Waking Up Lykke Li
Scott Wood Catches This Swedish Indie Superstar Napping Backstage (BEFORE She Was Famous)
CREAK! The door to the dressing rooms at (the club that is now called) Vancouver’s Red Room is one big dungeon-like gate. It clanks as you heave the latch open and squeaks as you haul it to the side. The dressing room itself looks like one of those temporary prisons that the goofy kidnapers use on all bad TV shows.
Inside, Lykke Li is asleep on an old couch.
I felt like I should cackle or detail my nefarious plan to her. Instead I just felt bad that I had to wake her up. This was back in 2008, before this Swedish indie sensation was on the lips and iPods of hipsters everywhere.
It was a hectic day. The band had got into town late. Things got delayed, so we had to have our chat while the opening act, El Perro Del Mar, was onstage and a VIP party was happening in the next room. But with all this going on around her, Lykke Li was still able to nap.
I couldn’t air the piece, unfortunately, because of all that background noise, but I did type it up for her fans to read here. Lykke Li is putting out her second record Wounded Rhymes this month, so she will be back touring soon.
Scott Wood: “Little Bit”—a song like that is an incredible pop song! Fans of that song want to know: Is it about one specific guy? Did you let him know it is about him?I don't know if you saw Mattias Montero's last video for "I'm Good, I'm Gone" but we got like female bodybuilders and it's kind of creepy. Yeah, when we talk we just zone out into another world. Most people don't understand it, but that's what I like.
Lykke Li: No, I don’t. It is about one person, but I will never let him know that.
Scott Wood: How would describe him now?
Lykke Li: Erm—You could say we’re just friends now.
Scott Wood: In a lot of interviews, you have said that you like Madonna. What is one aspect of her path that you would not like to follow?
Lykke Li: Her crazy diet and exercise regime. And botox regime.
Scott Wood: Madonna is very good at picking great collaborators. She often picks incredibly talented people who are known only in the indie world. What do you look for in creative partners?
Lykke Li: They have to be crazy and fearless. The can be into music, film or whatever, but that’s what I look for—yeah—fearless.
Scott Wood: Can you tell me about someone you have worked with who is fearless and how?
Lykke Li: I can talk about Mattias Montero, my video director. I don’t know if you saw the last one—but we got like female bodybuilders and it’s kind of creepy. [She is referring to her video for “I’m Good, I’m Gone"] Yeah, when we talk we just zone out into another world. Most people don’t understand it, but that’s what I like. Those other people don’t need to understand it to appreciate it.
Scott Wood: Who is one person you haven’t worked with yet, but you like to, who is fearless?
Lykke Li: I don’t know, but I am gonna stumble upon that person soon, I think .
“Hello!” A member of Lykke Li’s entourage enters the room, spies me and then says “Woah, you are not Swedish,” laughs and then leaves.
Scott Wood: Madonna also knows how intrinsic dance and movement are to pop music, and you used to be a dancer—
Lykke Li: I wasn’t really a dancer. I danced, you know as a kid, but everyone dances.
Scott Wood: Oh? I read you used to be the background dancer on a Swedish television show?
Lykke Li: Yeah, I was on a television show twice. People tend to blow that out of proportion, yeah!
Scott Wood: How important do you consider dance to music?I don't consider my own dancing to be like "dancing," it's just feelings that I am letting go of. I think especially nowadays - especially in this whole indie music thing going on - you don't see a lot of dancing together with music, but if you go to - uhm - Mozambique, everybody is dancing all the time to the music, so it's a very natural thing for me.
Lykke Li: I don’t know. I don’t consider my own dancing to be like “dancing,” I just consider it like an extension of what I am feeling. It’s just feelings that I am letting go of. I think especially nowadays—especially in this whole indie music thing going on—you don’t see a lot of dancing together with music, but if you go to—uhm—Mozambique, everybody is dancing all the time to the music, so it’s a very natural thing for me.
Scott Wood: Cool. When you are touring, you do the same song every night. How do you make the dancing be about releasing emotion rather than repetition?
Lykke Li: But it’s not, because I never dance the same. I dance how I feel. It is not a routine or anything—I just dance, you know? It’s never going to be the same.
We take a break as she confers with her entourage, she might have to go onstage again.
Scott Wood: You grew up in many countries all over the world. Do you think your parents were subconsciously preparing you for the life of a musician?
Lykke Li: No, I don’t think so. My parents, they live their own life and they involve their kids in their own lives. Mostly, they just think of what they want to do and they bring the kids along—so, no, I don’t think so.
Scott Wood: I’ve read your dad is a musician.
Lykke Li: Yeah, he still is.
