Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #5 — Eivind Opsvik

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Eivind Opsvik, in performance. Photo: Antonio Porcar,

Bassist-composer and producer-engineer Eivind Opsvik – born in 1974 in Oslo, Norway, but a New Yorker for two decades now – has crafted for himself that most desirous yet elusive thing for a musical artist: a unique, instantly recognizable sonic identity. His soundprint blends the song-minded composition and creative studio craft of art rock with the virtuosic edge and spontaneity of progressive jazz. As The New York Times has said: “Eivind Opsvik has an unusual gift for writing small, poignant pieces of music. His melodic shards are strong, as are the chord sequences moving underneath; to a degree, the musicians take a subordinate role to the written concepts. This is no small thing: He has the distinction, in a time when jazz compositions are increasingly opaque, of writing catchy tunes.” As a bandleader and expert record-maker, Eivind’s primary vehicle has been his group Overseas, issuing its albums via his own Loyal Label imprint. The most recent release, Overseas V, finds Eivind tapping post-punk influences (Joy Division, New Order, Talking Heads) and the inspiring example of Brian Eno’s early avant-rock LPs – off-kilter tunes played by great instrumentalists. The latest incarnation of Overseas features some of the most compelling improvisers on the New York scene: saxophonist Tony Malaby, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, keyboardist Jacob Sacks and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Eivind has performed with Overseas multiple times in the Sound It Out series, including a release show for Overseas V in April 2017. In the series, he has also co-led the band Two Miles a Day with Jacob Sacks, along with performing as a sideman in groups led by the likes of Tony Malaby, Brandon Seabrook, Harris Eisenstadt, Vinnie Sperrazza and André Matos. Eivind will perform next for Sound It Out in Jeff Davis’s Holyoke quartet on September 28, 2017. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

I think it must have been a Miles Davis album – We Want Miles on LP, but then Star People was the first CD I ever got. I still love both those records.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

I’ve been thinking, and it seems to me that classic jazz albums are classics for a good reason…

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Meddle by Pink Floyd.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

The soundtrack to the movie Sing, which my 5-year-old daughter loves. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, as it has been on heavy repeat in my household… But I’ve also been checking out more Hampton Hawes recently, and his High in the Sky is great, so it’s probably one of the last full albums I listened to all the way through. Drummer Donald Bailey sounds so good on that record.

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Marie Antoinette.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

A recent concert I enjoyed was PJ Harvey at Brooklyn Steel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was a very good show, even if to say that it made me fall in love with music all over again is perhaps an exaggeration.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

Favorite: Village Vanguard – historic, great sound. Least favorite: Terminal 5 – no vibe, bad sightlines. 

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” — Plato

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Maybe Francis Bacon, but Salvador Dalí would be fun, too, or El Greco…

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Piano, music notation paper, computer.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

Vacuum cleaner (but also my coffee percolator – genius technology).

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

Tape Op, The New York Times, Jazznytt (Norwegian).

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Being open-minded.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

It may not be very original, but… Trump, not only for his narcissism but for bringing out the worst in people. 

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Perhaps Stranda, a village on the west coast of Norway (think fiords). My grandfather built a cabin there – I love that place. I also love Costa Rica, where my wife is from.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

I’m really interested in history so I would love the ability to time travel, just to observe for a day or so. For music, I’d for sure swing by New York City in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s. And I’d love to go back and see J.S. Bach perform in his church, The Beatles recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in Paris that led to riots… But all in all, I think the current time period is the most just and peaceful, although we have a long way to go and there are many frightening prospects. 

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

A bunch of art movies I should probably see – by Kurosawa, for example, but also French and Italian classics…

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss the magic of discovering and seeking out music before everything was so readily available online… And I look forward to time travel (see above).

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

I have to say the food at Cosme in Manhattan is pretty outstanding – contemporary Mexican. But I would definitely go for my wife’s recipe for plum chicken as my last meal…