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INTERVIEW: Jenny Hval Talks About Her Solo Work and Her New Lost Girls Project

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Jenny Hval live at Jazzhouse in Copenhagen

Jenny Hval has wowed us again and again with her inventive approaches to pop music and her ever-evolving live show. Her music builds multi-faceted compositions of subtle electronics, spoken word, and ambushes with soaring vocals. Her lyrics are an intelligent and humorous look at life, death, capitalism, and the roles of women in a weird and unpredictable world. Though she’s low key about it, she is also incredibly prolific, with the EP, The Long Sleep, released in May, a 12 inch single out as half of Lost Girls, and a new novel out in the fall.

Jenny talked to us on the day between a set at Roskilde with Lost Girls, her side project with long time collaborator Håvard Volden, and a set at Brorsons Kirke as part of Jazz Fest. She answered some questions for us over the phone while walking through Christiania (“I’ve actually never been here before. I’m walking around a bit, it’s really nice. I don’t know if actually saw the entrance. I just came in through some back roads.”) and shared her thoughts on touring as an income, the different aspects of productivity, and how both collaborators and visas have influenced her work.

What do you have planned while you’re in Copenhagen?

I haven’t been that much in Copenhagen. I don’t think I’ve ever had a day to go anywhere to see anything before. I’m always just playing and then going somewhere far away the next day. This time I’m here for a few days because we’re doing several things, so we have a day off. It’s really nice. Just seeing things and rehearing a bit for tomorrow.

We were playing a Roskilde set and then also playing a set with my band. It’s just a lot of preparation because they’re not so dissimilar but the band is a five-piece band instead of a duo when we play Jenny Hval concerts at the moment. It’s super exciting for me because I have a trumpet player and a saxophone player. I’ve never had that kind of band before. It’s really exciting but we haven’t been able to rehearse because everyone’s away on summer holiday. It’s going to be a little intense tomorrow, but it’s going to be great.

Is this the first time this band is playing together?

It’s only the second time because we had a show in Oslo originally, but it was new. Then we had some shows that were booked before I knew that this band was happening. We’ve done so many different things, actually, and this always happens. I wish I had a way to figure out how to book things so that we could do something that’s a little more stable, but things are kind of falling out of the sky a bit. Some shows are booked six months in advance, some shows are booked a year in advance, some shows are booked two weeks. And then the band changes all the time. We’ve done shows with a choreographer and dancer who is now seven months pregnant, so she is now resting. But she was with us and then I needed to find someone else. So it keeps changing, and it’s really nice, but sometimes it’s then also creating this weird sudden changes in line-up and what we do. And that can be eccentric. But eventually it’s always great. Just sometimes it’s a little too fast for me and we have to think for a bit. But it’s been really good.

I tell people to go see you live specifically because the show is always so different. A friend of mine saw you play in New York and then I saw you play two weeks later in Denmark and it was completely different.

It’s kind of come together that way because of visa problems. Originally we couldn’t bring a band over to the US because — this was several years ago — the band didn’t have visas. It’s very hard. It’s even harder now, actually, to get visas to the US. So I started working with some Americans that I also worked with for music videos. For a while we had this strange, completely different way of arranging a show when we were in America and when we were in Europe. It was just a practical movement but it ended up being very educational and really wonderful for me. I’ve brought the American artists over to Europe, that’s much easier with visas. I’ve tried to make people see both versions over the past three years, but it’s really weird how very practical situations make for huge changes in the art sometimes. I’m really grateful for that. Thanks American visa situations!

That might be the only time anyone ever says that.

Yeah, and I’m not really saying it. But I’m very grateful for the artists and friends I’ve been able to work with. They influence the show greatly. Everyone I work with will change the show. It’s not really about me changing things, it’s the situation changing. Maybe I’ve made the concept of what a concert is pretty open so that I’m able to allow other people to change it. Hopefully I’m contributing to that. To me, it feels like sometimes I’m doing the same show until we start playing and I realize, “Oh, these other people are now changing things so I can do new things.” It really is very much about what other people do for me. Credit to them.

Related to how people change the performance, the Lost Girls was a very different experience seeing you perform. Has the project performed much?

We’ve done quite a few shows and also we’ve done many of my shows as a duo, as well. Sometimes because we’ve been on a long tour in the US and we couldn’t bring anybody because we couldn’t afford it. Sometimes because people were doing other projects. That’s kind of the core of my show as well, with different material and a different set up.

My project and the Lost Girls we don’t really see as something we need to separate so much from each other because when we play shows on the Friday and on the Sunday in the two different formats, it’s really quite ridiculous to try to force a separation. What you’ll see on Sunday will sometimes be very related. We’re playing a couple of the same songs, too, but hopefully the experience of the full performance will be different or at least a new experience, rewarding in its way.

How do the songs present themselves in the recording process as belonging in one place or another?

They don’t. I think we’ve worked together for so long that the thought process just needs to be within the music. We haven’t actually recorded anything knowing we’re Lost Girls ever. We recorded two songs for the 12 inch we released, but they’re so old. When we recorded Håvard’s track, we didn’t even know it was going to be a collaboration. Originally he was going to release it under his name.

