Rising to prominence in 2009 after appearing on Swedish Idol, Tove Styrke was quick to get into the studio and churn out her eponymously titled debut album – a collection of cool, collected and catchy Swedish pop. However, after a couple of re-releases, things went quiet, and it seemed that Styrke had dissipated in to the ghosts of popstars past.
That was until last month when she returned with “Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You”, a bratty, ballsy and rhythm lead track that couldn’t be further from the chilly coolness of Scandi-pop fare.
Not wanting to miss out on the re-birth of an amazing pop entity, we caught up with Tove Styrke to discuss where she’s been hiding, the meaning behind this rather amazing comeback song and wanting to write for Beyoncé...
It’s been a few years since the release of your debut album, Tove Styrke, what have you been up to in that time?
For the most part I’ve actually been working, writing a lot and trying to find new ways to express myself in music. I moved back to Umeå for about a year to get some distance from the music industry, which was great, allowed me to not take the whole thing quite as seriously when I came back. I’m having a lot more fun with it now!
Do you feel nervous about coming back on to the pop scene after taking that time away?
Yeah, little bit… Or actually I’m terrified, haha, which is no strange thing. When you’re just about to put something out, knowing that soon anybody can listen to it is always a horror.
Your debut is very electro-pop. However, the new track, “Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You” is rather bratty and rhythmic. What was your decision to move away from that sound?
Well, the song turned out that way, it wasn’t much of a decision. I started out writing a few chants on that beat, the drums and then we just kept building and adding things to it.
The new track has had quite a lot of attention here. Are you ever surprised by that?
I’m just happy that people seems to dig it…
What’s the track about?
I wrote the verses on a few different topics but mostly it’s about claiming space I think, like stages for example. People don’t get up on a stage on the same terms, women have to be more good looking, better at what they do and if they’re too good looking people believe that they don’t have any talent. Rebecca and Fiona is a great example of that, it seems to be an impossible equation to people that two women can choose to look amazing AND make their own music AND mix it live on stage. That provokes me.
Did you feel, coming from a show like Idol, much pressure to create something that was not only a critical success, but also a commercial one?
Well yes, but it’s less about breaking through to people in a commercial way than the fact that I’m contracted to a major label that are putting their money into the project. Meaning they want the records to be a commercial success of course.
I admit it’s not an ideal setup if you’d like to move outside the frameworks of a typical release, but so far it works. I was also lucky that I ended up working with people here in Sweden who get me and can share my vision. It kinda makes everything doable because they actually listen to me and we work together.
I know that a lot of people that come off of shows like that often feel an expectation that they have to produce a certain type of record, or they feel pressure into releasing something that isn’t very them. How do you think you avoid this situation?
I think that a lot of people come off of those shows not knowing what they want to do. Maybe they’ve just always been good at singing without ever thinking about what kind of music they would make if they suddenly could do that for a living. It’s such an absurd situation. Like BAM suddenly everybody’s eyes are on you, expecting you to come up with a brilliant debut. My rescue was the fact that I could co-write my first album, that way it always somehow felt like the songs fit me.
What can you tell me about your up-coming album?
Haha I don’t even know if it’s an album yet! I have a bunch of songs and I’m making more. So far I’ve written about samurais who needs to be rescued, the patriarchy, seven eleven, tons of guns and a dark world of soulharvesting cowboys to mention a few things. Sound-wise I feel like I’m getting more playful, less dreamy, more rhythmic.
Who have you been working with?
I have worked with some Swedish folks like Calle Ask, Johan T Karlsson, Janne Kask, Linnea Henriksson and a few others. Mostly friends and people I genuinely like - it’s way easier that way.
I know some people like to spend time in the studio, while others like to work in various places. What’s your creative process like?
I like to start with the lyrics. Usually I start off collecting themes and ideas that I think are interesting. This often takes a while. I think it’s fun to pick two different topics and mash them together. Like if I want to write about the patriarchy for instance, what happens if i describe it like Matrix? And then I do that for a while until I feel like I have a good collection of lyrics and ideas to make something out of.
After that I team up with somebody to create tracks and choruses and all that, and then you just puzzle it all together. Sort of. As soon as I have the ideas I prefer to finish the song in the studio. It’s great to just record it all at once, it feels more organic to write the track and the topline as one piece instead of having to adapt to one part that’s already finished
Obviously, Sweden is the home of pop music and does produce some of the best in the world. Do you ever feel the pressure of the global expectation?
No, honestly I don’t. If they like it they like it, or they don’t.
A lot of burgeoning pop acts from Sweden are writing for massive American pop singers. Would you ever do this? If you did, who would you like to write for?
Oh my god yes, Beyoncé!
Musically, who are you inspired by?
Anything that somehow changes the way I think about pop. The Knife´s “Shaking the habitual” was like that, I watched the show twice.
Is there a Tove Styrke tour planned?
Not at the moment, no.
I’ll just continue doing all this, writing, educating myself and when I make something great I’ll put it out for you to listen and be terrified for a while again.