After two singles from this newborn band that rises from different projects in various genres, PROBLEMAN, an exciting trio from Trondheim, Norway, is now out there with their self-titled debut EP.
The band’s frontman and songwriter Mathias Østrem writes and sings in his native Helgeland dialect, as its spoken in the rural villages around the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway. A region not known for putting out music that operates within the emo punk genre best known from the latter half of the 90s.
In that sense, it is possible to say that Probleman is a band that is the only one of its kind in the world. An anomaly. An outcast. Operating in the outskirts of Norwegian Rock.
The lyrics revolve around the nostalgia and uncertainty from moments in time, which are unclear whether they are bad or good memories. They have been erased, forgotten, or hidden away, but are constantly remembered through the dawning pains of adulthood. Everything from the struggling thoughts of a 15-year-old kid with an oversized graduation suit, to all the choices of a young adult in the establishment phase. Probleman can perhaps be said to be a mature band that plays thoughtful, subtle, and melancholic music, but with youthful enthusiasm and fearlessness.
Probleman nevertheless joins a revitalized emo wave, which has washed over the indie world in recent years.
It is the millennial nostalgia that has begun to make its mark in pop culture, but now re-imagined and stripped down from the 2000s pop-emo wave to a more punk-ified, twinkly, do-it-yourself attitude.
But it was never a given that Probleman would end up here. With a background in reggae, hip hop, trip hop, electronica, and post-rock, the members have come together in the sound of midwest-emo. A perfect storm.
Guitarist and singer Mathias Østrem is the band’s songwriter. The band’s lyrical universe mainly revolves around his reflections and multiple hours with the guitar in a makeshift home studio, which has led to a huge library of song sketches. The debut album is expected early 2023.
Together with bassist Ludvig Rølvåg and drummer Morten Samdal, Østrem has been responsible for these first four songs that define the start of the trio. A band full of dynamics, full on drive and a taste for good melodies that sticks. The band has recorded, mixed and produced the songs themselves in their own studio. Here they have been focusing on creating effective and present music, with as little bling and circus as possible.
Østrem gives us some more detailed info about the songs, as we have to conclude that most people in the world don’t understand a native obscure Norwegian dialect. So to give you the feel of what Probleman is singing about, here is a round-up of the four songs!
Sand og leiræ
The lyrics to the EP opening track “Sand og Leira” came about after reading the Gobi chronicles by Norwegian writer Tor Åge Bringsværd, set in the Mongol empire of the 13th century. Which does not scream an emo-rock tune in any way. I often find inspiration for lyrics through reading. It’s not the book’s theme that gives the inspiration, but certain sentences, metaphors, and creative ways of expressing different emotions.
This one is filled with metaphors around light and dark, day and night, life and death. To me, it’s not clear whether the light is a positive thing and the dark a negative. Hopefully, the listeners (that know Norwegian) can interpret it themselves.
Huset du bodd i
I wrote the lyrics for “Huset du bodd i” last summer after watching a very boring documentary about the singer/songwriter Lars Winnerbäck. Even though it didn’t make me a fan of the artist I was thinking about his songs which have lots of words, many verses, and I guess to have that “Dylanesque” thing going on.
So I started writing the lyrics while I watched the documentary and ended up with 5 or 6 verses and a bunch of ideas for a chorus. I guess the song is about people I’ve known throughout life that I no longer know, but I still share a city with. Walking past their house and remembering what we did, where we would hang out, and what we talked about. You still know they are there, but some things come to an end.
Ke som e feil
Ke som e feil came about after a friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend. Still, it’s not a “break-up song”, but more of a relationship song. Dealing with all the typical emotions we all go through together especially when things are not going that great. Which is a natural thing. Like most of the EP, this was written during the summer of 2021, and to me, it felt like I finally found the sound I wanted with this song. Originally it was higher in pitch, which made my voice crack up so much during the chorus. The intro to this song is sampled from the Northern Norwegian B-movie “Piratene” made in the 80s about youth culture and pirate radio stations in Lofoten. Tells his son about the fisherman’s life and says “when you are out you want in, and when you are in you want out!”
Ludvig, our bass player said it best. “You know we are a band with people over 30 years old when you write songs about skin problems. Huæ mi means just “My skin” and uses my Psoriasis as inspiration for the whole song. Again, it can also be interpreted in a more metaphorical way. The red marks on my skin, the black thoughts in my head, the gray days that go by every day. The demos for this song were originally just called “The Neil Young song”, I guess because of the country-ish lead guitar on the verses.
Here are 5 gateway drugs that led the frontman to start Probleman:
Glass Beach – The first Glass beach album
The first glass beach album by Glass Beach made me fall in love with music again. It is the perfect love letter to everything music with constant twists and turns through everything from musicals to emo, electronic music, jazz, and punk. I love music where people seem to enjoy themselves. LP2 is being recorded now, people!
Free Throw – Pallet Town
Those days are gone is the first album from the emo-revivalists Free Throw and is a regular on every emo-revival playlist on Spotify. A friend of mine showed me “Two beers in” on YouTube with crowds surfing and yelling the lyrics with the band. “It’s sing-along-emo” – he said. I was hooked! Pallet Town has been a big influence on the guitar work on the EP.
The Get Up Kids – Something to write home about
I wish I could say that “Something to write home about” was something I discovered in my local cd shop back in 99. But, being 9 years old in 99, and growing up in a small village in Northern Norway it wasn’t until sometime in the pandemic when I watched the Pitchfork video “A brief history of Emo” when I first heard about this band and this album. Get up Kids is that perfect bridge between 90s emo-core and 2000s pop-punk.
Algernon Cadwallader – Algernon Cadwallader
Algernon Cadwallader is a mystery to me. A musical enigma. Every song is like a constant stream of new ideas where the guitars never seem to get back to where they once began. Just constantly shredding, screaming and suddenly there’s a clarinet and what the hell is happening now is that accordion? I love this band and all their albums are classics.
Falls – Egg hunt EP
Falls were my gateway drug to the Japanese emo scene. And what a beautiful drug it is. This song is amazing and was an important inspiration for “Sand og Leiræ”. Also check out other bands from japan like Haiki, ANORAK!, By the end of Summer, Kudanarai1nichi, Arigarnon Friends, Downt, Yard Rat, and many more.