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Nine Songs

The Norwegian singer/songwriter on how contemporary music has helped to shape her art

01 December 2017, 09:00 | Words by Steven Loftin

New music that champions other new music is a rarity. Enter, EERA

The Norwegian singer/songwriter recently released her debut album Reflection of Youth, which is filled with sparse sounds, terrifying synths, guitar lines to make you weep and vocals that make it all feel better.

Instead of looking back to the classic architects of music, EERA, AKA Anna Lena Bruland, doesn’t find her inspiration stemming from the usual suspects. Instead, she looks to new, modern music. The kind that pushes boundaries, which in turn forces her to push her own.

“I owe a huge love to The Beatles and I love Jeff Buckley, The Smiths and Nick Drake. I have a lot of artists I could mention, but I have to admit that it’s not those artists that drive me, that make me want to write, that challenge me, that inspire me.” A music lover through and through, Anna talks with complete adoration for everything and anything music related, but the real excitement in her voice is for newer sounds. “I always look to new music. I’m always on the hunt for new bands, I love listening to what’s now and what’s happening, mostly because I have an interest in it. I don’t do it because I want to sound like what’s happening now, I do it because I love it.”

One could argue that simply looking to new music is a way of getting ahead of the curve, but the reality for EERA is far different. “Maybe it’s true, that because all this is current it’s influenced me in the way that it has. For me, I love music that’s been created now but I also have a soft spot for the 90s’, The Breeders, Pixies, Sonic Youth, it’s an endless list, but I love to explore and find new bands.”

So while you’re reading the artists and songs that echo throughout Reflections of Youth remember, that’s exactly what they are. They’re the idea of youth; exploration, experimentation and most of all - not giving a damn.

“Giga Dance” by Deerhoof

“I’ve been obsessed with Deerhoof for quite a while. It happened when I went to university in Liverpool and a guy that was in third year that I got to know through some other friends gave me loads of music, loads of really weird stuff, like early Four Tet and Boards of Canada, but then he also gave me Deerhoof.

“I remember he gave me this record and I was completely blown away by it. I’d never heard anything so interesting, that had so many twists and turns throughout the song. I got completely obsessed and I started digging in to it. That was the first time I was exposed to music that was very left-field and I loved it. I went home to Norway after I found all this music and my sister was like ‘What is this?? What are you listening to?!’ She just didn’t understand!

“I was lucky that they played in Liverpool not long after I heard them for the first time, so I got to see to them in this very tiny venue called The Kazimier, which is sadly no longer in Liverpool but it used to be the place to go to for good gigs. I saw them there and they were even better live and since then I’ve seen them like seven times I think actually! They’ve been a band I’ve definitely been following.

“Greg Saunier is one of my favourite drummers of all time, he’s a genius. It just surprises and I love music with surprises, where you don’t know what’s going to happen around the next corner.”

“Tension Head” by Queens Of The Stone Age

“This one is a funny because I was at, I think it’s called high school in Norway, it’s called Videregående Skole. My mate at school, he gave me a burnt CD of Rated R, I remember it was a silver CD and it said Rated R in red writing on it. He was just like ‘you should listen to this, I think you’ll like it’ and by that point I’d just listened to quite folky stuff like Kings of Convenience and Norwegian singer/songwriters. So quite chilled stuff and then my mate gave me this. I put it on and I instantly just fell in love with it.

“I had a Discman, I feel really old when I say I had a Discman! I remember I tried to walk to school whilst listening to it, it kept on skipping but I tried really hard to always listen to it on my way to school. I remember I was also on a train with my Mum once and I saw these cool guys that came on. ‘Tension Head’ was my favourite track on the record, because it was the loudest one, I remember I cranked up the volume really loud when these guys came on, so I could feel extra cool when they sat down. My Mum was like ‘turn it down! you’re gonna ruin your hearing, that’s way too loud!’ and I was just like ’nooo, it’s so cool!’

“Since I’ve started diving into their music, I got way more into stuff like Nirvana and I love some of the early Foo Fighters stuff, that’s when my love for guitar music definitely kicked in. It’s opened up whole new worlds for me, definitely.”

“Black Hearted Love” by PJ Harvey and John Parish

“This is one of my all-time favourite songs. I think it’s so strong, the guitar riff is everything and the guitar part in it is amazing. John Parish, to this day, still has my favourite guitar tone. I remember when I heard this song and then I delved in and listened to the record. Obviously I’ve followed PJ for a long time, though I don’t really know when I found her, she’s just always been around, it’s really weird!

