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Nothing Personal

25 March 2024, 13:00

Norwegian trio Nothing Personal are all about contrast, using improvisation and sound collage to build brightly coloured song worlds that fizz with character.

When Solveig Wang bought Dorothea Økland a coffee on the first day of a year-long course at the Norwegian Academy of Music, she unknowingly opened a portal into what’s now known as the Nothing Personal universe.

Both from very musical families and sharing a background in jazz and improvisational composition, the two women became fast friends. Having graduated with a master’s degree in musicology, Wang wanted to go deeper into the world of studio production and signed up to the course to learn Ableton Live. Økland, who had been composing music for contemporary dance, had the same idea.

Speaking to Best Fit from the small basement studio in Oslo that doubles as the band’s HQ, they are joined by the third sun in the Nothing Personal universe, Thea Emilie Wang, who is often mistaken for Solveig’s sister but is in reality her cousin. “We can totally see that people would think we are sisters,” says Solveig, whose actual siblings include jazz artist Ellen Andrea Wang. “I’ve been your niece as well, remember?” says Thea, nudging her and laughing. “It was in a local newspaper,” she clarifies. “It’s so weird how things get confused.”


A proud Bergener who moved to Oslo to study, Thea says she never expected to become a musician until suddenly she was one. One of her first bands was a drum-and-vocal duo, but vocal cord injury meant she had to give that up and find a softer way to sing. “I never took that Ableton course so I’m the one with a lot of analogue pedals and they just have computers,” she jokes, explaining her role in the Nothing Personal trifecta. “Okay, they also have a lot of analogue equipment. I just feel like I need boundaries to be more creative. If not, I can get totally overstimulated.”

All three women have other projects on the go – Solveig in neo-soul octet FIEH, Dorothea as one-third of indie-pop band Klossmajor, and Thea as a solo artist and as a member of AURORA’s touring band – but with Nothing Personal, they wanted to create something totally different. Something they’d never really heard before.

Nothing Personal portrait

Partly inspired by a course that Solveig took with experimental vocalist and composer Sidsel Endresen (“a Norwegian legend, a genius”), the Nothing Personal universe was conceived as a safe space in which the trio could explore new things, no matter how impulsive or off-the-wall. “Sidsel had an assignment that was to make a collage out of song ideas and field recordings, and to be really creative with what we perceive as music and what we perceive as noise,” says Solveig. “I loved that assignment and I wanted to do more of it.”

Recording became more like white-coats-optional lab work, Frankensteining song structures out of studio jam sessions, live improvisations, found sounds and whatever else seemed to fit. That’s not to say that Nothing Personal can’t write a straightforward(-ish) pop song. They just mostly prefer not to. “It feels like we put a lot of things into a pot and stir it around,” says Solveig. “Then we never stop stirring!” adds Thea, triumphantly.

“I think it’s beautiful to have this space to learn and to try things out, to just be in the music, but it can sometimes be scary,” she continues. “It’s challenging too, because if you suddenly do something really cool you’re like, ‘How the hell did I do that and how the hell can I do it again?’” “Yeah, there are some side effects,” says Solveig, laughing. “We can’t go into all of them,” adds Dorothea with an audible wink.


The name Nothing Personal came to Solveig while reading an article on how we tend to form a greater connection with an imperfect human voice than to an auto-tuned or robotic sounding voice. “I was interested in the duality of that, because auto-tuned vocals can also be really touching, even if the sound is perceived as not personal,” she says. “We’ve actually had a lot of people crying at shows when we play the songs with autotune and clarinet,” Thea adds proudly.

Listening to Nothing Personal is to sample a tasting menu of unexpected pairings of sounds and textures. There’s a reason they titled their 2022 debut The Alchemy of Nothing Personal. “We were making new stuff on different components that we didn’t really know how to play and turning that into gold,” says Dorothea. “Also, it was really interesting to play around what makes a song feel like something personal, to explore what kind of sounds or effects are triggering different emotions in the listener.”

The nine songs on The Alchemy of Nothing Personal careen past in little over 20 minutes, and their new album, out in May, is similarly brief. As a title, The Diary of Nothing Personal has a delicious symmetry (“A diary is also a form of collage,” points out Solveig). Intended from the start as a companion piece to their debut, The Diary… was originally conceived as having a softer and less electronic sound but evolved as the band evolved, as songwriters, as musicians, and as self-producers.

“This has always been a project for us to learn and grow in, so it wouldn’t feel right to just give the songs to someone else to produce,” says Solveig, who mixed both albums herself. “I feel brave now,” says Thea, with immediate agreement from the others. “I love suffering,” says Dorothea, laughing. “Like, why is improvisation so hard?” Thea nods firmly. “Why is it easy to improvise one day and feel like I have nothing to come up with another day?”


The reaction to The Diary…’s first single “hypersong:)” has renewed the buzz around the trio, building on their reputation as one of Norway’s most refreshing live bands. With high-profile shows at by:Larm and Oslo’s Munch Museum, Nothing Personal are well underway with carving out their own unique nook in the Norwegian alt-pop landscape and beyond. This time around they are putting even more emphasis on the visual side of their music, seeing it as an essential component of not only how they present themselves but also of how that presentation then feeds back into the music.

“Tobias Gulbrandsen, who does all our cover art and live visuals, is like the fourth member of our band,” says Solveig, describing how the band perform with his projections forming a box around them. “It’s like stepping inside an art piece and I feel like that really affects how we play live,” says Dorothea. “I think it helps us to be more creative and make stuff up on the spot.”

Nothing Personal body

Nothing Personal rarely stick to any defined setlist, which started out as a firm principle but softened slightly when they began to feel a little trapped by the need to always be free and in the flow. Still, no two shows are ever exactly the same. Even the visuals are improvised to some extent, sometimes guided by the music and at other times reacting against it, amplifying the band’s love of contrast. Being able to play bigger stages after releasing their first album was an important factor in evolving the relationship between the visuals and the music, and the feedback loop of creativity. “We just have to keep getting more popular,” says Dorothea. Solveig nods, “We need even bigger stages!”

Having shown their flintier side with the propulsive, 96-second “hypersong:)”, new single “100 baby” offers something that hews closer to a pop song structure – but not too close. Solveig came with up the song while improvising alone one day, imagining the lyrics as a dialogue between different sides of herself. As she sings about being a zero, a choir of voices reassures her she’s exactly the opposite. “It’s about being your own cheerleader,” she says, grinning. “Sometimes I have to tell myself I’m a hundred baby.”

While the self-love serenity of the choir leans into gospel-lite territory, it’s Solveig’s love of R&B and alternative hip hop that keeps it from floating dreamily away. Fortified by crisp beats courtesy of guest drummer Ola Øverby and some wonderfully untramelled saxophone from Karl Hjalmar Nyberg, it’s a song that grows in power the closer you pay attention.

Watch the video closely, too, and even more new layers appear. Created by Berlin-based duo Johanna von Stackelberg and Alexandros Lissatos – the newest constellation in the Nothing Personal universe – it’s a witty take on the hyper-commercialisation of visual and social media, and, as Solveig sees it, on the constant pressure for musicians to be their own publicity machines. Not that they aren’t willing to put in the work. “Even though we started five years ago, we all feel like the project still has a lot of juice in it,” says Solveig. Dorothea nods decisively. “The lemon is not entirely squeezed. We have a lot more to give!”

The Diary of Nothing Personal, in all its joyful strangeness and sense of adventure, makes a strong case for those bigger stages to come. The universe is expanding, and Nothing Personal are strapped in for the ride.

The Diary of Nothing Personal is out on 24 May via Braveheart Records.

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