Our Northern (and East a bit) brethren in the Scandinavian peninsula have been brandishing their pop forte for the longest time now; however, in recent months, the sonic exodus has increased tenfold, and we've glimpsed inside the Tarantino's Briefcase of the snowy bloc. There are ceaseless examples of phenomenal talent, but arguably the grandest of the past few years is Robyn, whose genre-melding chart-botherers and dancefloor bangers are the epitome of modern pop. It's obvious she's got quite the eye for stellar noise, so when she announced the first ever signing (excluding herself) to her own Konichiwa Records, piqued interest Mexican wave-d across the globe. That first signing is Zhala.

A former Lykke Li backing singer (like Naomi Pilgrim), Stockholm's Zhala Rifat lends her auric pipes to a ritualistic, roughly-hewn bindle of lurching techno basslines and gossamer Top 40 hooks. She's dubbed it 'cosmic pop', and as tracks like 'Prophet' zoom through the cosmos, past spangly saturnine flares and Special K red-eye beats, it's easy to see why. Her debut EP, also titled Prophet, was released towards February's derrière to rave reviews, and a lauded, Nirvana-inspired performance at the Swedish Grammis alongside mentor/label head honcho/amigo Robyn, cemented her status as a bona fide one to watch.

Her sounds may conjure visions of a jarringly aloof pop auteur with a preoccupation for distortion, the occult and the hallucinogenic nature of the aural arts, but in reality, she couldn't be more cordial. When we finally got a chance to catch up with Zhala, we got down to the nitty-gritty of what she thought of her first few weeks at Konichiwa, we learned how she created Prophet and discovered her roots.

So you're the first person other than Robyn to be signed to Konichiwa – what's that like?

It's really exciting! Most of all, it's just really fun 'cause she's so inspiring and a really great person to be around. We love talking about music and stuff, and we also hang out aside from working. She's super professional. It's a great thing. She's an artist herself, so she understands my integrity, and what I think is important. I think we share those thoughts about what's important for the music and to me. To have an artist as your label boss, to me that's just the best thing. That's the best choice... I mean I dunno about other labels though? For me it's a bonus.

Why do you think you were chosen as the first person to be signed to Konichiwa? What makes you stand out? I mean I can hear exactly why, but it'd be cool to get your perspective.

Why do you think?

Umm...well... I think it's because you both share a similar pop ethic? I mean you and her really push the boundaries of what pop and dance are in your music, but it's still very much part of those genres. It's experimental without being alienating, and it's fascinating. I think, with that in mind and given the similarities between you both, it would've been silly not to!

Hmm... I'm not sure to be honest, haha! You'll have to ask her... I don't know. We get along really well. We enjoy working with each other and we respect each other a lot... it's more like – you know when you find some people and get this natural way of how things develop? We have that connection.

Did you have that with Lykke Li? I heard you worked as a back-up singer for a while?

For me it was more like a really good experience to learn the production element of being an artist. It was a great production wise – not like producers and stuff, but the performing, the experience of touring that kind of way. It helped me to know how to choose and pick things for my own tour.

Like a gap year sort of?

Yeah, for me it was like a really good experience to get into a different project for a year and a half that wasn't mine. I could transform for eighteen months and see how that would affect me and my life. I learned a lot from that, you know? It's very different from what I do with my stuff.

So what did you learn to bring to your own performances?

I try to enjoy myself. When I perform I try to create a place where I feel home and then after that its just a nice cosy great time.

Can you remember what was your first show ever like?

Haha wow, I don't remember! Like with these songs? Or ever ever ever? I used to perform a lot. A couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it and improvised a lot with DJs at clubs but I can't remember my first show. But I was probably nervous. I always get super nervous. I can handle it better now though.

How about with these new songs?

With these songs, I was opening for Robyn at a huge arena in Sweden with 35,000 people. It was a crazy experience. It was so crazy. It wasn't real, and it was my first proper long show. It was surreal. The audience was so big, the whole place was huge. I had adrenaline all day! It was like super high for whole days before I even arrived. When I got there for a soundcheck it was massive. That was super different. I usually do club gigs, so it was so different. Normally I can connect and communicate, but with the audience so far away and all the lights and everything, this was like being in a dream.

So what was it like performing at the Grammis?! I imagine that was pretty big, and nerve-wracking too. The American Grammy Awards are normally reserved for these huge musicians that sell out arenas, and you've only just released your first EP. Is it different environment there?

Every year that put some baby artist on. It's a really small country, and where I've been around a while here I think it was something it that just kinda happened, I guess!

I heard you were nominated aged 11 as part of a choir? Was it strange being there again?

I would usually watch the USA ones on TV, but I didn't really get it when I was younger... to me at the time it was just a really fun experience! But I don't think I really 'got' it. I was too young.

You performed 'Prophet' at the ceremony, from the EP that's just come out. How did the Prophet EP come together? Like, what was the recording and writing process like?

I was just sleeping at friends places on floors and sofas for like a year and writing it when I had any spare time. It was very intense for eight months, recording for like twenty-four hours straight, with Mathias, sleeping and then working... the process went on for eight or nine months. But, you know, the process of the actual EP is very mixed! I start from a lot different angles. It was produced with with Mathias Oldén in Malmö, which is like six hours away from Stockholm.

How about the song 'Prophet' in particular? I've had it on repeat for ages now...

A very difficult question. It just happened.

Like spur of the moment?

No haha! But yes, it did in a way...

Well what's the best setting to hear it? How can we appreciate it best as listeners?

Hmm... I think that is for other people to decide. What it is for me doesn't have to be that for someone else. I listen to it at any time of the day, for example, but other people say they listen to it at night. But this EP has a... quality, maybe? It depends on what you do with it, I think. It's for other people to decide!

How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard it before?

Cosmic pop.

Can you elaborate on that? What is 'cosmic pop'?

It changes all the time, really. I picked 'cosmic pop' as I think its a name that doesn't make me feel trapped. I feel like its a really wide genre for me, and I can fit a lot of stuff in there. That's why I chose it.

What's influenced the 'cosmic pop'?

A lot a lot a lot of things. Mostly, when I make music, it's an experience, a moment and a feeling that inspires me. It's more about my life and the stuff I've experienced and seen than trying to make a certain sound or genre, you know? I want people to feel free when they listen to my music. I feel free when I make it. I don't know how people will feel though, and that's really exciting. It's super exciting to see the reactions. When I make music I don't know or think about what other people will feel, it's just how I will feel. This first EP has been an egocentric... wait, is that the word? Like for myself? I don't know what the English word is...


Yes, personal! Maybe I'm introverted when I'm communicating with music. The communication is later on.

Okay so one final question as I'm wary we don't much time left: do you have any plans for the rest of the year we should be looking forward to...?

I do! I'm getting more dates for shows. It's all happening right now.

Will those shows make the leap to the UK at all?

They will! Hopefully. I will come to the UK at some point, I really want to!