s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

This has become the routine for the Ylvisaker brothers, known collectively as Ylvis, for the past month, ever since they became unlikely pop music sensations with a willfully silly if undeniably catchy song called "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)."

Over a thumping electronic beat, "The Fox" asks in pleadingly sincere tones why, if there are distinctive sounds associated with the many other animals in creation, is there not one for the fox? (As the lyrics put it: "Ducks say quack, and fish go blub and the seal goes ow ow ow ... What does the fox say?")

This week, "The Fox" reached No. 6 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, surpassing hits like Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Lady Gaga's "Applause." An equally mystifying video that features the photogenic Ylvisakers and other performers in a variety of animal outfits, evoking "I Am the Walrus," if it had been directed by Lars von Trier, has been viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube.

But even as the song continues to grow in popularity, and Ylvis is invited to perform it on American programs like "Late Night" and the "Today" show, it is becoming both a blessing and a burden to its creators — a propitious opportunity and a prank that backfired wildly. How much further, they wonder, can they take something that was never meant to go anywhere in the first place?

"This was the plan all along," the floppy-haired Vegard, 34, shouted to Fallon during a break in filming Wednesday. They were both dressed as foxes, and something in Vegard's voice suggested he meant the opposite.

In their homeland, the Ylvisaker brothers are jokesters with a loyal local following and the hosts of their own comedy talk show, "I Kveld Med Ylvis" ("Tonight With Ylvis"), on Norwegian television.

They made "The Fox" with assistance from Stargate, the Norwegian-born, New York-based producing duo that has also helped create hit songs for Rihanna, Katy Perry and Wiz Khalifa — except that their track, the Ylvisakers said, was intended to be bad.

"From a comedian's perspective, it would be much more fun if we misused their talents," Bard said. "We go make that song, we come back to our talk show and we say, 'Sorry, guys.'"

Instead, the video became an international phenomenon when it was posted in early September, racking up hundreds of thousands of views by the day and catching the attention of Warner Music, which had already signed Ylvis to the Norwegian arm of the company.

"The Fox" made its debut at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, helped by a revised ranking system that accounts for a song's online activity.

Warner was particularly impressed by actual sales of the song — about 75,000 copies a week, says Peter Gray, senior vice president for promotion at Warner Bros. Records — achieved without radio play or a costly marketing campaign.

"There are a lot of hit songs that people have put major muscle and campaigns behind, for months and months, that aren't selling half of that, or a quarter of that," Gray said.

On the strength of "The Fox," Ylvis was booked on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and at the iHeartRadio festival in Las Vegas last month, performing on a bill with artists like Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus. But what the band intends to do with this momentum remains an open question.

Gray said Ylvis could be challenged by "the perception of novelty, which I suppose allows people to pass something off as silly, as opposed to being taken seriously as art."

Such a fate, it could be argued, befell Psy, the Korean rapper who had a surprise worldwide hit with the song "Gangnam Style" (and the goofy dancing in its accompanying video), but who did not match this feat with his follow-up single, "Gentleman." But, Gray said: "I would say this: Once a name, always a threat. If Psy writes another hit song, or if Ylvis writes another hit song, the door is open for them." Though there is no current plan to release a full-length Ylvis album, Gray said, "A hit song changes everything."

For Ylvis, "This is a big chance," Bard said, but promoting "The Fox" requires him and Vegard to leave their wives and young children at home for days at a time, and prevents them from working on their Norwegian TV show. For the time being, Bard said, "We tried to push all our work on our colleagues."

As they made their way from NBC headquarters to SoHo, the Ylvisakers said they were satisfied and relieved by their appearance on "Late Night," where the house band, the Roots, had joined in on "The Fox."

Before that evening's performance of the song, Bard said, "We never rehearsed it, because it was never supposed to be a live thing."

Vegard added, "It's not like a story; it's just a bunch of animal sounds."

He said it was inevitable that enthusiasm for "The Fox" would wane. "You can't be amazed for an entire month," he said. "At some point, it has to level off."

Whenever that happens, Bard said he would be prepared.

"There might come a song about wolves from Denmark in the next week, and then, suddenly, we're off the hook," he said. "That's OK. Even if that happens, it's been fun."