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Nina Persson: conjugal bliss bears sexy single

On the eve of the release of her new single, Swedish pop darling Nina Persson talks to Jennifer Heape about New York, David Bowie and making music with her husband.

Nina Persson: conjugal bliss bears sexy single

Bursting back onto our screens after an eight year wait, The Cardigans front woman Nina Persson showed with the performance of new single ‘Stronger Than Jesus’ at the Swedish Grammies in Stockholm last week that she is more than just a pretty face.

Taken from the forthcoming A Camp album ‘Colonia’, ‘Stronger Than Jesus’ finds her generally upbeat, poppy vocals displaced by a darker, more mature sound.

“While the first album was heavily inspired by country music, ‘Colonia’ is more ‘city’,” explains Persson.

Talking to The Local from her New York apartment, shared with husband and fellow A Camp band member Nathan Larson, it seems the city that never sleeps has charmed its way not just into her heart, but also her music:

“This album is much more urban, more restless. It’s less melancholy, louder, even obnoxious.”

“When I arrived in New York it blew my mind… I had a crush on the city,” laughs Persson.

However it’s not the growl of the urban that Persson cites as the greatest influence on ‘Colonia’ – but history.

Proving that A Camp has an intellectual maturity far beyond the whimsical pop tracks that heralded the early years of The Cardigans, Persson describes the role history played in the making of the album.

“We are definitely in every way modern people, but also very interested in the past, very retro minded.

“Not that we are anachronistic in any way, but I am so fascinated by the past, especially the way in which the past can explain and help us to explore the present.”

Indeed, on their website A Camp describe in their own words how:

“Colonia draws from a wider set of colours, drawing on historical imagery… From the opium den to the Belgian Congo to the Namibian desert by starlight to Victorian New York by gaslight and the Bowery of the ‘70s by neon.”

Inspiration was also reaped from the vaults of musical history: “’Colonia’ was influenced by various other artists – Grace Jones, Adam and the Ants and a lot of New Wave artists,” explains Persson.

David Bowie is certainly an unmistakable influence in ‘Stronger Than Jesus’ with its hypnotic, lolling drum beat and Persson’s relaxed, rolling vocals evoking the opening sequence of Bowie’s famous hit ‘Space Odyssey’.

“It took time for me to really get into Bowie,” says Persson. “Now I can really see his genius and I’m blown away by it. There’s such a sophistication about him, like he had a real reason to write, an intellectual influence on his music.”

And the video with its classic 70s look is surely a nod towards Bowie?

“Er, well, yes,” Persson chuckles down the phone. “Although, to be honest the look is more the result of producing a video on an extremely low budget!”

Despite the scholarly preface, A Camp’s creative process is described as a very relaxed affair. “They are my two best friends,” Persson says of band mates Niklas Frisk and husband Nathan Larson.

“We wanted to find a way of spending more time together, so we thought ‘hey, let’s hang out and make a record’. Although perhaps that was a bit much as it does mean spending all your time together for about two years!”

So producing an album with your husband hasn’t causes marital, let alone creative, disputes?

“It’s not something I’d recommend to everyone, but it does work for us. This is what we have always done since we met, collaboration, so we really enjoy it.

“We don’t cook a lot together or go on lots of holidays, we make music instead. It’s our way of finding new things out about each other and hanging out.”

It’s hard to know what to expect before speaking to Persson. After all, this is a woman who has metamorphosed over the past 12 years from the bouncy, blonde-headed pop princess of ‘Lovefool’, to the tattooed rock star of ‘My Favourite Game’, then swung around as a raven-headed country singer in ‘For What It’s Worth’, through to the edgy indie vixen of ‘I Need Some Fine Wine, and You Need To Be Nicer’.

Effortlessly disassembling the entire armoury of stereotypes regarding blonde pop singers, Persson is self-assured, lacking in arrogance and impressively intelligent.

Through a thick Swedish accent, despite her perfect English, there is an unexpected thread of wry humour and confident irony.

“Ah yes, Powder Pop,” Persson exclaims on being questioned about A Camp’s self-created genre. “It’s a word we came up with when we were working on ‘Colonia’.

“Powdered wigs – that’s fun imagery. We felt wig powder was something missing in pop music…”

‘Colonia’ is described as having “a very particular perfume… of electricity, wig powder and laudanum.” If ‘Stronger Than Jesus’ is anything to go by, then A Camp’s new album will conjure much more, above all the development of its lead singer.

From the seductive drawl of Persson’s vocals to the boozy swagger of trumpets and the relaxed drum beats, one thing is for sure – Sweden’s pop darling has moved on and grown up, creating music that is not just clever, it’s damn sexy too.

See the video: A Camp – Stronger than Jesus

MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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