If Wes Anderson curated a Norwegian funk-psych band’s lockdown live stream tour - as oddly specific as that brief sounds - it would look a lot like the Orions Belte 'Scenic Route' tour.
Transport to another world on this ascending band's unique virtual tours. Plus an interview with guitarist Øyvind Blomstrøm on the idea behind it and what the future holds. It would be hard to argue otherwise while watching the band perform on top of a mountain earlier this month. The recently completed virtual tour of three beauty spots in the Norwegian countryside brings fans from around the world a slice of pixelated escapism.
Since basically all shows were cancelled due to the pandemic, Orions Belte wanted to do 'something else' for their fans. They planned a streaming tour, but instead of doing it from their rehearsal space or their living rooms, they went into the Norwegian nature and set up their gear. They took the scenic route to show people some highlights from the Norwegian landscape, while soundtracking the view with their own music.
Orions Belte are a three piece based across Norway, they could equally be named after the triptych constellation or the Norwegan 1980’s cold war action movie of the same name. Not that sparse soviet battlefields are exactly the soundscape which comes to mind when delving into the limited available discography of the four years’ young band...
But with a sound self-identified as “inspired by Nigerian 70’s rock, postcards from the French Riviera, Formula One races at the Monza track in Italy, and when Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali in the ‘Fight of the Century’” it’s already a heady mix. I spoke to guitarist Øyvind Blomstrøm - a modest social-distance of 17,638 km and 10 time zones away from my current home in New Zealand - about what influenced and enabled the tour and more.
“We (Blomstrøm, bass player Chris Holm and drummer Kim Åge Furuhaug) didn't really start out as a psych band per se. I don't think we ever really tried to go for a specific genre or style. But along the way, we developed our own style and that comes out as kind of a sound. That being said, we have been mentioned as psychedelic all the time so I guess it's a part of our universe. A lot of the guitar sounds are kind of dreamy, and we have a lot of open parts in our show where we don't plan too much up front, so it definitely has a free vibe to it. We love pop music and instrumental music from the 60's, so that is a big part of it as well.” ~ Blomstrøm.
The tune Joe Frazier from the 2018 debut album Mint already has nearly 2 million streams on Spotify, despite little discernible industry hype outside of their home country. Although they did manage to tour Mexico, the US and Europe in recent years. Check out the animated music video below!
“It really feels like everything happens quite organically for us. People are catching on to us via playlists and different channels and it just keeps on growing. Norway has a really great music scene. There's so many talented musicians and artists. Since we're so few in this country everybody kind of knows everyone. Some of us make a living as working musicians for different artists, and that's really great for getting to play with different musicians all the time and to meet new people and travel all over the country. Since the pandemic hit, everyone's kind of struggling, but at least we have a government that takes the situation seriously and is trying to pay people who lost their jobs in all occupations. I've been lucky to play a lot of small shows during the summer and survive that way.”
This year and in 2019 the band released a follow up EP and singles in anticipation of a forthcoming second album, all with a reliably lilting groove and musicianship. Not being able to play together in one room because of lockdown meant the band sought out a creative solution.
“Since we live in three different places we couldn't do it from home. One idea was to meet right in the middle of the three cities we live in, but society eventually opened up a bit more and people had to take their summer holidays in Norway instead of abroad. So we figured it could be a cool thing to visit scenic places and instead of playing for an audience, we would choose places we normally never would've played.”
Not only were the venues for Orions Belte’s three shows a film maker’s fantasy world in terms of their aesthetic appeal but the band wanted them to tie in with the way the pandemic has hit their home country across the board.
“All our stops are at small companies where people are working 24/7 to keep doing what they love. Everything from a bakery/camping site, an old movie theatre, an adventure group that carried our stuff on top of a mountain to a small farm and a cider brewery. All of these people are doing the same as us basically. They just go for the things that they really want to do without any safety net or options to fall back on.”
The band’s social media pages which have promoted the tour in real time also provide heartfelt travel recommendations for each spot: “The second stop on our Scenic Route is "Gamlekinoen", an old movie theatre in Voss. The cinema was built in 1957 and is virtually untouched since. Voss is known for its beautiful nature and great culture, which they combine in what is the largest extreme sport festival in the world. "They also have a great brewery, a fantastic jazz festival and some really nice bars.” they said in anticipation.
An earnest appreciation of one’s proverbial back garden is one plus point of the pandemic we can all get behind. You might ask yourself why you would shell out for coverage of a show you couldn’t attend in person? Without being able to smell the air or share some wine in the same way as before, gigging will have to adapt too it seems. In our new reality what Orions Belte have brought their fans is not just the next best thing, it’s one better.
The shows are also available to view online at
Words and Interview by Alex Warlow:
Photos by Orions Belte: https://www.instagram.com/orionsbelte
~ PSYCHIC GARDEN