Q&A: Talking Treadmills And ‘Feeling Blue’ With El Perro Del Mar
By Bailey Pennick; Photos by Frode & Marcus on December 21, 2012
The holiday season is always a time of bittersweet endings and shiny new beginnings. For Swedish indie-pop sweetheart Sarah Assbring—better known as El Perro Del Mar—the 2012/2013 turnover has been one of the most exciting times of her life.
After releasing her fifth full-length studio album Pale Fire in November via The Control Group, Assbring has been touring Europe nonstop. And if dropping an incredibly addictive, synth-drenched LP and travelling around the world wasn’t enough to make your year pale in comparison, Assbring is also about to have a baby.
While it seems like she’s got her life all figured out, Assbring assures us that she’s just trying to piece it all together just like the rest of us. Even in the midst of her whirlwind life, Assbring caught FILTER up to date on her growing family, her new(ish) love of synthesizers and how Sonic Youth’s “Addicted to Love” cover inspired her to get onto the treadmill.
Pale Fire and Love Is Not Pop are albums that seem to be heavily influenced by electronic music—especially the use of synthesizers—what has drawn you to this soundscape?
I guess that it mainly a coincidental thing? I'm drawn to a certain instrument or a certain sound with each new album I start working on. Also, with my two last albums I wanted to blend the organic with the synthetic—especially so with Pale Fire.
Has this musical shift affected your songwriting and recording process?
Yes, I think it has. [In the same way that] I love trying out different instruments, I love trying out different technologies that challenge my writing process, or put it in a new situation. It's a very different thing to write from a guitar or a piano, compared to writing from a beat or a synth pad and I love that! It brings out different things every time.
You always seem to have both spiritual and visceral components to your music. Do you believe that this dynamic can also be found in Pale Fire?
I do. Pale Fire is very much about that inner light that comes out as love, hope or just the strength and will to carry on, despite what the world around you looks like. I believe in that power very much.
Allmusic says that the themes to your music include 'feeling blue', 'heartache', 'sweet dreams' and 'rainy day'. Do you find any of these descriptions accurate? Which one do you think is best?
They are all sweet and quite accurate I think! I like 'feeling blue', 'heartache' and 'sweet dreams' the most, especially when put together like that. 'Feeling blue' I guess is the state of mind I'm in when I write [music]. I wouldn't really write in any other state.
What was the inspiration and experience of making the “Walk On By” video? Being on a treadmill for hours seems a little daunting. What was it like?
My initial inspiration came from a Sonic Youth video—their cover of “Addicted to Love”. The video is mainly just Kim Gordon doing a karaoke video in front of a green screen. I just love that video. The treadmill thing was the directors idea and it worked well…though I was completely exhausted afterwards!
I can only imagine! That music video and other outlets of your creativity are very colorful and artistic. Are you inspired by visual art? Who are some of your favorite artists?
I am! I think of the visual as a natural part of my music; the visual ideas I have for my music are as important as the actual harmonic ideas. I don't really separate them. For instance, I love Georgia O'Keeffe, Lucian Freud, Picasso and Paul Gaugin, but the list is truly endless.
Who influences you musically?
They're as many and diverse as my visual influences! I tend to move to different main ones for every album I make, but constant influences though are classic ones like David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Karen Dalton, Nina Simone, Elisabeth Fraser, and Arthur Russell. The list goes on and on!
In the past you've put out split singles with different artists, what draws you to that semi-collaboration?
I just like that way of collaboration—especially the format of it. It's a nice way to do something together with someone you admire while staying true to your own thing.
What’s next for El Perro Del Mar? Do you have any special holiday plans?
I just finished my European tour. Now I'm just looking forward to Christmas and the last month of my pregnancy. I'm going to try to do some preparations for the baby in my home and just focus (as best as possible) on what's to come I guess? It all feels very unreal expecting a baby! F