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Published: 2014/11/20
by Kayla Clancy

London Reflections with Sondre Lerche

Last month in London, Norwegian musician Sondre Lerche offered up plenty of distorted riffs, catchy melodies, and the perfect embodiment of what he described as the balance between “the subtle and the bombastic” nature of Pop music. Even those unfamiliar with his tunes were in for a treat as Lerche’s stage presence was beyond captivating.
Though the Rock sound can definitely be sensed on his records, Lerche’s live show amplifies this into something radically rocking while maintaining the poetic vocals and brightness which may have originally captured listeners.

Sitting down for a chat, Sondre elaborates on his concept of pop, and the inspiration of discovering music, with early influences from 60s’Brazilian music to 90s’ MTV.

When you tour around Europe and the U.S. where do you find you have the most receptive following?

In the U.S. Europe for me is very scattered, but London is always good. We have a very sort of trusted following here. I toured much more in the U.S. so as a result it’s a bit more scattered in Europe.

What about in Norway?

Norway is always fun. I’m always recording and I’ve been involved in some different projects like art projects and T.V. shows. It’ll be fun now to play shows there, because it’s been awhile since I’ve played proper shows there. We kind of conclude the European tour in Oslo, Norway.

How would you say the sound of earlier albums like Faces Down compare to what you do now?

I made Faces Down when I was sixteen years old. It’s not something that I consciously think a lot about. You evolve personally and also musically. It’s my great passion. It just is. My job as a musician is to evolve. My job is to be inspired, which is an absolute non-negotiable in a way. I don’t put out a record if I’m not inspired to do so or if I’m not inspired to make something new. You just trust that people still recognize you, that even as you change your followers still see you. I’ve come to really trust that more blindly lately that no matter what I do I will always sound like myself, and I used to think that was a bad thing and now I think it’s pretty cool.

What have been some of your influential genres or artists?

There’s so much different stuff. I grew up watching MTV in the early nineties, and then I discovered a lot of Brazilian music from the late sixties-a lot of that was highly influential. I discovered jazz, Elvis Costello, Burt Bacharach, a lot of these great songwriting forces, and a lot of the new wave stuff-80s sort of nerdy, pop music. Now I listen to a lot of abstract and ambient music that feels very far away from my songwriting, but still fascinates and inspires me. So, it’s always part of the evolution. You’re always looking for something new to get you excited. Anything that inspires you is the biggest deal; there is no bigger deal. Getting a record deal is nothing compared to the kick you get out of discovering music that you feel a part of. Without that inspiration there’s nothing going on.

Was there moment you really fell in love with music?

I remember falling asleep down the hallway in my bedroom when I was four years old, and I heard, from the kitchen and living room, my mom was playing “Take on Me” by A-ha. I heard this sort of echo version of it far away, and I thought it was the best thing ever. Since then I was hooked.

What is pop music to you?

Pop music is what I love. To me it’s always an internal balance between the subtle and the bombastic. If the melody is bombastic than the rhythm can be more subtle or vice versa. Pop music is that sort of balance between the very immediate and the more convoluted. If every element of a song is immediate I lose interest. If every song is subtle and convoluted I also tend to doze off. There’s something there. I feel pop music has its own pulse, it’s inviting, and at the same time there has to be resistance in it. I remember Elliott Smith used to say his favorite moment in a pop song was the moment when everything changed, and I think that’s a really striking way of putting it. Pop music makes you feel comfortable and has patterns you can easily familiarize yourself with, but there need to be that moment where it doesn’t fulfill the patterns, and everything changes. I like that. That definition is very different I’m sure from that of Max Martin or Usher (laughs).

How do events in your own life influence what you’re creating?

They trigger a need for expression. It has become an integral part of me sorting out my own thoughts and emotions. I have become a little more aware of it as I grow and become a little older. You see your own patters and you see that your actively using the music as sort of a form for internal discussions with yourself. I try to see myself and hear my own thoughts from the outside through music.

Would you say negative life events influence you much different from the positive?

I’ve written some pretty happy music, but of course when things go wrong there is a certain desperate need for order, to sort out. So the need in the music is more desperate and more intense when things are going to shit. When you’re happy the music is more an extension of that. It’s an accessory; it’s effortless. When something goes wrong the music has a certain desperation that only comes from having the rug pulled out from underneath in a way, and obviously history has shown us that some pretty cool music comes out of that as well.

Do you have any habits when it comes to writing new songs?

I like to feel free in a way. I don’t like to have to be here, or there. I’m sure some settings or situations are more inspiring than others. I like to always work on something, because I don’t want to rely on inspiration to just hit me. I have to hit inspiration in a way. If I just sit around and waste my time I feel unproductive and then you’re just waiting for something to happen. It just feels too passive, so I always write on something. A lot of what I do is work. Then the thing that lifts it to the level where you really want to share it, that’s inspiration. That doesn’t happen every day. It’s really hard to make good songs. I know what that is for me, doesn’t mean the world will always agree, but I know what that is when I hear it I guess. So I have to work for it. It’s hard work.

You created your own record label?

Yes I did, with the last self-titled record. I wanted just to have control over things like the kind of artist I am and the kind of thing I do. It didn’t make sense to just give away the record to someone for almost nothing.

You used to be with EMI Norway, or Astralwerks?

Yes, Astralwerks. I was signed to Virgin Records Norway for the first four, and we had parted ways, and then I did heartbeat radio as a one-off. It was a very turbulent time in the record industry so people were still finding their way and I guess I was finding my way. I saw that I had the opportunity to release my own music, and in the fortunate position to afford to finance my own records, which is a blessing. It’s hard work, but also a blessing depending on how you look at it.

Do you think it was a necessary experience to be part of a bigger label?

Oh yeah, and I’m grateful for that because I had some wonderful years and releases through Virgin and Astralwerks. They did a phenomenal job, but I moved on and it took me awhile to figure out how to stand on my own two feet. I did it with the SL record a few years ago and that’s been a pretty steep learning curve, but it’s been good. That record did well, and this one is doing very well too.

A lot of artists these days don’t want to be signed or they are going for these independent labels, so it’s kind of this middle ground…

Exactly. Now labels that used to be independent labels are maybe not so independent, or start acting like majors used to. It’s a whole new world, but it’s exciting because it opens new opportunities for smaller acts like myself. So in a way I feel blessed to get a foot in the door in the old world when I had a major label put a lot of money and effort into making me a successful artist, and then get to continue on my own.

Do you envision have other artists signed on your label, or is it mainly for releasing your own music?

Maybe further down the road, but right now I don’t have the capacity to take on anyone but myself. It’s a lot of work and I have a good team helping me out, but yea it would be wonderful if I could help spread other music I get excited over.

What is your mission as a musician?

I find when I meet people who appreciate my music that it seems the mission is to help people articulate things that they can’t articulate themselves. Sometimes I’m articulating what I can’t even articulate. In the exchange between music, words, harmony, expression and sounds, things are articulated that I didn’t even think were possible. So I suppose that’s part of the mission, but I just want to bring some beauty into the world. I get really excited by music that people share with me and so I want to give back almost as good as I get…give back beauty.

What would you advise the young musicians out there?

Growing up I was so consumed by my appreciation of music that I really didn’t care what people my age, or what my friends thought. I think that if you can achieve that you’re good to go.

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