I had a track that was like a third of my show for two or three years, it kept changing a lot, but it was this moment in a concert that was very, very, very much a part of my solo project, but only as a live version. We couldn’t make it fit on any of my albums. It was just too old and to different, I guess, from the albums I was making. These two tracks were just lying around and we finally got to finish them and we realized it should be a collaboration because we’ve contributed to each others’ work so much that it’s more of a collaboration than a solo thing for very different reasons. I still think they made a really nice combination on the 12 inch.

We’ve never recorded anything while we’ve been consciously aware of having a project. This will happen hopefully in the future. Not sure when. But it might or might not contain any of the stuff we’re doing now. We still haven’t figured out quite how we exist in a recording type thing.

You’ve created so much work in the last few years and it seems like you’re always on tour. What is your process that allows you to produce as much as you do while touring?

The reason why I can be productive is partly because of Norwegian funding. Because I can afford to do the touring. People say that the touring is an income, but it’s not for me and a lot of other artists unless you scale things down a lot to the bare bones or you have some kind of security net, which I do have, because I’m so lucky I’m Norwegian and I’ve been able to get touring grants and other grants for my work. That’s how I can focus on working. I don’t have to go back to a day job when I come back from a tour to fund the next tour.

But I think that I’m productive because I feel like I have to tour. I love playing shows but I’m very much of two minds about the need to be so visible. I think I have to compensate by producing a lot of stuff when I don’t tour because otherwise I’ll just die in a sea of visibility. My main work is not the traveling, my main work has always felt like the writing. When I’m on stage for that one hour when I am on tour, I feel like that’s the writing process. But the rest of it can be very difficult and tiresome.

That’s how I get energy also when I’m at home: I need to have a project and so I make a lot a new stuff. And I collaborate probably with the most productive person I’ve ever met. It’s very easy to get energy from other people’s constant ideas. It’s not about producing a lot of work, it’s more about this hunger for ideas and to engage with the world that I get from other people that I work with. The ideas and writing world around me is pretty rich, so I can join in on that energy also. I think for me it’s been easy. I also work really fast.

In terms of how you write or how you record?

I write pretty fast. For good and bad.

When I do write fiction, I’m fast but also slow. I’m fast to write a load of first draft stuff. Then it takes me a long time to expand and go really deeply into what I’m trying to say and create the rest — because I usually write down stuff and think, “It’s all here.” Then I realize, “No, it’s all here if I’m inside my head.” I need to go into an editing processes to make other people read what I heard in my head. And that takes a long time.

I envy a lot of people who do less. I think that there’s always a danger that being productive could also just be fitting in nicely with currently capitalist trends. The more you produce, the more you can be visible. At least for me it’s a way to be visible without compromise because — well, there’s always compromise — but at least then I have something that I’m proud to allow other to read or listen to instead of just being visible by having a scandalous Instagram. Some people are good at that, but I’m not. I struggle with the general visibility and accessibility. It’s easier for me to write and present new work than it is to tweet.

I know so many writers who put so much of their energy into social media because they feel like they have to even if they don’t want to.

I think that I probably would have produced a lot more and maybe bigger things if I didn’t have to do things like accounting and all the practical things. I probably do spend 50% of my time doing those things. Even if I seem productive, I’m also very productive — like everyone has to be — with all the stuff you just have to do. Because artists are forced into being freelancers and having our so-called businesses, a commercial business. Which means you’re trying to fit into something you don’t fit into. They’re very frustrating. But thankfully you can return to your art sometimes and get some other energy.

Just as you were saying touring isn’t the income source people think it is, there’s that whole unglamorous layer that people who receive regular paychecks don’t have a concept of.

Some artists, when they write about money, it’s amazing how much they know. I’m following a few and they write really great stuff about money because they know so much about the tax system, the interest rates, various loans you can get, the structures of how ideologies exist in the world. Sometimes that’s because of very unfortunate happenings, when you’re forced into being your own business and somethings goes wrong and blah blah blah blah.

So grant applications must be both a positive of that but also a different kind of time suck.

For sure. Also, in a country with a lot of grants, there will be some artists who do amazing work but they can’t write applications. Or they didn’t have the right education, so they struggle with being recognized. That’s a whole separate economy and world of recognition. It’s not like all Norwegian artists get those grants. Au contraire.

Back to what you were saying about writing fiction, do you think your novels influence the thematic nature of your albums? Or does your music influence your fiction?

I don’t know. I didn’t write Blood Bitch or Apocalypse, Girl in relation to any work of other writing. I didn’t write between 2012 and 2016 at all aside from music, and I also didn’t write those two albums thinking of themes at all. The themes were something I made long after I’d finished the album. But concepts and themes are not always something that’s planned. Sometimes the creative process is pretty independent. It’s unconscious. It seems so well planned afterwards because everyone reads the press release and the press release makes everything seem like it was planned. But don’t be fooled by a press release! It’s a treacherous little document.

All photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

Interview: Tacocat Talk Touring, Birth Control, and Powerpuff Girls

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tacocat band

Seattle quartet Tacocat have brought the raucousness of Riot Grrl back with a wickedly barbed sense of humor. The band, comprised of singer Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, drummer Lelah Maupin, and guitarist Eric Randall, rolls feel-good punk together with lyrics reflecting life for girls, whether that means periods, cat-calling, or childhood obsessions with horses.

