Interview: MØ

MØ promo photo

is busy in the process of finishing her album and heading off for some US live dates, including SXSW, but she was kind enough to spare a moment to talk. She might come across as a bit of a bad-ass in her music, but when we sat down for a quick chat on Skype she turned out to be very charming in person. Maybe it’s that perceived attitude that has fuelled the Grimes comparisons?

We discussed how it’s been working with the likes of Ronni Vindahl and MS MR, the surreal experience of riding the buzz-wave, and, of course, our mutual musical roots in the Spice Girls. No, really.

Hi there! Thanks for chatting to us.

Hello; of course!

So you’ve just finished recording your album, is that right?

Uuh… I’m not all done.

No?

You know, we always think, “Okay, now we’re done,” but then there’s always something more comes up. So we’re not all the way there, but…

Nearly there.

Yeah, nearly there. Soon.

You’ve been working with Ronni Vindahl.

Yeah, he’s the primary producer on MØ.

How did that come about? He’s a really big name – it’s very impressive.

Yeah, he’s very cool. It’s because my manager [Bjorn Nielsen] has a production company with him [NO WAV.], and when I was going to play at the Danish “upcoming” festival, SPOT, we were like, “Okay, we have to release something.” And then Bjorn just hooked me up with Ronni; he got an a capella of me, and he could feel the song so he started producing on it.

Very fortunate.

Yeah, it’s very lucky; I’m so honoured and so happy to work with him, because he’s very talented.

The third member of NO WAV., Robin Hannibal, is a big favourite of ours… With Rhye, and so on.

Yeah, yeah, it’s amazing. Also Quadron are so cool.

You’re in good company.

That’s true.

You study fine art, right?

That’s right. I’m almost done.

How did you get from fine art into music? It seems like quite a big jump, somehow…

Well, actually, I started making music a long time before I got into the Academy of Fine Arts – I started writing songs in second grade or something like that. It was like, when I applied for the Academy of Fine Arts I actually just applied to the Music Academy, and I was rejected. I got so angry – I was like, “Fuck this, man, I want to be an artist.” So I reapplied and was lucky enough to get in.

It’s a good way to give them the finger. “I’m coming anyway.”

Yeah.

The video for “Glass” has just come out, and it’s got a really strong visual side to it. It’s obvious that you’re interested in that.

I am. But it’s because I think music is the same thing, in a way: it’s universal. It’s about feelings, and having something you want to express. I get the same thing out of art that I get out of music.

It’s about communicating something in both cases.

Exactly.

Did you have control over what the video looked like? How did it come about?

I was involved in the process – I had a meeting with the director [Casper Balslev] and we just brainstormed. Obviously about what the song was about – you know, the lyrics and stuff – but also about what I thought was cool in a video, and he talked about what he thought was cool. He was very interested in this thing of going away somewhere – going away from Copenhagen; going to a small town (I’m from a small town) – so we agreed to go to this town called Hirtshals.

You’d better tell me how to spell that…

Yeah, it’s a little hnh. We were very interested in trying to express the feeling of restlessness and laziness. Being young. Distaste for society. There are so many opportunities, but you don’t know how to use them.

That’s quite a strong feeling that I get from your music – this kind of youthful angst, really, where you want to break out.

Yeah, yeah, so much! Exactly.

So you came from a small town: was that what inspired that? That you yourself wanted to get out and move on…?

Yeah, something like that. Although actually I’m pretty happy that I grew up in a small town, in a way. Still, when you live in a small town you’re like, “Okay, what should I do? Should I move? Uuh…” So it was partly that, but also just that I can really relate to teenagers who live in a very small place, and are like, “What am I going to do?”, you know? Because… I don’t know – I mean, I was happy with it, but it can be fucking bad.

I get it. I’m from the middle of the countryside where I live. Speaking of growing up, are you from a musical family originally?

No, my parents are schoolteachers. They’re creative, but not musicians.

So what were your early musical experiences like?

Actually, it was when I got my first ghetto blaster and my first CD. I think I was seven or something? I got the Spice Girls’ Spice.

Funny you say that, because it was the first album I ever owned.

Well, you know what I mean, then!

I’m almost ashamed to say that.

Ha! It’s cool! Anyway, back then, the Spice Girls’ music really appealed to me at that time in my life. I was feeling so much when I listened to their songs and their melodies; I was just like “Aah!” – it was such a strong feeling. I was like, “Okay, I want to do this, because it’s amazing that you can make people feel like this.” So it started then: “I want to do this.”

I guess you’ve moved on in your tastes since the Spice Girls?

Yes…?

What do you listen to these days?

