The sheer ease with which Anna Of The North tackle pop music feels entirely remarkable.
Yet this is a project that shouldn't - in all honesty - exist. A vocalist from Norway, a producer from New Zealand, the pair found one another in Australia, and against the odds persevered.
A combination as complex as it is entirely natural, the unforced creativity at work within Anna Of The North has pushed them to some astonishing heights.
Debut album 'Lovers' - out now on Different Recordings - is an enthralling introduction, a breathless fusion of pop hooks and subtle lyricism.
A multi-dimensional pop package, Anna Of The North's debut feels like the first rush of frozen winter air after a long, clear summer.
Clash meets vocalist Anna Lotterud to find out more.
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You and Brady (Daniell-Smith, production) met in Australia, didn’t you?
It was, yeah. I was studying there and he was a singer-songwriter, he had his own thing going on. We met at this concert, he had this little gig in a bar. We met there, and I got in touch via friends because I hadn’t really performed anything before.
I was jamming at home with some friends, and they tricked me into playing… so I played along with Brady. It’s kind of a cliché – we met up after that.
Was the chemistry obvious almost immediately?
The funny thing is that we didn’t really hang out in Australia. The only thing we did was talk about music stuff, and we just did that show… then I showed him stuff I had done, and he showed me stuff he had done. We were sharing things, all kinds of different music. We basically just talked about music! It was the magic of the internet that kept us together – that’s how we started when I was back in Norway. I got really inspired by travelling.
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It was the magic of the internet that kept us together...
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Actually, Australia was hard for me because I didn’t know many people there and I really wanted to travel, to start life over, in a way. The first month was hard, trying to start over… and that inspires me, when life is a bit rough. That’s when I get more creative, I think. That’s when I got really into music. Tthen when I came home the same thing happened because going back to Norway was kind of hard because I had met all these people in Australia, so going back I was really inspired as well.
I remember Brady put out this song that I really, really loved, so then I reached out and asked if he had something similar, and if we could do something. And then ‘Sway’ happened.
Was that the first song the two of you wrote together?
Yeah. It’s a really strange thing – me and Brady, how we met, and he’s from New Zealand while I’m from Norway. The fact that we met is just pure luck. I think we both have our different ways, and different things that we put into the music… and that’s what Anna Of The North sounds like. But we’re also evolving, and still getting better. I think the sound of Anna Of The North is always going to change and evolve.
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Did you place any barriers on the project when you started?
No, not at all. For me and Brady, we’d only just met and then ‘Sway’ for picked up, so it was like: well, we should start a band then. Afterwards we didn’t have any plan at all, it just kind of happened because we did ‘Sway’ together. After that we decided to just do it and he came over to Norway – we had no idea what Anna Of The North was going to sound like. Brady had never really produced stuff. I remember we would just sit in the practice room, it was more about just trying and failing for both of us.
I think the road from the start until now has been so strange – we’ve done heaps of different stuff, writing lots and lots of songs. Some of them became actual songs, others were just demos. And the sound has just found it’s way through working together, and thinking: oh, I like this. Just by doing it is how the sound came.
It all sounds very free-form, how did you bring the focus together required to create something like ‘Lovers’?
We were just like: OK, let’s try this and see what happens. That was what both of us wanted to do. But also, the music industry is hard, and after ‘Sway’ it took us a lot of time before we released something new. From the start, we just wanted to make songs, and we took a lot of time over every song because we didn’t want to release anything we weren’t sure about. I think the only rule for me and Brady when it comes to writing, generally, is that we’re not really releasing anything until we both agree 100% on something. If not, we’re not releasing it.
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We had no idea what Anna Of The North was going to sound like...
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Where do you write and record together?
It was done mostly in Oslo, in the studio here. And then just at home. First of all it was just a bedroom project. We were bedroom musicians.
Is it important for you to be somewhere where you both feel comfortable?
I think for both me and Brady it’s been… Everything in this project has happened kind of organically, so we have to do whatever feels natural. It has to be a good vibe. So we’re often just sitting in a cafe, listening to music on our headphones. We did a lot in the studio, as well, so whatever feels natural. Wherever the good ideas come. And also, I remember when we met, and we started, we had all these thoughts, and we were just playing and making music on the iPad.
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The lyrics are incredibly insightful, how important are they to you as a songwriter?
For me, lyrics are really, really important. And I know a lot of pop lyrics are simple in a way but – for me – simplicity is the key to everything in life. I remember hearing this song from Wet, who are my favourite artists right now, and it said: “These days I don’t wanna be your girl no more...” And it’s so simple and it’s so beautiful in the same way. So yeah, simplicity for me is really key.
There’s this great sense of suggestion in a lot of the album as well.
Yeah. I think that’s because Brady is more into metaphors, and word play, so it developed between us. It’s what lies inbetween us.
Does that sense of balance come quite easily to you?
I think actually we are really different people, and we disagree a lot apart from when it comes to music. Of course we have obstacles of our own, but in terms of music we’re actually quite similar.
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You can’t force creativity, it’s just something that happens...
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‘Sway’ is three years old now, so how long did ‘Lovers’ actually take to piece together?
I think there’s a couple of songs on the album that come from when we first met, and then some songs Brady actually wrote before we met. So it’s songs from the entire journey of back when we met, up until now. There are songs from all different periods. And there’s also different parts taken from other songs.
It’s a very diverse record.
I like to think so. It can be hard to talk about our music as we’ve never really spoken about it. It’s quite personal, of course, but I find music hard to talk about because you can talk about one song – like we spent one year on ‘Dreamers’ - and then you have another song that’s done in like three minutes. You can’t force creativity, it’s just something that happens and sometimes you have to work on it more.
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I think for us it’s more about doing music, writing music, and finding what comes out of it. What other people feel about it and think about it… It’s beautiful that people can have thoughts and feel stuff about what we’ve done, but for us this is what it is. We let other people decide what they think about it, and how the songs impact on them. That impact is already there – it’s evident at the live shows, for one.
What’s it like to open up like that, and then have people in turn open up to you?
For me, the energy of the crowd is the most important thing. It’s such a lovely feeling having people be so supportive, dancing and singing along. It makes me really happy. And the energy is great – the more the crowd gives the better I am onstage. So it’s quite important, the vibe of the audience. I like sharing music, and seeing the comments you get online – I really appreciate that.
You don’t think about it, but right now there’s probably a lot of people listening to the music, walking around, experiencing something in their lives. Some are listening to it because they’re happy, some are sad… so when you think about that, it really makes me realise why we make music – because it actually means something to other people.
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The more the crowd gives the better I am onstage...
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The visuals have been remarkable right from the beginning, it all feels incredibly thought through.
It’s very important. Nowadays with the internet and everything going on there are so many decisions, and it’s really important to get everything right. It’s not only about the music, you have to be 100% everywhere. I remember the first photographs for ‘Sway’ we did ourselves, so it’s actually been quite natural in the way that me and Brady have been hands-on with everything from Day One, and that’s why we keep on doing that: it’s because we like it.
There’s no label forcing us to do anything, we’ve just always done what we want to do. There is a simplicity, though, that is really important. I don’t mean simple as in not caring about it, but getting those really good ideas. You know like when you walk and see something, and think: oh shit, why didn’t I do that? That’s what we’re trying to achieve, I think.
Simple is best, it seems.
And it has to be a good idea behind it. I mean, I’m living in Norway now and everything is so clean – there’s a lot of air, and a lot of space, and it’s all there in our art, in our graphic design.
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'Lovers' is out now. Catch Anna Of The North at London's Omeara venue on September 26th.
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