More about: Susanne Sundfor
Heartache, recovery, the dancefloor - that was the journey that Susanne Sundfor went on to put together one of 2015's finest albums, Ten Love Songs.
With bittersweet lyrics and a rich pallette of cinematic electro sounds, Ten Love songs is a mini-Oyssey of pop via the gems of 'Delerious' and 'Fade Away' via 'Accelerate', 'Darlings' and 'Kamizake'. It covers love, loss, longing and lust but holds with the one thread that runs through all of it - Sundfor's knack of penning impeccable pop that swells the heart as well as sways the hips.
It's an authentic and human musical diary of an artist in transition. So to get under the skin of this immaculate listen, we met up with M83 and Royksopp collaborator Sundfor just after her epic London Koko show to talk about the journey to creating her sixth album, her strengths, her weaknesses and where she's going next.
We meet her in a relaxed and reflective mood - having just completed a round of acupuncture...
So, acupuncture - does that really work?
"Oh yes, totally - I always do it on tour because I always get very tired at the end of it and it's like an extra energy boost."
This may sound dumb, but does it hurt?
"Yeah, but it's just like a shallow pain. It depends what kind of treatment you want. The first time I did it I thought it might not be worth it. I was going to do a show and had three days until rehearsal and I didn't have any voice left, when I talked I was just whispering. Then I went to this acupuncturist, he put some needles on my throat and after an hour my voice came back again. That's when I became a believer!"
I might have to try that, winter is taking its toll.
"Yeah, you should! I would recommend it."
I understand you need that, your shows seem pretty intense. We saw you at Koko last month which was awesome.
"Thank you, that was so much fun."
And back at Oya in August too. We noticed that you seemed to inspire a bizarre cult reaction from your fans. What do you think it is about what you do that brings that out in people?
"I don't know about that. The best part of my job is when I'm on stage and maybe I'm not having the best day or feeling it the right way, then I see this guy losing it and making a circle around him because he's making so many dance movements and being totally in the music. The kind of music that I make adore or listen to myself is always music that tries to be anything but itself. That's what I try to do myself as well - that's my ideal and I want it to be honest and sincere and not trying to impress anyone. The only person I want to impress is myself."
With that in mind, do you ever let it play on your mind what your fans might expect of you?
"Absolutely. You can't isolate yourself completely from other people, that would make you inhuman. I guess to me, the most important thing is to be free - that's when I get the most out of life. Of course, I want people to be happy with the music but I feel that if that would be main focus, it wouldn't be true enough. It wouldn't be for them or the music. It's better if I do what I want to do."
Adversely, do people ever get the totally wrong idea about you?
"I'm very silly, and I'm the first one to fall on the ice when I'm skating. I'm Bambi! I'm very inelegant! If I get new friends they often say that they think I'm very serious, but I like to be silly."
So you are, just human?
"A silly, inelegant, human!"
That's one thing I like about the album. It seems as playful as it is dark.
"Yeah. Sometimes I think it's fun when things are not directly comical, but the way a sound works, or the harpsichord on a song like 'Kamikaze' and the organ solo on 'Accelerate' - I put it there because it gets so dramatic and serious that it almost becomes comic relief. I think when you read something very serious or see some very dark art it can give you a bit more human perspective if there's something that breaks with it."
It seems to go to the extreme of every emotion. Is that as taxing and intense as I imagine to create?
"This album is very dramatic, because I was basically going through my love life when I started it and it hasn't been a fun ride. I decided to write about it and it felt very intense to go through all of these emotions and then produce a lot of the album itself. I made it a very intense experience."
How it is to relive that every night on stage? Do you find it cathartic?
"If I feel it then I'll think it's sad, but it's what I do. I don't have any other choices. The music is my life, there's nothing else I want to do. Every musician comes to a time when he or she reconsiders their profession because it is quite intense. There isn't really anything we want to do anyway so we live through it. It can too much, but at the same time, it's me and the band - if we feel like we've had a great show then there's joy in that too. If you do a solo tour then that can be very isolating, there's a lot of doom and gloom."
You've probably been touring for about a year now - have you made any progress on your next album?
"Yeah, I'm working on it now. I'm writing a lot of lyrics and it's very cosmic. I've been reading this book that I lost on tour, I think I left it on the plane. What was it called? Erm, The Universe From Nothing, I think. It's probably the most poetic thing I've read, which is a paradox because it's about science. But it talks about how the universe started, and it's surprisingly easy to read, it's very mystic, entertaining and exciting as well. There's this one paragraph where he talks about stars and how the universe started with a few particles - a few small ingredients from the big bang. Then he basically says that stars have died for us. I thought that was amazing. We are all stardust, and that's..."
"I know! That's like Shakespeare or something! It also talks about how religions and philosophers talk about the Big Bang, but it paints beautiful pictures of the beginning of time and where we come from. That was very inspiring."
So you're getting more heavy and existential on your next album then?
"Yeah, always. It will be more of that. That's what it looks like now, but I could go in any direction from here."
And how do you think that will end up sounding?
"I'm on the waiting list for a new synthesiser that's very spacey with an old string reverb integrated in it. It sounds a bit like Jean Michelle Jarre. There will be some of that sound, but also a bit dry. I want to try and mix up some innocent romantic sounds with something very industrial and dry sounds. It's all in my head, so we'll see.
"This winter I'm going to travel a lot, hopefully take some nice pictures, then Spring time we're going to do some shows in Norway and hopefully Europe, and the US, but I don't know if I can afford it."
There's been some amazing music out of Norway this year. Yourself and Farao have released two incredible albums, and we're really excited to see what Slutface and Aurora do next year. How would you describe the music culture over there at the moment?
"Honestly, I think it's been very good since I started about 10 years ago. I think now Norway struggles with creating a network abroad. Maybe it's because Swedish acts were so successful that they just forgot about Norway, but now people are looking to Norway for new music. I don't know if there's a scene. It's a small country and the music industry is tiny so we all know each other and we all support each other. I don't know if there's a pop scene, but there's always been a great jazz scene. The musicians I work with are all Norwegian and there are so many talented people here - I think it's great that they get to spread their music abroad."
Thank you for your time, Susanne. I think I may go and give acupuncture a try on your recommendation.
"It's very good for the immune system as well. It might sound a bit far out there and new age, but it's not - it does work. You don't even have to believe in it."
I've been looking for a hobby.
"Great, and your new hobby is needles."
Ten Love Songs by Susanne Sundfor is out now
More about: Susanne Sundfor