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NAS 10 Questions with Todd & Karen

This time on NAS 10 Questions, we get to know Todd & Karen, AKA Øyvind Berge: Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Piano, songwriting, and Ina Verdi-Ruckstuhl: Vocals, violin, ukulele, songwriting. Based in Norway with folk and Irish influences, this duo is instantly recognizable for its quirky and witty lyrics, and upbeat pop mixed with a traditional folk musical style. With influences such as Electric Light Orchestra, The Kinks, and Scissor Sisters, they are a duo to watch! Their last track, Norwegian Summer has become a NAS favorite!

Their latest track "Juicy Gossip From The Mothership" is featured in the New Artist Spotlight Family of Playlists.

Link To New Artist Spotlight Playlists:

1. Tell us a little about where you are from and what you are currently doing.

We are a Norwegian-Irish band. Øyvind is born and bred in the Telemark region of southern Norway, famous for being one of the most "Norwegian" places there are as it is steeped in folklore, folk music, folk art and the like. Ina was born in Switzerland to Swiss parents, but grew up in Cork, Ireland, where she played in an orchestra and cut her musical teeth. Currently we are colleagues at an International Baccalaureate School in Kongsberg, Norway, where we both reside. We are contact teachers for 10th and 6th grade respectively and spend a lot of our day to day lives (hopefully) educating the citizens of the future. When we aren't busy marking papers and bringing the magic in the classroom, we are plotting our next super hit!

2. What inspired you to start playing and making music?

Both of us always had a drive for music within us, coming from musical families where other members were active and quite notable musicians locally. Obviously the bloodstream must get some of the honour (or blame, regarding what side you're on) for us venturing into music like we have done. Apart from that, both of us have always been big fans of music. We come from quite different musical backgrounds. Øyvind started by joining his local brass band, eventually joining several ad-hoc local bands, before settling in with Sugar Plum Fairies, a folk music inspired pop band that got an album made and made a slight dent on the local radio playlists, winning an award and getting a song released in China on the way. Ina played in a youth symphony orchestra in Ireland. Apart from this though, both of us separately had this huge affinity for (and maybe obsession with) the Beatles and that kind of British pop music from the late 60s and early 70s. So even though we love folk music and classical music from our native lands, nothing gets us going like The Beatles, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, the Stones and those guys.

𝟯. Who are your biggest influences?

We probably answered that above, but apart from The Beatles we would have to say, perhaps, The Kinks and Electric Light Orchestra. We don't know think we're aware, but it is something about the chord sequences and arrangements of the songs that lend themselves a certain way and we often end up in that general territory. Have a listen to "Cosmo Crowd", our biggest hit so far on the streaming circuit, and you'll hear that. A lot of people have said it sounds like a cool blend of Beatles, ELO and Oasis. We can see what they mean. It was never intended to be that way, but we love all of those bands, so we're really chuffed with it. Similarly, listen to "Blackpool Lights" and you'll hear a kind of Kinks-vibe. Therefore, we're chuffed to bits that our latest tune "Juicy Gossip From The Mothership" is garnering some different feedback from people. We've heard Elvis Costello, Taylor Swift (!), Sixpence None The Richer, Scissor Sisters and 10.000 Maniacs for this one, to name but a few. That's cool. Those are all cool acts that we don't mind sounding like at all.

But underneath everything we do, Beatles and Britpop in general. We can't escape it.

4. What are your goals in the music industry?

Our goals in the music industry are to take this as far as it'll possibly go! We've said, somewhat jokingly, that we want to be the first band in history to both win the Eurovision Song Contest, get a James Bond song and play the Super Bowl Halftime show. The point is, you've got to dream big. Realistically, the chances of any of those things happening are quite slim, but we are going to have a really good time releasing the music we want in the meantime. In this day and age, everybody dreams of a big break with a song in a tv series or an advert, and we're no different. So if anyone out there need some music to go with a lawnmower advert or a hot dog advert or whatever, let us know. We're open to playing ball! In all honesty, we hope that this little adventure of ours can open some doors and allow us to do some cool things musically. And if people like what they hear, that's a great bonus!

