Listening to it, you wouldn't necessarily guess that the new Susanne Sundfør album, Ten Love Songs, was in some tenuous way inspired by Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. But when you delve into it and wend your way through its dichotomous cuts - soft, ballady cinescape numbers intermingled with eruptive electro-pop - the jumps from fast to slow, from loud to quiet, are reminiscent of the surprises Kubrick springs on you to enhance the theatrics of his story-telling. And so, alongside the main theme of love, Sundfør has opted for drama as a major player in the overall mood of the record. Think Anna von Hausswolff's Ceremony tossed together in an auditory salad with Robyn's Body Talk trilogy and you get an idea of what this ten track set sounds like.

Despite the fact that Ten Love Songs is Sundfør's fifth long-payer, it's only recent collaborations with the likes of Röyksopp and M83 that have brought her music to the attention of audiences outside her native Norway. With her 2012 release, The Silicone Veil, she went straight to number 1 in her homeland and subsequently secured a UK release, ensuring that her fan-base has continued burgeoning.

In the way of different strokes for different folks, The 405's recent review of Ten Love Songs paints a slightly different picture to the one representing this writer's personal thoughts on the collection, which has been on heavy rotation here since November, when we first premiered the MAPS remix of the first single, 'Fade Away'. In a sense, this variance in views is probably a good representation of how this album is likely to be received - for some the duality in the sound we refer to above may work, while for others it may well jar. Here, at any rate, Sundfør gives The 405 her own take on this intriguing pop record.

Hello Susanne and congratulations on Ten Love Songs.

Aw, thank you very much.

How soon after The Silicone Veil did you start working on this album?

I actually wrote [new single] 'Delirious' back in 2012 and the concept - the idea for the album as a whole - actually came pretty late in the process. It was more of a way to find a similar theme in the songs I was working on, a theme that would draw them together. I had written more than half of the album before I came up with the title so, for example, 'Slowly' was written around the same time that I decided on the album title but I think some of the earlier songs like 'Accelerate' and 'Delirious' are quite different both thematically and sound-wise to something like 'Slowly'. And also 'Darlings'. Those two were the last two songs I wrote.

Is this way of working characteristic for you?

Not really. With some of my previous albums, like The Silicone Veil, I had the themes right from the beginning but, with this album, it sort of developed into it as I went along. I think for some listeners it may be a bit too schizophrenic but to me it does make sense and I prefer to make an album this way because it gives me more freedom and it is more interesting to go to what you've been wanting to express in the past couple of years and then giving it a title, once you've been through it. That way, you don't lock yourself down with it too much, which is probably what I did with The Silicone Veil.

You acknowledge that some listeners may find the approach on this album somewhat schizophrenic.


I take it that the ordering of the tracks in this manner had a purpose, then.

Absolutely. I've actually just finished watching this very nerdy documentary about The Shining called Room 237- it was a bit too nerdy for me, to be honest - like seeing symbols that aren't really there [laughs]. I saw The Shining a couple of years ago and watching the documentary I thought about some of the themes in the film again and how they scared me and shook me so much, especially the scene with the old woman in the bath-tub and the scene with the kid watching the blood bursting through the elevator.


Well, it's the way Kubrick cuts it that's so unique. I haven't seen that in a movie ever since. They way he does things is much scarier because you don't get to prepare yourself for the next image. He just cuts it and suddenly you just see the dead lady in the bath-tub. I really like the drama that it creates. I think it's so over the top and very clever as well. It certainly influenced how I wrote and how I arranged the songs on the album. It adds theatre to the musicality. The transitions are quite dramatic and that's how I ordered the songs.

Not a lot of people outside Norway know that this is actually your fifth album. Does it bother you that some regard you as a young up-and-comer rather than an experienced artist?

I don't care! I mean, I'm not young anymore so I take it as a compliment [laughs]. To me, I've always wanted to be able to tour and, as long as they don't call me a cunt, they can call me what they want, as long as I get more shows.