“I remember I went to see PJ Harvey and John Parish in Manchester and that was in 2008. I was with my sister, because she came to Liverpool and we went together. I remember I entered it being a bit sceptical, because I loved PJ Harvey’s solo stuff so much, so would I enjoy this? But I thought it was absolutely amazing. She was prancing around onstage with bare feet and this black dress and John Parish was standing really still on the left hand side of the stage. After that I’ve checked into more of his solo stuff, I think he’s amazing. How they combine together and how unique they are to each other I think is very cool and that song in particular is strong, very, very strong.

“It’s funny because I went to see PJ when she did that thing when she recorded her latest album, to go and see how she did it. John Parish was there obviously and he was playing a little melody line on this old organ and he looked over at her and she was shaking her head like ‘No, that wasn’t good’ and John Parish was just like ‘No that wasn’t, was it?’

“It made me feel a bit better about myself, because I was like ‘they’re not always geniuses, sometimes they do mistakes and they figure it out.’ It was quite fun to see that they’re human, just normal humans.

“It’s cool to see how your idols work, because it makes you realise it’s not that different to how you work and maybe it makes you more confident. I felt more confident after walking out of that room and I was like, ‘well if this is how I work then I can do this.’ It’s not that dissimilar.”

“Cat On Tin Roof” by Blonde Redhead

“I’m referencing my Sister a lot, but that’s because we’re very close. I remember when I was quite young she bought Misery Is A Butterfly, I think that’s from 2005 or something like that and she showed it to me and I was like ‘this is really cool’ and after that I started listening to them more and more. The reason I like this particular song so much is because the singer is sort of half talking sometimes and it feels very natural. It’s like it just came together and they got a bit tipsy or whatever, and started playing and that’s what they recorded and that’s what they handed in.

“I love that type of music, that feels really real and it’s not glossy in anyway, it’s from the heart. I also love their earlier stuff, because they started off being really punky. They used to be a full on punk, heavy ass band and now they’re more open spaced, with some electronic elements in it.

“I was really grateful when a few mistakes happened in the studio because I was like, ‘Cool, we should totally keep these in.’ I want people to listen to the song and to notice something they didn’t notice the first time around. For me that’s very important, because that’s the album that you will go back to, that’s the album you’ll want to listen to again because you haven’t quite figured them out first time around.”

“Owl and The Tanager” by Sufjan Stevens

"Sufjan Stevens is someone I actually got into quite late. I’d say maybe in the last three years I finally got to know him and his music and read up about him and stuff like that. The reason I picked this song is that when I recorded my first EP with Nick (Rayner), who also produced this album, we were in his home recording studio in Cambridge at the time and he put this record on, which is an EP called All Delighted People.

“He put on this song and was like ‘I’m just going to put this on, I’m going have a shower, I’ll be back in a second.’ He went to have a shower, so I listened to it. He has these really cool old speakers, you can hear the crackling of the vinyl and I was like, ‘This is absolutely stunning! Absolutely stunning.’ When it finished I put it on a few more times and when Nick came down he said, ‘Oh you listened to it again?’ I just said ‘Shh! I’m listening to it!’

“After that it became a ritual when I was recording that EP. I always put it on in the morning with a coffee as I got ready to record what we were going to do, it really calmed me down and I think that’s what they beauty of Sufjan Stevens is. He can put you in a new world - you can listen to it and you’ll disappear somewhere else. I think he’s so good at that, he’s good at capturing you and everything else.

“A true songwriter should be able to do that. If it’s a really good song that’s what it does to you, and his voice is just incredible. It sounds like he’s always crying when he sings. It’s amazing, absolutely stunning.”

“15 Step” by Radiohead

“I bought this record and I listened to it for the first time in my Mum’s house. What I didn’t know at the time was one of the speakers was broken. I could only hear half of it, because a lot of Radiohead’s music is panned - they have bass in one speaker and guitar in another - but I still loved it. I was like ‘this is so good’, then I remember I put headphones on and I was blown away even more, yet again.

“I thought it was so funny, that even with different stuff panned out, I still thought it was amazing. I that remember really well, when the big shift in the song happens, when the bass comes in at around one minute, my skin just rose and I got goosebumps everywhere.

“They were a band I got into quite late as well and this album was the one that made me listen to their earlier stuff. I was like, ‘right, I need to delve into this’ and I listened to their earlier records and there are so, so many beautiful songs. 'Videotape' is amazing and there are so many other songs that I could reference, but this is the one that I remember when and where I was when I listened to it for the first time.

