New Found Land: Lost and Found
Like many of the brightest artistic flames attracted to Berlin’s melting pot appeal, Anna Roxenholt came to the city for its creative capital – and ended up staying for love. The End. Well, as always, life is a little bit more complicated and complex than appearances might suggest. Caught between creativity and compromise, personal obstacles and relationship-saving decisions, the singer emancipated herself from the security of working as a collective and disbanded her long-standing Swedish/German group last year. The resulting liberation is a treat for the ears: honest and heartfelt, Anna chips away any production padding to reveal the unfiltered emotions at the core of it all. Achieving a finely balanced mix of restrained self-reflection, resignation, strength, hope and confident reinvention, she not only lets us share in this complex process, but also encourages us to give it a try ourselves.
After her previous records We All Die and The Bell, the self-titled third album New Found Land delves deep into the singer’s own psyche for some pre-spring treasures and aural pleasures that somehow trail the invisible footsteps of fellow Berliners Mina and Contriva, who came out with a similarly sincere sound sometime around the turn of the millennium.
We caught up with Anna in a Berlin-Kreuzberg café to hear more about these rites of passage and how Hollywood turned her into a Smurf!
Hi Anna, could you pin down the mood of your new album in three words?
Electronic, dark, better.
Considering that it deals with loss and change – both emotionally and on a personal level – this probably should not come as a surprise to us. After all, you left the band and finished the album all by yourself?
Being a producer and “band leader” is so much work – you always have to organise or fix things at short notice. At some point I realised that I was in charge of around 20 people. But taking the decision wasn’t as dramatic as it might sound, because it had always been my project – and the exact set-up and constellation was never set in stone. I even think some of the musicians in Sweden and Berlin didn’t quite know themselves if they were part of New Found Land or not! On a more personal level, my husband and I decided not to play together any more, but that was something that had been in the cards for some time. It is quite hard to live and work together as two creative and egocentric people – it affects both your work and your relationship. We feel much better about it now.
Looking at your output, there seems to be a strong focus on visual elements as well: plenty of videos, experiments and photo shoots. How would you translate your album into images?
I love all things visual. When I was younger, I took lots of photos, but at some point I decided that music was more fun because it’s more interactive, there is more exchange with others. In terms of colours, the new album is definitely in a darker shade, somehow.
Well, we can certainly hear the light at the end of the tunnel…
To produce the record, I went back to my mother’s summerhouse in Sweden. So there I was, all alone in a deep forest in the middle of December, but really focused and enthusiastic about the work I was doing. All I did was record, make coffee and go for the occasional walk. I didn’t even have a dog, so I just walked myself (laughs). But if I were to imagine the album as a film… I see someone running in a dark forest, away from something scary, until there is a light on the horizon suggesting a safe haven. But once we get there, there are those strange, singing scouts around a campfire – they are singing and look pretty freaky. It is more surreal than horrific, and it all turns around with the final track, What is Love, and the sun coming up.
At the same time, your songs are certainly not gloomy, they’re actually quite catchy: some of them were even featured in MTV series and Hollywood films?
They used a track from the first album on the Free Willy 4 soundtrack. And since it was a children’s movie, they decided to pitch up the vocals because they thought I sounded too grown up! So when you listen to this underwater scene, it’s a bit like (mimics a Smurf singing).
You use a fair amount of technology in your work and seem quite open to new production software, digital devices or online outlets, trying your hand at anything from recording, mixing and video editing to label work (Fixe Records). To what extent have all these new tools changed the way you work?
This has actually been on my mind a lot, recently – at the Berlinale Film Festival I watched a movie on the people behind the Swedish website The Pirate Bay, dealing with questions revolving around piracy, downloading etc. I guess I am pretty lucky because by the time I entered the music scene all of this was already well on its way, so I am not likely to feel bitter about what I might have lost or how things have changed.
So, is there anything you can’t do? What is the one ability that is missing in your life?
(Laughs) A lot! I would love to be a great dancer! Although I can dance when the feeling is right, it would be really cool if I were great at it, coordinated and all …
Any tips on up-and-coming artists to watch – either here or back in Sweden?
I spent a lot of time listening to Miracle Fortress recently, and to my school friend Yukimi’s band, Little Dragon. But when it comes to new artists, I’d definitely recommend my friend’s project, Mariam the Believer – she is also part of Wildbirds & Peacedrums – and my own husband’s band 1000 Gram. I promise I am not biased: they’re both really good!
Any famous words by someone who inspires you?
Although this one is not about music, but writing fiction, I really like this quote by the writer Margaret Atwood: "You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book and a grip on reality. The latter means: there is no free lunch. Writing is work. It is also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially, you are on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine."
We are flying high on the honest complexity of Anna’s work – why not check it out for yourselves. New Found Land will be released on 1 March 2013!
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