HomeInterviewsSXSW Artist Spotlight: Fieh

SXSW Artist Spotlight: Fieh

South by Southwest is upon us! The 38th edition of Austin’s annual conference and festival will take place March 8-16. The SXSW Music Festival runs March 11-16. As 360°Sound has done since 2021, in the days leading up to the music fest, we’ll be publishing an Artist Spotlight series featuring exclusive interviews with artists slated to perform at SXSW 2024. First up is Fieh (pronounced “FEE-ah”), an eight-piece funk/neo-soul group from Oslo, Norway. Fieh will be performing a showcase set March 13 at 10 p.m. at the Speakeasy on Congress Avenue (complete gig list at bottom of article). In this interview, Sofie Tollefsbøl, lead vocalist and primary songwriter of Fieh, discusses their third and latest album, the influence of D’Angelo, interpreting a Wayne Shorter tune, and more.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Find the full video interview at the bottom of this article.

360°Sound: I understand you started Fieh in 2014. Please give us a brief history of the band.

Sofie Tollefsbøl: We started playing together in high school. Five of us went to high school together. I ended up hijacking another band, because originally Ola Øverby, the drummer, and Andreas Rukan, the bass player, were in another band. They asked me to join them for a couple of songs of mine that I wrote at a local jazz festival, and I joined in. After that, those two bands fused, and it became Fieh. I started studying at the Academy of Music in Oslo and others in the band did as well. We met the other members there. Nowadays, we are eight people.

Funk and R&B is a big part of Fieh’s sound. Tell us about your interest in funk and soul music.

My brother, who is older than me, is a guitarist. He was always listening to blues, like B.B. King and also soul, like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. He also frequently played on blues festivals. My parents and I would go see him play. So in that way, I got familiar with blues and soul. And I was a big fan of the Blues Brothers and a lot of soul music.

When we started the band, we all had just discovered D’Angelo at the same time. We were like, mind blown. Like what is this music? And we were very interested in making that sort of music. So that was kind of the basis of the band, making music that’s very inspired by the Voodoo album in particular. And then as time went by, we were like, ‘Ok, we can’t just try and make D’Angelo music because we’re never going to do it as well anyways, and it’s not going to be as interesting.’ So, we have had many sources of influence throughout the years.

Kendrick Lamar has also been a very big influence. To Pimp a Butterfly and untitled unmastered are two albums that we listened to a lot together. We had been discussing the sounds and arrangements. What is it that is so cool about it? And, of course, I’m a huge Erykah Badu fan. Different people in the band bring in their inspirations. It can be jazz, disco, or the Beatles. It can be many different things.

Fieh’s third studio album, III, dropped in September 2023. How would you say this record is different from your previous work?

I feel like every album has been a reaction to the previous album, except for the first album. The first album was old songs. It was songs we had been playing live for many years, and I was really tired of that album when it released. I was feeling almost embarrassed about the music because it was so from the past. So, when making the second album, I was feeling like we needed to make something more artsy and advanced with maybe some orchestral arrangements. We did that for the second album, which was more experimental, I would say.

And then on the third album, I had a reaction to that again, and I was like, “Oh, fuck that complicated stuff. I just want to make soul bangers and cool songs with nice riffs.” For the third album, I was very inspired by Amy Winehouse. Also, Gorillaz and Tyler the Creator have been a big source of inspiration. So, yeah, it’s always a reaction to the last album.

You have a song called “Texas Baby” on III. Was that inspired by the band’s trip to Austin for SXSW in 2022?

For sure. We were recording the third album the month before SXSW, so I was really excited about Texas. And then I was just kidding in the studio, I sang “Texas Baby” because we were all always speaking about Texas and how we were looking forward to Texas. I sang “Texas Baby” and then we were like, “That sounds kind of cool and silly but also funny.” And then I just couldn’t change it because it felt right. It was definitely inspired by the Texas trip.

Fieh contributed to the 2020 compilation Blue Note Re: imagined, which featured reworked and newly recorded versions of songs from the vaults of jazz label Blue Note Records. Fieh did the Wayne Shorter tune “Armageddon.” Discuss your approach to that jazz classic.

It was really hard. The task was to choose a song from the whole Blue Note catalog and make your own version of it. That was a very overwhelming request. We have all been jazz students, and we have huge respect for so much stuff in the Blue Note catalog. Also, it was so many possibilities, so we had a hard time choosing. Also, choosing Wayne Shorter was like, “Can you do that? Is that blasphemy?” But it was very fun.

Wayne Shorter or someone from his team had to approve of our version. So that was also scary because that means Shorter would hear the song, maybe? But it was great fun. I think we just decided that if we were going to do it, we had to do our thing with it, we couldn’t treat it as a bible. Let’s just do some fun stuff with it. So it was really cool to get to be part of that record.

The promo photo of the band caught my eye with all the colorful outfits. Tell us about the band’s approach to aesthetics.

Since we started, we were really aware of the fact that being so many of us on stage has a visual aspect to it. A lot of stuff going on the stage is a cool thing aesthetically. We wanted to use that opportunity to make something. It’s also fun to watch as well. Of course, the music is the most important thing, but if you can add more to that and make it into a bigger show, I don’t see why you shouldn’t do that. At the time, when we started the band, I was so inspired by D’Angelo, I had just seen him live in Oslo. I thought the whole show was so well thought through with a lot of musicians all over the stage. It was quite a big band.

I was also very inspired by Parliament Funkadelic, their crazy aesthetics with a lot of people. We had orange outfits since very early on. We just decided to make orange our color and go for orange outfits on the stage and try to make it into a whole package because if you can entertain people, why not?

SXSW Gigs 

3/13 WED, 10PM – Speakeasy @ Speakeasy
3/14 THU, 3PM – Music For Listeners @ Lazarus Brewing
3/14 THU, 5PM – Waterloo Records @ Waterloo Records
3/14 THU, 7PM – Jam in the Van – Session @ Armadillo Den
3/14 THU, 9PM – Jam in the Van – Show @ Armadillo Den
3/16 SAT, 3PM – The Backyard Boogie @ 2314 Santa Rosa St
3/16 SAT, 11:20PM – Utopia Fest @ Zilker Brewing

Find out more about Fieh on their website, fiehmusic.com

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