The band records at a pretty steady rate. Their new album, Lost Time, was released on Subpop subsidiary Hardly Art in April, and it seems like the only interruption to recording is an extensive round of touring.

“We’re trying to figure out when we want to write some more songs before recording our next…anything,” says Lelah.

“You have to schedule the free time, too, so you’re not like, ‘Our next album is about what the back of the van looks like,’” says Emily.

Tacocat are as hilarious in conversation as they are on record. The three women have an energetic dynamic, often finishing thoughts and jokes for each other. Eric, meanwhile, chimes in occasionally, mostly quiet but clearly listening actively to fit in his own jibes. We sat down with them before their show at Huset back in May when, in addition to life on the road, they talked about ’90s TV reboots, emergency contraception, and why it can be okay to read YouTube comments.

You’ve been on tour for a month now?

Emily: This is actually our second. We had a US tour for a month, and then we were home for 24 hours just to take the flight to London. We’ve basically been on tour for two months.

Lelah: It’s becoming a little bit blurry. You guys were talking about Oslo this morning, and I was like, “Nope.” That was two days ago? I was like, I can’t remember two days ago. What was that?

But you give me the details and I’m like, “Oh yeah!” But you say “Oslo,” and I’m like, “No.”

What are some of the highlights?

Lelah: Every day there’s a highlight! Like Sweden was so incredible. We’ve been in Sweden twice on this tour. The people are wonderful to talk to and they treat you really well.

Emily: Shorndorf, Germany was really sweet as well, with food and nice people just being like, “what do you need! What do you need!”

Bree: It’s nice to be treated well when you’re traveling and so far from home.

Emily: The US is not like that.

Bree: The US doesn’t accommodate bands quite so well. It’s like, “here’s two drink tickets for bad beer.” Since we’re a little fragile from touring so much, it’s just nice to have. I think European culture is a little more respectful of art.

Lelah: We played in Geneva, Switzerland. We played this really big club that’s also a cultural center. Afterwards they were like, “Do you guys want to go upstairs? There’s a DJ.” There was a whole other club with a party happening. And I’m like, “Oh, a DJ. I know what to expect: Some dance music or electronic music.” Nope! We go to this club and the person DJing is 80 years old —

Bree: And he’s dancing like crazy to merengue.

Emily: They were merengue records from the 1920s.

Bree: It was exactly what you’d think of when you think of what an old man would want to party to. Everyone was dancing and having a great time.

Lelah: Yeah, it was amazing!

You write really hilarious, smart lyrics. For starters, “Dana Scully” —

All: Yay!

Emily: She’s my favorite.

Have you seen the reboot?

Emily: I have! Wasn’t that good. There were a few that were really good, I thought. Or just well-done campiness. They tried to cram too much weird stuff into the last episode, it’s like a movie.

Eric: That stupid Lumineer’s song.

Emily: Yeah, that was the most ham-fisted music I ever heard in my life.

Eric: Also, longer than the song actually is! They must have looped it.

Do you think it’s Scully or Gillian Anderson that’s the feminist icon?

Emily: I think it’s Gillian by way of Scully. Actually, I think that she made her like that, probably. Because I know that she was supposed to be a sex symbol, and even the very first episode of The X-Files there’s a scene [where] she’s running in the rain and you can see through her blouse. She’s an FBI agent and it’s like, “Hmmm white bra.”

Then both the writers for the show and I think Gillian Anderson were like, “Just make her smarter.” And she’s the smartest person on the whole show.

Bree: This is something really interesting that Emily told me about: The spike in young girls’ interest in science and law enforcement.

Emily: Yeah, it’s called the Scully Effect.

Bree: Because how many role models do we have that are like, “We’re quirky or sexy” — she’s just so straight.

Emily: They went into the hard sciences, and there’s a direct correlation to her character.

My sister wanted to go into the FBI because of Silence of the Lambs

Emily: That’s a similar kind of character, too. I feel like that sort of severe woman — or not even severe, she’s just not hysterical, which is usually how they put men and women together. Mulder is hysterical, she’s not.

Bree: I think that’s what made their dynamic so interesting: I know women with more Sully vibes, they’re always clinical about their thinking, rational, logical. That’s very much not represented like that.

A lot of your songs address serious subjects with a great sense of humor. How do you make a song about birth control like “Plan A Plan B,” for example, funny?

Emily: I think that’s just how we talk. All of our conversations about this kind of stuff are like — we’re not very serious about it together, or in real life, so it’s how we write songs together.

Bree: I remember, we were in class one day, and we were like, “Isn’t it funny that it’s called Plan B? What was your Plan A? Haha.”

Emily: It’s true! “Some guy who looked nice? I don’t know! Classmate?”

Bree: Plan A is, “He’s cute. Let me ask him out.” Then it’s like, “Plan B.”

Emily: You’re like, “There’s no way it’s going to be more than dinner — Plan B.”

That could be a really excellent advertising campaign. But then they tell you that you should just have it in your house, because shit happens.

