High Priestess of Scandanavian Pop: Lykke Li

O2: I saw you way back in March at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin.  

LL: Weird, that was a long time ago.

O2: I’ve noticed from seeing you perform back then and seeing you Tuesday that the songs are quite different live. The record is quirky in lots of ways, but it’s pretty much a pop record. But live, you really sound like you’re fronting a rock band. Is it important that the songs sound different live than they do on record?

LL: No, it’s not important. I had never played with a full band before, so I did the record without knowing what was to come, you know? I didn’t have any other experience. It was pretty much my first time in the studio. And now, I like being hardcore. I prefer [my music] live.

O2: Since you’ve been playing these songs for so long, I imagine they’ve changed quiet a bit from when you originally recorded them.

LL: Yeah, you just have to do it. I don’t even think about the record; I just think about the show.

O2: There’s so much interesting instrumentation on the record. Would you ever consider performing with more of that stuff on stage? Or are you content with just busting out with your three-man backing band?

LL: I don’t know. I think it’s interesting to do more with less… I’ve never been in the position where I’ve had the time or the money to do a big show like that. These are the first shows where we’ve really gotten paid, so I just can’t hire all those people [to play those instruments].

O2: There’re a lot of different genres running through your record. There’s hip-hop, there’s pop, there’s a little folk. Is there a single element that connects all of these songs for you, whether musically or thematically?

LL: It’s me. I don’t know why I should have to stick to one sound when I love all kinds of music. The thing [that pulls the album together] is my voice, and what I say, and honesty. And then I can go and do a techno song or a blues song. I don’t want to define it or narrow it down ’cause I think it’s really boring to label music. And I certainly don’t want to get labeled either–I’m scared of that.

O2: A lot of journalists mention you in the same paragraph as Annie or Robyn. Is it frustrating to keep getting lumped together with other European pop stars?

LL: Yeah, it’s very frustrating. I don’t think they would write that if they saw me live, you know. Life is a big injustice, so you can’t spend too much time worrying about what journalists say about you.

O2: Are there any musicians then that you would feel comfortable being compared to?

LL: I don’t know. I’m not really a musician. I don’t play guitar. But as far as performers go, I would love to be compared to Mick Jagger.

O2: Why Mick Jagger?

LL: ‘Cause he got swagger.

O2: Would you consider working with [producer] Bjorn [Yttling] again for your next album?

LL: Yeah, I want to work with him again.

O2: I’m really curious about how much he changed your demos. How raw were they when you originally brought them to him?

LL: It was just me in my room with piano and sometimes drum machines. I did the song and then we just added stuff. The songs are pretty much the same [on the album]… I can do every single song acoustically and it would still sound really good…

O2: So what Bjorn did was just add some instrumentation, like the Theremin or the harpsichord?

LL: I mean, some of songs we wrote together, so we’d be in the studio writing together. We’re like a band… Though, there are some songs that I wrote by myself as well.

O2: Is there a particular song on the album that you’re most proud of, or a tune that most surprised you by the way it turned out?

LL: I think "Little Bit"–the first song that we made–really hit the right notes. I was really happy with it because it set the direction for the whole album.

O2: I understand you moved to New York four years ago when you were only 19….

LL: No, it was three years ago and I only stayed there for three months so I don’t know if you could say I moved.

O2: Ah, okay. You stayed in Bushwick, though, right?

LL: Yeah.

O2: What was that experience like?

LL: It was a really shitty apartment. There was no heating, so I was really cold all the time. There were rats and cockroaches. You know, it was pretty scary walking home at night. But I adjusted really easily, so I didn’t think it was a problem. I thought it was nice to experience that.

High Priestess of Scandanavian Pop: Lykke Li