You worked on large chunks of the album on your own. What was that experience like for you?

I would say that, to an extent, it was lonely - because I have always worked with a producer on my albums - it has always been important to me to communicate with someone during that process, because it can be very hard to motivate yourself. I think for many musicians it can be a very emotional process to go into the studio and it can be pretty rough. You are basically starting with a blank and you have to build something from nothing. If you don't have anyone to help you, it can feel like a lot of responsibility and it can be pretty lonely. But, at the same time, I think I needed to do it on my own, just to see if I could. I had a lot of very specific ideas about a lot of the songs so I didn't really feel like I needed someone to help me with that or to collaborate on that. Having said that, I have worked with other people on some of the songs. So, for instance, Lars Horntveth, who helped me on the last two albums, produced 'Silencer' with me. Anthony Gonzalez [from M83] co-produced 'Memorial' with me and Big Black Delta did some production on 'Accelerate'. Oh and, of course, Röyksopp - they did some production on 'Slowly'. So it hasn't been completely lonely.

You mentioned 'Memorial' which acts as the centre-point for the album and, at 10 minutes long, is an epic mood-changer. When you were writing it, were you aiming for a War and Peace-like effort?

[Laughs] Well, I'd written it on piano - it's a pretty old song - but I didn't finish the lyrics until later. I wrote this interlude part that I wanted for the middle of the song and I started working on it again last year and then added guitar and synthesisers and the intro and everything. I then thought it might be interesting to have a piece at the end of the song, where it would be reminiscing on the loss, because that's what the song is about. So I started writing this end-piece for the song. I was also reading about Philip Glass and how he composed his scores and arranged them and I basically tried to make a Philip Glass-y piece. I only wanted it to last for, like, about 30 seconds but it just went on and on and I felt like I couldn't let it last only 30 seconds with it being so dramatic. So it just kept going on and on and, in the end, I think it went on for about 4 or 5 minutes. I played the whole composition to Anthony and he came in and recorded drums and put all his loveliness over it and that's how it ended up being what it is.

There's a particular line in the song - in fact, my favourite line on the album - where you sing "you took off my dress and you never put it on again." What can you tell me about this lyric?

Sometimes I don't want to talk about lyrics because I want the listener to be able to interpret it for themselves, because if it means one thing to me it doesn't have to mean the same thing to someone else. But, to me, it's obvious that it's very sexual but also about vulnerability. It's interesting in society today when you talk about sexuality, it's often very shallow and aggressive. Yet, I think that with sexuality it can also be a lot about showing your vulnerability and that's why I was pretty happy with that line, because I think I managed to combine these elements. Often in relationships it is difficult to balance the power structure and in that power structure there is both vulnerability and sexuality. I guess what I am saying with that line is that someone else has robbed that from me and I am then left naked, vulnerable. Does that make sense?

Yes, it does.

Oh, good. I often end up in parallel universes when I talk about my lyrics but hopefully that doesn't sound too out there.

Is there a particular lyric which you are fond of on the album?

I think 'Trust Me' has the best lyrics because it's very open and, to me, it's very emotional and I think the lyrics possibly have more musicality to them than other lyrics on the album.

Let's talk about the current single, 'Delirious', which is probably the biggest antithesis to 'Memorial'.

'Delirious' is about a relationship that is very intense and I know so many people who have experienced being betrayed in love or fooled in love and that is what I wanted to write about. I wrote it when I was lying in bed. I had Pro Tools out and I just recorded the vocals on my Mac, you know - just as a demo. It was a song made in bed [laughs]. I made most of the structure of it that day and then filled it up with more synths, more strings, more vocals.

Another song that must make it as a single from the album is 'Kamikaze'. What can you tell me about it?

I wanted to make a pop song. That's what I tried to do.

I don't think anyone can argue you failed in this endeavour.