Lelah: I feel like the only time it was ever in my house was one of my roommates somehow acquired —

Emily: Planned Parenthood would give you like 10 —

Lelah: I think she was going to make a mobile out of them. You know, one of those things you put above a crib.

Bree: There was a while I was going to Planned Parenthood and they were like, “Let me send you home with some Plan B pills.”

Emily: But they do it for every female, they give you two so if you live in a house with more than one woman you have like a gift basket of it.

Bree: But there was a while I was like, “My partner is a female,” and they were like, “Oh I’m just going to give you these just in case.” I’m like, “okay.” I’ve got so many Plan B boxes, I’m like, “Who needs ‘em? I got ‘em!” I’ve had people hit me up, though. I think they get burned out. They’re like, “You still got those Plan B boxes?” — “Yeah, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to go anywhere, just down the block.”

Emily: Dealer.

How did you end up recording the theme for the new Powerpuff Girls?

Bree: Some writers on staff at Cartoon Network were Tacocat fans, and then a lawyer called us and said, “Hey, the writers want you to do it.” He was really funny. They do mood boards, and they were like, “We want the theme song to be like Tacocat vibes.” He was like, “I didn’t know what that was. I looked it up and I found a meme of ‘Tacocat spelled backwards is tacocat,’ so I guess they want it to be like this vibe. I don’t really get what they’re going to do.” They’re like, “No, it’s a band.”

Emily: So we have a theme song now. It’s really funny.

Bree: It’s funny because their composer flew up and gave us sheet music, and we were like, “We can’t read that.” So we compromised. It’s a funny process.

Lelah: It was so weird. It’s the most professional thing we’ve ever done.

Bree: We’re a punk band. We’re not used to working with people who have composers giving us sheet music.

Emily: But he wasn’t used to us, either. He was used to studio musicians, so he thought we were going to be like — click track drums! It has to be exactly 30 seconds long!

Lelah: It’s the only time I’ve ever recorded to a click.

Were you fans of the show?

Lelah: Oh yeah. It’s a great show. It really is. We were in LA on tour, and they were like, “Oh you’re in LA? Wanna pop by?” So we met everybody and they showed us an episode before it ever aired. I cried.

Emily: Yeah, it was so good. It’s really well written.

Bree: I love the new show. The reboot is amazing, and it’s awesome to be a part of it.

Emily: We got to go around and meet every single person who worked on the show, which was nuts. There was one woman whose only job was to draw hands. All the different hands in different action poses of them holding things is all her. There was one person who does all the backgrounds, so she was just doodling, making a couch and a face. I can’t imagine how much work goes into that.

It’s all very high-tech, but they still had a ton of people on deck. I think that they didn’t want to disappoint the old-school fans either. There’s a couple changes to the way their hair ties are, the way their dresses are, and people were like, [gasp!]. It looks exactly the same to me, but as for those nerdy super fans —

Lelah: The day they released just the theme song, it was a YouTube video of just the intro, and we were like, “Oh my God, this is so exciting!” and we shared it, and we were looking at the comments, like you do — you’re not supposed to, but we did — and 99% of them were these really intense fans being like, “What’s up with that bow? It’s different. I hate the new bow!”

“Well, they don’t hate the song. This is cool.”

Bree: I was really surprised about the bow thing. People were losing their minds about these details.

Similarly, the outcry about the Ghostbuster’s reboot from people saying it’s ruining their childhoods.

Emily: You can have both. There can be an old one and a new one. You can choose and you can not even pay attention to it. You can not watch it.

Eric: But there’s women in it!

Emily: Women just aren’t funny.

Eric: Women ruin everything.

INTERVIEW: Natalie Prass

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If you’ve ever thought the life of a touring musician must be glamorous, Natalie Prass will be happy to disabuse you of that notion. When we met up with her before her show at Lille Vega back in August, she sniffled through our interview thanks to allergies and a mold infestation on her tour bus.

Though clearly under the weather, she was quick to stress how happy she was to be playing in Copenhagen. “The last time we were going to play here, our airline was on strike. We missed our show. We were stuck in Dublin for 10 hours at the airport when we were touring with Ryan Adams.”

Though Prass didn’t make the show, the audience still got to hear her songs. “[Ryan] dressed in drag as me and played a whole set of my music. Ryan’s drummer is from Copenhagen, so he came out and told the whole story, so people weren’t like, ‘What?’”

Only two days into her latest European jaunt, she told us about life in Nashville, her plans for her new album, and a Simon & Garfunkel cover she’s really excited about.

Where in the US are you from?

I live in Richmond, Virginia, right now, but I lived in Nashville before I moved back to Richmond for eight and a half years. I haven’t really been to Richmond since I moved there. I moved there in January, I kind of feel like I don’t live anywhere.

Your music doesn’t have a Nashville vibe.

Oh thank you! That’s a compliment! What’s so funny, when I first recorded this record, I didn’t know what to do, just graduated college, bringing my record to a bunch of publishing companies. They were all like, “What are you doing in Nashville? You belong in New York. We can’t do anything with you.” Of course, some of them were like, “Would you want to write some country music?”

I was more into the underground scene in Nashville, which is now really thriving. I’ve always been a stay-in-my-room, do-my-own-thing kind of person anyway.

