If you've yet to see the video to I Break Horses first single 'Hearts' you're in for one hell of a treat - it's rare to find such incredible synergy between audio and video, quite astonishing. I Break Horses is the nom de plume of Maria Lindén and her musical partner Fredrik Balck. Based in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, the duo have been meticulously crafting the nine incredible tracks that make up debut album Hearts. I had a chat with Maria about the process of creating and recording the songs, the inspiration behind the music and how that great video came about. 

 

So how did you and Fredrik end up working together?

 

Strangely enough we met through an online forum where you ask a doctor about diseases/symptoms you think you might have (we share the same fear of being seriously ill: hypochondria). Then it turned out we were into the same kind of music, had mutual friends in bands etc.  I played Fredrik some of my demos and then we ended up working together!

 

That's a very interesting way of meeting up. So how did you start making music yourself and had you been in any bands before I Break Horses?

 

Haha, yes indeed it is. I started making music at a pretty early age (if you consider songs by a 6-year old as music that is!). Music has always been a huge part of my life and I've always felt an urge to express my feelings through it.  Yes, I was in several different bands during my teenage years but only released records with one of them. 

 

So how did you choose the name? One assumes smog might have something to do with it?

 

Yes, you're right, it's a smog track. a very good one too. To me it's a bit of a necessary evil with having to have a band name so I actually just chose something that I felt didn't label the music too much or sounded too pretentious.

 

Yeah I agree, love that track. I think you're totally right in that the name doesn't label the music or sound pretentious.  I'm assuming that neither Fredrik or you have actually broken a horse?  I've just googled it though and it doesn't look anywhere near as bad as it sounds.

 

Haha, no, I think none of us even dares to go anywhere near a horse. Frightening creatures they are!

 

Yeah I'm terrified of horses myself, glad it's not just me. So tell me about the song writing process. Am I right in saying that you prepare the tracks, Fredrik writes the lyrics and then you sing the vocals?  

 

Yes, that's pretty much exactly how the songs are made. I start with recording the instruments and arrange the song, then some humming/weird words so we have the melody and how the "flow(?)" of the lyrics should be, then Fredrik writes the words and finally I can record the vocals.

 

So where did the inspiration come from for the album tracks? Are there any artists that have particularly influenced you and Fredrik in either the composition or the lyrics?

 

I can only answer for myself right now but I think my inspiration mainly came from the urge to express what I was feeling at that time when composing. Could be something beautiful or sad or anything basically.

Actually there weren't any specific artists that influenced me in particular, can be any music genre/band or film that makes me feel something special. But since I was so hooked on the eighties sound and the dream pop and drone guitars that invaded Sweden during the 90's I guess the influences are there anyway.

 

Tell me about the new album Hearts and how it came about. I've read that you've been working on it for over 3 years - was it was difficult to find the time to get together to work on the tracks?

 

Yes, first of all, working full time at the day job leaves little time and energy left to find inspiration or to get in the right mood for composing. But also, since the music is so much about the vibe, the atmosphere it takes a while to get it right sonically. I took the songs from my bedroom recordings into a studio in Poland, deleted almost everything that was recorded there, took the songs back to the bedroom and started all over again.

It sounds like it's been a real journey in making the album.  What can we expect from the other tracks on the album - I've only heard Hearts at this stage which totally blew me away?

 

Thanks, very glad you enjoyed Hearts! I haven't really any idea how to describe my own music, it almost seems conceited to try. I had been making bedroom recordings for some time, which in many ways is a private process, and then taking them outside in to other environments, studios etc has been a difficult transition but I have learnt so much about myself. The sounds I had in my head were always huge ones, way bigger than my bedroom! And initially taking my music out of the bedroom made it sound smaller, which I didn't want. When I learnt how to get the sound I wanted, everything fell in to place. The songs on the album are to me like a soundtrack of my recent life, and I would be more than happy if others felt even a little bit the same!

What I love about artists like Eno, Ennio or Explosions In The Sky for example, to use one letter of the alphabet (none of which my music is nothing like I should add) is how they invite you inside the music and you can get lost there. If my music creates a similar feeling, then I would be happy.

 

I have to ask you about the video for the album title-track 'Hearts' (directed by Alex Southam of OOF video) which is breathtakingly beautiful and fits with the track perfectly. Can you tell me any more about it's creation?  Where you involved in any way?

 

Yes, Alex really did an excellent job with the video with stunning imagery, capturing the feel of the song in the most beautiful way.  I wasn't involved in the making of it more than being in it for a couple of milliseconds!  Initially Alex emailed me some stills and his ideas about how the video should be and I immediately felt that it was going to be perfect for the song.

 

 

I can't think of a more perfect unison between track and video - are the images all from the Swedish countryside?

 

The majority of 'big' landscape shots were in Snowdonia in North Wales but they also shot all over the UK actually. Then Alex came for a short visit to Stockholm for some shots in my apartment. So Swedish countryside can't be credited for the stunning images no! 

 

Oh shame on me for trying to take the fame from the UK. So the album is out on August 14th but before then you've got three more singles coming out, including remixes from the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Fuck Buttons and Star Slinger?  Were you involved in any of them?

Yes, that's right! It's an amazing feeling to get your music interpreted by another artist and I really like the remixes I've heard so far. I wasn't involved in any of the remixing no, and I think that's how it should be too, giving the artists making the mixes the space to do what they feel is right for the song.  Also, I think I've already done at least 5 different versions of most of my songs before they ended up on the album so I'm pretty happy with making new songs instead!

 

Well I can't wait to hear them and the rest of the album - have you got any live dates coming up?

 

Thanks Dan, I really hope you'll like it. Since it's kind of a specific sound on the album, I am working hard trying different ways to perform the songs live right now, now that the album is finished, and excited to get this right. I've decided to wait with live shows until I'm at least sure that the essence of what I am doing on stage is pure and exciting and that I can believe in it. I'm hoping there will be live dates this fall though!