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Anna north rabbit

The minimalism and indisputable cool of Anna of the North

26 September 2017, 12:56

Anna Lotterud talks about the beginning of Anna of the North and the creation of a modern pop masterpiece - debut album Lovers.

BEST FIT: Your London headline show is tonight, how are you feeling about that?
Anna Lotterud: The last time we played a show in London was for our label, PIAS, and they had two other artists and we each had thirty minute sets and when we came out people were singing a long and at the end of the set they were chanting "one more song" and we’d never heard that before. I’m really looking forward to it, I’m always afraid that no-one will ever come even when we’ve sold tickets.

Anna of the North is a duo, how did yourself and Brady meet?

We met in Australia, I went there to study, I took my guitar and had a lot of alone time, big city, no friends, so that when I really started writings. Then Brady he began as a folk singer/songwriter and had his own solo project, he knew some Norwegian people that I knew and we were going to see his show. I’d played some guitar at the pre-party before we went to the bar and he suggested I should sing at the show, it was a really low-key bar. I didn’t want to because I’d never performed and don’t like showing myself off and was so uncomfortable singing and playing in front of other people. Then the bartender came up to me during the show to tell me it was my turn soon and my friends had said Anna was playing and they pushed me on stage. So I was singing a Kings of Leon song and my friend was holding my phone with the lyrics, then that’s how we met.

We started chatting about music, sharing music that we had done ourselves and without having a plan started a band and just released "Sway" for fun. Then we were like what the fuck do we do now? I had no plans in my life that I was ever going to do music and I’ve always loved music, I’ve been singing, writing songs, playing music ever since I was a kid. I actually applied for music school in my hometown, but I didn’t dare going to the interview and I didn’t go. It’s always been something I wanted to do, but I was just too afraid to do it and not be good enough.

It’s quite fun that I’ve ended up here.

How would you describe your music?
That’s the hardest question in the world, I think it’s so hard to talk about your own music and how it feels and sounds. What I would love to do is listen to our music without ever having heard it before and I think I could describe in such a different way. We spent so much time working on it, listening to it so much. I love the sound and the production of it, people say it’s kind of ice-cold and fresh, but I also feel like there’s a lot of softness to it, it’s like a warm hug and that’s what I want people to feel in a way. It’s a lot of bright sounds, happy sad songs that reach to all sort of situations. I kind of think we listen to our own music so much, we ruin the songs.

Do you ever find yourself hearing "Us" or something and being like "not this again" or are there any that you can still listen to?
If think my favourite one so far is "Lovers", I really love that song, so my friends will sometimes play that at after parties which is cool like that’s me. It kinda depends, sometimes when we listen to our songs we feel proud and you should be proud, because it’s been a long road and there’s a lot of work there. There’s also a lot of things I’d change with the songs, because we evolved and we’re a whole other level to where we were when we released "The Dreamer" and "Sway". But I absolutely love "Sway", because I feel like it was so honest, it was what it was, so honest, but I still wouldn’t change anything about that song. When it comes to everything as we change, I’ll probably look back at this album like that too, but I think that’s just a good sign and I like all the songs and "Us" has probably been my favourite song to play live.

All lot of the track on, and off, the album are about relationships, is this where you find most of your inspiration for writing?
So we write a lot about love, a lot about what we’ve experienced ourselves and what our friends have experienced or just talking to people and conservations. Sometimes an idea can from just walking around a seeing something, it can be anything that makes my brain want to make a song.

Do the lyrics come first, or melodies, the production?
Normally everything else first and then the lyrics, but it does depend on the song usually. Me and Brady were in the studio working on the production for one of the tracks on the album, I can’t remember which one now, but we had this line that had to rhyme and we were both singing the exact same line at the same time and it was so weird, the exact words and they became the lyrics. Because we’re two people and we both want to feel comfortable with everything and we’re both equal, when we want to release something, we can bounce ideas of each other, but I like the simpleness of lyrics, but Brady is more of a metaphor kind of guy and we like to blend the two.

Anna of the North

The artwork and Anna of the North aesthetic and branding is all extremely minimalistic and cool, is that down to you?
I’m actually a graphic designer, that’s what I studied in Australia, so I think for me, we have to be comfortable with what we do. It’s bring part of Scandinavian design to it, I love plain colours and that’s just who I am. Brady and I both take control of everything we put out there, I feel like that’s really important because nowadays it’s not just music, it’s also about the art, music videos, the entire package is really important. I love that side of things, I love the photos, I was always want to be part of photoshoots we’re doing and styling and stuff, I mostly end up styling myself, but I’ve also said to people I work with that they also challenge me, so it doesn’t get too plain and boring. I think I need to mix things up sometimes. I was doing a cover for a magazine in Norway, with this guy I went to some after-party with, it had to be a summer vibe and fit with the magazine’s vibe and then the stylist wants his image on it and then I want me to come through on it, but it worked really well and he was really happy.

