The Lines We Cross (LP clear vinyl, LP black vinyl, CD, digital)
Pristine Music Production/CARGO
Photo: Sverre Simonsen
Classic Rock. Vintage Rock. Retro Rock. Whatever you want to call this bluesy, sometimes psychedelic variation of Hard Rock inspired by the great acts of the late sixties and seventies, this music’s quintessential artists have always come from Northern Europe. And it seems that the farther north they hail from, the better they are. There’s hardly a place farther north than Tromsø, which is over 300 kilometres beyond the Arctic Circle and the home town of Norwegian band Pristine.
Pristine is one of the most enthusiasm-inspiring and convincing live bands the genre has to offer. The group has already performed hundreds of concerts – from intimate club shows to slots at the major festivals on our continent. “We live for our performances. I only feel like the best possible version of myself when I’m on that stage”, confessed Heidi Solheim, the band’s founder, singer and main songwriter. Anyone who has yet to experience Pristine’s live show should do it as soon as possible. Their 2019 “Rockpalast” performance can be viewed on YouTube and is a prime example.
Heidi and her colleagues are eagerly awaiting precisely this situation – their return to the world’s stages. Their fans feel the same way, that’s for sure. “It was quite a difficult time for us”, said the front woman about the sudden loss of all their live endeavours due to coronavirus in spring of 2020. “After playing a short tour in Spain in January, we were getting ready for the outdoor concert season. Then, suddenly, everything stopped. It was a real shock for the guys and for me”, explained the passionate performer who, in addition to Pristine, also has a very successful career making children’s music. She had already released three albums, winning several awards, and was diligently touring with this project – mostly in large schools but also in regular concert halls.
Heidi is now looking forward to finally being able to hit the road again with the new Pristine album THE LINES WE CROSS. “During the past year, we played a handful of smaller shows in Norway during the brief period when it became possible again. The government had eased restrictions before the Omicron wave came and brought everything to a halt again. Those precious few evenings were wonderful for us, and apparently the fans enjoyed them as much as we did. You could literally see how starved we all were for live music – on stage and in the audience. It felt almost like back in the beginning, when the band was just getting started and we played our first concerts.”
“The beginning” was in 2006: Heidi was attending the music conservatory in Tromsø, where she studied voice, when she christened the first incarnation of Pristine. After several years spent finding their sound and the band’s members as well as releasing two albums exclusively in Norway, the release of REBOOT in 2016 launched the band to an international level. Extensive concert tours through Europe followed as they travelled with acts that had similar styles, such as The Brew and Blues Pills. The next year, Pristine was already adding more fuel to the fire with NINJA and, in 2019, the Scandinavians were able to break into the German album charts thanks to ROAD BACK TO RUIN. Album number six is now hurtling towards us: THE LINES WE CROSS is coming in the beginning of 2023.
“The biggest difference is probably Ariel Joshua Sivertsen”, said Solheim. Up to this point, we had always worked with producers who first simply recorded everything and only began to process it all as a sonic whole once the initial tracks were there. Ariel is the first to produce each song on its own while we played in the studio – almost like our man on the mixing board at our shows. That process gave the songs more than just intense presence; it also gave each one its own identity. Of course you can hear and feel that they were performed on the same day in the same place. But each piece still manages to have a slightly different sound and vibe. That gives the LP a layer of unpredictability. I think that’s fantastic.”
Once the band decided to make its newest record, the work on it progressed as it typically does – despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. It began with the songwriting phase. “Every year I take some time in the early fall to retreat to a log cabin with my family to collect ideas. There, I’m in the middle of nowhere and can work in peace or simply just completely tune everything out”, said the artist. A lot of very good ideas apparently came together during her voluntary self-isolation this time.
“The first drafts are always very rudimentary”, laughed Heidi. “I can’t play guitar very well. So I do a lot with my voice. That’s how I sketch melodies or suggest chord changes. Then I use the GarageBand app on my laptop for things like rhythm loops. Once I collect enough of these ideas, I give them to our guitarist, Espen Elverum Jakobsen, and we work together to make proper songs out of them. Espen is a brilliant instrumentalist, but he is just as outstanding as a composer. He and I know each other so well after all these years, album productions and countless shows together, so he knows exactly what I have in mind. I don’t have to say much about it anymore. We have since become a very well-oiled machine.”
Back in Tromsø, Sivertsen was responsible for realising the songs for THE LINES WE CROSS with the best possible sound in the studio. As usual for Pristine, all the musicians played together in one room with Heidi on the microphone to record the basic tracks. “I know the majority of our colleagues have a very different process and record their instruments and vocals individually”, explained Heidi. “But we are a live band, through and through. You can and should be able to hear that on our records.”
Of course, there were a couple of additional recordings added later, like guitar solos, backing vocals or parts played by the Arktisk Filharmoni (The Arctic Philharmonic), a 24-person orchestra that supported Pristine’s performance of their power ballad “Carnival”. Songs like the earthy, powerful “Devil You Know”, the atmospheric “Valencia” with psychedelic elements or the driving hymn “Stepping Into The Breach” truly and directly showcase the band’s affinity for the stage. The studio versions of all these songs sound like they were created for the live experience.
Heidi Solheim (Vocals)
Espen Elverum Jakobsen (Guitar)
Åsmund Wilter Eriksson (Bass)
Kim Karlsen (Drums)
Anders Oskal (Organ/Keys)
Benjamin Mørk (Organ/keys)
all PRISTINE photos (c) Daniel Lilleeng & Sverre Simonsen