SAIGA ANTELOPE: It’s All About the Music

Saiga Antelope

Progressive rock duo from Norway’s capital Oslo, Saiga Antelope, was formed in 2016 by multi-instrumentalists and songwriters Jakob Gåre and Sindre Abelvik. Their full-length debut offering ‘The Grand Endeavor‘ was launched in October, and the band took part on our Progotronics 17 digital sampler. Jakob and Sindre spoke for Prog Sphere about the release, their musical vision, and more.

Define the mission of Saiga Antelope.

The goal of Saiga Antelope is, of course, world domination, as stated on our Facebook page. No, the goal has always been to make music that we ourselves enjoy. We will always stay true to that, regardless of what future fans, labels or pressure otherwise would demand of us. Because to us, if we don’t have passion for what we do, it’s not worth it. Saiga Antelope is a passion project, and if we don’t get acknowledged or make any money off of it, that’s perfectly fine. In fear of sounding like the world’s biggest cliché: it’s all about the music.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “The Grand Endeavor” and the themes it captures.

In 2016 we started the first creative sessions for “The Grand Endeavor”. Musically, we had the idea of featuring mostly suspended second chords (as opposed to major or minor) as a creative starting ground for the songs, which have resulted in the ambiguous tension that are present in most of the songs. You can hear that most of the songs on the record start with a sus2 chord if you listen consciously for it. We made most of the songs with piano as the foundation and an acoustic guitar to fill out the sound. The rest of the line-up we didn’t add until we went into studio. This is probably why the album ended up being quite ambient and introverted in its sound. We feel it captures the themes very naturally. As for the lyrics we had a general topic of ‘the individual society’, but the actual content just kind of came to us as we went. It’s all a very natural process. When we write songs, we often start with gibberish lyrics. But some musical phrases just demand for a certain word or sentence. Then we come up with the rest of the lyrics around that. It makes for lyrical depth that we’d never come to think of if we had tried to do so consciously. Proves to show that if you let your sub-conscience work, you really can’t control how deep it can go.

Saiga Antelope - The Grand Endeavor

What is the message you are trying to give with “The Grand Endeavor”? 

“The Grand Endeavor” is a concept album about living in a society where everyone strive for happiness, but nobody really manage to find it. We follow the perspective of a young man who is critical of this mindset and is wanting to break free, but yet at the same time remains a slave to it, with all the confusion that follows. We explore this man’s thoughts on society, and his personal struggles in trying to make sense of ambiguous relationships in his own life. The album explores themes such as loneliness, narcissism and interpersonal insecurity. We are sure anyone who lives in individualistic societies can relate. A lot of the lyrical content are based off personal experiences of being students in our 20s living in Oslo (and if you live in Oslo, you can hear some local ambience cues if you pay attention). Message? Well, we don’t necessarily have any one message. There are many nuances when it comes to criticising society. You can’t really change the nature of people, it’s going to be what it is. People might wake up, but they will fall asleep again, we are caught in a cycle. But the album’s protagonist comes to peace with his situation, and so can you! I guess that can be a message.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

In the beginning we recorded our early drafts on our phones. As well as writing the main frames of the music in documents on a shared dropbox folder. Many of the recordings were just piano and vocals. The songs changed over time, and so having earlier drafts to come back to was good in order to find back to the creative spark that inspired the songs in the first place. After a while we invested in a basic home studio setup, and so we began making demos, expanding our line-up. A lot of what we recorded on the demos are kept in the final products.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes, it is indeed! There are a lot of different moods, genres and track lengths in this album, so creating a track order that gave a somewhat smooth flow was important to us. We made an approximate order quite early, allowing us to construct a cohesive narrative as well, which can be loosely divided into three phases. Another goal was to bind the songs together seamlessly, so you can immerse yourself in the experience. Our only blunder might be that we kick off the album with a rather mellow track in “Hollow Tree”, followed by the quite weird “Endeavor”, which might give people a somewhat warped impression of what the album really sounds like. You can say we prioritised making an artistic package over accessibility, which resonates with what we said in the beginning with our goal being to make something that we like ourselves. Which by the way is one of the reasons we are stoked to get to feature “Ghost of Narcissus” through you guys, here at Prog Sphere.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Well, as mentioned earlier we started recording our own demos back in 2017. There we used the phone recordings as a basis, and started adding instruments to it. Only being two people, having the possibility to simply add more instruments with no regard for who was going to be playing it live, was a great freedom.

