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