25 year old musician and photographer Embla Karidotter was blessed with many talents. She is not only the drummer in Bergen’s all time favourite girl “indie-ska-pop-rock” band Razika; she is also enrolled in the art history programme at the University of Bergen, board member of the Bergen film club, and mouthpiece for the oppressed.
Last time we met, you had just came back from a tour in the rural parts of Norway, where you taught young girls to play the drums. What is the story behind that initiative?
Last time we met I had just come back from touring with my band, Razika. 2016 was our 10 year anniversary! Besides doing a “normal tour” at pubs and venues etc., we travel around Norway and play at schools. This is in collaboration with something called Kulturtanken. So we travel around Norway and play a concert for them at their school. This is a great way to give the small town kids some culture in their daily lives and also inspire them to start a band of their own. And of course with us, who are 4 girls, they get to see that girls can also play and be good at their instruments, and play in a good, cool band. Not many kids have seen a girl play drums like I do, and they get so surprised and happy. At first they think or say directly to us: oh no, an all girl band… this is going to be so boring. But once we start they immediately start clapping a long and cheering. “Girls rocking? I didn’t know they could!”. Both girls and boys have this view, which is very sad, but we’re trying to change that and make everyone aware of it.
Razika consists only of girls. Was this an intended choice or a rather natural cause?
We didn’t plan on being an all girl band. We were just four friends who all were tired of playing soccer and wanted to start a band, so we did. At first we found it annoying how all interviewers would focus on us being girls like “how is it being a girl?”, but after a while we started seeing it as an opportunity to help normalize bands with all girl members. And to talk about feminism and how fucked up the music industry can be sometimes. So it wasn’t planned, but it turned out to be a great opportunity for us to speak our minds about politics as well as music.
Do you still find people being surprised about girls playing in a rock band?
Now I’m a drum teacher for beginners. I never thought I would do that. To be honest I didn’t think I would be good enough. After playing drums for 10 years, releasing 3 records and making a living out of my band I still have these bad thoughts about how I’m not good enough. That’s all because of my gender. I blame it on society and gender roles! But seriously… and how girls always have to compare themselves to guys in the music industry. “You’re a great drummer! … for a girl” is just an example of what you’ll hear from time to time. I’m more than good enough, I just have to keep telling myself what I tell all the beginners, and all the girls at band camp. “You’re good!”
When and how did you start music and photography?
I started playing drums when we started the band. We’re all self taught. I guess it was at the same time I started taking photos. I got my first (Pingu) camera when I was 8 and took photos of my teddy bears etc. But I bought my first camera when I was 15. That was digital. I took photos all the time, of everything. I started to really notice everything around me. I remember thinking “so much beauty that goes unseen”. My mom told me that if we were going to new places I wouldn’t be interested in anything besides the book I was reading. I was reading all the time, while walking outside, in the car (I never got sick) etc. But suddenly when I turned 14/15 something must have happened. I became a teenager quite late. I loved being a child and didn’t want to be a teenager. I played with toys until I was 13, I think. I had to hide it from everyone because I understood that was lame.
When I was 13 (turning 14 in 5 days, to be exact) I got my first boyfriend. I think that was the first step towards the teenager stadium. My mom told a friend of hers how interested I was in photography (and how I wanted to be a (war) photographer) and the next time this friend came to visit she gave me a camera. This was her first camera which she had bought when she was 13 with her own money that she had saved up. A really lovely gift in other words. I started using that instead and after the first roll I developed I was sold! The pictures had this depth and I thought it showed better what I saw around me, than my digital camera. From that moment I’ve only photographed with analogue cameras. I found this little photo store in Bergen called Daae Foto, when I was 15. Thorvald Daae is the name of the man who is running it and he is a dear friend of mine now, kind of like a grandfather to me. He was so nice and understanding the first time I was there, he let me try different cameras and films, for free, and if I liked something I could decide then if I wanted to buy it. He’s still like this today. He inspires and helps people start with analogue cameras. And he is maybe the kindest person I know. I simply love his charming store.
How do you combine all your interests and take them seriously without getting lost?
That is a good question! Sometimes I wonder myself. I do so many things that sometimes I do get lost… But everything I do, I do because I like it – it gives me pleasure or challenge. I play drums in Razika because it’s a dream come true; to play in a band with my best friends! It’s a dream job. I study part time at the University here in Bergen. Next year I have my bachelor in Art History. I want to study. It stimulates my brain. But what I would really love to study is Film history! But the university here in Bergen only has a course in that, not a whole subject. So I take the courses I find interesting: art history, film history, gender research. Right now I’m actually studying The Witch process and the magic world. It’s a course in the subject Cultural History – very interesting. But as I said, I would like to study film more. So I do that. I buy books and read them, and watch a lot of movies. I’m also on the board of Bergen Filmklubb, an independent cinema here in Bergen (started in 1961). When I have the time I also work at the bookshop Norli. And I’m also an active member of the Palestinian committee here in Bergen, making posters for demonstrations, handing out pamphlets etc. Which leads me to your next question…
What sort of people inspire you?
The people who inspire me are the brave ones. People who help others without wanting to get anything in return. That’s why fighting for Palestine is so important for me. The Palestinians have been oppressed for almost 70 years now and the world does nothing. Except for the brave people who try to help them and fight for them. I would love to go to Palestine one day, but I doubt that will happen any time soon with their new rule about not letting people who have supported BDS in public in. But yes, people who fight for others are the sort of people who inspire me. Or artists that make art to make a difference, to make people think and ask themselves questions. For me everything is political. If you say you don’t take a stand in something, that’s also a political stand. Artists who make art to please the eye are not brave. Artists who risk something by making a movie, a painting, a song etc are the brave ones. Those who dare to be political and show how unfair the world is. I love to study the radical painters like the Dada group and Die Brücke or watching movies that tries to say something about society and what’s wrong with it. My favorite filmmaker is Roy Andersson. His films are just beyond everything in my opinion. Watch them! But of course I have to say the person who inspires me most is my mother. Kind of cliché, but she’s the reason I turned out so great haha. She’s my number one supporter, but she’s always honest with me if what I do is bad. She taught me to defend myself – both verbally and physically. I always go to her if I need advice. “What would mom say?” I often ask myself… and of course “What would Larry David do?”. My two mantras haha.
Which advice would you give to people struggling to follow their dreams?
My advice to anyone is that if you don’t try you’ll never know. That goes for music, photography, politics, love, friendship, food. If you want to be vegan: just do it! If you want to play in a band: start one! If you want to play at a concert: practice and just play a gig. That’s the best practice. If you want to take photos: find a camera and just start. But what I always ask myself is: “what do I want with this? Why do I do this? What’s the meaning?”
If in Norway, do make sure to go and see Embla at one of these events:
Interview: Victoria Trunova
Editing: James Hudson