The article was originally written by Rae Amitay.
Týr is a band from the Faroe Islands, whose unique brand of heavy metal is rooted deeply in themes of Norse mythology and traditional Faroese music. MetalReview’s Rae Amitay recently spoke with Týr’s vocalist/guitarist, Heri Joensen, and asked him about Týr’s latest album (The Lay of Thrym), his musical influences, what lies in store for the band, and much more.
MR: I guess first off, so I don’t embarrass myself, how exactly do you pronounce “Týr”?
Heri Joensen: In the Faroes, we say “Too-eer” , but English-speaking people usually say “Teer”, so that’s what we react to at least.
MR: Ah, okay, well thanks for clearing that up! So, your latest album, The Lay of Thrym, seems pretty consistent with your past work, in the best way possible. Very epic, catchy, great production. What was your overall stylistic goal for the album?
HJ: We had to do pretty much what we did with the last album, only I think we did it a little bit better this time. We tried to get away from the progressive, overly-progressive stuff, and make it a bit more accessible, a bit less direct folky, and go with basic, good, songwriting.
MR: Awesome, I definitely heard a lot of that on the record. What were you listening to the most while you were writing the new album?
HJ: Oh, what was I listening to? I was listening a lot to the second latest Amon Amarth album, Twilight of the Thunder God, I also listened a lot to the latest Testament album, and I listened to a lot of other stuff…You know, pop music, and classical. The last a-ha album for example, they’re a pop band from Norway, and some classical stuff, and musicals. Stuff that I come across.
MR: I’ve read that you’ve often cited Andrew Lloyd Webber as an influence? That’s pretty interesting, I don’t think that many people would expect that.
HJ: Well, he is. I like music for it’s own sake, and what style it is I find quite irrelevant. Saying “good” music is very subjective. If I like it, I listen to it.
MR: Your music uses a lot of really unconventional chord progressions and has a lot of advanced melodic structures. I’m currently studying music in college, and I was wondering how much formal training you have.
HJ: Yeah, I went to the alternative music conservatory in Copenhagen, and I was there for three and a half years. I majored in vocals for the first year, and guitar for the whole three and a half years. I studied music theory, as well, for the last two and a half years.
MR: Wow, so you have a lot of training. How much of that do you think you’ve used in your writing?
HJ: I use it a lot. I’ve delved very deeply into musical theory; classical theory and jazz theory. I had several cool teachers, and I got some pretty deep insight into how chord progressions function, and how their use has developed over the years, especially with jazz and classical. So, yeah, I got some cool insights there.
MR: Your vocal style is quite distinctive, and you said that you studied voice. Would you say that it came naturally to you, or did you have to really work towards that specific sound?
HJ: Well, it comes pretty naturally but my technical abilities have developed since I started singing in 2003. I had taken some vocal lessons before that and also had some classes in school, so I knew a bit about singing but I wasn’t that good at it when I started…And when I started, I didn’t try to sound like anything particular, I just sang like I normally would. But that has changed over the years, how I normally sing, but mostly because of my technical development I think.
MR: I saw some footage of Týr playing at the G!Festival and you obviously have quite a following back home. Have you always had a great support system from there or did it mostly developed once you’d gained success overseas?
HJ: We’ve always been supported there, yes. The first place we became popular was in the Faroes. In 2001 we entered a music competition and one of our versions of a Faroese traditional song became one of the most played songs that year. Then it reached Iceland, and then we spread to the rest of Northern Europe. We had our breakthrough mainly through the Faroes.
MR: The new album has been really well received, are you planning on promoting it through an upcoming tour?
HJ: Yeah, first we have a lot of festivals here in Europe. Then we’ll probably go to South America at the end of July/early August, and I hope we can squeeze in a few U.S. dates after that. If we can’t, we’ll probably be in the U.S. early next year. Then we have a big tour coming up in winter, through Europe.
MR: I hear you don’t like New York very much. Where’s your favorite place to go in the United States?
HJ: I like Los Angeles and Long Beach, I get the feeling of very big spaces there. In New York, there’s a very claustrophobic feeling. That being said, I find the people there very nice, everywhere in the U.S., including New York. I liked El Paso too, that was a nice place. I like places like that, with wide plains, where you get the feeling of big spaces.
MR: You played on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise last year. How was that experience?
HJ: [Laughs] Ah, that was cool, that was really cool. It’s probably the best festival I’ve ever seen. It was great not having to wade around in mud or dealing with lacking or non-existent facilities like with toilets and stuff like that. On the cruise you have a room reserved with a bathroom and a shower, and food is paid for so you just go the restaurant any time you like and have whatever you like. It’s the best kind of festival there’s ever been, I think.
MR: While we’re on the subject of being off at sea, you contributed a guitar solo on Alestorm’s latest album, right?
HJ: Yes I did! I suggested that they cover that song (“Barrett’s Privateers”) and I sent it to Chris [Bowes]. Then they invited me to do an appearance on their album, which was very kind of them.
MR: Going into it, did you already have an idea of what you wanted to play, or did Alestorm suggest anything?
HJ: Well, they just sent me what they’d already recorded and told me to knock myself out over it! So I just sat down one evening and came up with it, and then we recorded the solo.
MR: So where do you think Týr is headed on the next album, if you’re even thinking about that yet?
HJ: I think we’re going to stick with the direction we’ve taken for the last two albums by trying to improve the material, and the songwriting in particular…Getting the most out of each song and making them accessible to an even wider audience without selling out in any way or becoming too commercialized. I think that’s our challenge.
MR: That’s definitely a challenge many bands face, but I think Týr can handle it! Unfortunately it seems like we’re out of time, but thank you so much for talking with me. It’s been a pleasure.
HJ: Thanks for having this interview, and have a good day!