Wednesday, January 12, 2011

[INTERVIEW] Lykke Li: "I feel very different"

Interview disponible en français sur

I had the pleasure to meet the great Lykke Li during her promo trip to Paris a few weeks ago. Hot on the heels of the release of Get Some the first single off her second album Wounded Rhymes (due out on February 28th), she was getting ready to go on new adventures around the world, including promo trips and a massive tour that will take her all around the world in 2011.

I had the chance to hear all of Wounded Rhymes, and while it goes on with the electonic melancholy Lykke was displaying on her debut Melodies and Desires, it seems like a breath of fresh air in her work. Stongly influenced by the context in which she created it (about which you can read below), the album manages to sound very personal and universal at the same time. I will tell you more about it closer to the release, but for now, here's what Lykke Li has to say about life, inspiration, what it means to be Swedish or the state of the current music industry.

Here's a Lykke-themed Spotify playlist you can listen to while you read the interview!

What's the direction you wanted to go in with this new record, compared to the first one?

It's not different. You wanna go further ; it's a progress, and a process too. You wanna dig deep in your emotions and on the second album you wanna go even further. It's still raw emotions, but I wanted to capture darker and moodier emotions.

In what context did you compose this record?

I had been touring for almost three years so I was exhausted. I needed to sleep, to rest. I had been in hotel rooms, on flights, vans for so long, so I just wanted to "be" somewhere. It was a dream and I didn't even allow myself to think about it. So I went to New York for a while but there wee too many people around so I thought I had to leave, so I went to Los Angeles and I rented this house for four months. Staying there, being able to walk around, to cook, smoke weed etc. was like a dream. Actually just to hang out, watch other bands, read books. After a while I felt I was done and although I was still exhausted, I felt the songs that I was doing, the demos, were very raw. I thought I kinda had to make a record : if I put the songs away I wouldn't have been able to pick them up again.

Have you been inspired by a very "normal" life?

My life was normal cause it was in one place, but a lot of adventures happened.

Did they feed the record ?

Definitely. And I was a bit in pain, actually. But most of the time something good is created out of pain. Somehow music fills me up with energy and helps me get better.

About the current Swedish pop scene, which sort of belong to…

… I don't, cause I only lived in Sweden part of my life and I'm never there. I'm an artist, and I don't think art belongs to one place. Art is for the kids of the world. I don't have anything to to with anybody. I record with Bjorn but that's it. You know for the last five years I spent maybe 3 months in Sweden.

I was referring to the adventurous, daring pop sound, embodied by Robyn, The Amplifetes etc, which I think you belong to, not the geographical aspect. How different from that do you feel, then?

I don't know, cause I don't feel like I belong to anything. I feel very different to everybody and I feel like I have nothing to do with them. I don't really know why I'm different. I just know that I am. But I think the reason why a lot of interesting music is coming from Sweden is because it's a very harsh place to live. It's so cold, so dark, people are so closed… There's nothing. Take New York for example. People come from all around the world because they have a dream, and if you look at history, there are so many people who came to America with a dream. It's a place for people with a dream, for stars, for prostitutes, for transvestites… Sweden is like… no emotions. Everyone is the same. If you are a bit different you feel so much like an outcast, so you go into your own world, you lock yourself inside your room and you start learning about the underground scene, you start listening to that sort of music (like Suicide etc) and then you start creating your own music. We wanna be like New York in the 70s!

As we were talking about other artists, are there any you would like to collaborate with?

Leonard Cohen. I don't know though… I'm not sure you wanna make music with the people you love. I would have love writing for Lee Hazelwood, cause he's such a great songwriter.

How do you feel about the current music industry? Do you fell like you fit in well?

I hate the industry. It's a sinking ship. It's just one of those things you have to deal with. I don't like being a part of it, I don't want to be a part of it, but I am, cause I'm depending on it. But I feel that everything else is moving but the industry is just stuck. Nobody buys records but they still want to make some… And I'm like.. "snores"… They're not moving quick enough! But there is a real chance for something to happen and for somebody smart to come in and do something about it. Look at what people have done, like Napster! So… I don't enjoy the business side of it and I try to stay out of it.
The people at my label, they give me a lot of freedom though. I wouldn't be doing it otherwise! I just tell them "this is my new record, I hope you like it".