What is the underground scene like in Nashville?

House shows are really big. My friend Laura had — it was called Little Hamilton — and she rented out this warehouse space in South Nashville where there’s nothing around there and her and her artist friends made rooms in the warehouse and held these big shows. That’s where Jeff the Brotherhood got their start. The houses have names and eventually that started to catch on. “I’m going to Little Danzig tonight,” and everybody knew what that was. That doesn’t really happen that much in Nashville, so that was special.

When I first moved there, I had no friends. I knew a couple people, but they were a little bit older than me. I played everywhere I could. I did a bunch of open mic nights and writers rounds. “I live in this city and I want to play music, what do I do?” I just did everything I could for a while until I got some traction. But it took a while, because I was in college, too.

Nashville’s really competitive. Lots of really bad music there.

How does Richmond compare?

There’s not really a reason to go to Richmond. You can go to the capitol. But it’s really diverse. We’ve got VCU there, so there’s a lot of artists, lot of public murals. Nashville didn’t have any of that. It’s kind of starting to happen in East Nashville, which is the cool part of Nashville, but Richmond has a great jazz music scene. It’s just really different. There’s no industry there, so if you’re a creative person you don’t have that hanging over your head.

You’ve been on tour a lot this year.

Yeah, it’s been crazy. I was in Jenny Lewis’s band right before this. She’s still touring on The Voyager record she released, but we toured before the record was released, playing all the songs, getting in the groove for that release. Then toured up until Christmas time, then the record came out late January. That Jimmy Kimmel Show, I was like, “Yeah, just book my ticket to Richmond.” So I just flew to Richmond, stayed on my friend’s couch, looked for a place to live, then went on tour. I feel like I’m getting to that point where I’m around some mold and I get sick. It’s getting to that point where we’ve been going at it so hard, and I haven’t really stopped for the last couple years.

Natalie Prass

Does it feel like a big shift since the album came out?

Yeah, I think we’ve just been playing so much since January, that I’ve just really started discovering things that I like to do on stage. Definitely more comfortable in my body and comfortable with the thoughts I have on stage. I like to have fun now. I kind of took myself a little more seriously — I mean, I still take myself seriously, but I’m more relaxed now. It’s really important to me to just have a good time on stage and not worry about little things too much. Especially stage banter; I think I’m finally comfortable with it.

But this is like a dream come true, because being in an industry town, I started to figure out what needs to happen if you want to release a record and you want people to hear it. I just never had the proper team or resources. That’s when I recorded this record with SpaceBomb, and it was on hold, I was like, “What do I do?” and I started getting super down about everything. So it’s a dream: “Oh my gosh, I have a manager and I have a publicist and I have a great a band.” I never could afford to bring a band on the road. It’s all these things that I’ve been hoping to have are now all happening and it makes things a lot easier.

It makes a big difference. I just didn’t know what to do, me, myself. And if you are trying to play the manager role for yourself, it’s not going to do anything. My life is totally different than it was before. Even when I was in Jenny’s band, it’s totally different. I get it. I was like, “Man, I wish Jenny would hang out with us more,” but now it’s like, “No, she’s so busy.” I get it now. She has a lot to do. She has to rest. I learned a lot from that tour.

When did you actually record the album?

We started in December 2011. It’s just so funny, because I feel like this kind of music — acoustic arrangements and stuff like that —  there’s a lot of it coming out now. When we were doing this record, it felt like electronic stuff was really getting cool. Maybe it’s all meant to be. Maybe my record wasn’t supposed to come out until now. Maybe people wouldn’t have been this open to it.

Has anything changed from initial recordings?

We revisited “Christie.” We wanted to do live vocals with the live string quartet, just to make it more open sounding, more natural. But I didn’t really rewrite anything. It would be more of an ordeal to do that, because we did everything to tape, and there’s just so many tracks in each song. You can always go back, but there’s just a point where you have to be like, “It’s done.”

Natalie Prass

The string quartet is what gives it such a distinct feeling, especially “It is You.”

Tray, who’s playing guitar with me now, was the string arranger. He did all of “It is You,” that was his thing. It was so much fun, me and Tray at the piano at the studio at the Attic in Richmond, when we were doing all the pre-production; he and I just playing through it and working out the key change at the end — there’s a very subtle key change at the end — just talking through it, and how he’s a huge Frank Sinatra fan. I was just so excited, because when I wrote that song I was like, “I wish, one day, it could be like that.” Then when he sent over the Sibelius midi string arrangements, as horrible as midi strings are, it was still brilliant. That’s still one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.

Are you working on anything new?

I am, slowly, piece by piece. Things will come to me all the time, and I’ll just record it real quickly. Then I’ll go back and work on it. Usually, how I work is I get into a cycle and I can’t stop. It’s like my writing part of my brain is turned on and I can’t stop. But it’s really hard to get into that cycle when you’re traveling. We’re going to have off in December and January, so I’m going to just write, and I can’t wait! I’m counting off the days. That’s my favorite. I like touring and playing and singing — there’s nothing like singing and playing with my band, they’re amazing — but I love writing, creating. That’s where my heart is for sure.

