Tuesdays with Annie

Uncle Dan? Would you read us a bedtime story, please, huh, please?

All right, you kids get to bed; I’ll get the storybook … All tucked in? (Ja!)

Here we go…

Once upon a time in the land of fjords,
Where the motto is to be united and loyal,
Where constant rainfall is understood,
But it never stopped Bergen from deliverin’ the goods,
There lived a lil’ girl who lost her head
For a boy with lotsa toys and this is what he said:
“Me and you Annie we gonna be a band,
“Makin’ music for the people, holdin’ hand-in-hand,”
They made the Greatest Hit with the greatest of ease,
But his heart was too weak from terminal disease,
Check-up after check-up, but he faded and fluttered,
His fate it had been sealed and he had to leave his lover,
The girl was left alone, and she went into a panic,
Sayin’, “Me without you, now, where’s the magic?”
The punch to her belly was enough to make her snap,
But as time went on, she gathered all her strength back,
The girl stopped herself and said, “What am I thinking?”
“Tore’d be upset if I stopped creating,”
The girl took the dare and started to figure,
How to make sugar from oil’n vinegar,
So she cold dashed and hit the spot,
X and Timo were radioed as back up,
She found a new Heartbeat when Torbjørn helped her,
A shot heard ’round the world for every brotha and sista,
Things were lookin’ good, high expectations,
Pitchfork named her the top sensation,
Now she’s comin’ up and there ain’t nothin’ left,
She’ll keep chewin’ on her gum ’til she’s outta breath.

Such is the modern day fairy tale: chic romance, urban intrigue, and sugar fixations rolled into a pitch slash jingle. Yet as the yarn rolls on, as PR and press chase the other’s tail until exhaustion, Anne Lilia Berge Strand only smiles coyly at the spectacle.

Annie’s response is understandable considering that the singer, songwriter and DJ — along with M.I.A. — was fetched from the ‘net more for her sparkling dance-pop diamonds, as opposed to a press junket or a glamour shoot. Speaking from Napoli, Italia midway through an international tour, she only offers lucid takes on the phenomenon, describing the attention as “strange” but “fun”. However, on the topic of her bread and butter — the music she makes or spins — she rises to the occasion (albeit bleary-eyed at three in the morning). Discussing the live shows and the opportunities it has presented, Annie says, “We’ve only done five gigs so far, but it’s fun.” Combining DJ sets with live performance, Annie has been crafting her show as she goes. “[I’m spinning] Lindstrom, electro, weird disco, some pop. Then, Timo [Kaukolampi; Finnish producer for Op:l Bastards] has a sampler, some effects, and I sing. It’s a lot of different stuff.”

Part of Annie’s collaborative approach can be traced to home base. Describing the musicians living in Bergen, Norway, she notes, “What is interesting and strange maybe is that … all these people are very, very different artists … but still people know each other and in some way work with each other.” However, she demands a degree of independence. “[The process] differs [with] who I’m working with”, Annie begins, “[but] I usually always write lyrics at my home, or when I’m walking outside, or climbing a tree, wherever! I can never do it in the studio together with someone — I find that extremely difficult. I always have to bring it with me and I usually have the melody ready, and everything is sorta ready and I have a certain idea how I want the production to be. “

The formula certainly works on her full-length, Anniemal, where she packs a succinct collection of hooks, bleeps, and beats with the help of her cast of producers. Although the listen is a breeze, the record took around a year to record. Understandably, then, Annie highlights the easiest to record. “[My favorite track] used to be ‘Always Too Late.’ Maybe it’s ‘Me Plus One’ now … It didn’t take that long to do, and the lyrics went quite fast, along with the production [laughs]. Timo, who produced them, is in the room now, and he said that’s the best produced [track]. It only took a week to do.” In early May, Annie began recording ideas for about six new songs, but she hopes to return to the studio in October. While producers remain unnamed and self-production is still some distance in the future (“That would definitely be my favorite thing to do. The only problem is that I am not very technically perfect! I’m actually not very good at Cubase or Logic. I was thinking of actually learning that, so in the future I could do my own stuff, and maybe even produce others,” she says), Annie seems relaxed and unfazed by any expectations. “Maybe the next album will be a blues, country album,” she laughs. “I don’t know what will happen. I don’t think too much about it. Usually when you don’t plan it too much, it’s better.”

For the time being, Annie is simply appreciative of the opportunities being afforded her. She has every reason to be, because the path to her present popularity has been ideal, in a manner. “It’s been more word-to-word,” Annie says of the momentum. “People who found it on the Internet, I think it’s great. And I think that’s the way it should be. People should find out about things, and if they like it [then be able to] show it to others. Not a big media, music video sorta thing. There’s so much of that everywhere. These days, you see a music video, and that’s the reason [you] get into music. In one way, that’s great; but in another way it’s kinda boring.” With expectations exceeded, Annie has taken joy in the results. “I find it a bit weird [laughs]. I was just doing music, and, suddenly, it kinda happened [laughs]. I think a lot of artists, when they’re commercial, they maybe have a big plan of doing that sorta stuff and then it happens. But for me it was like going the other way … I never had any kind of plan of getting bigger. It’s kind of strange, but it’s fun [laughs].” The ride only continues to get more interesting as touring has taken her to destinations past the UK and Scandinavia; perhaps because it is her first time in Italy, or out of politeness, she even inquired about my time in the country. More importantly, the attention has shifted her perspective. “It makes me realize that there are possibilities to reach new places that I didn’t think would have any interest in my music,” Annie reflects. “And I think that’s a very nice idea … when I’m making the album next time, I can try to reach out even further; ‘cos I thought Europe would be the only place interested.” On one hand, Annie understands the impermanence of industry popularity, but that does not preclude enjoying the crest. So, in the meantime, here’s to fun: Skål!