Like A Bird In The Night: Clash Meets Aurora
Having just performed a headline slot with The Chemical Brothers at Glastonbury on Saturday night, where she was projected 50ft high onto the main stage screens, it’s hard to think of Norwegian star Aurora as the same shy and unassuming woman Clash met 10 days before in a quiet corner of a London hotel.
There to get deep with me about her third album, ‘A Different Kind Of Human’, the singer was celebrating her 23rd birthday contemplating the meaning behind her avant-garde pop sound. The new album covers everything from male suicide rates to climate change and consumerism, and Aurora is determined to empower young people to change their surroundings for the better using her compulsive natural talent for songwriting.
To be Aurora is to live with an incessant need to make music and while it can be anxiety-inducing having such a busy mind, the outcome is material of an impressive magnitude far beyond her dainty stature. And when she’s not creating other-worldly, dystopian soundscapes she’s either sober raving until 6am or listening to Slayer.
Basically this is not your average pop star.
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You spilt your concept into two albums. How do you feel now compared to when you were embarking on the whole thing?
I love not being ‘up and coming’ anymore, it’s nice to be more established. I knew the work would come out like it has. The day I released step 1 I had everything in my head for step 2. I woke up in a hotel, in London actually, and had the album in my head and I knew what I was going to do. Now I’m already making my next album. I just can’t stop.
So you give yourself no time off - the end of one album sparks the creation of the next?
It does. I have the title and tracks and the concept straight away. It’s weird how I can’t do it until I’ve released one though. I’ll cry and laugh and think about all the work I’ve done, but then I’m empty and then I fill up with something new. It’s an eternal hunt or game between me and my mind. It’s very fun.
Why did you decide to split the record into two albums in the first place?
It was while making Step One that we discussed splitting it up. I have so many songs and I realised that the whole concept was two different aspects of one process. One is internal and emotional (Step One) and about letting yourself be infected by something… but then that will turn you into 'A Different Kind Of Human' (Step Two). And when you’re a different kind of human you can change the world and do something important.
The album is about making the choice to become a different kind of human. Many people think it’s about me, because I’ve always been a bit strange or different but it’s nothing to do with me at all.
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We love the themes of nature and the environment. It often sounds as though you are singing from the top of a cliff…is that the imagery you are trying to create?
Yes, music for me is not about my own pain, relationships or breakups, I write about the world around me. I want the music to be a nature force big like a mountain, ocean or hurricane. Music for me is really big and the closest thing I’ve experience to something divine. I want people to be reminded of their inner warrior.
We’re in an important time, fighting for nature and what you believe in. I think we’re hungry for more. I write pop music and it’s very intellectual and full of emotion. I have many different styles within pop in my songs. Every song has a clear identity and asks for its own colour it’s own mood. I’m really missing meaning in pop music and I have been the last 20 years. I miss the force that we need and I believe that it’s up to individuals.
We don’t have a machine to clear the water of plastic, we have to do it by hand. It’s up to us, the people. The true power lies within the people it always has but somehow throughout history the rich leaders have made it seem like power lies with one person. But that’s so old fashioned, we’re getting out of that now, the power lies with the people. I really want to remind people of the power they have that they may have forgotten about.
Are there are artists you listened to growing up that you felt gave you this power?
I grew up in Norway without a radio or music on the TV so the only artists I listened to were Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Enya. They are really the only artists I listen to now. I like Underworld, The Chemical Brothers and rave music too, but I know very little about music. I think that’s why I started to make my own.
That’s interesting because for a lot of people, growing up with music is intrinsic. I can’t remember the first time I heard certain types of music but I did and all those influences are part of what I like now, so I suppose your music is very pure and intuitive because it has less of that?
It is very intuitive and it comes by instinct. I just make music and I produce in a way where I don’t think about where it comes from, it’s just energy. But I did learn from Dylan and Cohen that you can make something beautiful and tell something important without being condescending. I feel like a lot of music on the radio lately is underestimating people, as though they wouldn’t understand complicated music.
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What’s your favourite track on the album?
'Soulless Creatures'. It means a lot to me and it’s written about giving too much. It’s Mother Earth writing to humankind about wanting to thrive again. Sometimes I don’t understand what a song means for a while. It sounds pretentious and stupid but it does happen. I just write and write all the time. I have songs already for my fifth album.
Wow you’re so prolific, you’re like the Beatles!
Yes haha! It’s very messy in my head. I have to constantly make notes and colour co-ordinate them. It takes a lot of planning!
It sounds exhausting. How do you look after yourself emotionally and mentally, having compositions weaving through your mind all the time? Obviously you love it, but it sounds tiring.
It can be, and album release week is always a mess for me, as I can’t sleep. I stay awake until 6am every night and wake up at 10am. It can be a pain in the ass trying to go to sleep and then I hear a melody and harmony and all the instrumental parts come. I record it down quickly and once it’s out of my head I feel better.
I have a very strong relationship with heavy metal. It was the first music I discovered for myself when I was 13 and I remember the force of the anger in it. People think it’s noise but it’s not. I love the polyrhythmics of it; I’m a good percussionist and that comes from my love of heavy metal. I love System of a Down, Gojira, Masterdon and Slayer.
I first went to a Gojira show in Bergen when I was 11. I find it calms me down and I can fall asleep to it. I often need to come home and put some heavy metal on, scream and dance and then make myself some dinner. If I listen to music I listen to heavy metal or Enya. But generally I find it hard to listen to any music because music is in my head all the time and I’m so afraid I will miss an idea.
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How else do you relax?
I love rave dancing; it’s my favourite thing. I’ve been to a few rave parties on boats in Paris, London and Berlin. I like the ones that are secure with no drugs and I don’t drink alcohol when I go raving because then I can really dance and I feel safer.
Dancing makes me feel comfortable in my own skin. I would recommend to everyone out there to challenge themselves a bit and go out to dance, because no one knows you. It’s very good for self growth. I’ve been 20 times in the last two years and I prefer it to dancing with friends. It’s always on evenings that I should be tired and then often I’m not home before 6am the next day.
Are there any other stand out tracks on the album?
I want to mention 'Hunger'. It’s about all our consuming, the endless hunger for money, food, clothes and how we’ve destroyed the world because of that hunger. We force ourselves to not see the people dying to make you a t-shirt because you’re hungry to buy as many T shirts that you can. We waste money and time on things that won’t make a difference.
I hate everything in fashion. I make my clothes or buy vintage. A fan gave me a piece of fabric from Indonesia that I’ve stitched into my trousers and made a top from. She carried it all the way for me and gave to me at a tiny show in Norway.
You recently wrote with The Chemical Brothers on 'Eve Of Destruction' tell me about that?
I got an email from Tom Rowlands in 2017 and he just said: Do you want to write with us? I couldn’t believe it. I don’t get starstruck but my musical respect for them is so huge and it was so nice that he asked me direct rather than through his management.
I took a week to reply because I couldn’t find the right words. Tom lives in the countryside with no phone reception. I stayed at an inn and a South African oil painter was living there in exchange for teaching the owner’s children to paint. I love to paint, so we went out together to paint by the ocean after I had been writing with Tom in the day.
It was a dream to be in the studio with Tom and all the synths. I was nervous to pitch the ideas I had but I also knew he would like it somehow. He’s such a nice guy and I felt that we are similar with our passion for music. I think one day we will make more music together.
Is there anyone else you’d like to write with?
I would love to work with Underworld. If they want my number I will happily give it out! I also love Imogen Heap, Lorde and of course, Gojira.
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'A Different Kind Of Human' is out now. Aurora plays Latitude Festival this month.
Words: Lisa Higgins
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