Actually, when I walk around at home, I never put on music like that. It’s like… I don’t know why – I’ve never done that really. But I’m listening to a lot of Sonic Youth, grunge… I’m in a period right now where I’m into that whole scene. Flipper, and stuff like that.

If I’m honest, you don’t sound a lot like Sonic Youth…

No, I know. I don’t know, actually. I’m always bringing up Sonic Youth because I think they’re fucking awesome. I know my music is nothing like that – I mean nothing like it. But it’s something I always have in the back of my head: when I discovered Sonic Youth – I think I was fourteen or something – I was just very impressed with the way… Normally, I was used to a song being a verse, and a chorus, and they just split everything up and did it their own way. It made me think, “Okay, you don’t have to follow these rules.”

It’s very liberating.

Yeah – and though not a lot of my songs are very different or unusual in their forms, or anything, it’s nice to have in the back of your head that it’s just about trying to express what you feel; what you want to say. It doesn’t have to follow this path, but if you want to do that it’s fine.

It’s interesting to hear you say this, because a comparison that’s been thrown up quite a few times is with Grimes… I don’t know what you feel about this?

Well, I mean, I think Grimes is fantastic, but I don’t think we sound very much alike.

This is what I feel as well.

I think we have… maybe, I’m not sure, but I think we have a bit of the same kind of attitude, or political views, but our music… I don’t think it’s alike.

As you described earlier, there’s this same kind of youthful energy; it’s quite in-your-face. You’re not doing the “right” thing; you’re doing your own thing.

I totally agree.

So what’s the next step? Obviously the album’s coming up soon… Or soonish – I don’t want to put pressure on you…

It’s okay, I hear it all the time.

No doubt. Do you have tours lined up?

Yeah, I’m in London next Thursday for the UK release of “Pilgrim”, and then I’m going to America to play New York, Los Angeles and SXSW.

So you’re at SXSW! I’m jealous. Speaking of “Pilgrim”, you’ve just had this MS MR remix come out…

Yeah!

Did you know that was coming up or was it out of the blue?

I knew; we met. I was in London playing three gigs at the beginning of December last year, supporting MS MR at Electrowerkz. We hooked up with them and talked, and we had a good connection, so we got talking about Max making a remix of “Pilgrim”.

It’s a pretty good remix.

I really love it – I think he’s so amazing… And also Lizzie. I mean, I love MS MR. They’re, like, my favourite contemporary band of all time. It was very nice. They’re so cool.

Are there other people you’re drawn to work with?

Well, my biggest – this is not realistic – is Major Lazer.

It could happen!

Maybe someday. I hope so; I think he’s so fucking awesome.

You’re into dance music is the picture I’m getting here.

Yeah, yeah. It depends – I mean, it’s a lot of different things. It’s the mood in music that I get very drawn by, and if a dance song has that mood… Like Major Lazer’s “Get Free”. I’ve been in love with that track – I’m still in big love with it. I love that vibe. It’s not that I’ve religiously listened to his latest albums; I just hear something and I’m like, “Yeah!” As I said, I’m bad at sitting down and listening to a whole record. I never do that.

It’s much more about catching the moment.

Yeah, very much.

Besides high-profile remixes, what other exciting stuff has happened to you lately?

Nothing specific – it’s just very exciting times right now, but of course there’s also pressure, because there’s a little hype going on…

Right, just a little. It must be weird – I presume you had none of this before?

Of course it’s an amazing feeling, and it’s the dream scenario in a way, but it’s also very surreal. It’s funny to be in a situation that’s so crazy, in a way: I think you learn something about yourself in the process. I hope so, at least. I’m happy about it, but yeah…

Do you find yourself playing a character, or can you just be yourself and deal with it?

I feel very much that… I don’t know how to play a character. I don’t know how I would do that. Of course, sometimes I wish I could, because it’s also so hard to be so personally involved in everything you do with the project. But I don’t see any other way to do it.

If it’s going to be successful you have to be really involved…

Yeah, and you have to be yourself all the way, and be true, because otherwise it would just fall through the walls. Right now I’m just focusing very much on the album, because we have to have it done very soon; that’s all.

Do you have an official release date in mind?

No. We thought we had one, but… Yeah, no. We’re working very hard.

I’m sure you are. Is it very much all you, or are there other’s who’ve collaborated?

Well, Ronni is co-producing everything, but we’ve collab’d with three other producers. We don’t know yet if all these tracks will be on the album; we haven’t decided the package yet.

Fair enough. I’m really excited to hear it! Thanks for talking to us.

Thank you; thank you for talking to me!

Connect with Facebook | Twitter | Website | Soundcloud