Have you played any of your new stuff live yet?

Just a few songs here and there, I don’t want to bore people to tears. And we don’t really have time to rehearse. Because I’m writing the song, and I’ll send it to them by email, but we won’t have time to rehearse it. But we worked out a pretty sweet cover of “The Sound of Silence” that I’m really excited about. We all kind of like that funky, 60s, swingy stuff, so it’s fun to have everybody put there taste on the songs. They’re a really good band. I only have a nine song record that’s out that people know. I have a lot of freedom right now. We mix it up, throw in random covers and new songs, I’m really taking advantage of how loose we can be right now.

So far this tour has been awesome. Besides the mold thing, but we’re figuring it out. It’s just so funny at this point. I’m like, “Oh great, things are getting better!” You’re in a van, and van touring is great, but, it’s also really hard when you have interviews or early load-ins. A lot of festivals we’re doing, we’re playing earlier in the day, the main stage but earlier, so we have to be there crazy early, so you have a shitty night, then you get up really early, and drive for hours, it just gets really tiring. So I was really excited about having a bus this time around so we can sleep while we drive. And it’s super musty and moldy, and it’s like, “Aaaaah! Almost! Almost!”

VIDEO: Joanna Gruesome Interview at Roskilde

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Welsh indie poppers Joanna Gruesome have had a busy 2015:  They’ve released a new album, Peanut Butter, original singer Alanna Mcardle left the band, and they’ve gained two new vocalists in Kate Stonestreet and Roxy Brennan. The new line-up played their second-ever show on the Pavilion Stage at Roskilde, and they answered a few questions for us before running off to see Nicki Minaj.

Watch the video below to hear their thoughts about the new record, nudity at Roskilde, and the genres of imaginary bands with pun names:

INTERVIEW: Jenny Wilson

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Jenny Wilson (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)

It’s ten years since Jenny Wilson released her debut album, Love and Youth, and to commemorate the occasion she’s playing the album in full from beginning to end at four dates, including Skuespilhuset on 19 April.

Jenny’s style has shifted significantly in the last ten years, and revisiting Love and Youth means looking back at a different way of playing, and songs that have been missing from her set for years.

We met up with Jenny at Harbo Bar in Nørrebro at the end of January to talk about Love and Youth, her creative process, and what she’s working on now.

Are you looking forward to the anniversary shows?

It’s going to be exciting. It’s strange when ten years suddenly has passed. It was just the other day I actually went back to that album and listened to everything. Because normally I never go back to my albums. I never listen to them. It was actually [my manager] Jessica who suggested — I think it was maybe six months ago — we should do something because it’s ten years, “Oh no, I don’t want to go back to that! Oh no. No, no no no.”

I was getting stressed, “Oh no, now I have to rearrange the songs so they will be more up to date to what I’m doing right now.” Because what I’m doing right now is quite far from what I did back then. But now I’m actually beginning to embrace the old, and I can see that there is a reason to do it as it was back then. The original versions. I’m going to that.

Are there any songs that you haven’t played in a while?

I’ve played I think three songs the last five years from the first album. The rest is something that I haven’t been in contact with for a very long time. But now I listen to the songs and I read the lyrics and I start to remember how to play guitar. I played guitar live when I was touring Love and Youth, and I started playing keyboard and piano with the next album, and now I’m just playing a bit of synthesizer. So now I have to learn to play guitar again.

Do you feel that your relationship to the songs has changed, like a different person wrote them?

Oh yeah. Very much. But what I discovered now when I returned to Love and Youth again is that I think the songs are closer to me now again than they were maybe five years ago. I was pretty scared that I would think the songs to be childish or just stupid. I didn’t find them stupid or childish, actually. It’s definitely another chapter in my life, but I still feel for these songs, I can still sing the lyrics without feeling ashamed.

(Photos by Morton Aagaard Krogh)
(Photos by Morton Aagaard Krogh)

I imagine you wouldn’t feel ashamed about listening to someone else’s record you loved from 10 years ago.

If you’re an artist or a writer or doing anything creative, you need to just proceed and go forward and not look back too much, because if you look back, you won’t make anything new. I mean ten years — pretty much anything can happen in ten years. When I wrote my debut album, I only had one son, now I have two. I was still so much closer to the person I was as a teenager, even if I was at the end of my twenties. But now I’m turning 40 this year, and my first-born son, he’s 13 and he has feet like this [makes hand gesture], and I have one more son, he’s eight, so it’s like, during these ten years, I’ve become a much more — I don’t know how to say it — a much more rich person, both in my private life and also as an artist. I think I have much more insight in life. I’ve been sick twice during these years, had breast cancer, I’ve gone through a lot of stuff that has really shaped me. I think I was much more loose. I was much more of a child still, even if I was an adult.

What was the writing process like for Love and Youth?

It was a lot of trial and error. I had to invent the wheel, because I was sitting in a closet in my apartment and I had to learn everything from scratch. I had a past in a band and we made some records. I’d been through the recording process before, but this time I did it in a completely different way. I learned how to program beats and to record. It wasn’t comfortable. It was far from easy to do it. That was also the challenge in it, that I had to. I had to twist and turn everything to find my own language and my own sound. I really wanted to do something that I hadn’t tried before. I was working very, very fast, just playing around with whatever came up to my mind, because I was so liberated by the feeling of being the only one in charge. I didn’t have to ask anyone for permission to do anything, no democracy here, it was just me. And I really loved that, so I was experimenting a lot.