[Laughs] Thanks. I do think it's the most obvious pop song on the album. Perhaps production-wise it isn't so much, because it is quite raw. Maybe it is too controversial and violent to think of it as a pop song but I think composition-wise it is quite poppy. I came up with the line "I'm your Kamikaze" but I wasn't sure whether it might just sound stupid. But I thought if I tried to be clever with it, it might be cool. So that's how I started with the lyrics and I didn't want it to be offensive in any way, I just wanted it to be an image of love and destruction again. That's when I thought of the crash sounds and how the song should be very dramatic and a little bit banal in that you hear me sing "I am your kamikaze" and then you hear a plane crash sound. I thought it would be an interesting and surprising element.

Who did you work with on the artwork for this era?

A very talented designer and artist called Grady McFerrin, who did an incredible job. He's fantastic. I told him what the themes on the album were - about love, the star imagery I have used and also timelessness - and then he started drawing. What I like the most about the artwork, other than it being beautiful, is that it is very surprising. It kind of looks like artwork for a folk album but I like that it is a bit unpredictable. If I went for something predictable for an electro-pop album I would just have neon-coloured triangles all over the cover but I wanted something a little different.

Have you felt any pressure to exploit your own image on album covers in order to sell records?

That was an issue on my first album and I had that argument back then but I don't have to do that anymore. I mean, there are still many things that are fucking unfair in this business if you're a woman. But also if you are not white, for example - there's so much racism in the industry. So you just have to fight back and make the best out of the situation. But things are changing and, especially in Norway, you do feel like it is getting better. When you challenge power structures, there is always going to be a lot of screaming. Because people don't like change, they prefer predictability. People perceive society to be based on family and on husbands and wives - conservatively, that is how society is seen as. But then when you challenge that and when you challenge the gender roles and destabilise the core of society, it can become a battle. It's very easy to get lost in digressions in terms of what the issues are for women. The issues are that women want to be accepted on the same level as guys - that's what it's all about. I believe that's what most feminists want. But I think people do now have better perception on gender roles in the music industry. I am very lucky, though, because I have people around me who appreciate my songwriting rather than just the fact that they might think I am, say, a good singer. And that is something that matters to me a lot. Not because I want to be original or different or whatever but because it is what I do and what I have always done. I feel accepted and appreciated by the musicians around me, which is lucky because I know a lot of other musicians out there who don't have it that way.

Can I be vulgar for a moment and talk about money?

Oh, ok.

I am interested in how musicians manage to make a living in today's climate, where record sales are not exactly windfall-generating.

I don't think that's vulgar. It's a totally legitimate question.

Oh, that's good.

Well, you see, I'm no expert on this but my impression is that artists make money mainly from live shows and synchs. Like, if you get a big commercial that can be very valuable. You never really make any money on the physical products anymore. I mean, I guess some artists do but generally I think that is rare, nowadays. But it doesn't come close to the potential revenue if you are a big live artist.

But if you don't get the big synch deals, how can you afford to make music in the first place and pay the rent?

I have many friends who are musicians who can't live off it, so it's a pretty hectic life because they have to work outside of the time they dedicate to the music and time can be a problem.

It seems like it's something that is not discussed much. People who listen to music are not always aware of that side of things, you know?

Yes but people don't really give a shit because if you can get music for free you will go and get it for free - I don't think it's high on people's morals list. But I wouldn't go all apocalyptic about the music industry. I think we'll manage. I agree with a lot of the critics of Spotify, although we don't really have a better option now, do we. But I think that'll come. I think things will get better for musicians. Music will always survive in some shape or form.

Finally - and changing the subject - do you have a favourite love song?

[Thinks for a moment] Umm, I'd say Roy Harper's 'Another Day'. My friend and her band once covered it, which is how I first heard of it. It is a very beautiful and very deep song. Very touching!

Ten Love Songs is out now on Sonnet Sound.