Sea Lion's haunting, wistful melodies are like slow-forming crystals, carried by a waif-like voice with a whispered intimacy.
Following a successful tour with Turnstile Music labelmate Cate Le Bon last year, the charming Linn Osterberg, aka Sea Lion, is headlining for the first time in the UK.
Gigwise caught up with the Gothenburg songwriter ahead of her Monday night date at The Islington and the release of her debut album, Desolate Stars.
For a British audience, that’s maybe new to you, can you tell us a bit about your background and influences?
I’m not from a musical family at all. When I was a kid, maybe six or something, I had a tape recorder and I would record hours and hours of little radio shows, where I was the interviewer and also some guest star, like Edith Piaf, just like interviewing myself.
But it was a musical career rather than a radio career you wanted. When did you start writing your own songs?
Again, when I was young, I invented songs about different animals that I sang to myself on the school bus. I had about two hundred of them, and I would sing them on repeat, and everybody hated me! But I didn’t write proper songs, like on a guitar, until I was in my twenties.
Is this where the name Sea Lion comes from then?
Do see you see yourself as part of a Swedish folk tradition?
No I wanna be a rock musician. I’m not really making rock music right now, but I don’t think it’s folk. I don’t want to be called a folk singer. I want to get a band eventually, do some more distorted stuff.
How did your sound evolve? It’s very distinctive.
Maybe because I didn’t listen to music when I grew up, so I didn’t have that many references or influences. I never learned music by playing other people’s music. Perhaps that’s helped.
You’ve been compared to Kate Bush.
She sounds so theatrical to me. My music is a few chords, more of a monotone. Perhaps it’s the voice quality I don’t know. But I’ve never listened to her.
Your voice has also been described as ‘cat-like’, feline.
I have two cats, but that’s freakish journalism I would say.
Listen to Sea Lion 'Room' below
You record in your bedroom. I wonder how you get that depth of sound, that eerie space in your music.
Well I have the reverb pedal that I use. Supernatural I think it’s called. Everything is pretty close when I record. The amplifier is close, the mike is close. And I don’t have that many instruments. I just put a lot of reverb on the sounds that I do have.
One reviewer said that your ‘recordings are typical of a Swedish isolationist lifestyle that eliminates such things as small talk’. What do you think of that statement?
Yeah I hate small talk. I’m like a really introverted person in general. I think I would be like this regardless, because I’ve lived in lots of places, including Melbourne. Sweden is so cold in the winter, so people stay inside. But I do feel like a massive alien in Sweden, so maybe I would feel differently in a more open-minded place. In Sweden you’re expected to study and that’s very important, but I’ve never studied anything, you know. Then you’re gonna have a kid and I don’t want to have a kid. You’re gonna get a good job and a house and I don’t wanna have a job, and maybe I want to have a house, but I’m never gonna afford a house.
Is there anything you’d like to tell us about the new album?
Ok. What can we expect from it?
I think you can expect to get a bit depressed! It’s pretty mellow , slow and personal.
On stage those crystals swelled into swarming blizzards, and Linn’s disarming presence miraculously survived the mysterious vanishing of the set list and forgetting to plug in the reverb that is the alchemy of her atmospheric recordings. She could be a star in the making. Catch her while she still shimmers within reach.
Desolate Stars is released by Turnstile Music in August