But with the lyrics, I was much more determined to stick to one subject, stick to a topic, and I was working very hard with getting that universe together. Many songs had other lyrics from the start, but then I changed it, because I saw this theme coming up. I thought it was a very interesting way of working to actually have one subject that you have to dig deep into and you have to describe feelings and and situations from new angles. I really, really love to work like that. That’s the method I have been doing for all my records after that. I always search for a very long time for this subject.

What has changed about how you work?

I’m much more of a professional now. I don’t have to try all the spices, I know that I can stick to salt and pepper. For my last album, Demand the Impossible, I worked very much alone for a year to find my universe and to find the sounds and to find how to produce it. But then I actually worked with two other persons, my drummer and a real sound engineer. I’m not a real sound engineer at all. Which is okay. But I really wanted to do it in another way. Also because of speeding up the process a little bit, because it takes a long time to do everything yourself. It was much more fun, and I think I you can feel that there’s a lot more energy on my last record than the first because it’s a collaboration with other human beings.

I think in many ways my process has been the same in these ten years. I’m a very solitary writer. I don’t want anyone to interrupt me in the beginning because I need to find — I call it “universe” because it’s like I need to create a place. It’s like creating a map where you know all the streets and you know the language and you know all the dangerous parts, you know all the good parts, all the beautiful parts, and that’s what I do when I create a record. I really need to understand my little world. Because when I do understand it, I can write lyrics that come from a completely new angle. And also the music gets more original, I think.

You just put out an album last year, but are you working on anything new?

I have not started to record anything new at all. I’m in this phase where you think that you don’t have any ideas, that you think that you will never, ever do a record again, but I know this phase. I feel completely secure in this phase now because I’ve been through it so many times. This is the first stage of starting to collect material or ideas.

I’m working with Love and Youth, I’m going to rerelease the album on vinyl with a new cover which is a kind of pastiche of the original cover that an amazing Swedish artist has made. I’m working with the shows, I have to get into that old universe again. I’m also writing poetry. I’m trying to make a collection of poetry. We’re going to release Demand the Impossible in the rest of the world now. I’m going to make a video for a new single. I’ve started to direct my own videos, which I really enjoy.

Do you have a very strong visual idea when you’re writing?

Yes I do. That’s part of actually building this world. I started to do this when I worked on my second album, Hardships: I have a file on my computer where I collect a lot of pictures. On the file for Demand the Impossible, I found pictures of graffiti, deserts, things that actually matter to me. Maybe that’s not the images somebody else sees when they hear my music, but it’s still important to have these images.

Do you write music then lyrics?

I begin with searching for something, and that can go on actually for some years in the back of my head. I’m doing other things, but something is happening. Then I start to record stuff. Usually, almost every time, it starts with the beats. Then I make some kind of melody for the voice, but I often don’t have any lyrics. I sing in some strange English, but just so I get the rhythm and then I start to produce and compose the songs. In the very very very end of the process, I write the lyrics. Often when I just play around with words, it’s strange how actually, even if I just sing out of the blue, there’s always several words that I actually stick to because they had something to do with it. I didn’t have a clue when I just sat there and sang but then I could see, “Ah! Okay!” It’s a kind of puzzling.

Do you think the songs from Love and Youth will feature more in future sets?

Probably we will pick some songs in our two-hour sets. But you never know. I’m really looking forward to playing these songs again. They’re really good pop songs, actually.

INTERVIEW: Gazelle Twin

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Gazelle Twin

Photos by Amanda Farah

Gazelle Twin’s second LP, Unflesh, with its viscerally minimalist approach to electronic music and singular conceptual vision, has received a good amount of critical acclaim over the last few months, allowing the formerly Brighton-based composer Elizabeth Bernholz to tour widely across the US and Europe. This week, on the occasion of her concert at Vega’s Ideal Bar, accompanied by her husband, visual artist and musician Jez Bernholz, we caught up with the pair.

Gazelle Twin and Bernholz, Elizabeth and Jez, have much to teach the world in terms of touring on a budget. The couple manage to carry all their gear (one sampler and one keyboard) in a single suitcase, travelling from gig to gig across Europe by train. I get the impression that, for all its practicality, it is the romanticism of train journeys that fires up Jez. His own brand of electronica pulsates with a passionate earnestness, typified in tracks like “Austerity Boy”, which complements the more sparse and aggressive compositions of his partner.

It is difficult in retrospect to reconcile the energy and terrifying blanked face of the character prowling the stage in a blue hoodie with the soft-spoken and charming woman I interviewed only a couple of hours before the gig. Backed by glitchy and hard drum and bass lines, this embodiment of teenage violence whispers, breathes and chants, half thug, half shaman. The imagery evoked in her words can be clearly guessed by glancing at the titles—“Unflesh”, “Exorcise”, “Anti Body”, “Guts”—eviscerating and tortured, innards and fluids sprayed on a backdrop of cold, artificial sounds. Hidden within that alienation, though, are traces of some kind of reserved humanism. Where “Belly of the Beast” uses the sounds of supermarkets to evoke ideas of parasitic consumption, the haunting “Premonition” reaches towards a more pastoral mode. The human voice, altered or dry, singing or just breathing heavily, stands above all else on the record.

