“I tried to write songs without fear of exposing myself. A lot of the time I end up telling other people’s stories, but when telling them I can twist the story in any direction, and then it ends up being very close to something true about myself”
Anne Lise Frøkedal emerged from the chrysalis last year like a delicately coloured butterfly, flitting through the sky in search of a sweetly flowered meadow. Having spent much of her formative musical years with Norwegian pop group, Harry’s Gym (‘Whisper’, ‘Brother’), when they split in 2013, she dropped her forenames, adopted the moniker, Frøkedal, and launched herself as a solo artist releasing her debut single, ‘I See You’ in March of last year. Since then she has gone on to release an EP of the same name, as well as a plethora of singles, all of which have been received with much critical acclaim.
Having whetted our appetites and left us licking our lips in anticipation, today finally sees Frøkedal drop her debut album, ‘Hold on Dreamer’, as well as unveil the video for her latest single, ‘The Sign’, which you can watch here. In anticipation of this wondrous record, and wondrous it is folks, I asked Frøkedal some questions about her Cajun influences, ‘gentle strength’, the invisible man on the chair, and the black landscape of Western Norway. Here’s what she had to say:-
Hi Anne Lise, thanks for taking the time out. You’ve released a serious amount of music in the past 14 months. How long have you been writing these songs & gearing up towards your debut album, ‘Hold on Dreamer’?
Hei! I started recording this music in late 2014, after testing it on a live stage with Familien (Frøkedal’s band made up of Olav Christer Rossebø, Thea Glenton Raknes, Erlend Ringseth & Ingeleiv Berstad). Some of the songs are older than that, but never fitted into any other project I had, but the majority was written – or at least finished – around the same time as we started playing them live.
How did you approach recording ‘Hold on Dreamer’ and working with the renowned Jimmy Robertson?
We recorded most of the tracks live in a studio in Oslo that has a big recording room. Then I did overdubs (as few as possible) in my own little studio. Some of the more electronic tracks, I’ve recorded all by myself. I actually ended up producing the album as well. I was meant to find someone, but I never did. The reason is probably that I already knew how I wanted it to sound. The mix engineer, Jimmy Robertson, was really important to me, though. When I handed these tracks over to him, I really needed some fresh ears. Luckily, what I’d done made sense to him.
“I think it has something to do with the fiddle, the lack of perfection, the directness”
Your sound incorporates a lot of elements – Americana/Bluegrass/Native American/Folk/Traditional – using all those gorgeous trad string instruments – fiddles, acoustic guitar, etc, – mixed with modern day electric guitars & synthesisers. Can you explain why are you drawn to the “old world” sounds, and what your objective was in bringing them together with more “new world” sounds and techniques for this album?
I’ve known Olav Christer (Olav Christer Rossebø), who plays the fiddle on these tracks, for many years, and he’s constantly introduced me to traditional music from all over the world. What I love about this music, and perhaps the traditional Cajun music in particular, is the simple arrangements, but often very emotional expression. I think it has something to do with the fiddle, the lack of perfection, the directness and the fact that the traditional music was usually recorded live. I wanted to try something like that myself, even if I write pop songs
On the album there is only one song, ‘The Sign’ that uses a full drum kit for percussion, which was overseen by Olaf Olsen. What drew you to him as a percussionist and why the single instance use of a full drum kit?
On ‘The Sign’ I wanted to capture the slightly odd vibe of a collective euphoria. That’s why I had to abandon all intentions of moderation for a little while. After all, there’s nothing moderate about a spiritual awakening. The way Olaf plays on ‘The Sign’ is very typical for him. He plays very lightly, forward-going, but never rushing it. I love his drumrolls. His approach to the kit always makes me think of recordings that were made 50 years ago. I don’t know anyone who plays like he does.
“I am a bad liar”
Your album is really quite special, and your songs are very thought provoking and quite emotive. How do you come up with the ideas for your songs – lyrically and musically – and if you don’t mind me asking, do you pour a lot of yourself into them when you’re both writing and recording them?
