Photo by Patricia Reyes
Sweden's Lykke Li made waves in 2008 with Youth Novels' revealing turn, a pin-sharp debut striking a smart balance between sighing, sixties girl pop and jump-rope swagger. Returning with a darker, more direct sound which the singer-songwriter told a recent interviewer was inspired at least in part by 'pussy power', we grabbed five with Li to discuss her new album, Wounded Rhymes, out on February 28.
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First of all, where was the new record written and recorded?
I wrote it in New York, LA and a little in Stockholm. I went back (to Sweden from LA) because I felt I wanted to go back to my roots and play with the people who know me instead of working with some hotshot dude who wants to be in control of everything. We camped out at different studios for a few days at a time and drank red wine and had all these African percussion instruments. It was recorded live, a lot of the songs on the record are first takes. I got two of my girlfriends in singing with me for backing vocals, that was so nice. They're both singers and artists in their own right but it was great, harmonies are really just food for your soul.
And you worked again with Björn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn and John renown)?
That's right. I had some other offers but I just couldn't bring myself to find a reason why I shouldn't work with him, I mean I had some talks with people but they didn't say anything interesting.
Do you see what you do as being fundamentally 'pop' or do you see yourself as operating more in a singer-songwriter mould?
Well I mean, what is pop? When I think about the artists of today who are considered pop I don't think I sound like them. But I feel like that's not really for me to say. I can only do what feels right for me. Probably I feel like people would love it if I could make this big pop record, if I started really selling records. Like with the last one, a lot of people downloaded that record, a lot. But I'm not on the charts or anything, even back home.
One aspect of Youth Novels which was particularly enjoyable was its minimal approach to arrangement, is tha something you've been keen to pursue with the new record?
Yeah, definitely. My whole aesthetic is less-is-more - even the way I dress, everything. And Björn as well, he's from up north in Sweden which is very minimal, there's nothing there!
You recently collaborated on a track with Kanye West and seem to go over well with the hip-hop crowd in general, is that something you're proud of?
Absolutely. I love hip-hop - (Björn and I) think hip-hop when we make music, I'll be like 'this Lil Wayne song is so dope, how can we get this song to have as much BOOM', you know? (laughs)
You've been known to wear the Flavor Flav-style chain onstage as well, right?
Yeah... when nobody tells me not to! Sometimes I think I shouldn't be doing those things 'cos I'm not a rapper.
You've spoken about how you wanted to 'trim the baby fat' with the new record, what did you mean by that?
I suppose it's inevitable that people judge you on the way you look and sound, but (with the first record) I felt that was all they judged me by. They couldn't see beyond my baby fat (laughs). Being a young woman they write you off quite easily so I felt like I wanted to be so much more direct, and have like people listen to what I say instead.
Are there any contemporary musicians who you feel offer interesting perspectives on sex and gender right now?
I like artists like Fever Ray, Beth Ditto and Antony & The Johnsons. People who are playing with different roles, you know?