Though many have already pointed towards some fairly obvious influences on Gazelle Twin—The Knife and Björk perhaps mentioned most often—there is clearly something quite unique and personal about Elizabeth Bernholz’s music which merits close listening. So on Wednesday evening, over dinner at a Thai restaurant on Istedgade, I am keen to find out what lurks behind the character and music of Unflesh.

Gazelle Twin

What has it been like to transition from recording to performing this record live?

For this record it has been almost seamless. It’s quite easy to perform live because it’s so minimal, and there was that intention to strip things away, half thinking that I wanted to be able to perform it really dry, with a solid sound, and not to have to rely on any effects.

Was it more difficult with your debut album, The Entire City?

With the previous record, which I didn’t perform that much, it was much more difficult, because I didn’t write it with that intent. It was very sweeping, you needed a visual part to it. I never felt that satisfied performing it.

But now you perform live with Jez, what is that like?

Jez and I are married, and he kindly offered to perform with me. I used to perform with two guys who had their own projects, and it was always very hard to organise that part of it, to get everyone available. But also I’m just very anxious, and performing is quite a lot to get through for someone who is very sensitive, so it’s actually been very helpful having you [turning to Jez] just to have some security. Performing this way allows me to be more aggressive and play a role.

Does your approach to the songs change as your perform them more and more?

I haven’t felt the need to change much in the songs. I think we’ve to go a point now where we’ve done close to fifteen sets in this tour, when we’re starting to think it needs something else, something in the same vein, probably not a new song but a cover. In the past I’ve covered Joy Division, which is a bit audacious. “The Eternal”, which fitted into my older stuff. The most recent one is a Wire cover, “Heartbeat”. Credit goes to Jez for that. I always try to cover stuff that’s as different to me as possible, usually songs by men, rather than female-written ones. Prince is one.

“Premonition” has a very different mood to the rest of the record. Almost pastoral.

It’s just that one melody [sings it]. It has that medieval feel, it’s in lots of music, especially choral music—the bedrock of all my music—and then transitioned into folk music. But it’s not really anywhere else on the record.

Are you ever surprised by your work?

I never thought I’d be doing spoken word—or “rapping”, if you want to call it that. If you’d told me that two years ago I’d have cringed. But I try to do it as naturally as I can.

Is being natural important?

I like artificial sounds. I wanted the elements of this record to be very distinct from one another other: bass, drums, vocal, a background of choral vocals or synthesisers. I didn’t want too much synthesiser on this, or if I did I wanted it to sound like a human voice, and most of them actually are. I like the way I can affect my own voice. There’s an earnestness to the dry, natural voice, but I wanted to get away from that completely.

All the videos and promotional material for this album feature you with a pixellated face and blue hoodie. Where does this character come from?

It just comes from lots of childhood experiences, lots of memories that I unconsciously started to think about in the process of wanting to make music that was really aggressive. It’s all about school, displacement, being a young girl, really. There’s adult anger in there as well, but mainly it’s a teenage expression of anxiety. I just wanted to scream a little bit, which I never did at the time. But it’s not all meant to be deadly serious, there’s a cockiness to it, playful aspects which I hope come across.

And the hoodie?

Originally I’d wanted it to be a P.E. kit, but that would have been a bit weird, dressed as a child. There’s more room to disguise myself this way, and I’d had a blue thing going through my previous costumes. Blue is a bit of a school colour, a sporty colour.

As for the tights over my face, obviously there is this association with crime, this really masculine image. I always found that hilarious, butch guys with shear tights on their head. But it was just a way to blank my face out. I wanted to look pixellated. And it has this doll-head effect at the same time, so hard and soft.

Is it difficult to perform with that get-up?

There’s so much breathing that sometimes the hair of my wig goes down my throat. Really horrible experience, but I have ways of getting around that.

Do you plan on keeping the character for future projects?

The more I’ve externalised the character, the more I’ve thought “that’s it, there’s nothing more to say.” But I think there are still other routes to take it. My ultimate plan would be to stop touring the album and work the character into a graphic novel, so that the girl is a stand-alone character, existing beyond the music. I’m not sure the music is the fullest expression of that persona. I’d like there to be something that lasts and has a different kind of existence.

So which comes first, character or music?

The character came after I’d written most of the music. The music was just my experiences. It’s hard to remember, really, because so much is visual when I’m writing. I collect a lot of images and film, and sometimes I will just write down words and pick a word I want to write a song about. It always starts with a musical loop, or I’ll pick a word and imagine how it will sound. Or an image might give me a feeling for something to express. It’s a whole jumble, I’m completely all over the place when I’m making stuff. I just gather things, hoard things, just live with them for a while.

It reminds me of the kids I was scared of in middle school.

I wanted to look like one of those Cronenberg kids from The Brood. The P.E. kit was my version of that child.

Gazelle Twin

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