One of the flagship artists in a recent wave of Scandinavian pop sensations, Copenhagen’s Karen Marie Ørsted aka MØ has just dropped her thrilling debut No Mythologies to Follow. The record is a milestone in her prolific history of recording, including her teen years as a punk rocker, and a few pivotal collaborations with the likes of Diplo and Aviici that would boost her profile among English speaking audiences.
PopGun first booked MØ for CMJ 2012, and then as direct support for Australia’s Alpine back in March 2013 at Glasslands. Now, just over a year later, she has sold out the same venue as a headliner far in advance of the show. It’s easy to understand why; her vocals are dynamic, easily sliding from forceful to soothing, her keenly selected beats and are intricate yet subtle, and her lyrics bravely render intimate experiences through her feminist worldview and self-deprecating humor. As you can imagine, prepping for a US tour has kept her extremely busy, but she made some time to answer a few questions for us.
I’ve read bios that refer to the “cool/cold” sound that you’re going for, a strong point for a lot of Scandinavian acts. Taking into account that you’re a student of the visual arts, I was wondering if you’ve ever experienced synesthesia, the mixing of senses (“seeing” sounds, “feeling” colors etc).
I haven’t heard of that word before, but I guess I have experienced something like what you describe. The sounds and the visual stuff I make surrounding the music is often something I sense or feel beforehand, or during the creative process. It is sometimes like I’m seeing the sound or feeling it. Of course this is rather abstract, but it does make a lot of sense to me, though I’ve never heard the term for it before.
On the new album, I detect a little thematic progression in the lyrics. Like on track 2, you’ve got, “…all of you find me crazy ’cause I’ve got a black heart,” and by the last track you’re saying, “If you’re in love beneath the pain – what a pleasant sensation.” Were you trying deliberately to tell a story with the lyrics? Were they written in order or just sequenced that way?
The writing is almost in order, but not a hundred percent, and it wasn’t planned. But I guess the sequence and the order I wrote the songs in have something to do with each other on a higher level – I just didn’t realize until the track list was complete. As I’ve said before, the album doesn’t have any conclusion. The lyrics are about being young, restless and lost in life and society, and I don’t have the answer – I don’t preach a mythology to follow – I’m searching myself, and all the lyrics are personal. They are my way of dealing with these questions in my head… These questions that I feel a lot of people are dealing with – at least in the environment I hang out in.
I’m also very interested in your decision to make the title track of the record a bonus track for the deluxe edition. Why did you make that decision?
I like the song “No Mythologies To Follow” which only made it to the deluxe version of the album, but the thing is, when we had to decide the track list I felt this song was less strong than the 12 that made it to the final album. But I’m happy that it’s on the deluxe version, so that it’s out there, ’cause I think the lyrics point out the essence of the title very well, and I like the production.
It is well documented that you were once in a project called MOR, an electro-punk act. In a Noisey article you mentioned moving a way from pop music in your teens. How has the transition back to indie pop been?
The transition back to pop happened rather naturally. As you mention, I left pop when I entered my teens, listen only to punk and grunge music for a long time, and forming the electro punk band MOR. But when I then started my first solo project back in 2009 as a side project, I could feel the urge for catchy hooks and strong melodies rising within me. But something had changed – it could never again be the ‘all-cheesy’ pop songs I would listen to and strive to write – it would have to have some kind of edge to it if I was to love it, and I still stick to that. Pop is great but it has to have balls.
In the same article, you mentioned interning for one of our very favorite humans, JD Samson. What did you learn from your time with her?
Yeah, that was great – I was interning for JD with my friend and former band mate Josefine in New York 2012 – just before things slowly started to take off with MØ. I was so proud that JD would take us in, and I think we learned a lot about the DIY lifestyle of a musician/artist/cultural political person during our stay. We learned a lot about taking your career in your own hands, and about projecting what you stand for, which is an important lesson.