White Willow

White Willow

Norway’s White Willow has a history that stretches back to the early 1990s. It was a meeting between two musicians that started the whole thing: In the summer of possibly 1992, guitarist Jacob Holm-Lupo, then a member of the Police/Bruce Hornsby-inspired pop band The Orchid Garden, and keyboard player Jan Tariq Rahman who was then the ivory tinkler of Duggvåte Dverger, a local jazz-rock/prog rock band, got together in Jacob’s living room to see if they may have some songwriting chemistry going. They did, and the result of that afternoon in the living room was the song Snowfall, written while the two were sitting on the floor playing acoustic guitar and clavinet.

So, the beginning of the band is simple the pinpoint – the rest, as they say, is history, but very complicated history. Line-ups have changed like the seasons, and the only stable member has been Holm-Lupo, with Lars Fredrik Frøislie (also of Wobbler) as his main partner in crime since 2001. The band got signed to American prog label The Laser’s Edge in 1994 and released their debut album, Ignis Fatuus, in 1995. The album got glowing reviews and became a runaway hit on the burgeoning prog revival scene – all unbeknownst to the band, who showed up later that year, slightly confused, at Los Angeles’ Progfest ’95, to an audience in the thousands. It was their second ever live performance, and the band was unaware that the record had been a success and that anyone knew who they were.

From thereon, the band formed part of the spearhead of what has subsequently become known as the Third Wave of progressive rock, along with other Scandinavian bands like Änglagård (whose drummer later joined White Willow), Landberk and Anekdoten. The band would go on to record – to date – seven albums, all of them hailed by critics and fans. Saleswise, the biggest success came with 2004’s darker and heavier Storm Season, which was a hit both with prog and metal fans and made substantial commercial headway especially in Continental Europe, gaining significant airplay in Germany especially.

In Billboard’s “Guide to Progressive Music”, White Willow was named “one of the most significant progressive groups of the current era”.

In later years White Willow has become a studio project exclusively, helmed by Holm-Lupo and often guested by prominent musicians like Norway’s guitar hero Hedvig Mollestad, or internationally renowned klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer. The band’s latest album to date is 2017’s Future Hopes, which featured a specially comissioned album cover by Roger Dean.

The band’s sound, while changing over time, is often centered around the female voice and an expanded instrumentation usually including a host of analogue synthesizers, mellotron, woodwinds and strings in addition to traditional rock instrumentation. The band’s stated influences include Genesis, King Crimson and ABBA. In turn, White Willow has been quoted as an inspiration by bands ranging from doom metalers Cathedral and Norway’s Enslaved to German neo-proggers Frequency Drift whose name is taken from a White Willow lyric.

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