“That was the exact same year I went to see them play at an outdoor stage in Manchester, which was amazing. Since then I’ve been following them, trying to find unreleased stuff and being really nerdy about it I guess, like you do with the bands you really like.

"They were one of the bands that opened my mind to more electronic music as well, because they use a lot of electronic elements. That’s when I started to love electronic drums and I got into Björk and that world opened up for me, from Radiohead. Electronic music is something that I’m still learning about, because I’m from a rock background and I love guitars, but electronic music is something that in later years I’ve been indulging in and I’m beginning to enjoy parts of.”

“The Rip” by Portishead

“I think this song it indescribably beautiful. The way that the kick drum comes in, the way that nylon string guitar is played, almost badly in a way, so you can hear like the little glitches, it just feels very real to me. It feels, and Beth Gibbons, what a fantastic singer, she’s so cool. All the videos of her are her leaning on microphone with a cigarette in her hand, just sort of singing but she looks like she’s not really doing it. It’s just crazy, she’s one of my favourite singers by far, and I think this album Third is really strong.

“For them to release something a fairly long time after the album before and to achieve such an accomplished album is amazing. I think its start to finish a really good record, and with this song there’s something extremely amazing about it.

“I think I listened to this in my flat in London for the first time with my flatmate Douglas. It gave us both just goosebumps and we couldn’t believe how good it waS. I’m still not sick of it, I listen to it all the time, I think it’s absolutely stunning.

“And again, again.., it’s that element of surprise. With a nylon string guitar coming in and then you have that offbeat drum, that you don’t really know if it’s on the 1,2, 3 or 4 and then the bass comes in and it builds and builds. The twists and turns in this song are just amazing.”

“I Found the F” by Broadcast

“When I wrote this album, I listened to Broadcast a lot. I can definitely hear my synth inspiration is from them, the way they use their synths and how raw it all sounds, but also how sparse it sounds. I was really, really inspired by this.

“I’m so sad that I never got to see them live, I’m so sad that Trish Keenan passed away and in such a horrible and random way as well, just by flu, pneumonia. It turns out my manager knew her and when I told him I’m such a huge fan of theirs he told me the whole story and that it was very upsetting, that she passed away when they were in the middle of writing.

“They are by far my favourite synth sounds and I think this is just absolutely stunning, it sounds really old, but it’s not that old, you know, these albums are from the 90s’ and 00s.’ It’s not that old, but it sounds like it’s from the ’60s almost, which is really cool.

“They introduced me to a whole new world, like Stereolab, who are amazing and all of that opened up a whole new world again. I feel like with all these bands they’re opening up the different little pockets of music that I’ve delved into and I love, I’m really grateful that I got introduced to Broadcast. It inspires you, it inspires you to challenge yourself and to open yourself up to new ways of writing for sure.”

“Symbiosis” by The Mantis Opera

“My bandmate Allister (Kellaway), I call him my Jonny Greenwood, because he knows exactly the sounds I love. I can explain to him in the weirdest way what I want and he gets it straight away. He’s actually the main guy for this band, it’s his solo project basically.

“It’s really funny because of how we met. We worked at the same coffee shop years ago in London and we were just chatting like, ‘Oh you’re a musician? I’m a musician’. I had my playlist on in the shop and Deerhoof came on and he was like ‘Oh you like Deerhoof? You’re the first person I’ve ever met who likes Deerhoof.’ So we started chatting about that and he said that he made music and I was like ‘Please send me a link to your stuff.’

“I listened to it on my way into work one day and I was completely blown away by his music and what brought tears to my eyes pretty much is that his music is so good. After that I was like, ‘Please, please, play with me. I want you to be involved in what I’m doing’ and since then we’ve been playing together. He’s been in my band for two years now and this song is from his EP that’s out now and he asked me to sing on it. I’m actually singing on this track!

“I almost begged him, like ‘Please can I sing on one of your songs?’ It’s very out there, there’s loads of twists and turns, loads of surprises. You can’t pigeonhole the genre, it’s definitely the kind of music that I love and I’m very lucky that he wants to play with EERA and that he wants to do that with me. I’m so humbled that he’s involved in EERA and he gets really embarrassed, I’m like ‘I do really value you and your band’ and he’s jokingly like ‘No, you’re lying!’ He doesn’t quite believe it, but it’s actually a really, really good and interesting band for sure.

“Even though I write all the parts, he’s really good at perfecting all the sounds. So I can write a synth part of something and be ‘I want it to be more like this’ or something, but he literally. with his magic mind, he makes it on the spot. He just gets it.”

Reflection Of Youth is out now via Big Dada
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