It’s perfectly fitting for us to announce Nøkken + The Grim’s new album “Black Sparrow Sessions” on Yule, the Winter Solstice, where the light is at it’s shortest and the desparate cold of the arctic forest feels more relatable than ever. Nøkken + The Grim’s has been one of the defining bands of antifasicst neofolk, bringing together a romantic anti-modernism and pagan sensibility with a biting anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and liberatory energy. Don’t let the slow pace of the tracks on “Black Sparrow Sessions” full you: this is a full scale ecstatic revolt.
We are happy to bring a quick interview with Nøkken + The Grim and share both the new album and the video for the incredible leading track, “The Legend of Coyote, First Angry.” The aggressively unsettling strings draw you into a fable, the caustic metaphor that drives all of Nøkken + The Grim’s releases. We have embedded both their music video and the album on Spotify, and have added new tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.
What’s the concept behind the new album?
A lot of our previous albums dealt with themes of desecration of Life, Peoples and Land, both the violence and exploitation and the apocalyptic consequences of such actions. With this album, I feel it is a lot more personal and introspective, focused on the healing that needs to happen in each of us and the fact that healing is painful. It is also more of a celebration of more-than-human life. We had been recording live concerts at Black Sparrow which have been deeply meaningful experiences for us. And the last concert we had there was days before the Covid-19 lockdown. A lot of tracks came from that concert.
What role does the Coyote play in this?
I don’t want to say too much about the meaning, and it is really not my place to speak much about Coyote, but I really wanted to honor them with this. They are important in many Native American spiritualities. The act of honoring Coyote is honoring coyotes who are treated horribly as pests by colonizers. It is also respecting the relationship that Native Peoples of this Land have with the spirits and life of it and how they too are subjugated. Coyotes only live in North America and nowhere else, and no matter what violence people do, they keep surviving and refuse to be tamed or erased. They deserve respect in and of themselves, while colonialism only offers them disrespect.
There is a sort of mystery and anxiety in the record. What is the tension that underlies the tracks?
I think part of the anxiousness at least comes from who my partner Stephen and I are. We deal with a lot of anxiety ourselves, and there’s also the intensity of these being all live performances. Stephen expressed to me that he thinks that art is a way we process emotions and experiences, and there is a tremendous collective experience of anxiety right now which we might be unconsciously touching upon. For me, the mysteriousness is part of the spiritual subjects at hand. These are other-than-human beings and life, ways of life beyond ourselves who refuse to be tamed by our understanding, just as I feel we can’t and shouldn’t reduce any person in this way.
Where does the horse come from?
That would be telling, haha. I will, however, say that I might be the horse, or rather, I am a horse.
How did 2020 act as an inspiration to the music? What role did organizing and resistance play?
Most of this music was written prior to 2020, and we’ve had a number of live recordings we’ve been sitting on already from years ago. But it just felt like it needed to happen now. In any case, all of this didn’t just start in 2020. It was a long time coming.
We had stopped making music throughout the beginning of the protests and the pandemic, focusing instead upon what needed to be done. There has been great pain throughout this, and my friends in the BIPOC communities have been suffering. I maybe can’t know the relations that all of this has as we are all a part of it happening still right now. But I think there’s a sense that resistance is part of the process of healing, or at least the first steps towards being able to heal. I have the deepest respect for the movement Black and Indigenous communities have created. It is so much to be able to stand up against brutality after suffering so much of it. I think that a part of resistance is actions towards removing the disease of brutality and subjugation and then healing the wounds it leaves.