On her third album, Sandra Kolstad is taking on the fear she has harbored about herself as an artist and human. Zero Gravity State Of Mind is the kaleidoscopic pop record that encapsulates a sense of clarity in moments of doubt and adversity. Following a stint travelling the world, Kolstad found her home in Berlin in 2009 where she began working in electronic music. With two albums released, her third is her most fully-realized and colourful work to date.

Its songs combine electronic and acoustic elements, as she laces them with imaginative nuances and charm that are characteristically her own. Lead single 'Rooms' rationally observes the possibilities in life, while newest release 'My Yellow Heart' is a strident urge to not become a "hard hearted woman". The record is a collection of songs that are dynamic in sound and meaning, whilst matched with surreal and life-affirming imagery.

I spoke with Kolstad about her relationship to music, a desire to sound mechanical and organic, and the journey she has taken to get to this point.

Congratulations on the release of your new album. Does this album feel like a creative move forward for you?

Thank you! And yes, it does. I worked very differently on this album than on the previous ones. Both concerning how I wrote the songs and how I produced them. I was working with more people this time, which was very inspiring. Other people bring other kinds of creativity.

The album's title, Zero Gravity State Of Mind, implies a way of thinking that has clarity or a sense of nothing left to lose. Would I be right in saying that? How did you reach that title to represent the album?

It was simply a 'Zero Gravity State Of Mind' moment. I just found the words and saw very clearly that they had to be the name of my next record. This was long before I had even started writing many of the songs. Good analysis, by the way. That's exactly how it is!

There seems to be a theme of withstanding conflict throughout the record, which is easily heard on the opening song 'Ice Age'. Does making music help sort out your thoughts?

I am trying to not use music as a self-therapy. I often work conceptually with both music and lyrics. But of course partly it still has some sort of therapeutic effect. You give way to undercurrents when you create something. I think music by nature can open up something, and maybe even heal something. It's the same with writing, and the two; making music and writing, are closely connected to me.

There is also a sense of overcoming fear on this album. 'My Yellow Heart' has that line "Don't you go be a hard-hearted woman" and the video shows you blossoming. Would you say that you've had over conquer some of your fears in the past few years?

I would say I have been nothing but afraid the past few years, without realizing it. I think I've been that hard-hearted woman in many ways. But I didn't write that song in direct connection to my own life at all, it had to do with other people, at least I thought that at the time. Maybe I was singing to myself without knowing it. That's how it is sometimes.

What instruments do you write with when creating the foundation of a song?

That depends on where I am and what I feel like. I usually use a keyboard of some sort, preferably a piano. But the guitar has helped me write many songs. And I like building instruments where I can't understand what I'm doing when I play, so I don't easily choose the chords and progressions. That way I can sometimes escape my own self-censorship. I also work a lot with samples. I have written songs out of just one sample of one sound.

Has executing musical ideas become easier with time as you hear or envision them?

Yes and no. As I learn more and more about different music production softwares etcetera, it both enables me to do more things but also shapes the frame around my music making in ways I cannot always oversee. There may be a lot of limitations there I simply don't know of. I did some weird stuff when I started to learn Ableton Live, that I would never do today, because I "know better" - although those things in the past really worked.

In terms of production, what kind of overall sound or mood did you want to achieve?

My aim was to finally find a way to combine the electronic with the acoustic. I wanted the production to be firm, but vivid and dynamic. I wanted it to be cold and warm. Mechanic and organic. I am drawn to paradoxes in life, and in music production.

The lyric for 'Rooms' is very simple on the surface, but has a deep substance about life and where it can take us. Did you know when you wrote it that you had something very succinct and meaningful?

I try not to think too much when I write lyrics. I find that sometimes the most subtle meanings has to occur on their own. I try not to be moralizing. To me life and art appears at its best when the simple and seemingly random is at the same time something deep and meaningful. Sometimes it's like that, sometimes it's not. That's what we have to cope with.

There are two songs on the album named after people, 'Benjamin' and 'Valerie'. Are these real people or can you tell me about the story behind them?

The song 'Valerie' is a psalm for Valerie Solanas, and the fantastic book about her that Swedish author Sara Stridsberg has written, The Dream Faculty. I was very fascinated by the poetry inherent in the cruel and ugly in that book. I was very lucky to get Petter Eldh to produce the song, he did a fantastic job recording free jazz super star drummer Christian Lillinger and the marvellous saxophone player Phillip Gropper in Berlin. The name Benjamin sounds good, that's mainly why I chose that name.

The album, music videos for 'Rooms' and 'My Yellow Heart' have a surreal texture and quality about them. It's like your finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Did you want to create a sort of fantasy for yourself and the listeners?

I always just try to make the music look like it sounds. It's like when I was a child and put four chairs together on the floor, and put a blanket on top of them. In there, I could create my own world where everything was possible. In some ways, that's what I'm doing still.

Were there any reference points in pulling the visual aesthetic together for the album?

This time it was a very personal constellation making the album art. My mother Annabeth Kolstø, who is a designer, made the suit and the turban that I am wearing, and my godmother, the painter Gunnhild Bakke, made the concept with me standing in a flowery fabric among fake and real plants. The great photographer Tonje Thilesen and I played around with the idea in the streets of Berlin, and Tonje, who has a very sharp eye, did an excellent job capturing the feeling we wanted. That was the first step - since then, everything evolved around and developed from this concept.

Do you think this album will open up possibilities to you in terms of performance and presenting your music?

It already did. The concept already invited me to change a lot of the performance. That's always very inspiring, when something new happens.

What musical contemporaries do you admire? Do you see anyone pushing music forward today?

Swedish Little Dragon are among my favorites. They make electronic music that is very inspiring harmonically, rhythmically and sound-wise. That's also the case with my Norwegian colleague Jenny Hval. Björk is obviously also - as always - making the future look bright for music.

You played a gig recently with your sister. That must've been a very exciting and proud moment for you?

It was one of the best moments I've ever had playing a concert. Kine is 17 years old and she was so calm and focused and cool about everything. I was deeply impressed. I have just hired her for two more gigs this spring, one of them is a very special gig where we will mainly improvise, the other is at the opening of Oslo Pride. If I could take her out of school, I'd take her on tour, but I guess I'll have to wait until she's done in just over a year. Kine is also producing music herself, and, well, I'm quite sure you'll be seeing her name as a producer on one of my records soon. And here's a fun fact: Kine is also the running superstar in the 'My Yellow Heart' video.

Does your relationship to the songs change once you've released them?

In a way, no. When they are released, I have been done with them for a long time and am usually very ready to get them out there. But also in a way yes, it's especially interesting to hear how other people perceive them. Sometimes how another person hears one of my songs also changes how I hear it.

How has your view of yourself as an artist changed since your debut?

I try not to view myself as an artist. I try to be a human being, as good as possible. And focus on my art.


Sandra Kolstad's new album, Zero Gravity State of Mind, is out now on Red Eye Records.