky, since so many of us can afford, and take the risk, on doing something creative, like music, acting, all forms of artistry.”
Naming a few of these artists, Juni Habel, writes beautiful folk songs in the vein of Joni Mitchell. Hans remarked, “She is on the same label as us, Koke Plate, and she’s one of the best singer/songwriters I’ve ever heard.” Konradsen and Pom Poko are two Norwegian bands that Hans suggests.
Musical Inspiration behind Benedikt
Whenever I find an artist I connect with who lives on a different continent, I’m intrigued by what they’re listening to, and what inspires their music. Hans was happy to share.
“So much different going on, inspiration-wise. I’m listening to all sorts of genres, from trap and experimental electronic music to classical.”
Hans shared several specific songs and albums that he’s drawing from:
Nico – Chelsea Girl (album)
“I’ve listened the most to the amazing ‘These Days‘, but the whole album is really nice.”
Sufjan Stevens – The Decalogue
“Sufjan Stevens’ album with the pianist [Timo Andres], is really nice! And his newest [album] as well,” Ascension. “‘America‘ for instance, such a good song.”
The Roches – Hammond Song
“My favourite song at the moment, and has been for a while.”
“And of course, Leonard Cohen, for ever and ever.”
Featured image: Benedikt performing at Sub Scene in Oslo, Norway in September, 2019 (Instagram).