Interview: Frøkedal on How We Made It

At the end of August, Anne Lise Frøkedal released her second album How We Made It via Propeller Recordings. We’ve been listening a lot to great tracks such as the breakup-single ‘I Don’t Care’ or the folky ‘Believe’ since then, and the album is still full of surprises. Its variety stands out: Frøkedal takes us from pop to folk to the groovy organ soundtrack-song ‘Hybel’ over the span of twelve tracks, with as many different moods and emotions covered. To figure out a bit about what whas going on in the mind behind these songs, we asked Anne Lise a few questions which she has kindly answered for us in detail. Read our interview below to hear about the recording process of How We Made It and the way Anne Lise Frøkedal’s personality traits have inspired the album. You can get a copy of How We Made It via Frøkedal’s Bandcamp.

Hi Frøkedal! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I’ve really enjoyed listening to How We Made It these past few weeks.

Thanks for listening!

Can you start by telling us a bit about your new album How We Made It? Like, how did you make it? And how is it different from your previous music?

I was really happy about my first record, Hold On Dreamer. But I didn’t want to make the same album over again. To me it was important to work with songs that contained a different energy. I realised most of the tracks on my first album were melancholic, but hopeful. Or at least trying to be hopeful and make sense out of things. So I thought: “What are the points in our life where we don’t have the capacity to reason?” I tried to write songs with characters that were less diplomatic and more engulfed in their own more or less chaotic situations. This resulted in more variation in the dynamics and even the instrumentation – some of the songs needed a bigger sound, some had to be played faster – and some remained stripped down and quiet.

What was the recording process for the album like? Any funny anecdotes you could tell us?

As I’ve done previously, I recorded the basics live in a studio with my band ‘Familien’ – to make sure all the little natural variations and even tiny mistakes that happen when a group of people play together made it to the finished recording. Then I did most of the overdubs, like vocals and additional guitars, in my own studio.

The recording sessions went very smoothly, but I guess the most chaotic part was when I decided pretty late in the process (the mixing had already started) that I wanted the song ‘David’ to be on the album. It just hadn’t been recorded yet. And getting that done was like pissing in the wind. Or at least like floundering uphill in very deep snow…

It would be impossible to book a studio on such short notice, so I brought my guitar on a train out to drummer Olaf Olsen’s house outside of Oslo. Back then he had a drum studio set up in his living room. His house is at the top of a steep little hill – which turned out very difficult to climb because of the huge amounts of snow that had fallen. When I made it indoors and we had worked out the details of the song, the recording system collapsed. We spent five hours trying to reboot, reinstall and pray to the God of computers, to no avail. The next day I went back by train and up that snowy hill again, this time with a suitcase loaded with my own recording gear. We got the song down – and what you hear at the core of the song is the two of us, on day two, playing together in that little house surrounded by snow.

I won’t forget to mention that my sister Linn Frøkedal later added a bass track to ‘David’. It is the first time she plays on any of my recordings and I am so happy with what she did!

The press release mentions that the songs are inspired by your ‘immature’ character traits – how have they informed your music? And do you feel that writing songs can be an outlet for these feelings sometimes?

I think I had to study my less diplomatic sides carefully to write these songs. But also those of my surroundings. I tried to revisit situations that make us unreasonable, angry, passionate and foolhardy, and I also tried to imagine what triggers these feelings at various ages.

I’ve never been a very dramatic person myself, so that’s probably why I sometimes admire people who can just walk into a room and step on everyone’s toes. I am way too sensitive to all kinds of vibes to do that. So in a way, some of the characters in these songs have been provided with personality traits I wish I’d have more of in real life.

I feel the songs on How We Made It are all quite different emotionally; some are more happy and up-tempo, others quiet and moody. Is this a reflection of your own personality, or just the way you like to create music?

For this album it was nice to work with these different mood swings, it kind of became my method after a while, because it triggered the songwriting. I think the various situations and feelings described are very human – and familiar to most of us.

One of my favourite songs on the album is ‘Hybel’, which sounds quite different from the rest of the tracks. How did you decide to write a song like this and put it on the album? Is it at all inspired by Norwegian folk music?

I initially came up with Hybel’s melodic theme as one of several score ideas for a short film. In the end it wasn’t used, and I rediscovered the idea when working on this album. The demo I found was basically just me jamming clumsily on an organ and it somehow sounded very exciting to me. I expanded it with a drum beat and finally decided to add a short vocal part to it. It did strike me at some point that this organ-soaked track might not make sense to anyone but me, but luckily I wasn’t alone. Even our engineer had a big hangup on this song, and had me send over a rough mix to him when we got home after a long day of recording it. He needed to hear it again! I don’t know if Hybel is inspired by traditional Norwegian music, but I think there may be an element of Swedish traditional music in it. Just listen to Jan Johanssons “Jazz på Svenska”.

Where do you currently live? What is the music scene like there? Would you ever want to move to somewhere else?

I live in Oslo, Norway. There is a lot going on in the local music scene, but the city isn’t huge, so most people who work with music know of or know each other. There are a lot of collaborations and a lot of shows every night. I’ve heard that Oslo has more concerts per capita than any other city in Europe.

I often thought I’d move to a bigger city in the States or Germany, but I get to travel so much through music that I don’t feel the urge to live anywhere else right now. Oslo is big enough to have something to offer whatever you’re interested in – and so small that you can still visit all your friends by foot.

You write: “It’s not like all of these songs are about me,” she says, “the album has kind of grown into a little collection of freaks.” Since our blog is called Beautiful Freaks, I wanted to ask you: would you think of yourself as a beautiful freaks, understanding that phrase however you like?

I think I’d call the 8 year old version of me, who bought heavy metal records dressed in cute pink clothes, a beautiful freak. I think I’m still carrying around a part of her. And from time to time we’re all freaks. I think that’s partly what this album is trying to say.

Do you have any music you can recommend to us?

Listen to John Cale’s solo albums if you haven’t. Also, lately I’ve been enjoying listening to Weyes Blood’s latest album. I think that’s definitely worth checking out.

-- Beautiful Freaks, September 22, 2018