5. Tell us about your creative process when you make new music.

The creative process is quite random, to be honest. Oftentimes, though, it will start by Øyvind getting a melody idea and making a very rough demo to send to Ina who will start pitching lyrical ideas back. Other times it's the other way around. The only time we ever wrote a song together in the same room was with our single "Norwegian Summer". We were sat recording the strings for our other song "Cosmo Crowd", and this melody just came. In about 15 minutes time we had the entire thing written. So that was kind of a magical, coherent experience. Apart from that, our creative process is a very fragmented fits and spurts kind of thing where we never know who will get the initial idea. It's completely random, to be honest. But we like it that way!

6. What is your all-time favorite song?

Well, it's difficult to say, but we can probably both agree on "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles. The sheer creativity and imagery in the lyrics, the wonderful instrumentation and production. It's all unparalleled. It's such a beautiful song and the vocal delivery by John Lennon is probably his best ever. Just the fact that they managed to pull off an "undoable" splice of two tapes and two keys and you don't notice it, speaks to the sheer genius of the Fab Four and George Martin behind the mixing desk. We probably won't see that kind of innovation ever again.

7. What is the best advice you have either given or received in terms of music?

The best advice in terms of music came from another quite notable Norwegian musician. He said that the only thing you can rely on in terms of music is the quality of the songs. Everything else is down to luck. In other words, the only thing you can control when it comes to the success of your music is that you make sure to write good songs and release music you can fully stand behind. Who makes it or don't is completely the luck of the draw.

8. Proudest accomplishment?

Well, where do we start? There's been quite a few already, and not least thanks to NAS! We were very proud to have been nominated for the NAS Awards in several categories. That was an awesome feeling to be recognised by our fellow indie musicians in that way. Apart from that, we were really proud that "Norwegian Summer" made it onto the Official Spotify playlist for Nordic Folk, among some really outstanding acts like First Aid Kit, Susanne Sundfør and I Was A King. Of course, let's also not forget the amazing experience we got via NAS to work with Braddon on the mix of "Juicy Gossip From The Mothership". Having our music played and genuinely listened to on all continents is a real treat too. It's such a cool thought.

If we were to choose one though, we might have to say that the continuing success of "Cosmo Crowd" has astonished us and we're really proud that it's out there still bringing in new listeners and we're still getting a lot of nice feedback about it, even though it came out almost two years ago. At the time of writing it's gotten 103.000 streams on Spotify. A number unheard of for a wee indie duo like us. So a massive thank you to everyone who's tuned into that song!

9. Just for fun! What's been your most embarrassing moment so far?

Luckily, we haven't been too embarrassed so far as Todd & Karen. It was slightly embarrassing that Øyvind almost lost his voice by the end of one of our studio sessions. Fortunately, in such situations, the recipe is to down unadulterated, strong lemon extract! If you haven't tried that, it's a wonder medicament in the time of need. The most embarrassing thing was probably an incident with Øyvind's former band live. Playing live in the park, and with local television filming, someone had the great idea that a brass section would play from a different end of this small village park. Unfortunately, the rest of the band couldn't hear what they were playing or what tune it was in, so the end result was "absolutely dreadful", according to some friends. Imagine our relief when we saw that local tv had cut our performance from their broadcast. In hindsight, it would have been really amusing to see that footage and see the faces of the band members and audience alike. It must have been quite the performance.

𝟭0. Tell us about your lowest and highest points in music so far.

To be honest, not so many low points. It's been a great journey up to this point, but it's disheartening when you as an indie artist try to navigate all kinds of opportunities and meet shut doors. Also, places like Submithub are just very silly. If you get an answer, it is often just full of insults and completely unneccessary criticism that has nothing to do with the music and is more likely to break the spirit of talented musicians with a lot to offer. Also, a low point, is the very attractive "Emma" who is very persistent in her attempts in selling her music promotion services to us via X. It's time to stop, "Emma". We are not going to buy into it. Yeah, the fact that people don't have time to listen or want money to give you any kind of chance to present your music. That's a bummer. Long live NAS with its attitude and all about the music approach!

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