Interview Susanne Sundfør: ‘It’s Not Planned In Every Tiny Detail’

Danny Wright quizzes the Scandinavian songstress about her new record, ‘The Silicone Veil’.

On the 15th October, Susanne Sundfør releases her new album ‘The Silicone Veil’ in the UK. It’s an outstanding record that follows up to the critically acclaimed ‘The Brothel’, which spent 30 weeks in the Norwegian album charts and sold more than 40,000 copies. What’s more, in 2011, Sundfør received her second Norwegian Grammy Award, Spellemannsprisen, for “Composer Of The Year”, for her work on the album.

‘Silicone Veil’ sees Susanne take her own glacial musical universe even further. Yet it’s one that is also warm, full and complex. As many Scandinavian acts seem to be able to do so deftly, she brings together the hopeful and the hopeless. The complex and vibrant electronic music mixes with lyrics that often deal with despondency and the loss of faith. She summarises this neatly as “apocalypse, death, love and snow”.

Now, having supported M83 and recently played Notting Hill Arts Club, her hypnotising live show should see her repeat her domestic success on British shores. We met up to talk about how she creates the vivid imagery in her songs and her plans for the future.

How excited are you that The Silicone Veil is going to be released in the UK?
I’m very excited about it, and I hope it gives me the opportunity to come and do several shows there as well.

How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you before?
I would say it’s quite dramatic, elaborate, and dynamic electronic music.

A song like White Foxes is quite dramatic and theatrical – where do you get the inspiration to create that type of imagery?
I see a lot of movies and hang out with crazy people.

Your songs seem quite dark – is this a conscious thing or just how the songs come out?
It’s partially conscious. I always know what kind of sound or vibe I want to create, but I don’t think ‘dark’ or ‘funny’ or ‘sentimental’. It’s more complex than that, and it’s often more a feeling than a characteristic sound that I’m looking for.

Is it strange to be such a household name in Norway and having to establish yourself elsewhere – or is that an exciting opportunity?
It doesn’t feel strange, it’s more like a new start. Musically, I’ve moved away from a classic singer-songwriter sound to a more electronic and adventurous approach to my music. I would say that that’s the biggest change in my career. I’ve also taken more and more responsibility and control over my projects during the years since I released my first album.

What’s it like to work with Lars Horntveth?
Lars Horntveth is a brilliant musician, composer and producer. No one has taught me more about music than him, and I think that he has lifted and shaped ‘The Brothel’ and ‘The Silicone Veil’ more than I could ever have done myself.

Who (or what) would you say influences you?
I would say people and visual arts influence me more than music. I love the Pre-Raphaelites, Caravaggio, Odd Nerdrum, Tarantino, Kubrick, Von Trier, Alan Moore, Cassavetes, Cronenberg.

And how much do you think Norway inspires your sound?
I don’t even know what that means. Oslo is like every other European city, and that’s where I live. I don’t hang out with elves or trolls or walk in the mountains. If people wanna hear what Norwegian music sounds like, listen to the folk music.

I saw you support M83 recently – how was that?
Nerve wracking and so much fun. I’m a big fan of their music, so to do support for them was such a big honor, but also made me so nervous I was afraid I wasn’t gonna be able to go through with the performance.

It was a very powerful and distinctive performance – do you put a lot of thought in to your live show?
Thank you! A lot of the questions I get are about our consciousness in what we do, like ‘Why do you make such dark music?’ ‘Why did you put this bass line here and made it sound like this?’, or ‘Why do you write about foxes and death and snow?’, and all I can say is that I know how I want the music to sound like, I know what I want to convey, but it’s not planned in every tiny detail. A lot of it is improvised, both on stage and in the studio.

How does it feel to have acts like M83 and Maps praising you?
It’s hard to believe, and at the same time it makes me humble and inspired. Summed up, it feels great!

And finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m touring a lot, and I’ve just started working on my next album.

Susanne Sundfør’s new album ‘The Silicone Veil’ will be released on 15th October via Sonnet Sounds.

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