As we begin to emerge from the gelid clutches of winter, you may feel that dwindling need for affecting Scandipop slipping through your fingers all the time. Though that patently shouldn’t be the case, and the latest in an unending line of Swedish ice queens, Göteborg’s Frida Sundemo, shouldn’t go duly unnoticed until December once again rears its brutish head right on a post-autumnal cue. We speak with Sundemo the wrong side of what transpired to be a weekend in which the today sniffly popstrel “didn’t actually do anything special”, though sounds to have been inflicted by that same “dear winter cold” referenced in her latest single, Snow. “I just didn’t go to the studio to work, and that’s not very common. Because we usually work seven days a week, and so it was quite good to just relax.”
I’ve heard things of Frida – of her relentless work ethic, and overwhelmingly endearing impatience when it comes to having to wait to have the next glistering pop pearler uploaded to her SoundCloud. Though further rest awaits as although she reassures me that the recording of her début record is “going well”, it sounds a little while off just yet: “We finished the EP some weeks ago, so now we’ve got, like, eight tracks that we really like for the album. We’re working on maybe four other pieces, so hopefully we’ll have it finished fairly soon.”
Though we’re maybe jumping the gun somewhat here, as Sundemo herself would surely do: as yet I should imagine she’s a comparative unknown to many, and she’s a suitably inscrutable type in that her biography says more of who she’s not, as opposed to who she actually is. Or perhaps rather who is Frida Sundemo – the self-styled po-mo pop star: ‘Frida Sundemo is not from outer space. Didn’t have a broken childhood. Has not wasted all her savings on drugs’, it reads. It affords her, or rather her music the opportunity to lucidly speak for itself, though how would she be best introduced to the heathens? “I think I’d like to keep an air of mystery about me, and I wouldn’t choose to give too much away. I don’t want to be put in this group of people who want to be seen as very… strange, and so on. You could see me as a kind of girl next door? A girl next door, with a secret hidden from everyone. It’s kinda hard to explain! But the music has always been the main thing, of course.”
And it’s the music itself to which various globules of UK audience recently found themselves glued – music which, to the alien foreigner, sounds distinctly Scandinavian. There is this unmistakably chilly feel to most musics of the Nordic regions, and it’s a sound to which the likes of Indigo belong. But why can it all be heard so analogously? “Well, maybe because it’s quite a small area, and the music scenes are not actually very big? Most people know one another, and I think that we have heavily influenced each other. It’s a quite tricky question, but I think one of the reasons is this small crowd we have.”
Certainly, the music seems to directly reflect the climate to whir around these musicians in question. “Yeah, that’s true” Sundemo keenly ratifies. “Half the year is very cold. Yesterday we were at minus five but for a long time, it’s been -15ºC.”
And so her most recent development in a still thawing discography which is as yet available to the prying ear – the body part in which Sundemo is lingering; waiting for you, if her press release is again to be read into – is perhaps less meteorologically relevant than it once was. Snow, her sophomore single, is that which best elucidates a further claim in her blurb: that ‘she is gifted with an airy voice that burrows all the way into your bones. Whether you like it or not.’ I like it. Inordinately, even if the song itself never quite scales the powder-dusted apices of Indigo.
Though this considerable intrigue in each – has it already exceeded even her wildest expectations? “Definitely. Well of course, it’s always hard to know how people will react but myself and Joel [Humlén, producer and co-writer] were working on the songs for around a year without actually showing them to very many people at all, so it’s hard to imagine anything. When you listen to it yourself so many times, it’s strange. It’s difficult even to know how it sounds, so yeah – it was kind of scary to let it out to people.”
Though she swiftly backtracks on these freshly laid prints when questioned as to whether she struggled in thrusting these tracks out into the great wide open: “I think I actually find it easier and easier to release things. When I was younger, it was all a lot scarier. But maybe one of the reasons now is because I felt very happy with the music during the process, and so I’m just very eager to let it all out.”
A release in both the physical and psychological sense, then. Though this great wide open could now more commonly be coined the world wide web. And as much as it has jammed the window right open to allow for anybody to fling their wares out and about the place, there’s now an ever broadening abyss between artist and audience. That is to say that whereas once upon a time you would count the shrapnel, splurge it all on a record of choice, and then get saving for the subsequent show there is now a magnified likelihood – at least to my mind – that the songwriter will never even so much as hear from those who choose to hear the songs themselves, where they would once have been forced to quite literally see eye-to-eye and converse rather more humanly.
