Welcome to the colourful, Beatles-warping world of Pom Poko: ‘We can do whatever we want – sometimes it disgusts us’

"We want to explore the line between what we love and what we hate"

Pom Poko’s debut album is a lot. On it, they’ve got the proggy weirdness of Battles, the break-neck riffs of early Foals and the arty avant-pop blend of jazzy-rock and poetry that The Sugarcubes once had. You’d struggle to give their sound a name that sticks – and perhaps that’s where the beauty in it lies.

The buzzing fringes of just about every genre are poured into debut album ‘Birthday’ – out today on Bella Union –  and that makes it delightful and complex listening.

The band are already working on their second album before a lengthy tour starts. We called up the band in their Italian studio to dig into the their wonky world.

You previously told us that you didn’t ‘want to be another clean and sanitised band in monochrome and turtlenecks‘, like so many other Nordic artists. Do you feel as if this album really sets you apart?

Martin Tonne, guitar: “There are a lot of really great artists that come out of that polished pop world, but we like it more when we come out with something so extremely different.”

Ragnhild Jamtveit, vocals: “This is the only thing we’re capable of doing. Yesterday we tried to write a punk song, and we failed. It came out as something else.”

Pom Poko

Would you say that anything goes?

Ola Djupvik, drums: “There have been moments where we were like, ‘Yeah, this works but were kind of disgusted’. Like, our lead single was called ‘Crazy Energy Night’. That’s a disgusting name. It’s the name of a big band tune. It feels like we can do whatever we want, but we want it to be off-putting.”

Tonne: “There are so many different things happening and we do it without thinking too much. Some people might call it an intellectual type of music, but our intellects aren’t really used in making it.”

You hear that on the album opener, ‘Theme #1’. It could be about four different songs but holds together as one.

Tonne: “Often when we talk about filtering out weird things, there’s not much distance between the weird thing that we like and the weird thing that we hate. If we like it, then we just loosen the boundaries.”

Did that happen with the song ‘Day Tripper’, too?

Jamtveit: “Yeah, it started as a Beatles’ riff we were jamming then it morphed into something else!”

Tonne: “But we’ve changed it enough to avoid any copyright! Paul McCartney has really good lawyers and we do not.”

The lyrics are pretty surreal too. What inspires them?

Jamtveit: “They all came from improvisations. When I make a melody, I improvise lyrics and record it. Then when I write the lyrics I just flip things around so they have some meaning. Often I get an idea of what the theme of the song is. It can often be quite weird, like the song ‘Milk Trust’ was just two words that I liked. The song ‘My Work Is Full Of Art’ is self-referential, but also ironic.”

So why are you in Italy now? Isn’t it a little early to start on your second record?

Tonne: “We write all the music together, so we can’t write music every week. It was a nice opportunity to come to this studio in Italy. Things take time when it comes to recording and releasing a record, so it’s good to be as quick as possible at the beginning.”

A second album on the cards soon, then?

Tonne: “We have about 10 or 11 finished songs. We have lots of material that we don’t know what to do with yet. There are lots of things we want to do, but it’s interesting to be spending more time in the studio and working with the songs. Our first record is not as intense as I thought it would be. This one is not hugely different. I think we know when we’ll play them live.”

Pom Poko release ‘Birthday’ on Friday February 22.

The band’s upcoming UK and European tour dates are below. Visit here for tickets and more information.

Friday 22 Feb – Shacklewell Arms, London UK
Thursday 28 Feb – by:Larm Oslo, NO
Friday 1 Mar – Musik & Frieden, Berlin DE
Saturday 2 Mar – by:Larm Oslo, NO
Thursday 7-Sun 10 Mar – Festival Transfer 2019 Lyon, FR
Monday 1 Apr – Ideal Bar, Copenhagen DK
Tuesday 2 Apr – Molotow Sky Bar, Hamburg DE
Wednesday 3 Apr – Artheatre, Cologne DE
Thursday 4 Apr – Les 4 Ecluses, Dunkerque FR
Saturday 6 Apr – Whelan’s (Upstairs), Dublin IE
Monday 8 Apr – Hug & Pint, Glasgow UK
Tuesday 9 Apr – Castle Hotel, Manchester UK
Wednesday 10 Apr – The Lexington, London

Friday 12 Apr – Le Pop Up, Paris FR
Saturday 13 Apr – Werk21 at Dynamo, Zurich CH
Monday 15 Apr – Kellerperle, Wuerzburg DE
Tuesday 16 Apr – Flex, Vienna AU
Wednesday 17 Apr – Unter Deck, Munich DE
Thursday 18-Saturday 20 Apr – Motel Mozaique 2019, Rotterdam NL
Thursday 18- Sunday 21 Jul – Vinjerock Festival, Eidsbugarden NO
Monday 14 Oct – Phase One, Liverpool 

Tuesday 15 Oct – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
Thursday 17 Oct – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Tuesday 22 Oct – The Joiners, Southampton
Thursday 24 Oct – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton
Friday 25 Oct – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff