Svalbard: What lockdown has taught us

Svalbard look back at the lessons of 2020 as they prepare to unleash fury in The K! Pit, in association with Nordic Spirit

Svalbard: What lockdown has taught us
Phil Alexander
Esmé Surfleet

“I’ve been writing solo black metal record. It’s nearly finished and it’s coming out next year,” says Svalbard’s Serena Cherry. Like most musicians facing down the pandemic, the guitarist/singer has been left to her own devices during much of this year, navigating periods of lockdown by finding new ways of expressing herself.

“I didn’t know how to use recording software or how to programme drums, but I learnt how to do all that,” she says. “Not to sound mean, but writing all the stuff myself, means that I don’t have to compromise. With the band, we all write together and you have to learn that if someone doesn’t like your lead part then it won’t be part of the song. This has been different. It’s been really indulgent and great!”

Serena's solo outing will be released under the name of Noctule, the inspiration for which came as she developed a new daily routine.

“On one of my many lockdown walks there was a trail through a forest that outlined what types of bats there were on the walk, and one of them was a Noctule bat. I thought, ‘That sounds quite black metal!’” she laughs.

Despite the winged-inspiration behind the project’s name, the album’s narrative comes from an entirely different source.

“The name is quite divorced from the theme behind the album. One thing I’ve really got into again during lockdown is gaming, which I didn’t have time for previously. I’ve been playing Skyrim every single day so all the lyrics and song titles are places, events or people in Skyrim,” explains Serena, expressing her love of the open-world RPG. “It’s kind of melodically inspired by the soundtrack too, so the whole thing is basically an ode to a computer game!”

While Noctule has provided Serena with a different type of musical outlet, the prospect of Svalbard following up their universally acclaimed third album, When I Die, Will I Get Better?, has also been preying on her mind.

“I have to admit that we haven’t actually written anything since we recorded the album. Seeing the album being so well received has been amazing, but it’s also meant that we are starting to put pressure on ourselves in terms of where to head next because we don’t want to disappoint people who’ve discovered us through this album and who like that sound,” she admits.

For Svalbard, When I Die, Will I Get Better? is a huge step forward, the band’s trademarked hardcore heaviness being augmented by a series of more expansive and melodic elements. Asked about her current key influences, Serena picks out Japanese post-metal outfit Mono and French blackgaze outfit Alcest. So how do the band – who, along with Serena, comprise of guitarist/vocalist Liam Phelan and drummer Mark Lilley – intend to develop their sound further the next time around?

“The songs I like the most on the album are those that have those choruses with clean singing and the harmonies, the pretty guitar parts, and that whole post-rock, shoegaze atmosphere. I feel that’s definitely avenue that I’d like us to explore more the next time around,” nods Serena.

For Svalbard, the future remains unwritten, but Serena is keen to make the most of the lessons she has learnt in 2020 and apply them to the band.

“I think for me, personally I have grown more confident as a musician from writing the solo stuff and I’ll be bringing that into Svalbard when we start writing again,” she says.

“This year and lockdown has also taught me that you can’t always fight for everything to go your way,” reflects Serena. “You have to be able to listen to your honest self more. You can’t force things. It’s easy to look at all the things you could’ve done but, in the last couple of months, I’ve learnt to look at things that did happen. I’ve learnt to produce an album and I taught myself how to cross-stitch… which sounds really boring! I’ve also learnt more about exercise. And I didn’t know what a Noctule bat was this time last year! So I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve learnt to take the good with the bad.”

One of Svalbard’s most joyous experiences of late involved playing their first show since February, when they played a show at Blondies as part of our internet-dominating K! Pit series in association with Nordic Spirit.

Svalbard’s set will premiere on December 15 at 6pm (GMT), 1pm (EST) and 10am (PST) on our Facebook and YouTube.

As with all of our current series of K! Pit shows, the set was without an audience in attendance and in compliance with governmental guidelines. Since we couldn’t invite you along to the show, Serena and the gang will be joining us to hangout with you and to chat live during the stream itself. Ahead of that stream, be sure to check out When I Die, Will I Get Better?.

There’s also the chance for you to win one of 20 exclusive signed Svalbard posters. But that’s not all! Thanks to Nordic Spirit – the UK’s No 1 Nicotine Pouch* - you get the opportunity to win a hoodie and a rucksack full of swag which contains a beanie, a mug, a wireless phone charger and headphones.

Nordic Spirit are also partnering with Download festival. That means that during the course of the next few weeks, one person will get the chance to win a ‘golden ticket’ to attend Download in 2021. That ‘golden ticket’ will allow you and three friends to enjoy VIP access to the festival – camping included!

To enter the competition, you need to answer the following question:
What is the opening track on Svalbard’s When I Die, Will I Get Better?

Know the answer? Then fill in the form below! If you can’t see the form, head over here to enter the competition.

Nordic Spirit is a 100% tobacco-free nicotine pouch perfect for when smoking or vaping is not possible. You must be over 18 to enter this competition. Nordic Spirit products contain nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance.

Existing adult nicotine users can visit the Nordic Spirit site to claim a free sample.

*IRi Market Place, volume Share, Nicotine Pouch Category, Total UK, YTD to w/e 04/10/2020 - For more information or to verify, contact nordicspirit.co.uk/contact.

Terms & Conditions

1. The Nordic Spirit X K! Pit Prize Draw (the ​“Prize Draw”) is open to people:

a. aged 18 and over

b. residents of the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man

2. The Prize Draw is not open to employees of the Company and their families, the Company’s agencies or their employees and families or anyone else professionally associated with the Prize Draw.

3. To enter the Prize Draw, entrants must answer the question posed on this page.

4. The Prize Draw is open from December 8. The winners will be chosen at random and will be contacted by email by December 21.

5. By entering this promotion, entrants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by these terms and conditions and by the decisions of the Company, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of the prize. No correspondence will be entered into. The Company or its agencies accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or damage suffered through acceptance of the prize. The Company reserves the right to refuse entry or refuse to award the prize to anyone in breach of these terms and conditions.

6. The Company or its agencies will not be responsible for the non-inclusion of entries as a result of technical failures or otherwise, including any such failure which is within the control of the Company or its agencies. Proof of submission of entry is not proof of receipt of entry.

7. There will be 20 winners selected, who will each win the following prize: A signed poster and K! Pit rucksack containing a hoody, beanie, wireless phone charger, product giftbox (for those qualified), rucksack, mug, headphones.

8. One additional ​‘golden ticket’ prize will be offered at random across all K! Pit competitions which will run until Dec 20. This will consist of VIP access to the Download festival for one competition winner + three friends, and will include camping.

9. The winner of the golden ticket will be chosen at random and will be notified in written form when the posters and rucksacks are mailed out.

10. In the event of the festival being cancelled, no alternative prize will be offered.

11. Only one entry per competition per person (note: each stream will be accompanied by a new competition which can be entered into on each occasion). Entries must not be sent through agencies or third parties.

12. Lost or stolen Prizes cannot be refunded or exchanged.

13. The Prizes are as stated and subject to availability. There are no other prize alternatives available, except the Company reserves the right to substitute the Prize with a similar prize of equal or greater value if circumstances beyond the Company’s control makes it necessary to do so. The Prize is non-transferable and will only be issued in the name of the winning participant(s).

14. The prizes will be posted by Kerrang! to the winners at the address supplied by them on the entry form within a reasonable time following the announcement of the winners.

15. By entering the Prize Draw, participants acknowledge that the Company, and any agencies acting on its behalf, will process the personal data submitted by the participants (such as name, address, email address and telephone numbers) for the purpose of running this promotion; including displaying their name on scoreboards, administering the prizes and publicising the winner’s name. Except as described, any personal data provided will not be disclosed to any third parties or transferred outside the EU.

16. Under no circumstances will the Company (or its parent subsidiaries or affiliated companies) be liable (unless such liability cannot be lawfully excluded) for any losses, damages, costs or expenses arising from or in any way connected with the promotion or any prize connected with the promotion.

17. The Company reserves the right to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process.

18. The Company reserves the right to cancel, amend, terminate, temporarily suspend or withdraw this Prize Draw promotion in the event of unforeseen circumstances outside its reasonable control at any time. In such circumstances the Company shall have no liability to any participant.

19. The Company cannot accept any responsibility for prize warranties and guarantees. The winner must refer directly to the manufacturer in the case of any faulty goods.

20. The decision of the Company is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

21. Company: Gallaher Limited, Members Hill, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 OQU.

Check out more:

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?