CARMEN ELISE ESPENÆS – “There I Was On These Warm Summer Days Watering A Piano…”

By Carl Begai

Having worked with Midnattsol vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs over the past 10 years helping to shape her song lyrics, I’m well aware of her being very nature oriented. No, she’s not a hemp-smoking tree-hugger hippie; Carmen is from Norway, which boasts beautiful and often surreal landscapes, offering her a wealth of inspiration for her music. That said, it came as no surprise to learn the cover art for the self-titled debut from her new band, Savn, was a real down-to-earth photograph rather than a cut-and-tweak image crafted entirely using a computer.

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How the band went about creating the cover shot, however, was an adventure in itself that took months to complete.

“I was thinking about the idea of the deprivation of music since Savn started because of this theme,” Carmen begins, referring to guitarist/founder and former The Sins Of My Beloved member Stig Johansen’s inspiration for starting the band. “I was trying to figure out how we could portray the idea of the deprivation of music in a picture, and because I love nature I had this idea of a musical instrument grown over with plants and roots and things in the woods, as if it hadn’t been played in a long time. Piano is a big part of our music and it’s a beautiful instrument, so that’s what I chose.”

“We found a 200 year old piano for sale, but the deal was we could have it for free if we picked it up ourselves. It was SO heavy and we had to get a lot of people in order to carry it from where we got it to our house.”

The band could have easily dressed up the piano for the shoot, but Carmen was aiming for authenticity as well as image. Even it if meant risking being locked up for seemingly erratic behaviour.

“It was a process over several months to get the piano ready for the cover shoot. We put the piano outside in the yard and I found a way to grow moss all over it; you can find such things on the internet (laughs). I got a tip from a very good friend of mine who helped me with it, but you need lots of sunshine and it has to be watered all the time. So, if you can imagine, we had this piano in our yard, and there I was on these warm summer days standing there watering it while the neighbours were driving past (laughs). They were looking at me with these expressions on their faces that said it all: ‘What the hell is she doing?’ I was so embarrassed that I eventually walked to the neighbours’ houses, rang their doorbells and told them that I’m actually not crazy, I’m preparing the piano for an album cover (laughs).”

“When I decided there was enough moss on the piano we had to carry it into the woods. Some pieces fell off because it was so old, and when I sat on it the wood started to buckle, so Stig had to get underneath it and hold it up so it wouldn’t break. So, there are in fact two members of Savn in the cover photo (laughs).”

“It really was an adventure, but I love the fact that it’s a real photo surrounded by nature. Alexander Enoksen is the photographer who took the picture, but he doesn’t just do band shots. He takes all kinds of different photos, so what you see in the CD booklet and the photos we use in promotion, they’re all real.”

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Savn cover photo by Alexander Enoksen (Ålgård Fotostudio). Artwork by Jan Yrlund (Darkgrove).

For information and updates on Savn go to this location. Check out the video for ‘Hang On’ from the debut album here.