“I think that the most common mistake when you make music is like when you make a sad song and sing ‘I’m so terribly miserable’ in it. It often gets to be too much.”–Karin Dreijer Andersson
Ominous, effective, uplifting, vibrant, elegiacal, anxious: such are a few words that only begin to describe the dramatic intensity of the songs of Fever Ray, the latest solo project from The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson. With its stark, chiaroscuro interplay between darkness and light, the album unfolds slowly, as a profound dream that’s remembered bit by bit, which makes sense since Andersson sees the songs as having come out of the mysterious world of her subconscious.
After touring incessantly for The Knife’s Silent Shout album and taking time off to have a child, Andersson put aside some months to compose a batch of songs inspired partly by her daydreams, and to be released under her solo moniker, Fever Ray. Half of her work was then fine-tuned by The Knife’s mixer Christoffer Berg and the rest were put into the hands of Stockholm production duo Van Rivers & the Subliminal Kid for a final polish. The resulting album, to be released at the end of March on Mute Records, is truly worth waiting for.
Do your more obsessive fans freak you out?
I don’t think so. I think it’s kind of the way that I listen to music myself, either very intense or bored, so it’s nothing bad.
As a new mother, you probably didn’t have much time to yourself, but would you wake up in the middle of the night and jot down ideas for songs as they came to you?
I kept notes in my head during the first weeks that I was home with my daughter because there’s no time to work or write or anything. But when her father took over (after about seven months or so), when I went into the studio, I had a lot to start to work with.
Do you start more with lyrics and themes, or is it a sound or vision that you get an idea for and begin to flesh out?
I started to create more of an environment or sound or something, and I always start with the music, finding the right tempo and beat, the core of the drums… the lyrics come in the very end. Before the lyrics, I start to work with the voice a lot and try to find what kind of character or sound the voice should have.
Do you go into different characters for different songs or do you feel like certain songs are more of a personal exploration?
I think both, because most people have different roles in their lives. If you take some of them further, they become different characters. You’re different when you’re home with your family or at work or something. I think all the voices are a part of me, and at the same time, I can take a step away and look at them from a distance. Some of them are still with me since I’ve had them for many years.
Since you’ve been writing music for ten years, you revisit certain characters?
Yes, I have a few that I return to I think. [laughs] I’ve had quite a few that I’ve abandoned also, but maybe later I’ll come back to them. Who knows?
So far, press reviews seem to be considering Fever Ray as somewhat darker than The Knife. What do you think?
I wasn’t thinking of making it dark, just having it all out in a way, making my ideas more clear and exact than before. I think “dark” is a very difficult word. I know some have written it’s “darker” but I think the album also has a lot of hope, and it’s a little bit more fun too [laughs].
Part of it is quite luminous. There are songs that seem to glow and are very comforting, that draw you in.
I think it’s very important for an album to contain parts like that because if you feel like everything is black, then it doesn’t relate to anything else. The darker parts get even darker if you have the brighter moments.
Tell me a bit about your first video for the album, for the song “If I Had a Heart”:
This one was made by Andreas Nilsson who I’ve known for a very long time. He’s done a lot of nice videos. I’m very confident in what he’s doing, but at the same time, I’m very interested in the visual parts. We have a lot of discussions, like talking about the color of the rabbit in the video [laughs]. They are very detailed things that can be very important. I think I’m more into the details, like ‘now I will wear that color’, since I think it gets better if I leave the interpretation of the music to somebody else.
That’s what you seem to do with your music in general, since your songs are thematically open-ended. You leave it to the listener to come up with their own meanings rather than being clear cut with your lyrics. If someone’s a fan of your music, they won’t tire easily of your songs.
When you work with lyrics, especially, that is the hardest thing in music. It’s so easy to kill the possibility of making your own ideas with the words, when listening to music. It’s very important to me to leave it as open as possible, not telling too much. I think that the most common mistake when you make music is like when you make a sad song and sing ‘I’m so terribly miserable’ in it. It often gets to be too much.
Do you find yourself editing down constantly to distance yourself more inside your lyrics?
Yes, I try to come up with different words and it’s very much about adding and removing for a very long time.
You probably do that for the music as well, adding sounds and taking some away to make it more stark in certain parts?
Absolutely. It’s a really slow process I think.
These ten songs took how long to finish?
Hmmm… [laughs, after a pause] Well, in the end, I got some help with the production part. Before I found these guys who wanted to work with me [Stockholm production team Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid] I was thinking of deleting everything because I couldn’t really finalize it. In all, it took around thirteen months, maybe that’s not so long. But I worked from around 8 until 4 every day. It’s quite a long time I think, and it was very intense.
Did you feel euphoric once you got it off your plate and finished?
Yes! I should drink some champagne or something but I haven’t had any time [laughs]. I will maybe do it at the release party.
Do you look forward to touring with this album?
Yes, I already put together a band. We’ve actually booked a Scandinavian tour at the end of March. We’ll start here around Stockholm and hopefully take it further during spring and summer, and hopefully to the States as well.–Madeline Virbasius-Walsh
19 March – Norway, Oslo, Parkteatern – Tickets
20 March – Sweden, Malmö, Babel – Tickets
21 March – Sweden, Götenburg, Storan – Tickets
22 March – Denmark, Copenhagen, Vega – Tickets
26 March – Sweden, Stockholm, Kägelbanan – Tickets
27 March – Sweden, Umeå, Umeå Open – Tickets
28 March – Sweden, Luleå, Kulturens hus – Tickets
More shows TBA.