Victoria Bergsman's sophomore album East of Eden proves that she will not be famous just for appearing on the Young Folks track.
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 17 December 2009
Photography by Helena Blomkvist
You might not know her name, but you will have heard her voice. Swedish Victoria Bergsman – the force behind Taken By Trees’ beautiful sophomore album East of Eden – has a long and fruitful career behind her. Even if we disregard her 12 successful years with The Concretes, there is that famous song to which Bergsman lend her voice.
Young Folks by Peter, Bjorn & John is – even by high Swedish mega hit standards – a worldwide whistling phenomenon, and without a doubt a Single of the Noughties-contender, as proved by advertisement and covers interest. But that’s far from the best of Victoria. With East of Eden and Open Field, her first solo album, Bergsman has carved out a niche for herself with atmospheric and trance-like music that leaves you all warm and fuzzy on the inside.
The album saw Bergsman, 32, and musical partner Andreas Söderström travel to Pakistan to record nine eerie songs. But only after the Swedish government strongly advised against the trip, due to the constant danger and cultural differences. Luckily, Victoria Bergsman went anyway, found her local musicians, recorded the album and even found time to produce a short film, which is as visually attractive as the album is sonically intricate. Dazed Digital sat Victoria down for a chat before her London gig at Highbury’s Garage:
Dazed Digital: What attracted you to Pakistan?
Victoria Bergsman: I wanted to record outside normal studio surroundings, and I liked the idea of Pakistan being a mysterious country, more so than India and other countries in that area.
DD: Can you say anything else about Sufi and what it is you like about the music?
Victoria Bergsman: I think it’s about entering something different, something bigger. Here in the West we use alcohol and drugs to achieve that, but they play music instead. But it was too dangerous a place for me to loose control; I had to be sharp constantly…
DD: You also shot a film while out there…
Victoria Bergsman: Yeah, it’s a short film and like a piece of art in itself. I’ve written music especially for the film, and we show it before gigs.
DD: How would you describe your new album with three words?
Victoria Bergsman: Warm, rhythmic and beautiful!
DD: And do you have a favourite track from East of Eden?
Victoria Bergsman: To Lose Someone – the first song on the album! I think it nails it because it sums up my idea about the album and it contains all the different sound elements we worked with.
DD: Your voice is characteristic and strong – do you use it as an instrument in itself?
Victoria Bergsman: It depends more on how you record I think. The sound and the melody matters, but it’s exciting what a naked voice can achieve. And there doesn’t need to be too much of it; just a few words can be enough. Less is more. In that sense the album is inspired by Sufi music.
DD: You were in The Concretes for 12 years – how did that compare to being solo?
Victoria Bergsman: It’s lonelier as a solo artist, of course, and there’s lot more responsibility. But it’s worth it, because I now have full control of what I do – I don’t have to compromise!
DD: How do you feel about fame after your years with The Concretes and the worldwide success of Young Folks?
Victoria Bergsman: Fame isn’t all that glamorous as it’s made out to be. It’s overrated and time demanding; time you could have spent with family and friends. The attention we got was nothing we planned, I just sang on the song as a favour to the boys.
DD: How did you strike up a friendship with Animal Collective, or at least with singer Noah Lennox, who features on your single, Anna?
Victoria Bergsman: I’m just a massive fan of everything Animal Collective does, it’s very playful and warm. Noah’s got great harmonies, so I emailed him about collaborating and he readily agreed! We sent songs between us for a while until it clicked. But I wanted a bit more of Animal Collective, so I recorded a cover of their My Girls, but called it My Boys instead!
DD: Except for your own and Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, what other albums have you rated in 2009?
Victoria Bergsman: I really liked Neon Indian and Dan Lissvik’s The Crepes!