We find AURORA in a spritely mood. Still fresh on the campaign trail for her acclaimed third album ‘The Gods We Can Touch’, she’s enjoying the whirlwind of meeting fans, playing intimate shows and eating as much ramen as London has to offer.
She’s not taking any of it for granted. “I find it really hard to understand the internet and connect with the pictures, words and numbers there,” she tells NME. “I find them very meaningless. My favourite thing about touring is reminding me that this is about people, and they make the music so large, eternal and meaningful.”
Her new record is a celebration of, and investigation into, the power of human connection – something that we’ve all been lacking in over the last two years. “It’s a lot about the dynamic of people,” she explains. “Between a student and a teacher, between an abuser and a victim, between us and religion, between rules and freedom, between our soul and our physical bodies, shame and desire; all of these relationships and their dynamics are very complex.
“With me, it’s always much larger than just a relationship between two people, because that’s just so boring.”
For the latest in NME‘s In Conversation series we sat down with the Norwegian art-pop sensation to further discuss her latest record, as well as everything from performing at COP26 to TikTok fame, from political revolution to her love of raving. Here’s what we learned.
“You can’t be a weirdo without being a warrior!”
The weekend before we meet, AURORA surprised fans by heading down to meet them at a towering mural of herself painted on streets of Shoreditch. “What a wonderful, strange and uncoordinated family we are!” she tells us. “It’s been such a long time. It’s been two years since we’ve done this.”
Her community of fans are known as ‘Warriors & Weirdos’. How does one fall under either of these labels to be part of AURORA’s tribe? “It’s kind of the same thing,” she replies. “The weirdos have to fight a bit extra in this life. If you’re a weirdo then you’re most likely a warrior too. You can be a warrior without being a weirdo, but you can’t be a weirdo without being a warrior.”
Her name “tastes like champagne”
You may find yourself a newly-recruited Warrior/Weirdo having jumped on the AURORA train following her 2016 single ‘Runaway’ re-entering the charts worldwide after becoming a viral hit on TikTok. Has AURORA noticed a huge new swell in her audience?
“I haven’t really thought about it,” she says. “Once I had more than just my mother as a fan, it’s all kind of been a mush. I feel that if you find my music, then there’s a reason. You may need it. I’m happy for all of those people and myself. A connection has been made, and that’s a very touching thing. Imagine how scary it is to let something into your heart, let something touch it and even make it cry. I’m honoured by that.”
And is she into TikTok, where her song has been blowing up? “I like that it’s more personality-based,” AURORA replies. “Of course all social media abuses and controls and manipulates us in ways we can’t even imagine, but in some way people have a lot of the power and control with TikTok – giving people the ability to be heard. It gives some kind of meaning to people’s voices, which I like. I find it really strange, it’s really uncontrollable.”
In that inimitable AURORA way, she adds: “The name of it tastes weird. It’s nutty, like a squirrel.”
Oh sure. And what taste does she associate with the word ‘AURORA’?
“I taste like champagne!”
Real change is coming – if you want it
The last time NME caught up with AURORA it was just before she performed and spoke at the global climate summit COP26 as one of the key artists appearing. “It was lovely. It was just a full day of being around people and seeing the beauty in people and how large our voices become together,” she tells us of the experience. “We had a whole day where everyone was passionate and inspirational.
“I’m a huge admirer of indigenous and ancient cultures and the way that we lived before. My favourite part was hearing their voices. It’s incredible how they make up such a small amount of the population of the earth, but still they protect most of the forests. We can thank them for so much.”
There was a lot of division over whether anything truly meaningful was accomplished at COP26, but AURORA agrees with Music Declares Emergency that the real work starts now. “I have a lot of hope for the future,” she admits. “I feel that real change, the genuine and emotional respect that will change beyond the possibility of relapsing into the same habits, comes after us in our children. One day they will rule the world and be the big CEOs of companies – the same companies that now are mostly ruining our planet. The people refusing to change on behalf of the world will die soon anyways.”
Not to be too morbid, she goes on: “That’s sad and horrible of course, Rest In Peace, but for the rest of the world it makes me hopeful. I also hope that the people of the now will change too. We have to do something as well, before it’s too late. The one planet we have can’t die. Why are we ruining it?”
Pointing to the outrage at Texas reverting to barbaric abortion laws and the increased support for Black Lives Matter over the past few years, AURORA added that she felt confident and humbled that new generations were recognising that we’re all in this together. “It’s always a good thing when the oppressed aren’t the only ones fighting and the privileged are starting to fight as well,” she says. “That’s a sign of true progress. It’s so important to pass on the fighting to the people that have the energy for it because they don’t have to constantly fight for their right to live.
“I know my own battles but to constantly have to fight for your right to live and constantly be the ambassador of your own battle in this world must be exhausting. It’s always good when the privileged understand that they need to contribute.”
AURORA loves to party
Fans have been enjoying some of the more extrovert sounds on ‘The Gods We Can Touch’ – from the Europop club banger ‘Cure For Me’ to the house-flecked ‘The Innocent’ and the Fleetwood Mac-indebted ‘Blood In The Wine’. The contrasts between those and the more intimate moments are a pretty accurate reflection of AURORA’s personality. “I love crying and laughing, I love climbing in trees, I love making music and painting, meditating and being in my magical world to feel like I’m a magical creature with secrets – but I also love beer,” she laughs. “I’m a Norwegian, so of course I do. I love rave partying; it’s one of my favourite things in the world, to dance.”
AURORA’s love of raving has seeped into her music, even lending her vocals to a blockbuster Chemical Brothers collab ‘Eve Of Destruction’. She loves infiltrating other worlds by joining in on a banger. Case in point – her part on Sub Urban’s recent smash ‘Paramour’. The two first collaborated online, later meeting in person in LA, and are now gearing up for their upcoming US tour together. “It’s very nice because I’m very short and he’s very tall, he has black hair and I have very light hair. It just feels very compatible.”
AURORA has no time for New Year’s Resolutions
With her love of partying, it seems unlikely that AURORA would even attempt Dry January. “I don’t like rules like that,” she agrees. “I see no point in them. I like a good balance of the dry and the wet.”
“I like having goals, improving to make yourself feel good, but after Christmas is a hard time for some people. In Norway, it’s the darkest time of the year and it’s cold. It messes with our heads that we have to justify that we exist. I like simply existing, but maybe that’s a new year’s resolution in itself.”
It’s a pretty pure and simple notion to live by. Envisioning what 2022 has in store, AURORA is looking forward to “more moments of freedom” and “people taking more care of each other”. Foreseeing “a very good year”, all she really hopes for herself is to “feel that whatever comes to me is deserved. I don’t really think much of the future. It doesn’t exist yet, it doesn’t matter. But right now, I’m just going to do what I always do – just exist and try my best to live today nicely.”
‘The Gods We Can Touch’ by AURORA is out now. Before a summer of festival dates, she’ll be touring the UK and Europe from this month through to Spring.