“I used it because I thought it sounded nice,” Hannes Norrvide says of the startling sample — the convulsive sound of someone crying — that starts the Lust For Youth song “I Found Love.” “But it fits; I have never been in love without crying.”
As painfully earnest as that sentence may sound on paper, it captures the essence of Lust For Youth‘s records and live shows. Emo in spirit more than in sound, they capture just how messy and manic relationships can be, kind of like Cold Cave before Matador gave them an actual budget and a reason to write cleanly-recorded singles.
On Norrvide’s new album, International, the frontman expands his sound as well, shifting Lust For Youth from a more abstract solo project to a proper trio featuring Malthe Fischer (ex-Oh No Ono) and Loke Rahbek (a consummate multitasker who’s been in the bands Vår, Damien Dubrovnik and Sexdrome, and co-founded the influential Copenhagen label Posh Isolation). Songs like “Armida,” “Epoetin Alfa” and “New Boys” are not only catchy; they’re full-on synth-pop, in the manner of classic New Order and Depeche Mode.
“It was in every way a shared effort,” explains Norrvide. “The topics are things we all know — the strange poke to the heart it is to see the sun get up and you still haven’t slept. Lovers, in good and bad; yourself in good and bad.”
In the following email interview, we discuss everything from what it’s like being one of the only Swedes in Copenhagen’s underground scene — Norrvide is from Gothenburg — to the record he can’t seem to stop playing recently.
Can you start by discussing the background of this project — when it officially started, how your sound developed early on?
I was doing another project back in 2009 and I recorded some songs that really didn’t fit that name. I was also inspired by some friends’ new project, so I decided to make a demo tape. I still needed a few songs for the demo, so I asked my girlfriend at that time (Amanda Eriksson) to join. But after our first LP [Solar Flare], she dropped out from the project and I moved to Malmö to start working on the second.
When the project started, I listened to a lot of Cabaret Voltaire, [Throbbing Gristle] and bands that were around the venue Utmarken in Gothenburg (bands like Ättestupa, Källarbarnen, Street Drinkers and Sewer Election). I wanted to sound like this as well but with a touch more pop music. The sound has become more accessible and dancey through the years.
How did the Gothenburg music scene, or Gothenburg’s musical legacy in general, influence your early Lust For Youth records? Were you ever a fan of the Swedish metal and pop the country is best known for?
I used a lot of my friend’s gear — who makes harsh noise — and I thought it was interesting how you can manipulate the sound when it is recorded onto a cassette. I like when it sounds like the cassette is almost swallowing the recording and it sounds it’s gonna fall apart at any second. I never was a big fan of metal, but I’ve been a big fan of Swedish pop music since I was young.
What are some Swedish acts you love that American Lust For Youth fans would probably be into?
You’ve released an album on Sacred Bones every year since 2012. While not that much time has passed, your sound has evolved a lot over that time. How did your personal life change as well? You moved a lot during this time right — first to Malmö, then to Copenhagen?
It’s mostly my scenery that has changed. I’m still poor and bad at relationships, but now the songs sounds happier. Yes, the project started in Gothenburg, then I moved to Malmö and later on Copenhagen.
How would you describe the head space you were in while making your previous albums?
Curious and naive, with a need to explore.
Loke has performed live shows with you for a while now, and joined the project full-time with this album. How did you two first meet? What did he bring to the creative process for International?
We met at a noise show in Copenhagen, where my friend from Gothenburg was supposed to play. We hung out for two days and soon I was starting to go more and more to Copenhagen to record stuff together or just to go to parties.
It’s hard for me to point out what he brings alone, but the unit of us three is working very well and is much stronger I think.
How did Malthe get involved? He played with Oh No Ono before this band right? What are some specific examples of things he added to this record?
We knew each other because our girlfriends at the time were good friends. One day at the Posh Isolation shop, he asked if we wanted to try to record a song in his studio. Me and Loke had previously talked about doing two or three songs together for a EP or something, and this seemed like a good opportunity. Very early in the process, we discovered that we worked very well as a trio. The first song we recorded together was “Armida,” but it took almost five months before we knew how the vocals should be done and we got our friend Soho [Rezanejad] to sing on the track.
When you become used to working alone, it can be hard adjusting to the compromises playing in a “band” requires. Was it hard for you to get used to the idea of Lust For Youth being a trio? Or have you been looking forward to trying that approach for a while now?
No it wasn’t; it almost seemed as if it became a new project, but still carrying the same name.
One of the most noticeable changes with International is you becoming more of a traditional frontman. In the past, a lot of the vocals in Lust For Youth songs were samples or more abstract, but you’re following more familiar verse/chorus structures now. Is that simply because you’ve become more comfortable with the idea of singing? Or was the use of samples more of an aesthetic decision before?
The idea was that it should sound like it was a sample, but it was also a way to protect myself. Meaning I wasn’t comfortable with singing.
One thing I noticed about your live shows is how calm you are on stage. It’s almost as if you’re inhabiting a character or channeling a specific mood while you’re up there. How would you describe the feeling you get from performing and how has that changed over time?
It is something that I’ve become more relaxed with; in the beginning I often tried to do the concert as quick as possible just to get it over with.
Was one of the reasons you didn’t sing as much before the language barrier between Swedish and English? Did you ever consider singing all of your Lust For Youth songs in Swedish?
No, I just thought it wasn’t necessary. It was how I liked it at that point. I thought of writing a song in Swedish, but then I would probably call the project something else. There is a song with Swedish samples on the new record, though.
What were some differences between Denmark and Sweden that you noticed immediately once you moved?
I think Swedish people are often very afraid to say their opinion — afraid of stepping on someone’s toes — while Danish people don’t seem to care about it that much. I don’t know; both countries are very similar to each other.
How has traveling and touring impacted both your personal and creative life? That seems to be a major theme on this record…
In many different ways, it broadens your perspective, gives you adventures that you would have never imagined, it changes the way you live, the way you relate to people — good and bad.
There’s a remix EP included with some versions of the new album. Tell us about some of the artists you picked for it — what you like about their music, and what you think of what they did with yours.
All the people who did remixes are both friends and artists we respect. It was exciting to see how they would shape it; they are all incredibly different. We like them all.
Have you started working on more Lust For Youth material beyond the new album?
No. I’ve only been in the studio once since the record was done. Right now I’m trying to work on another project.
The melancholic dance music you’ve made for a while now makes me think: When was the last time a DJ or a dance record helped improve your day the way listening to Lust For Youth might for someone else?
Helped in what way? If it made me feel better with myself — helped me through a breakup or something that was just a good soundtrack for a fun evening? The last couple of months, the music I’ve been listening to the most is Nils Frahm. Just the other night we were driving through Los Angeles and it made me feel very happy. His music suited the scenery very well. It was beautiful.