Much like Ásegir, whose Icelandic hamlet boasted a mere 40 people, Kari Jahnsen, aka Farao, was born and raised in comparatively a city – a Norwegian village of 500 people, where they would play “really chavvy country music”. “It’s really bad!” she laughs. Which knocks our romanticised vision of lush green fjords, log cabins and folk songs for six.
That’s not to say that all Nordic music is the pits – far from it. “It’s dramatic, raw and genuine,” gushes Farao (that’s ‘pharaoh’ in Norwegian). “People say that I have that sound to my music. But it’s harder for me to hear because I am from there. So to me it’s normal.”
When we speak, she’s buried in the backstage hustle and bustle at Eurosonic festival in the Netherlands – a relatively fresh face, but nevertheless a self-assured one. Yet despite her current whereabouts, London is the topic on our lips – her new home.
“I find it easier to feel like I belong to the scene there, because the type of music that I listen to is pretty much all from the UK. It inspires me.” She pauses. “Though it can be quite lonely, I guess because it’s so big…”
Providing companionship on a recent jaunt to Reykjavik was Tunng’s Mike Lindsay, to co-record her self-titled EP. “I didn’t bring my band with me… it was really intense, and I slept in the studio as well,” says the multi-instrumentalist.
Songwriting inspiration, she reveals, came from Poliça’s debut album. “It’s a very personal album – about her leaving her husband for another woman. When you know that it’s really touching, and great.” Farao’s own painfully personal lyrics are woven into hush-hush layers of polar-capped guitar work and richly textured percussion.
And from one master to another: her debut album is getting the Midas production touch from Richard Formby, of Darkstar and Ghostpoet fame. “I’ve put away the acoustic guitar and only play electric now,” she warns, explaining how it’ll be a synth-led affair. Plugged-in or not, Farao’s fate seems sealed.
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EP Premiere: ‘Farao’
Clash is pleased to premiere the eponymous EP from Farao, released commercially on February 10th via Something Nothing Records.
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WHERE: London via Norway
WHAT: Melancholy, ice-encrusted indie-folk
GET 3 SONGS: ‘The Hours’, ‘Tell A Lie’, ‘Skin’ (all available above)
FACT: She has a debilitating phobia of balloons – “I can’t be in the same room as one without freaking out!”
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Words: Felicity Martin
Photo: Liam MF Warwick