“Inspired By The Light And The Dark” Clash Meets AURORA

Norway's striking alt-pop aesthete in conversation...

In a high-rise office block somewhere in England, AURORA found her first moth. It was tucked in the space between two glass panes of a double window, the waning winter sunlight warming the underside of its belly, just so. The scene in the way that I picture it: the room was vibrating with chatter, keyboards clattering with a certain nonchalance, the bitter taste of the new French Blend just starting to kick in. Without so much as a warning, label managers and production assistants were politely asked to pause their music industry-related discussion. From across the room, pens were placed down unanimously. Eyebrows were raised – was this a Norwegian thing? – and confused glances were exchanged from above desks littered with paperwork. The intern left to fetch another round of extra-shot lattes, the door slamming shut.

As far as AURORA was concerned, all talk of her debut studio album 'All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend' could wait. “I had to ask the record company people to lift me up so I could reach my hand down into the window and reach the moth.” At this, she grins the kind of grin you might see on a child caught stealing the last cookie from the cookie jar. With its wings folded back, her windowsill moth was a delicate creature; a body without a soul, which in her mind, meant that it was up for grabs. It would travel back home with her in a tiny glass bottle, the first in her collection of tiny, dead creatures. An “eternal treasure hunt” is how AURORA describes this game of finders-keepers. Five years later, fans would continue to gift her dead bugs. As with her moths, she would vow to protect them from the sunlight, knowing that one day, they too, will return to dust.

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It is another small miracle that we are chatting from across our shared European continent: AURORA in her hometown of Bergen, Norway and me from my childhood bedroom in St Albans, Hertfordshire. (‘Just outside of the M25’ I tell people when confronted. I’ll defend it till my dying day). It is somewhat unnerving to find that – turning her head to glance out of the window – her grey day looks just the same as my grey day. I’d pictured a scene out of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. “I like the dry days. They are filled with a nothingness. It’s soothing,” she explains. AURORA likes to be on land, to feel the grass beneath her toes, to feel a bit bored.

Us Londoners (oh, allow me) have an extreme aversion to interruptions and boredom: slow-moving traffic; train delays; calls gone to voicemail; events that seem to induce within a person a state of creeping unrest. Nights become restless, days pass in slow motion. Movements feel strangely off-balance, as if something in the cosmos has shifted, and not in a good, divine way. And so there is something strangely endearing about the thought of AURORA being coolly disruptive mid-meeting. This was back in 2016, mind you, but she continues to wear this attitude. I can feel it pulsing through my laptop screen.

“I find it hard to connect with the achievements of music, of my music” she self-corrects, cupping her face in her palms, staring at the screen intently. “The minute I release something out into the world, it is out of my hands and out of my control. I am very comfortable with letting it out of my mind. I’m busy working on my next step, my next album or single.”

It was on the trail of her next step that AURORA was pulled backwards in time by a rough and heady Northern wind. Age 12, she wrote the lyrics to ‘Runaway’ and released the track on her studio debut, All My Demons Greeting Me As a Friend in 2016. Like a butterfly, the beauty of this melody was caught only in glimpses before it silently drifted away into the ether. In 2021, ‘Runaway’ returned to the charts as if in some strange act of defiance. Amassing 40+ million views on TikTok in the #runawayaurora trend – big numbers as far as the Gen Z are concerned – the song seems to have taken on a life of its own, rooting itself in hearts and minds worldwide.

It does make sense that ‘Runaway’ could be a trend to people right now, AURORA nods at this suggestion, a small smile creeping across her lips. These are the absurd, mysterious ways of the internet, after all. Who knows how anything goes viral? An algorithm, perhaps. “I’m very aware that people may love something one day and forget about it the next. It’s interesting how the world just agrees. ‘This is what we love today, do you agree?’” she chides. “We all just nod back, ‘yes, yes, yes’. It’s funny. It’s like an experiment.”

Listening to her speak, her voice so melodic and charming (“I could listen to her speak all day” her PR wrote to me in an email, later that afternoon), a glimpse of AURORA’s sharp tongue is like a snake bite, piercing yet seductive. I’d watched the interview that she gave in 2019 with the Australian lads at triple J many times, revisiting it over breakfast as I scrambled around the house like a madwoman. I still adore the way that she runs rings around them, playfully subverting the interview context. It was my father who pointed this out to me, calmly stirring his coffee. “That’s something you would do.”

AURORA lives with no expectations of herself. She is fluid, constantly evolving and re-defining elements of herself, her personality, her music. To me, that sounds like the closest thing to freedom. “I like to keep the core of myself very strong in everything I do and make. That’s why it’s easy to explore all the fingertips of me.” These fingertips might as well belong to different hands. AURORA is very much drawn to the extremes. To her, the sound of heavy-metal (the force, the loudness, the intensity) has much the same sonic impact as the blended folksy-synth of Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’. Both feel like “a wall of force, a nature force”.

“As women, we are so diverse. We can be so much. People are constantly trying to put us in a box. You’re either this or that…” she muses, turning her head, blonde choppy layers facing forward. “Are you feminine or like a tom-boy? Are you sexual, or pure and innocent? Are you stupid and hot? Smart and geeky? They want to divide us and put us into those categories.”

“I love that I know for sure that I’m all of those things. I don’t know for sure that every woman I mean is all of them. But we can be everything. It’s fun to play around, exploring new things, but always keeping the core.” She places her hands on her heart. “That’s the most fun thing about being an artist. You have this extra freedom to evolve and change.”

‘Cure For Me’ is the start of AURORA’s next chapter. It is introspective and inquisitive, a more cerebral take on her “moody, diverse self”. It is also an exploration of sorts, a Tiresian venture into the carnivalesque. “There’s a big focus on history, and what the world has done in our history. The good and the bad. It is very inspired by religion, and the questions I have about religion. It is very inspired by the light and the dark. It is very dramatic, and sensual.”

“My next album is a lot about allowing yourself to be…” she pauses, her brow furrowing as she searches for the right words, “…to be everything! And to live a beautiful, sinful life.” At this, she grins a feral grin. I picture a moth swirling around a cigarette lighter. I still can’t shake that image from my mind.

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Words: Jessica Fynn
Photo Credit: Isak Okkenhaug

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