Susanne Sundfør interview

Let’s face it: Scandinavians got their pop figured out. They know how to make it, well, pop in a lot of ways. But to make a certain project really stand out, an artist should go beyond the typical ‘ballad on the dancefloor’ routine. And Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør’s latest album ‘Ten Love Songs’ is a proper tornado. I may go as far as proclaiming this record my most favorite LP of the year so far. It has tons of nuances, emotions and surprises – this musical gift mixes Scandinavian folk music with the right amount of electronic glitz and keeps on giving listen after listen. Come for the glorious Bond-esque synthpop banger ‘Delirious’ and stay for the menacing ‘Accelerate’ (that features an epic organ part brings ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to mind), a bittersweet 10-minute-long requiem for a failed relationships ‘Memorial’ and a unapologetically catchy ‘Kamikaze’. And even though it’s Susanne’s 6th album, in a lot of ways it’s a fresh start for the singer that not only follows her previous dancefloor-ready collaborations with Kleerup and Royksopp but cements her place in the Scandinavian electropop female pantheon.

I interviewed Susanne for the Cosmopolitan Russia: read the Russian version or our original chat below. And do yourself a favor – go get that spectacular record.

What’s the story of Susanne Sundfør?

I started making music in my teens, got a record deal when I was 19 and have been releasing albums on a regular basis since then. My sixth album is out now.

˜’Ten Love Songs’ is incredibly ambitious and accomplished records. It sounds like it took a lot of inspiration and preparations to get all the layers, moods and emotions down. Was it a long and tough process? And what inspired you?

Thank you! It took about two years to finish it, but I didn’t work continuously the whole period. I travelled a lot and recorded it probably in ten different studios. I got inspired by the traveling, movies, music, life in general!

I personally hear ABBA echoing in your music. Was that intentional?

Not really, but maybe it’s a Scandinavian thing. We all grow up with ABBA here, and I’m a big fan of them as well, so probably subconsciously they’ve been an inspiration to some of the songs on the album. 

Scandinavian music has very distinctive sound and is always celebrated around the world. What makes you guys so talented and enigmatic?

The Scandinavian music scene is quite diverse though. The Swedes are the experts on pop songs and Norway has a big black metal and electronic music scene. Or at least that’s how I see it. Maybe we just get tired of all the darkness and need to do something creative instead!

We can hear a lot of the instruments on ‘Ten Love Songs’ from relaxed piano to 80s organ, from pulsating synths to some menacing drums. Was it hard recording all of this? And how did you decide that you want these particular sounds on your record?

It wasn’t necessarily hard, but it took a lot of programming and recording in different studios to get the different instruments like celesta, harpsichord, strings, drums and organ. It was the best part of making the album though. You have these midi-ideas that you have to listen to for ages while you’re composing and arranging, and then finally you bring it to life with the real thing and it’s such a high!

It’s safe to say that this album can become your international breakthrough (hey, we’re talking for Cosmopolitan Russia, so you get my point). But it’s actually your fifth album. For the listeners who’s not familiar with your previous records, can you guide us though the changes your sound experienced and maybe where you’d like it to go in the future?

Well, I’ve been in this business for such a long time now that nothing really surprises me anymore, so I’ll just go with whatever happens as long as I get to continue making the music I wanna make. My first album consists of songs I wrote when I was a teenager and are all in the singer songwriter style. Take One is a rerecording I did of the first album because I wanted a version that was completely unpolished.The next one, The Brothel, is more of a conceptual album with both quite acoustic and electronic soundscapes. A Night at Salle Pleyel is a comission piece with only synthesizers recorded live from the only concert I did with the piece. The Silicone Veil is maybe more electronic and bass-y. And then we have Ten Love Songs!

The album is very dramatic and cinematic. Should we expect some grand visuals from your live shows and music videos? Maybe even a musical based on the songs – about a couple of tormented lovers? Just an idea!

That’s a cool idea! I really like dramatic lights and visuals on shows, so as long as I can afford it I’ll make it as big and lush as I can!

‘Memorial’ is another obvious standout of the album. What’s the story of that song and how come you’ve decided to create this 10-minutes-long number?

It started as a ballad I made on the piano, and for a long time it was just piano and vocals. Then I wrote the string part and wanted it to be quite big. I then teamed up with Anthony Gonzalez from M83 and he added a lot of lush and beautiful synths and big drums.

If you were to create a soundtrack for a motion picture, what would you choose? It can be anything: from an actual movie to a made up documentary.

I don’t know about what kind of music but it would have to be a director who trusts in me. I’ve heard so many stories of musicians who make music for film who are basically dictated about what to write in the end, and I don’t like that kind of a work situation.

What kind of music are you drawn to these days?

I’m listening to Beck’s latest album on repeat. It’s just got so many layers of beauty and I keep discovering new details that just give me goose bumps all over. Fantastic album!

Russians are known for their love to all things excessive and dramatic (it probably has to do with our literature, theater and ballet history). Is there anything in our culture that fascinates you? And would you like to perform over here one day?

I read Master and Margarita not so long ago and loved it. I know there are a lot of cultural references there that are hard to understand for foreigners, but I still thought it was a brilliant piece of literature. I love Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. To be honest I haven’t read Dostoevsky or Tolstoy yet, but it’s on my booklist for sure!

Photo by Sofai Fredricks Sprung

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Posted on by Mikey Moscow in Blog, Interviews, Music

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