As an artist how do you think you can have an influence on making things move forward?

I just try to stay true to myself and not change even though things are changing. I would love if I could create an audience, you know, so I'm not depending on something else. Who cares if my songs get played on the radio, if I have a hit single? If I have them I can make music directly for them, without middlemen. That would be the dream scenario.
I would love for things to be fast! Like, I record, print it, and then give it to people, sell it I mean.

This is something you can do with the social networks. Do you use them?

Yeah. With the last single we tried to think outside the box. We gave it away for free. And I go on these networks myself.
I don't use Twitter. We took the name so that no one would, but I'm not gonna be posting about the fact that I just had a cup of coffee… Who cares? I hate that. I write on my Myspace page though. I design the website, I decide what's gonna go on it. The thing we did with the lyrics of Get Some (letting people share them on Twitter and Facebook), it was my idea. We definitely try to connect with people. I don't care about anything else than letting people hear my music.
It's a shame nobody wants to buy anything, that means I'm broke all the time, and it also means that it's difficult to continue to do it because it costs money to make albums, so after a while, when you label gives you money to make an album and they don't get it back, they won't fund you again. When you make a video you depend on a budget for film, lights etc. so you need money to do things. I don't care about money in my pocket. But the problem is, if people are just going to steal all the time, how can you make another record? Then I'll have to work a day time job for three years to be able to fund a record. It is a problem, and I think people should be aware of that too. If they like an artist, they should support him/her in some way. If they don't wanna pay for the record, then should go see their shows. They should do something.

How do you feel about the fact that your music can be used in movies, tv shows, commercials, all those alternative sources of revenue?

I'm a hustler you know. I'm not a hipster. I don't care about a small group of people thinking I'm cool. I just want to make my art, without an influence. You know, I make my music in my bedroom. And then if a song is used in a TV show and I get paid for it, then I feel there is no problem cause I'm giving them something pure and they give me money, so I can continue making something pure. I think it's when you compromise that there is a problem. But if you don't, then it's ok. If you listen to the radio, there are commercials, and I think that's just the reality of the industry.
You know, I've already written a song for a movie (for Twilight). I would never do anything just for money, but if I believe in the project, if it's creatively engaging enough, if it means that I'm gonna open myself to new audiences, which was the case with Twilight, I go for it! I saw how hardcore people were with Twilight, they're crazy about it and they're so pure. They still believe in love, they're nice, so if I could just imagine when my song comes on "oh it reminds me of love", that's great. I don't care about the movie, I think it's "huh".

You said you'd like to have that community of fans around you, and that this community can be enough for you to live. One thing we know for sure is that it's really important to interact with this community. As you don't use Twitter and everything, I believe maybe you're not comfortable with being directly in contact.

I feel that the way that I communicate is through my music, and my films etc. And I'm being so personal, so if I were doing more, that would be taken it one step too far and I wouldn't be comfortable. I don't want to overcome that actually. I don't want to lose more privacy. I am not that private already and I think people should listen to my thoughts though my songs. I don't want to be saying things every five minutes.

Which is your favorite country to perform in?

People definitely seem to be happier when it's warm.

If you had to pick 1 song, 1 artist, 1 album?

I would make myself a mixtape, cause that's too hard! There would be Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen "Hallelujah", Neil Young "Such A Woman", Tim Buckley "Song To Siren", Neil Young "Only Love…".

What current artists do you listen to?

Bon Iver, Panda Bear, some Radiohead.

What are your touring plans for the coming months?

I'll be touring Europe in February and March, then I will return to America, then during the Summer it's the festivals all over the world, then America, then Europe, then probably Australia and then I'm hoping Japan… but I don't know they don't seem to like me over there!


Damian said...

Great interview!
How truly artistic Lykke sounds like and separates herself from industry. She doesn't need it though, it's industry that has to change for her, not Lykke :)

kb said...

Thx for the great interview. Questions that led to very insightful info.
Keep doing your own thing Lykke! ps yes we had the free music versions yet my friends and I all bought your album at the Mod Club Toronto 2008, merch at the unbelievable fall show with Friendly Fires later the same year, merch again at the early 2009 show and at last night's Phoenix performance to show our support.
Support your bands, they are doing what they and you love.