Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, noemienours is a musician and storyteller, inspired by bears, plant-based diets and lo-fi slo-core records. The debut noemienours EP, Songs from the life of bears, arrived back in 2016, and has been followed by three subsequent albums about bears, and one aside, the 2019 album, Kiwis are not bears (but they also need to be protected), recorded in New Zealand. Their latest release, Unquestioning unrequited, arrived back in August, and was picked up for a cassette release in America by cult-label Unread Records.
Listening to Unquestioning unrequited is initially like sliding into a bleak, head-scratchingly odd universe, where distant harmonium is punctuated by random slashes of percussive static, and Noémie’s haunting, largely unintelligible vocal. We’re put in mind of A Silver Mt. Zion if they swapped their vast orchestration for a solo voice from a haunted cabin in the woods. If this is all sounding a little baffling, it is, yet on repeat listens you start to see the patterns, the hidden creativity lurking within begging to be discovered. Ultimately noemienours will remain very much an acquired taste, and we kind of feel that’s the point, this Noémie singular vision of what music is to her: a raw, honest approach that blunts its edges for nobody. Love it or hate it, we can guarantee it won’t sound like anything else you hear all year.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are noemienours?
noemienours is just me, Noémie, I write songs essentially about bears, through my bear-self to be a voice for all the bears in all galaxies and beyond. So there is this constant sense of plurality in my songs, although this is only one person doing everything from songwriting, to recording, to artwork, to mixing and even mastering now since the last record, with 100% DIY ethics. The name “noemienours” includes my first name and “nours” means “bear” in French-speaking child-language, but this is based on a latin root also used for instance in the name “Ursa major”. There is definitely some part of auto-fiction in the noemienours songs, but the songs are meant to raise awareness about specific issues that can be connected to bear issues (such as environmental issues, gender issues, first nation issues and so on), so they definitely build up something deeply meaningful to me. I try to challenge through songwriting some visions that can be commonly shared, to present those questions under a new light.
I see the noemienours songwriting process as something positively liberating, in the sense of Deleuze/Guattari‘s “Becoming animal”, I see it as a possibility to free me and other living beings from moral prejudices, from oppression, from intellectual or artistic prejudices, to reach a new level of meaning that does not have to be limited by human alienation anymore. noemienours is also profoundly related to my relation to concepts such as “nature” or “being“ in a sense that I can share with all bears and have been experiencing since my earliest age.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
The first noemienours took place in December 2018 in Stockholm. In the beginning, noemienours as a musical project was not really meant to even include live appearances. I just wanted to keep it a home-recording project. Then with time, after I recorded the second LP and third noemienours record, I began considering this possibility. I lived previously near Darmstadt in Germany where I was registered to write a PhD, that was handed in and accepted, but still has to be defended. But I reached a point in the summer of 2018, where it was not possible for me anymore to live in Germany for several reasons. The first reason being that I was ill every summer, because the temperature reached about 40° degree every year in that area and I only feel well physically with a cold climate. Another reason is the fact that I studied German literature and that most of what I studied had disappeared culturally in the contemporary German society as a consequence of nazism during the 1930’s and during Second world-war. There is a book from Walter Benjamin about what he calls “German people” (Deutsche Menschen) and the kind of culture that was present in Germany before it was more or less eradicated. Of course, there were a lot of efforts in Germany after 1945 to rebuild a new form of culture, that created for instance new forms of electronic or cosmic music, but the main point of what I studied through German literature sounded like something that never existed for most people I met in Germany outside of universities, so this made me feel a growing discomfort to be living in a society where my experience of their culture simply did not exist at all. I ended up deciding to move to Stockholm in September 2018, because the climate here makes me feel much better physically and I think that Swedish culture in music, art or literature is perhaps more relevant to my own personality with my artistic perspective, and also that Swedish society gives maybe more space for my personal development than was the case in Germany.
