Dublin's Grouse Chats About His New Album 'Oslo'

Grouse is Dublin native Ronan Carroll, and the project serves as an outlet for his electronic, dub, and ambient-influenced productions. The music of Grouse is atmospheric and cinematic, a place where guitars, violins and brass instruments interact with loops, samples and synthesizers. This evocative mixture is blended seamlessly on Grouse's third full-length album, Oslo. Its eleven tracks range from jazzy work-outs to hip-hop influenced beatology to dreamlike chill-out textures. Oslo has spawned an accomplished live band to interpret its heady tunes and a beautiful animated video for the song "Aqua".

We caught up with Ronan Carroll to quiz him on a few things we wanted to learn about Grouse and his album Oslo, which continues to earn repeated listens in the 8DPromo office.

What can you tell us about Oslo? Are there any stories of its creation, or a general philosophy / goal that you had in mind as you started it? Also, why ‘Oslo’?

Grouse: Shortly after the release of {my previous album} Heads in late 2012, I had formed the Grouse live band. The obvious thing to do at that point was a more band-orientated release. That was loosely the plan but, between gigs, the other band members were often busy with other projects and, in the meantime, I had been working away on my own.

I’d been listening to a lot of instrumental hip hop and I was chopping up beats and musical passages, using samples in the MPC as a way of making beats, just messing around at first. It was a new way of working for me. 'Let’s see if I can do this.' It was an education. I wasn’t sure if I would ever end up releasing any of it. At the same time, I was teaching myself, on and off, how to play jazz (it’s a slow, life long pursuit!). As I got more into the recording, I started adding more of my own playing and some of the stuff started sounding like Grouse tracks. The other guiding philosophy was that I wanted shorter tracks, simpler ideas – one theme and out. It doesn't always have to be epic! Eventually I had about 14 tracks finished so I picked the most suitable 11 for an album. The name

Oslo was something that was knocking around my head for a while for no great reason. I’ve never been there, but I associate the city with jazz. I think I have some live recordings from the city so that must be it. Later I realized 'Oslo' was an anagram of ‘solo’ so it seemed to fit perfectly with how the tunes came about.

There is now a Grouse live band. Did the songs have to change and adapt for live arrangements?

Grouse: The productions have always come first, then they get arranged for the live band. The original intention was to do a record with input from the band, and that would have been a different album. In fact, these tracks might be the hardest to arrange for the live band. Right now, "Aqua" is the only Oslo track we play live. The rest of the set comes from the first two albums. That will change for sure though.

You are based in Dublin, but have also lived in San Francisco. Do the different cities influence your music, and, if so, in what ways? Do you think that the return to Dublin affected the sound of Oslo?

Grouse: That’s a tricky one. In spite of the global aspect of the internet, obviously the sounds you get exposed to change, depending on your location. Even more so when you’re crate digging! Having said that, musically, the cities are, in many ways, similar so I don’t really think the different cities have played a huge part.

I actually just realized this the other day … Heads was composed and recorded in five different home studios (we moved a lot!) but Oslo was entirely done in my current (very settled) studio. That might have had more of an influence on it!

What’s in store for Grouse?

Grouse: I have a couple of remixes in the pipeline that should see the light of day at some point. I also started work on the fourth Grouse album a while ago although I’ve taken a bit of a break to do some promo work for Oslo. I’ll get back into that shortly and hopefully get some more dates for the live band. We’ve got a couple of new people in the band and I think we’re playing better than ever …

You can listen in full to Grouse's new album Oslo on Spotify HERE. And here's the fantastic video for the album's closing track, "Aqua":