She’s been in a band since the age of 13, but on her newly released album How We Made It she’s on her own. We chatted to Anne Lise Frøkedal about the tight-knit music community in Norway, cutting diplomacy out of her song writing, the love for drums and that time she attempted to write a metal song.
Anne Lise Frøkedal is a charismatic musician. Having established herself as a dynamic front-woman with outfits Harry’s Gym and I Was A King, she’s currently enjoying life as a solo-artist, although several band members from her other project, Frøkedal and Familien, remain heavily involved. She released her solo debut album, Hold On Dreamer, to widespread critical acclaim in 2016, drawing comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac. Fast forward a couple of years, and Frøkedal has once again found herself receiving well-deserved praise for her second solo album, How We Made It. We got the opportunity to catch up with her recently during her UK tour and found her in a delightfully forthcoming mood, and what quickly became evident is how conscientious and humble Frøkedal is as a singer and songwriter – almost unaware of her prominence as one of Norway’s most exciting and talented musicians.
“I realised that all of my previous lyrics were very diplomatic. Now I wanted to write without trying to reason with my surroundings, to see if I could make the music a bit more energetic.”
How We Made It itself is both musically and lyrically more diverse than the melancholic and folksy sounding Hold On Dreamer. This time around, there’s hopeful optimism on last year’s single Stranger, wistful honesty on Cracks and barely disguised anger on both Treehouse and I Don’t Care. Explaining the wider range of emotions that we hear on this album, Frøkedal says “I kind of felt that I wanted a bit more temperature…After the last album I realised that all of my lyrics were very diplomatic, so I wondered, what if I just talk from an emotional point of view without trying to reason with my surroundings, to see if I could make the music a bit more energetic.”
That ambition has certainly been achieved and reflects Frøkedal’s discerning approach to selecting songs for the release, admitting to a painstaking 20 versions of the album track list before deciding on its final form. One stand-out track is Hybel. It’s a long and largely instrumental pipe-organ driven song, with a warmly familiar sound, reminiscent of the ELO and packing a psychedelic punch. It’s a majestic number that gets better with every listen, almost addictively so. It also provides Frøkedal with a welcome break during performances, with her commenting that “normally I end up singing so much, because there’s so much vocal stuff in my music, so Hybel is a really nice break for me. I sit down and I can’t even look at the audience because I have to focus on playing the organ, so it’s really liberating.”
David, which Frøkedal describes as another single she was particularly keen to include on the album, features her sister Linn on bass, who’s better known as one quarter of the Megaphonic Thrift. Although she joined Frøkedal on stage at Øya festival last year, this is the first time they’ve recorded together. It’s also unlikely to be the last, with Frøkedal declaring “I definitely hope I’m gonna do more stuff with her in the future.” On the topic of collaborations, Frøkedal talks happily about contributing vocals to Thea and the Wild’s recent album, Ikaros. Thea Glenton Raknes, of course, used to play drums in Frøkedal and Familien and forms part of a close-knit community of musicians in Oslo that Frøkedal sits firmly in the middle of. “Everyone knows everyone. The music scene is not big in the grand scheme of things, even though it’s the biggest in Norway. That’s nice, because there’s a lot of unlikely collaborations, so the fact that it’s very small helps to build the bridges.”
Despite ‘going solo’, it remains obvious that Frøkedal still relies heavily on the presence of familiar faces in her career. She is, however, also mindful about the challenges and freedoms associated with writing alone. “I still play in I Was A King and I’m very happy I have that band element in my life because it means you get to share the worries and try to make the songs work with another human being, so you end up making things that you wouldn’t have made on your own. But doing a solo project makes me feel a lot more peaceful. I don’t have to compromise – I don’t have to accept a weird beat, or a weird key part that I don’t like – It’s up to me now. And I have never really tried that before, because I’ve been in a band since I was 13 years old. It’s really amazing to see that I can be completely not angry with anyone, and it’s quite peaceful, and what happens in the end is still music, and it doesn’t sound that weird!”
Discussing her personal musical inspiration, Frøkedal explains that she often goes through phases. Growing up, it was “all the classics, like Led Zeppelin and Joni Mitchell and the Beach Boys.” She spent a long time listening to Elvis Costello, “learning how to write a great song” and lists The Velvet Underground & Nico as an album that’s followed her around, saying “it’s still an interesting album. I still think ‘Oh, I want the drums to sound like they do on Venus in Furs or whatever’, so I still refer to that album and find it fresh and interesting. It’s been an important one.”
“Everyone knows everyone in the Norwegian music industry. That’s nice, because there’s a lot of unlikely collaborations, so the fact that it’s very small helps to build the bridges.”
During the time of writing Hold On Dreamer, John Cale was on heavy rotation, and is high up the list of artists Frøkedal would be keen to collaborate with given the chance. That list also includes the American Indie-Rock band Big Thief. “I’ve been dying to get a support slot with them. I just want to be where they are. I think they’re so good. I guess if they called me and wanted to do a collaboration, I would faint. And then say yes, of course!” As for Norwegian acts to look out for in 2019, she offered three tips: Psych pop duo Misty Coast and the instrumental avant garde band Moon Relay, both of whom have an album out soon, and prog-rock band Needlepoint who have just released theirs.
During the conversation, we got glimpses of what direction Frøkedal’s own music is likely to take in the future too. She talks of her love for the drums, admitting “I’ve been sitting down and playing drums recently and it makes me happier than anything right now…I kind of think the drums are the dream instrument of most people.” Then there are several references to an admiration of heavy metal music, from secret sing-a-longs in her room aged 10 to embracing it as the only alternative to the pop that was available on the radio in Etne, the town where she grew up. Her eyes light up when talking about the “group of local metalheads” who turned up at her gig in Bryne the night before we spoke and she admits to attempts at writing a metal song previously, before adding “I don’t have the language for that yet. I’m still trying to figure out what I can do. I just like the scene and the way people are committed. It has nothing to do with what’s trendy, it’s just pure simple love for going to shows and listening to the music.”
With a Norwegian tour well underway and a London headline show just around the corner, Frøkedal explained that one of the things she enjoys most is the opportunity to speak to people after the show. “When you make music and work long hours in the studio, the point of all that is to play these songs to people, or at least for me it is. I guess just meeting the audience and talking with people after the show is what I enjoy the most. There’s so many interesting people who come to the shows and they have all these different things. I’ve started to tell people that you don’t have to buy anything, just come for a chat!” Until Frøkedal returns to the UK, get yourself a copy of How We Made It (released via Propeller recordings in the UK). It’s a highly accomplished album which is certainly going to feature prominently on the soon-to-arrive Album of the Year lists and will rightfully cement Frøkedal’s reputation as a remarkable musician. Even if she doesn’t realise it herself.
Top photo: Julie Naglestad
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