The first noemienours show took place at kafé 44, which is in my opinion, the best venue in Stockholm. This is really a classic legendary venue and most Swedish bands into punk, hardcore or indie have played there. This is one of the rare venues I know, where it is possible to set up an all-ages show without alcohol, so the audience really listens to the music and this is really open-minded. It took me several weeks to rehearse for this show, and I was really glad with the result musically, because I developed new versions of songs that were on the noemienours records already. There were about 35 people coming and it was during the week and I sold some merch, so the general outcome was really positive.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I think music makes it possible to express specific feelings and experiences in a specific manner, which is not possible with other forms of art and is particularly important for me for the kind of sensitivity that I have. At the same time, I use music through songwriting and also include drawings in my records and cassettes. In my eyes, songwriting is first and foremost a literary experience with a deep meaning that I develop, which is in the end some sort of synaesthetic experience, because it also includes drawing and is also related to plant-based food, considering how essential it has become in relation with the current state of climate change. So I see what you might call “music” as a total art form and perhaps not exactly as what you might understand as “music”. I actually studied musicology as a bachelor student at university and considered seriously doing a master in this field, but ended up to the conclusion that only studying literature could make me reach the kind of experience that I lived through music. I felt like the teachers were talking about something completely different than what music means for me, and this is also one of the reason why I have been systematically allergic to music teachers since I was like 3 years old, because they never understood a single thing about what “music” means to me. I have learned guitar and harpsichord with a dozen of teachers and it was systematically a disaster because the only kind of musical approach that was relevant to me was an intuitive, self-taught way of developing one’s own style of playing, that can be found for instance with self-taught jazz musicians such as Billie Holiday or Wes Montgomery.
FTR: What can people expect from the noemienours live show?
noemienours live shows are rather rare, so this is meant to be a very special moment. The shows so far are basically only me on guitar or on a key-instrument, so this is the songs bare with only their raw emotional content, but this is meant to be a space for meditation and my music is first and foremost songwriting, so the lyrics are essential. I try as much as possible to set up the sound to make the lyrics as understandable as possible.
There is no clear plan for live shows at this very moment, maybe I could play once in Stockholm in the near future or tour the US or Japan when the whole current lock-down situation has been resolved. Live shows are difficult for noemienours because the approach is very sensitive and demanding intellectually, so it can happen that some person in the audience or helping to set up a show does not understand what the songs mean at all. My main focus is to record music at home to ensure the best songwriting that I can, but of course I can enjoy playing shows in some other friendly environment as far as they are respectful of what my music really means.
FTR: What’s next for noemienours?
I am currently working on LP4, that I hope to release maybe early 2021. For each new record I am working on, I try to develop another sound and an other kind of story throughout the record, but this is a real process to develop the lyrics and the sound, so I can not know exactly where it will be going until the very end of the recording process. There is also some plan to release a plant-based cookbook with easy recipes that I developed myself and use on a daily basis, because I think this would be useful for a lot of people who would like to understand vegan cooking better, and also for when I go on tour, so the venues can have an idea of the kind of food that I eat. I would like to do it half as an art-book with drawings, half as a cookbook. With this plan, there is also the idea of developing noemienours records as a publishing company as well, to be able to publish books with an ISBN number, but I have no idea how long it will take for this whole project to be finalized. In the long run, I would like to be able to publish books that way and maybe work on writing books of poetic fiction. A lot of students in literature become teachers, but I do not think that I would ever be good as a teacher, I would prefer to focus on a creative process, and focus on simply being a writer.
They Listen To…
Empress – Planless
The first album from Empress is one of the records that I listened to the most in my life, I think this is the best Empress album. I had some difficult times in my life, where the only thing that I was doing was basically reading books and listening to a cassette with Empress on it. This band is extremely overlooked, but this is in my opinion one of the very best slo-core bands and they had a huge influence on me, particularly at the beginning of noemienours as a musical project. It was like some sort of ideal sound, that was focused on deep meditation, while being extremely sweet and sensitive, I think it was even more influential on me than bands like Low or Red house painters. Nicola who is the singer in Empress also played or sang with Boyracer and Hood, but I think none of those bands have ever been as good as Empress. After Nicola left those bands, they developed some sort of toxic masculinity mentality, which I think is just unbearable. So for me, I ever felt like it was much punker to listen to Empress than to anything Hood has ever released. But unfortunately, she does not release any music anymore today, because not so many listeners really care about the music that she released.