Scott Wood: How does he feel about you taking up this career choice?
Lykke Li recording Wounded Rhymes in fall 2010.
Lykke Li: He is happy for my success.
Scott Wood: I read you were once an iPod-armed MC, is this true?
Lykke Li: I wasn’t really—well yeah, I’ve done some MCing, but I wasn’t really good at it. But I did some, yes—[She starts to laugh]—at some club and stuff.
Scott Wood: I have to ask if you can sling a verse or two for me?
Lykke Li: No. I can’t.
Scott Wood bursts out laughing.
Lykke Li: Those things happen in the night, you know? They won’t happen if you ask me to do it, because there is no flow here, you know?
Scott Wood: Oh, Ok.
Lykke Li: I won’t do it.
Scott Wood: So if I got this guy [I point at a member of her all-giant-Swede entourage] to do some beat boxing, right here, would you do it?
Lykke Li: No—I am not an MC that way! If I hear music, and there is a certain song, then I just go wild. But I don’t rap, I mostly talk.
Scott Wood: Countries I have read that you spent time in include, Nepal, India, Portugal, and of course Sweden—what advantage does this give you in terms of life experience over other musicians?
Lykke Li: Erm—I always feel safe, where ever I go because I know everything is gonna be ok. So I am not really scared of taking chances or moving to different places, and just coming to a different country all by myself—so, that is what this is giving me. That I am not so scared of people from other countries.
Scott Wood: If you were gonna compare yourself to someone who had lived in one town their entire life, what would you say?
Lykke Li: I am very not like that. I don’t know, I feel very rootless. Right now, it kinda struck upon me that I might be needing to get myself a home somewhere, because I’ve never had a proper home anywhere for a whole lifetime—so I probably need one.
Scott Wood: When you’ve lived so many different places, how do you decide where you want to live?
Lykke Li: Erm—I just want to go where I feel like home. I think that is going to be New York.
Scott Wood: What was it about that city that made you want to come back? [Note: At the age of 19, Lykke Li moved to New York to follow the path of Madonna.]
Lykke Li: It’s just a picture I have been building up in my head since I was a kid you know? It’s been in the movies, and everybody’s gone to New York. And New York is where everything happens. When I first came there, it wasn’t what I really expected to be. The music scene is not really as alive as it was before, but it’s a lot of really nice people, crazy people—[she stumbles on her words]—all kinds of people. Rich people, homeless people, white people, black people, Chinese people, Indian people—so there is just room for everybody.
Scott Wood: Cool. I have never been, but the people I have talked to say the city has an indefinable energy.
Lykke Li: Yeah, it does. The city is built on energy, but without the people it would be nothing, just concrete.
Scott Wood: I was watching an interview where you were talking about going to Africa and teaching and then another where you were talking about how you had worked in a nursing home, and talking about giving back, and you were talking about feeling “selfish” being a musician. Is providing entertainment for people a selfish thing?
Lykke Li: No, that part is the most giving part. Being able to travel all around the world and being able to sit here with bottles of beer, given to us—that’s selfish. And just sitting here and talking about myself—this is selfish. But that part is the most giving part of what I do right now, but there are a lot of downsides that are very selfish about this job that everything creates around you all of the time.Every hour of the day has a special vibe. And I really like early mornings when you've just had had a crazy night. When you go back to someone's place and, for the first time in the night, you have a chance to talk to people and everybody is probably high or drunk so words are easier.
Scott Wood: What’s the antidote for that?
Lykke Li: What do you mean?
Scott Wood: If you want to achieve balance in your life, how do you do that?
Lykke Li: Erm—I mean I’ll do this for now, but I’ll have to give back later.
Scott Wood: Last question, I was reading this odd interview where you were talking about finding inspiration in afterparties. Can you explain that one?
Lykke Li: Erm—yes. Every hour of the day has a special vibe. And I really like early mornings when you’ve just had had a crazy night. When you go back to someone’s place and, for the first time in the night, you have a chance to talk to people and everybody is probably high or drunk so words are easier.
Scott Wood: Can you describe the last afterparty you went to?
Lykke Li: [laughing] We have an afterparty at the bus almost every night.
Scott Wood: Last night’s afterparty consisted of—?
Lykke Li: No, last night was our day off, so it consisted of me watching TV.
Scott Wood: Ok, when was the last one?
Lykke Li: Erm—Last afterparty was, where was it?—[she pauses]—Montreal, maybe?
Scott Wood: Ah ha, great party city.
Lykke Li: Yeah. It was nice.
Scott Wood laughs, waiting for the description.
Lykke Li: I don’t remember it.
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