Stina Stjern - Days Like WavesNorwegian artist Stina Stjern wrote most of her new album when she lived in Brooklyn, New York. The album is called “Days Like Waves”, and even though this stands out as her debut album, Stina’s experience from Quintrophenia, Supervixen and art projects such as Little Sister makes it right to say that this is definitely not her debut as an artist.
PHOTO:Arnbjørn Joar Styrkor Marklund
Stina Stjern ("Stjern" is her Grandmother's maiden name) was born into a music family in Namsos in Nord-Trøndelag, Norway. It wasn’t one of those famous music families where the father and mother have an established musical career and at some point growing up the kid accidentally ends up brandishing the baton and enters an already established network of "bling". The closest Stina's father came to stardom was being a member of the local rock band “Interstate 40”, but to dig deeper into that would be more than just a digression. Stina’s career choice wasn’t obvious– her passion for music was. Before she had any basis of pronouncing any of the artists names, she had seen more live concerts than any other Namsosian her own age. As a youngster she tagged along to whatever concerts and festivals her parents went to. Then as a teenager she made her father drive her to concert happenings all over Scandinavia (growing up with a music interested father has its benefits). Despite the fact that many would argue she grew up in the outskirts of alternative-culture, Stina picked up many new impulses on her musical journey while traversing with her father over the snowy scapes in their Volkswagen.
It soon became obvious for Stina that she had to form a band. Stunningly talented, dressed in their parents’ hippie outfits and gazing towards world hegemony, Quintrophenia entered the Norwegian rock scene in 1996. They were young, fearless and extremely refreshing in a world where black leather jackets and male ponytails were the only trend options. Convincingly they were mixing flute and violin with intricate pop melodies. Some called them Jethro Tull in modern wrappings while others said they were more like Bel Canto in rock moulding. Quintrophenia stuck with Stina for many years and as time went by Stina decided that music was more than just a hobby– it was to become her livelihood.
Stina then moved to Trondheim to study jazz at the Music Conservatory at NTNU. But instead of looking after a career as a jazz singer, Stina plowed her way through the Conservatory by playing rock (being a pioneer at the Conservatory if one may say so). She also, as expected, had several jazz projects and sang from the Real Book which gave her decent lunch money. Her main conspiracy all along in Trondheim was however Supervixen – a hard rocking band consisting of four girls ready to rock anyone’s world. The band was an obvious choice when in need for an excellent concert experience. Playing the great Øya Festival and Bylarm, the band conquered many alternative and indie hearts by injecting heavy rock doses directly into the veins of their listeners.
Supervixen: Jannike Kaasbøll, Veronica Skikstein, Synnøve Engevik & Stina Moltu Marklund (Stina Stjern)
PHOTO: Marte Antonsen
With the jazz diploma in her back pocket, one full-length with Quintrophenia and another full-length with Supervixen, Stina moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. Here her musical network was practically absent. But the new life in Copenhagen was inspiring. Sometimes it is a good thing to be a musical hermit. And in the blink of an eye, standing on her own feet and being a sucker for good melodies, the musical spree of Stina Stjern was born.
Stina Stjern Live
PHOTO: Kasper Troels Nørregaard
After a year and a half in Copenhagen Stina recorded an EP at Kenneth Ishak’s (Beezewax) recording studio in Oslo, Norway and then packed up to move again, this time to Brooklyn, New York. The idea with the journey was to write material for her upcoming album in a new setting devoid of distractions. She settled into an apartment in Bushwick, commonly referred to by locals as one of the two “hipster condos” on McKibbin Street (look it up on Wikipedia under "248 McKibbin"). Actually her apartment was just a stone’s throw away from where Jay-Z grew up and Stina used to jog the very same street where the video for “Hard Knock Life” got filmed– kind of worth mentioning since, as all other girls her age, Stina grew up loving the musical of which the song has its origin. It was in this mixture of hard ghetto lifestyle and hipster paradise, the foundation for her debut album started to take shape. But as we all know, New York has more to offer than indie rock and gangster posses. As the Big Apple stands out as a melting pot of an overwhelmingly large amount of possible cultural digestions, the city laid out a great foundation for Stina Stjern’s music.
Stina Stjern in New York
PHOTO: Mark Damgaard
During her last couple of months in New York, Stina Stjern also occupied countless knit-happy ladies in her hometown Namsos, helping her make home knitted covers for the EP she recorded with Kenneth Ishak (released upon her return to Scandinavia).
Stina Stjern is now back in Scandinavia. She is still based in Copenhagen, but she tends to go back to Norway to do countless projects. One of many being the contemporary dance performance Little Sister, where she not only has composed all the music, she is also lead initiator and project manager. In between her many projects, Stina has spent the last year recording her debut album in Taakeheimen, Oslo, together with bandmembers Kyrre Laastad and Ola Høyer. Sound genius and long time friend Marcus Forsgren (The Lionheart Brothers, Jaga Jazzist) turned (and tuned) the knobs. In addition Ole-Henrik Moe, Anita Kaasbøll and Øystein Moen have contributed with their talents. The compositions from her time in New York took a long time to hatch, but when Stina Stjern first sets out to do a project; she does it with great perfection. Her album is called “Days Like Waves”, and even though this stands out as her debut album, it is quite right to say that this is not her debut as an artist. The title is taken from a phrase of the opening track, Strings:
Turn the tide of battle
Time to furl sails
My ship sails in a bottle
I’m riding days like waves
Stina explains this phrase as the peak of the day where the night appears like a short sigh, making the next day just another wave in the ocean of your existence. But although Stina is a busy woman, she definitely knows how to make the most of her wavy days. One of many results being “Days Like Waves”, and on this album Stina is inspired by many aspects in life. Mazzy Star is definitely a band one may hear that Stina Stjern is inspired by. But in New York, Stina also enjoyed spending her Sundays at Cinders Gallery, a tiny art gallery in Havemeyer Street in Brooklyn, which many exhibitions most definitely inspired some of her compositions. At the same time Stina has spent countless hours listening to the likes of Nico, Yo La Tengo and John Cale. But for Stina it is important to not limit her musical inspirations. It is therefore just as right to say that the knitting of Norwegian winter sweaters has inspired the music of Stina Stjern, as it is to say that she has spent all the time knitting those sweaters listening to alternative rock.
Stina Stjern Band, Kyrre Laastad, Stina Moltu Marklund (Stina Stjern) and Ola Høyer (Lars Ove Fossheim and Anja Lauvdal had not joined when photo was taken).
PHOTO:Arnbjørn Joar Styrkor Marklund
Stina Stjern band:
Stina Moltu Marklund - vocals, guitar
Kyrre Laastad - bgv, drums, guitar
Ola Høyer - bgv, bass
Lars Ove Fossheim - bgv, guitar
Anja Lauvdal - bgv, synth
Days Like Waves - CD, Vinyl, DD, February 2011
Stina Stjern - Vinyl, DD, February 2009
I'll Be Home For Christmas - Christmas Card, DD, December 2008