Interview Taken By Trees: ‘I Wanted To Make A ‘Feel Good’ Album’

Victoria Bergsman discusses travel, paradise, touring and seeking out that pure bliss.

Once the lead singer of Swedish super-group, The Concretes - Taken By Trees has continually been described as Victoria Bergsman’s solo ‘project’. But with her third album out this week through Secretly Canadian and a U.S.-wide tour in the diary for autumn, Taken By Trees is as much a ‘project’ as rock music was a passing phase. While her debut album still clung to her Scandinavian-pop roots and the second took an introverted Islamic sojourn, being half recorded and written in Pakistan; ‘Other Worlds’, has a truly a unique sound as it was recorded with the casual backdrop of the Hawaiian islands. This is the expressive guise of a person who has proven herself to be the most delicate of wallflowers as she discusses travel, paradise, touring and seeking out that pure bliss.

What led you to the style and feel of ‘Other Worlds’? Do you find it more experimental?
I actually thought my second album was a lot more experimental because it was a completely different culture for me compared to Hawaii which is somewhat ‘western’. In ‘Other Worlds’ I wanted to make more of a ‘feel good’ album. I wanted it to be warm and tropical and very accessible for everyone.

Your music always evokes everywhere other than ‘home’. Do you need to travel in order to write?
No, not really. But it has been very inspiring. I did used to feel that way, I travelled to be able to focus and recharge, you know. Travelling has been good for that. For this album however, I was drawn to the tropical and I was curious about the idea of finding a paradise on earth.

Is there any particular song on the album that encapsulates your experience of Hawaii?
‘Pacific Blue’ is the one that sums up my experience mostly through the feel and the lyrics. When I arrived in Hawaii I felt some sort of vertigo. It just made my head spin, you know. Before I got there I didn’t really know how far away it was. It’s just this tiny island in the middle nowhere, so far away.

Hawaii is pretty americanised. How did you manage to get to the heart of the native culture of the islands?
Yes, it is quite americanised. Everywhere you go it’s like one big tourist resort. But if you find someone from the area to take you around, like I had a friend who was born there, you get to see the other side that not many people know.

Nowadays, dub is the new pop and it laces your album like gold. Was this your own doing or your producer, Henning?
Well. I was just adding things and Henning liked it and he played around and added a few bits too. He’s amazing. The sound just came naturally. Henning and I both got the same ‘dub feeling’ I suppose. It all added to the island feel.

You mentioned in an interview you did in New York that you were intrigued with how Sufi music could place people in a trance, did you pick up any other tips for ‘Other Worlds’?
Um, yes. But what I did learn from the trip was more of a sense of relaxation, acceptance and harmony. Finding that pure bliss.

In an interview with DIY back in 2007 you said you didn’t like touring much, 5 years on – how do you feel about it now?
Yea. It is a drag, but I’ll do it. I’m excited to see Jens. I’m looking forward to playing new songs. But all the travelling, and the fuss and the stress - that’s what I’m not looking forward to. But it depends on the crowd and how I’m feeling or if I’ve had good sleep.

How do you plan on achieving the same tropical, luau-tinged, raining-on-the-window-pane sound for the live sets during your autumn U.S. tour with Jens Lekman?
Actually, I was rehearsing earlier tonight. And we’re getting closer to some of the sounds from the album. This time, lots of the sounds we are making live. So definitely, it will be different from the recorded songs. But that’s what is good - for the live show to be different from the album. A new experience in all.

What musical crossover do you think you have with Jens?
During the tour I hope they will like me at least a little bit! I’m very good friends with Jens but we’re quite opposite. He’s quite entertaining and outgoing. I’m quite shy and introvert. I try to focus up there on stage and kind of hoping I’ll survive, ha! But for the both of us rhythms are very important and hopefully the audience will see that.

When do you know a song is made for Swedish and another for English? For example, on your last album ‘Tidens Gang’ was your only Swedish song.
For that song, I started singing and it just came out in Swedish. I don’t think about it. All my songs are usually in English so it is rare for it to be in Swedish. Writing lyrics in Swedish is tricky as Swedish doesn’t go well rhythmically with the music I am writing, or for most pop music for that matter.

Does this mean the Swedish songs are more personal?
Yes. When singing in Swedish it’s more personal definitely. More emotional. More complex.

Throughout your musical history, you have drawn upon Scandinavian pop, American beats, Pakistan’s Sufi instrumentation and Hawaiian tropical rhythms. Do you know where you’re going next?
No, I couldn’t tell you yet.

Taken By Trees’ new album ‘Other Worlds’ is out now via Secretly Canadian.

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