Chauchat – Sleeping
This was released on unread records, who also released the last noemienours album on cassette. I think Chauchat is one of the very best songwriter to have ever existed, songwriters like Nick Drake or Mark Kozelek are barely as good as Tyler Whitney, who is the songwriter in Chauchat and I do not think that a songwriter like Conor Oberst, who also released songs on unread ever reached the same level as the best songs from Chauchat. The main difference is that Chauchat have 100% low-profile ethics, so this is only focused on the artistic aspect, which is something most record labels do not really care about. This is one of the reasons why I am really happy to have released music on unread, because this is only about the music, this is not about having some plan to sell or promote stuff. This is a feeling that I had throughout my teens that the world in which I was living did not share a single common value with what I expected from my life, that there was no place for me anywhere in the society where I was living and it was a very long process for me to be able to finally find a way out from this, and I think this is a feeling I can find in Chauchat’s songs. My life might be a bit different now, but I still feel that my focus is mainly the artistic level and that this is what my artistic approach should be about. The name Chauchat is a reference to “Mademoiselle Chauchat“ from Thomas Mann’s “Magic mountain“ and the implicit references to the novel in the Chauchat songs give it a quality that I find amazing, particularly on this album, but, on a more general level, Chauchat’s songwriting is mainly about sharing a level of perception that can often only be developed through reading novels such as “The magic mountain“, but this is not only about that either, because there is a very original style in the songwriting. I particularly like this song because it reminds me a bit of a moment in Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s “Rigaudon“ when the main characters are in a train and they are not holding themselves anymore anywhere, they are only dancing to keep their balance throughout the journey, and I think that this is how it feels to write a song, to be in a creative process.
The Sonora Pine – Cloister
The Sonora pine II is another record that I listened to more than anything else in my life. I particularly like this song because this is about how musical scenes are often only centered around some narrow-minded men who do not really care at all what can be the experience that non-male musicians or persons can have. And this song is about that very moment when there is no other way than closing the windows and the doors to this kind of toxic scene in order to develop another possibility of blossoming somewhere else. I think this is a song that shows exactly what post-hardcore should be about, if it was not a gender-biased scene. This is another song about daring to make that life-changing leap through the creative experience. I think this is also a song that really helped me to survive in some difficult moments.
Codeine – Sea
This is another song without which noemienours would never have been what it is. There is a feeling of such a deep integrity in this record and at the same time a feeling of complete inadequacy with the surrounding world, that I share completely. I think this is one of the most emotional slo-core songs ever recorded and it brings me each time close to tears. I like this feeling that the whole world outside is collapsing into the sea in some complete breakdown because of its meaninglessness. I literally spent days crying to that song under my bed cover as a teenager and I still feel the same each time I listen to it. I think that Codeine are one of the most underrated slo-core bands, because they are basically the very band who invented the genre and nothing can compete with that.
Minnetonka – Poloroids Destroyed
Ryan Klauk is another discarded musical genius. The Minnetonka album “Orchard street sounds” is an incredible masterpiece, that really makes you wonder what was the point for Elliott Smith or The Beatles to ever record any music. This song is also another song about what the creative process means and implies and how the music industry will never be about the actual quality of songwriting. I find particularly amazing the link between the snowstorm and the blizzard in the lyrics and the musical flow from the guitar. The lyrics feel a bit like “Fruit tree“ from Nick Drake. I think this is a shame that this album was only released on a very limited CD more than 20 years ago. Ryan Klauk recorded songs in a lot of other projects, but they are very hard to follow and there are often only a handful of copies when something is released. This is a very impressive example about how listeners do not really care much about the musical quality of the songs, because maybe there would be more support for his music if they did.
Unquestioning unrequited is out now, self-released with a US cassette release via Unread Records. Click HERE for more information on noemienours.