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Norwegian Arms: Freak Folk From The Cold Front.

November 16, 2012

Text and images by Brandee Nichols.

After receiving a Fulbright fellowship in 2009, Brendan Mulvihill, one half of the freak-folk duo Norwegian Arms, found himself in the middle of Siberia, teaching English at a university.

“I think it was a good maturation thing,” Mulvihill says of his time in Tomsk, Russia. “It’s really easy to grow as an individual when you put yourself in these difficult situations.”

Mulvihill harnessed his experiences and channeled them into the music of Norwegian Arms’ debut album, Wolf Like a Stray Dog, which is due out in December.

“Everything was at least partially, if not completely, written there,” Mulvihill says. “It deals with things that happened while I was there. It’s basically a documentary of my experience abroad.”

Eric Slick, the other half of the group, wasn’t directly inspired by Mulvihill’s experience but he had no trouble working on the album upon Mulvihill’s return.

“I’ve been to Russia a few times and it’s a gorgeous, freezing nightmare,” Slick says. “At the end of the day, it’s all music. Brendan definitely gave me some insight as to what he was looking for musically and it seemed to blend well with the lyrical content.”

Mulvihill and Slick teamed up with Michael Chadwick, formerly of The Armchairs, to record the album in October 2011. They pulled it off in less than a week at Dr. Dog’s Meth Beach studio. Slick also plays drums for Dr. Dog.

“It was good because I think it forced us to distill our thoughts so that the songs didn’t become too overproduced or overblown,” Mulvihill says, describing the intense and somewhat blurry process.

Continuing with the worldly theme of the album, the duo took their time doing long-distance mixing with a former Philadelphia friend, Jose Diaz, who now lives in Seattle.

“We took a while to get it mixed because we really wanted to listen to the tracks we had and figure out what we wanted it to sound like,” Mulvihill recalls. “I hope that there’s an authenticity to this record, that it’s me as I am, as I am everyday in my life.”

“If people are looking for something that’s accessible but a little left of center, then I think they’ll enjoy the record,” Slick adds.

When Mulvihill isn’t off discovering the world, he works as an assistant talent buyer at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, basically a graduation from what he used to do at The Ox, the Olde Kensington warehouse space that hosted countless concerts and parties until the police shut them down.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he says proudly. “I’ve never worked in a place I like, with people I like, doing something I like. It’s just a really wonderful experience.”

It only makes sense that the venue of choice for the album’s December 21 release is Johnny Brenda’s. The duo is also taking this opportunity to celebrate the Mayan Apocalypse at the same time.

“Hopefully all of my friends will join me as the world crumbles around us,” Mulvihill says with an enthusiastic grin.

*Pre-order the album here or listen below.

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