Jakob: I play quite a lot of instruments, so in addition to piano I played around with the bass guitar and a lot of synths. I also used the seaboard quite a bit, which is an instrument I’ve grown quite fond of. We wanted a synthetic sound, but with a lot of expression at the same time, and the seaboard was perfect for that.

None of us are drummers, so we experimented a lot with electronic drums, which is something that stuck on several places, even after we got actual drums on the songs. We got in contact with our producer after he discovered one of our demos that we had posted online. Using the demos as a foundation we started re-recording every analog instrument, while the digital instruments remained mainly intact. We saved the longer songs, like “Ghost of Narcissus” and “Circadian Rhythm” for last, as they are the most ambitious tracks on the album. Actually for “Ghost of Narcissus” we had to record the piano solo on the acoustic piano at home. The reason being it is the only piano we know that have a certain pedal that muffles the bass keys, while (and it’s not supposed to do this) leaving the bright keys clear. This allows for the effect that the bass ostinato is muffled while the solo is untouched. Mid way through the pedal is lifted to reveal full mayhem. You can hear the sound of the pedal being lifted off in the recording.

How long “The Grand Endeavor” was in the making?

As mentioned we started our creative sessions for real in 2016. But songs like “Endeavor” and “The Haze” were already in process while we went to high school in 2014-2015. That was before Saiga Antelope was even a thing.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

We have a lot of different inspirations for sure. Steven Wilson is an obvious inspiration in general. Others are Gazpacho and Pink Floyd, especially in regards to the use of ambience. Agent Fresco and VOLA has inspired some of the directions we took when it came to making a sound for the album. To mention a few.

What is your view on technology in music?

Jakob: I can only speak for myself here, but my view is that there in general aren’t any rules when it comes to making music. Whatever you need to realise your vision. Some people are very clear on that they prefer real analog or acoustic instruments over digital ones, and in many cases I believe I agree. However there is space for digital instruments as well, we use them quite frequently ourselves, even when acoustic instruments would make it sound more organic. But that’s the thing, the themes of this album called for a synthetic sound. The technology is not only practical, but in this case it also serves the music. So everything has its place, and in the end it’s to each their own.

Sindre: I simply love the possibilities that are made available when including the technological sphere in your music. It can drastically change the sound and experience thereof. Which is intriguing if you want to push boundaries or draw on specific emotions.

Saiga Antelope

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Well, we hope that the themes of the album and the lyrics can resonate with people on a deeper level. That we can convey emotions and formulate thoughts that people might otherwise struggle to reach.

On a completely different note we chose our band name because it was the name of an actual animal, that we thought looked cool and strange. We then realised the saiga antelope is going extinct, and now we low key use the band to raise awareness of the heroes that risk their lives to save the saiga antelope. It’s the least we can do for borrowing its name.

What are your plans for the future?

“The Grand Endeavor” is actually only the first album in a line of four that we have planned. We are planning to make an album for every season of the year. This one was for autumn, so going in chronological order, the next one will be the winter album. We already have quite a lot planned for it, and it’s going to sound quite a bit different. As a group, we are mainly interested in making studio albums, but we hope to be able to do some proper live gigs in the near future. We just have to find enough people willing to fill out all the instruments. But yeah, stay tuned!
The Grand Endeavor is out now; get it from Bandcamp. Follow Saiga Antelope on Facebook and Instagram.

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