I tried to write these songs without fear of exposing myself. I gave it an honest go, and I see now that a lot of the time I end up telling other people’s stories as if they were my own. I think it happens mainly because I am a bad liar, whenever I know too much about how things really happened, I feel obligated to tell the true version, but when I’m telling someone else’s story I can twist and turn that story in any direction. And then it ends up being very close to something true about myself.
There is a “gentle strength”, if that makes sense, to your songs. Do you think this is this reflective of you as a person?
Haha, it is probably easier for others to give a truthful answer to that. I am probably not the loudest type you’ll find in the music industry. And even if I am quite emotionally driven, I’m also very determined. I know very well what I like and don’t like.
‘Hold on Dreamer’ seems to be following a couple of themes, many of them full of positivity, self-belief and hope, but there are also moments of intense sadness. Was that just how things worked out or were you trying to find a balance between light/dark, or, was the intention to paint a true reflective picture of life and emotion?
I think the different characters in these songs are going through things that are very recognizable. There is both dark and light in these songs, and I wanted it to stay balanced.
‘Cherry Trees’ is an extremely beautiful and very poignant song, and possibly my favourite on the album. Can you tell me what it is about?
‘Cherry Trees‘ is about a relationship that is not going to survive, despite good intentions and an idyllic backdrop of cherry trees blooming in spring. The two people in the song have lost the connection they once had.
The title of the album, ‘Hold on Dreamer’ is a line taken from the song ‘The Man Who Isn’t Here’. The lyrics speak of shutting out the city, and the noise, and waking up to the inner dreamer holding us tight. Do you think we all have an “inner dreamer” that we could hear more clearly is there was less noise more silence in the world?
Yes. I think we have an inner dreamer that becomes clearer to us in times of great distress, because we have to shut out everything else.
And tell me, what exactly are you trying to convey through the image of the invisible man on the chair?
The way you can sometimes feel the presence of someone you miss who is no longer around – as it they were still there.
“On ‘The Sign’ I wanted to capture the slightly odd vibe of a collective euphoria”
‘The Sign’, such an uplifting song, seems to be saying despite all the destruction around us of society, nature, community – and despite our failings, there is always way to succeed, look around you and you will find it, it’s not too late for us to change our ways? Can you give us some background to the message?
I believe in this message, if we look for our own answers. But I also believe a similar message is often preached by people with the wrong agenda, and that’s when it gets disturbing.
It sounds like you very much had Norway in mind when you wrote ‘Misery’ – pine trees, black mountains etc. How much has being Norwegian had an influence on your music?
Well spotted. The song is inspired by some of the gloominess of the landscape, and sometimes people, in the west coast of Norway, where I’m from. I have made jokes about it when playing the song in this area, but they always respond in such an enthusiastic way to the track, that I suspect that they recognize something. I think a lot of the melancholy in my music to a certain degree has to do with being from a part of the country where it (seemingly) always rains, and the long dark winters over here. And I think the traditional Norwegian music that I’ve become familiar with through my fiddle-playing friend has (subconsciously) influenced the rhythmics of my songs and sometimes even the way I sing.
And finally before we let you go, who are your tips coming out of Norway just now? Who has Frokedal on her turntable?
I am into some electronic acts, like André Bratten, Todd Terje, Ost & Kjex, Kim Hiorthøy. And I like acts like The Megaphonic Thrift and Årabrot. And a lot in between, but I am afraid I don’t feel up to date these days. I’ve probably spent too much time with my own music lately.
And what better music for Frokedal to spend her time with than this most delightful of confections!
Thanks so much to Anne Lise for her very precious time and her honest, insightful answers!! You’ll be able to read my review of ‘Hold on Dreamer’ soon, keep your eyes peeled to my Twitter and FB. In the meantime, have a listen to a final piece of Frokedal music as you take a peek at the video for ‘Kid’, here.
You can follow Frokedal on Facebook, Twitter and her official website, where you’ll find details of musical releases, and her current tour which kicks off in York tonight, working through the UK, then moving to Germany and on to Norway. Alas no Dublin, next time hey!!