I think it’s really important to find people like that who can challenge you, it’s good to have people who will push you, if I was doing everything myself it would never come off.

Were you nervous about the release of the album Lovers?
I’m super super nervous, of course we have some expectations, because we’ve been doing it for a while and want people to like it. I’m always negative about these things, I’m kind of thinking what happens happens. I never thought I’d put out an album, so it’s great. You know people work in music for such a long time and change names and try again and the only thing they want to do is do music, but they never make it. I feel so lucky because we just had this song and got a record deal, but it’s super exciting. I feel like we’ve done a rush of singles, but to show more depth of the project is exciting, more of who we are and not just the happier songs that everyone knows, but some more ballads too.

"Baby" is the only old song on the album, why did you decide to keep it?
For us this a new chapter, "Us" is beautiful, "The Dreamer" is beautiful and I really like those songs, but just Brady and his production from "The Dreamer" is so good, but we’ve now just grown so much and this is a new chapter. "Baby" deserves so much more, I thought that was always going to be a big thing for us. I feel like that song needs to heard and people need to hear that song.

One of our favourite tracks on the record is "Someone" can you tell us a little more about that one in particular?
The thing with "Someone" is that obviously the lyrics are "just need someone to save me" and "I’m only human baby". The main thing is it’s about drinking a bit, promising yourself you’re not going to do something and then because you’ve drank a bit, well you know the rest. Everyone has a couple of drinks too many and have done a couple of things they regret in the morning. For me, how I connect to this song is about needing someone to snap you out of the situation you’re in.

I went through this breakup recently, just when we did the album, and for me I felt like I was stuck between four walls, there was nothing more, nothing was interesting, everything was boring, I was sad and thought this world sucks. I was lying in bed, super upset, I just wanted to cry and didn’t want to ever get up from bed, until I was like fuck this, there’s an entire world out there. I could still be sad, but try to do something good for myself. I went out that night for a friend’s birthday, then I met a guy who just took me to meet new people and we went to art exhibitions, gigs and he put this entire new world in front of me. He’s not a new boyfriend or anything, just a friend and I met him randomly at a bar and we talked about my life. He was the one that I need to come and save me, it doesn’t always have to be love.

Even though the breakup was tough and sad, it’s probably the best couple of months I’ve had. It brought something back to me, I feel like I’m back, my personality is back and that’s what I put into the song. For Brady it doesn’t have the exact same meaning, but we’re pretty similar and he’s probably gone through similar things too, but not in the same way.

Broadly speaking you guys make pop music, who are some of your favourite bands that loosely fit into the dreamy, alternative pop genre?
I love Wet, Shura and HONNE. It’s so hard there are so many. Sigrid, Astrid S, there’s a lot of good Scandinavian stuff. I did an interview where I went to a record store to pick out my favourites and was looking for Wet. I think Kelly and I could have a lot of good conservations, with her songs I just listen to them again and again, I’m obsessed by it. They’re really sad songs as well.

What has your highlight of everything been so far?
Being on a track with Frank Ocean and Tyler The Creator, I think that. Also, the tour with Kygo, it was such an amazing opportunity. We wouldn’t be anywhere where we are in the world right now without that tour just because of how I’ve changed as a performer. We did 20 shows and I got so much more comfortable, now I’m like dancing from the first song. That’s been a really important journey for me. I went to Pukkelpop playing "Firestone" with him and I played for 60,000. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been able to do because of him. Also "Sway" getting picked up like that, was also a big moment for me and also when Blood Orange liked one of my photos on Instagram, that was pretty good.

I must say Tyler The Creator and Frank Ocean that's pretty insane.

How did the Tyler the Creator-collaboration happen?
They liked "Sway" and had played on the Odd Future radio station or something like that, we had some contact on social media, then they sneaked me in backstage at a gig they played and we just talked. Two years later they asked if I wanted to help Tyler with something, then Tyler mailed me and asked if I wanted to do some vocals and of course, of course, I think it's amazing how organic it is, they are truly artists and do whatever the fuck they want to do.

It's such an honour to be part of it, I've known for a while, but I was always until the day they were gonna release it, I was watching the countdown. Then they released this other song and I thought they weren't doing it, then I fell asleep, I was really sad about it, because I really wanted it to happen. I woke up the next morning and my phone had blown up, then I cried a little and we had a champagne breakfast.

Lovers is out now.
Anna of the North will play a Best Fit show in Paris on 20 October 2017. RSVP on Facebook, buy tickets.
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