Susanne Sundfør has spoken to NME about her new album ‘Blómi’, and how it was inspired by finding distraction in the old world away from the political divisions of modern society.
With the predecessor inspired by Sundfør’s own emotional battles reflecting the planet in peril, she said that her new record looks for light in the darkness instead – not that the world is in an any better situation.
“Are we more in trouble now than in 2017? I think we are, but it’s more about polarisation than the state of the world anymore,” she told NME. “There are a lot of things that could go wrong, but the biggest danger is ourselves and our ability to have civilised conversations and keep trying to communicate across political realms.
“Personally, I’ve fallen out with people because we’ve had different opinions on political matters and I find that really sad. On that point, we’re in a worse state than when ‘Music For People In Trouble’ came out.”
One of the main reasons for societal divisions, argued Sundfør, is the misinformation and culture wars created by mainstream media.
“I started looking into things and came to the conclusion that the world is run by lizards,” she laughed. “I’m joking of course, but we are in a much worse place it seems. For some reason, we believe more in the media today than we used to. I grew up with people taking the media with a grain of salt, but now I feel like today we ask less questions.
“I find that really worrying, and I think it’s surprising that we don’t talk more about that. I understand that it’s in the shadows of this war we’re going through in Europe.”
This mentality has left to divisions even within political spectrums, she argued. “I think the left is really struggling right now because it’s becoming polarised from within,” said Sundfør. “I find that really sad. Parts of it have become quite rigid and to some extent puritanical in character. I think we all agree on a lot of things, but they see enemies everywhere that aren’t necessarily there.
“It’s this angst that we’re going through. It’s also the result of what Trump did in America and all of these political waves coming from over there.”
Pointing to inspiration from writers including Michael Shellenberger, Marija Gimbutas, David Graeber and David Wengrow, Sundfør explained how she wanted to encourage people to look for truth less in “media in collaboration with governments” and more in simple and universal ideas.
“The album is about trying to revive the mother religion that might have been the original religion at the dawn of civilisation,” she said. “[Marija Gimbutas] writes about this early agricultural society which was in Europe before the Indo-Europeans. They lived peacefully and were matriarchal, focussing on the mother and child. That was the centre of society. You still have these societies and they’re so harmonic. I just want to celebrate that kind of society and the mythology of those cultures on this album.”
She continued: “A lot of us are really yearning to have local communities again because everything has become so globalised and digitised. Socialising is through screens, and I think that’s detrimental to our health. We’re a very social species and that’s how we evolved. We’re dependent on each other and I don’t think a screen can replace physical contact with a human being.”
While her native Norway is often praised for a sense of ‘community’ and social democracy, Sundfør was keen to stress that her fellow Norwegians were “just people like everyone.”
“We’re a young nation, built on these very social democratic principles,” she said. “I have this sense that a lot of Norwegians think, ‘Everybody deserves the same, so I should try and get as much as possible out of this.
“There’s a weird mix of saying that you’re a socialist but also trying to milk the cow for whatever it’s worth. It’s a broad generalisation and not about every single Norwegian, but sometimes I feel like that rosey-eyed view of Norway isn’t always correct.”
A sense of national identity does run throughout ‘Blómi’, however – drawing upon ancient Norse language and mythology.
“The Norse titles are a link to my grandpa, who’s on the cover,” she revealed. “He used to be a linguist and study dead languages originating from the Middle East. He’s fluent in Hebrew and Arabic. He’s super talented and was super controversial in Norwegian academia. My mother is a retired linguist as well, and she studied English and German. We’re a dorky nerdy language family, so it’s a celebration of that, but the album is also about roots.”
blómi is my new album and will be released on April 28th.
— Susanne Sundfør (@susannesundfor) February 23, 2023
The idea of roots and community led to a more “organic” sound on the record, she said, building on the folk sounds of ‘Music For People In Trouble’ and a distant cry from the dancefloor leaning 2015 album ‘Ten Love Songs’.
‘Ten Love Songs’ became my most popular record, but it was more like an experiment for me,” she said. “I wanted to make a pop album because before I had made more folk-inspired music. It was more like a detour, but that’s not how it’s seen because ‘Ten Love Songs’ is seen as such a central part of my career.”
She continued: “We’re losing our place in the world and everything is being taken over by technology,” she said of what inspired the sounds of her new record. “There’s something to be said of looking back at tradition. Not in a conservative way, but honouring what our ancestors learned through the centuries.
“Not only looking forward through progress, but bringing our heritage with us as we move on into this strange, technological world that we’re moving into.”
However, fans would have enjoyed Sundfør’s more pop-oriented moods in recent years through her continued long-running collaboration with Röyksopp – lending her vocals to a number of songs across their ‘Profound Mysteries’ trilogy.
“They’re lovely – it’s such an honour to work with them and they’re so talented,” she said of her relationship with the dance duo. “We all have those different traits in us. Sometimes we want to dance and sometimes we want to do more soul-searching. Maybe white people aren’t always that comfortable on the dancefloor, but the urge is always within us.”
Regarding upcoming live dates, Sundfør is hoping to announce gigs in the US, UK and Europe soon after a run of Norwegian dates – where she’ll be elevating the organic elements of the album and “appreciat[ing] the value of finding a human beat together.”
“I’m bringing 14 musicians with me on stage,” she said. “I’m bringing six singers on top of instrumentalists who are also singing. There will be a lot of vocals. “Going on stage and playing things 100 per cent live is so much of a better experience for everyone.”
“We’ll play songs from the new album, but also the greatest hits. It’s going to be a nice mixture.”
‘Blómi’ is out now. Susanne Sundfør embarks on a run of tour dates in Norway this summer, including an appearance at Oslo’s Øya Festival in August alongside the likes of Blur, Boygenius, Pusha T, Wizkid and more.