SVER: Epic Nordic folk
by Halee Hastad
photo by Anbjørg Myhra Bergwitz
Scandinavia shares a deep history with dance and music reaching back to strong links with medieval sagas and folklore. These links have developed and evolved through the centuries to a modern-day liveliness and fervor with year-round festivals and local late-night jam sessions carrying much of this genre’s culture on their backs. It’s from this culture that SVER came together with their “epic” Nordic folk more than a decade ago.
“The folk scene in Scandinavia is full of people jamming and dancing all night,” said Jens Linell, who plays drums for SVER. “Jamming is absolutely a key factor in us becoming a band and a great way to hang out and party.”
The name SVER means “grand” in the Røros dialect, a word that emphasizes the main intention behind their music – to make it big, banging, and energetic. This band has deep love and respect for traditional Scandinavian music, and they want to continue to embody it, but with the punch of a rock band and the attention of a chamber group, Linell said.
“We are all deeply embedded in the traditional music from Sweden and Norway and that heritage is something we are proud of and are curious about why there aren’t more people around the world into Nordic Folk,” he said. “We want to change that. We approach our traditional music with a big respect and knowledge and hope that that comes through in what comes out in the other end of it.”
SVER includes Olav Luksengârd Mjelva (fiddle, Hardanger fiddle), Anders Hall (fiddle, viola), Leif Randøien (two row accordion), Adam Johansson (guitar), and Linell (drums).
The band’s roots started in the early 2000s when Mjelva and Ranøien met and created SVER’s first and self-titled album. They then came together with Hall and Linell, who were studying together at a Norwegian music conservatory in Voss, Norway, in 2008. The band – as a quintet – released an album in 2010, followed by the addition of Johansson the following year to round out the full band. SVER have since produced two more full-length albums, Fryd (2015), and Reverie (2018).
The band members all live in different areas, which means practices can be few and far between, and they take their time creating albums. Mjelva is the leader in their creative process and writes the melodies, with each member contributing to the songs’ completion.
“We meet up and work for three to four days in a row. Then we live, make music and food and just hang out together,” Linell said. “We jam a lot and record demos all the time then we listen to it and come back for another session with new ideas and thoughts. Rinse and repeat.”
SVER recorded Reverie at Sandkvie Studios in Visby, Sweden and produced it alongside Mikael Lyander and Erik Ronstrøm from Hedgehog Productions. The album celebrates the band’s ability to combine traditional Nordic folk with their own modern, energized influences – of course drawn from decades old folk classics, but also the like of Earth, Wind and Fire, Rage Against the Machine, and The Band, Linell said.
The band returns for the second time to the Bellingham Folk Festival this month, their last stop of a West Coast tour. SVER first attended BFF last year, and during that time wrote a song inspired by Aslan Brewing’s Batch 15 beer. They drank it during a long gig, and ended up having such a great time that the next day yielded extreme hangovers that they remembered when sitting down and working on “Batch 15” for the album Reverie.
Not to be deterred, this year they are looking forward to the great selection and tradition of breweries, especially in the Northwest, Linell said.
“We want to get back on the road and meet with new and old fans and bring them our epic Nordic folk,” he said.” “We are truly blessed and very happy to be back… Touring in the U.S. for us is always a big gamble and a long journey that impacts the environment in a bad way. We are well aware of that and want to make as much out of us coming over as possible.”
SVER performs at the Bellingham Folk Festival (BFF) afterparty at the Firefly on Saturday, Jan. 25, and will be teaching fiddle, guitar, accordion and percussion workshops at BFF on Sunday, Jan. 26 at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship. See the BFF schedule for times, and follow the band on social media for updates.