And there has so too been a change in that intrinsic sense of ownership, whereby people are becoming ever more disinterested – or maybe even disillusioned – by the notion of owning tangible musical produce, with even MP3s widely being discarded in favour of the supposedly empyrean databases of Spotify. Never before has there been a stronger sense of flinging the fruits of labour to the baying wolves or, to take a more cynical stance, seeing what sticks once the proverbial has reemerged from the fan. Though when we digitally release, we unleash an art form upon the world and, within or infrequently outside of legally binding copyright stipulations, the listener is then free to do whatever they will with it.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing actually, as it makes it seem like the music has its own soul, or something. They’re like little creatures that I can create, but that once released I’m to let live their own lives!” An element of the fantastical pervades her voice and although Sweden isn’t exactly famed for its fairytales, they may well have found their latest instigator if the whole music malarkey doesn’t pan out quite as planned.
Yet were each a “little creature”, they’d surely recite a lyric from Robyn’s The Last Time in unison: “It’s drivin’ me crazy; it’s got me going wild.” Perhaps an inevitable parallel to be drawn, but it’s one that’s been scribbled both frantically, and indeed all-pervasively. Though is there a detrimental effect in being so closely aligned, and has the comparison already driven she herself demented? “I think it’s a good thing”, she parries. “I think she’s a really good artist. So I feel proud when people speak of us in the same sentence, but personally I don’t think that my music is that close to hers. That said, I can see why people might think it’s quite alike!”
It’s arguably another noxious byproduct of this online era – the living, breathing actuality that we’re always; endlessly scouring for the next so and so, or the new you-know-who. It cheapens the artist’s craft, I’d reckon and Sundemo sheepishly agrees: “It might be not very good, but I think that a lot of people maybe listen to what [so-called, I should paraphrase] tastemakers say and think, instead of deciding for themselves because they’re scared to stick to certain music because, say, they think it’s old. They’re scared to really feel what they like…”
And debatably, certain someones both blindly and unwaveringly dedicate their ears to various labels. This probably tends to be more so with indies than it does majors, though Sundemo just so happens to have been signed up to EMI for the one EP – a relationship she enthuses over as one which is “definitely” working productively for all involved. “It’s so important that you feel right with the people you’re working with, and I felt immediately that we all shared the same thoughts on music. That has always been important for myself and Joel as we of course created the music, as well as a lot of the image before we showed it to anyone. And so we were determined to be able to keep ahold of that creative control.”
However it’s Sundemo’s autonomy which goes above and beyond, not least as it’s her name which is attached to the project and her porcelain features that plaster its fluoro-futuristic artwork. Though is the whole Frida Sundemo phenomenon a more collaborative endeavour than it may initially otherwise appear? “Definitely. And it’s developed in that way, too. I’ve always written music myself, so when I started to work with Joel I was not very used to writing alongside other people. I had been quite scared to do that actually, but it’s worked out very well and I think it’s only a good thing. And it’s good too that we haven’t put any more people in on the tracks – it’s only Joel who’s going to be producing them.”
Insular as the music itself, then. Though one thing we do know of Sundemo is that she’s currently taking a timeout from studying medicine – one of many facets to differentiate the songstress from your average two-bob, blabbering reality TV offcut of a purported pop star. And to return to Indigo, certain lines in its lyrical entrails certainly extract fibres from her curative background. Those that concern velveteen shoulder blades and closed eyelids “misdiagnosed”, for instance, aren’t exactly your average lyrical pop fare. But then again, she is considerably dislocated from this imagined average pop star. Though has the one side to her coin-like lifestyle infected the other more than anticipated? “Actually, I’ve been writing music a lot during my studies and I kinda noticed quite early on that it’s had an impact on me, so I’ve become conscious of it I think.” Given the strenuous nature of the course, I’d imagine there to be little time for socialising; let alone songwriting. Though finding time is, needless to say, paramount to progress: “I used to live in Gothenburg, and so I’d take myself away to Stockholm during the summers but of course I still wrote music while I was working. It was quite hard, but yeah. I did my best! But I felt like I got so much inspiration when I wasn’t really allowed to write music – it was quite effective.”
So Frida Sundemo may evidently be yet to find a cure for the common cold, and that despite her background in all things restorative. But while she may have to wait a little while longer to affront the malignant afflictions the human suffers every wintertime without fail, she’s doing some unconditionally constructive things for pop music in the meantime.