At a cafe near Toronto’s Velvet Underground AURORA looks outside the window and ponders aloud, “look at these people. Where are they going? Is today a good day or a bad day? I’m so curious about what’s going on inside people’s minds.” She speaks in softer tones that force you to listen, and a calm earnestness that conveys sincerity and genuine interest.
Partway through our conversation, she pauses upon noticing a small bug perched upon her scarf – an article of clothing relegated to the table due to the arrival of Toronto’s warmer weather – and carefully transports it back to the outside world. It’s hot outside, but her fans, her Warriors and Weirdos, wait patiently outside even three hours before doors. Earlier in the afternoon she came outside to greet them and bring them water.
The world has chosen many descriptors for the 21 year old Norwegian singer-songwriter: weird, kooky, innocent. But I think, underlying it all, is an intense curiosity, awe and appreciation in the world.
Katrina Lat: You have a new album due out in the fall. When discussing your previous album, ‘All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend’ you have said that there’s almost like an A-side, what the radio might want, and a B-side, what you feel and resonate with. For this new album is there a similar divide, or now that you have one album under your belt, is it all ‘B-side’?
AURORA: I’ve been wondering that myself. It’s actually both – it’s music that hits you quite instantly, but it’s also very strange, very me. The whole thing, the melodies and the lyrics, and especially the way it’s been produced, are very AURORA. It’s because I know myself more now. Of course the singles are there, but it has to be like that. I don’t really care because it’s still music, and it doesn’t lose the message. I know all these people in the record company want the same thing as me – they want me to have a long career, and they want me to get my word out because they know I have a lot to stay. As soon as I finished my first album, I knew what I could do better on my second album. It was very instant. The day I released my album, I was ready. I began writing on the 12th of March, and that was the day after I released the first one.
KL: How does this album differ from the first?
AURORA: The first one was very much about greeting your own demons as a friend and learning all about that darkness and light. The second one is very empowered.
KL: Queendom, your latest single, is a very empowered song.
AURORA: Yes, it’s very empowering in a few different ways. Things like, “I’m going to leave if I’m not happy here”, and “I’m going to grow”. In one of the songs on the album, a person dies – of course, there’s someone who dies on every album – but the person who dies will come back and have her revenge. It’s a very empowering album, but also sentimental at times. This album is about how after you’ve dealt with yourself, you can become who you’re supposed to, and carry other people.
KL: You need to take care of yourself first before you can take of other people.
AURORA: You have to! It’s the purpose of life to be kind to yourself first, and then to be kind to whatever you can around you. We need to fight now for the ones who can’t really fight for themselves: the animals, the children, the planet, the women sometimes, and sometimes the men. I just want us to look upon everything living as one thing.
KL Especially now with all the things going on in the world, we need to pay attention.
AURORA: Actually, I think the most important song I’ve ever written is on this album.
KL: Which one? Do you have a title for it already?
AURORA: It’s track number 8. Soon, everyone is going to be very confused. But then they’re going to understand.
KL: Speaking of tracks, you’ve told us previously that there are 11 tracks on the album, because 11 is your favourite number. I love the reason as to why you’ve said it’s your favourite number – because it’s the same downside up as downside up, right?
AURORA: Yeah, and backward! I also really like 8, because if you look at it in the mirror it’s also the same no matter what. It’s just so satisfying. That’s also why the special song is Track 8.
KL: I have a strange fixation with prime numbers, so I love the number 11 too.
AURORA: Oh, I love prime numbers as well! Many of my BPMs, the beat of the song, are often a prime number.
KL: So there are 11 tracks on the new album, and I’ve heard that you always bring 11 objects with you to remind you of home. Do you always bring the same items, or do you mix it up every time?
AURORA: Sometimes I mix it up. One of the 11 elements is always a book that I can read. Then, when I’m done with the book, I give it to the first person I see.
KL: What was the last book you gave to someone?
AURORA: It was Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. I gave it to a boy I saw on the plane when I flew to New York a few days ago. He had an orange tee shirt, and he was behind me. I said “do you like Sci-Fi”, and he said “yeah”. I told him he would love the book, and asked him if he wanted it.
KL: Now, if it’s a book you don’t like, do you still give it to someone?
AURORA: I make a list in the front and write, “these are the books I usually like. I didn’t really understand this one, but maybe you will”, and then I leave it at a cafe or something. It’s really fun.
KL: On your last album, you did a lot of work with found sounds. In one of your songs, you have the sound of you hugging a tree, and I love that sentiment so much. In this album, are there any other hidden sounds?
AURORA: Many! I have this recording of women on the streets in Brazil playing drums, and that’s hidden in Queendom. The album is filled with these found sounds, because that’s the way I like to produce. When I produce, I have a long recording of a lot of random song, I pick out parts, and I loop it. It’s very hard because it has no boundaries – it’s so alive, and so random, and it doesn’t make sense before you make sense out of it, which I like.
KL: When you’re performing songs that include found sounds live, how do they translate? Do you interpret them differently in a live setting?
AURORA: Most of the stuff is interpreted differently because I like to keep the band busy, and I like when songs sound different live. But for a few songs, if I really love a sound, and I feel like it’s important for the mood, I may have them on a backing track.
KL: One thing a lot of your fans appreciate you for is your endless curiosity and supply of unique knowledge. What’s your source of curiosity, and how do you keep learning new things?
AURORA: Well, I’ve never been asked this before! I love to read, and I have experienced quite a lot of things, good and bad, for my age. I think it’s mainly by talking to people. I listen a lot to wise people, to old people, and if I meet grandmothers, they always have stories to tell. I’ve talked to a lot of – what do you call them – psychiatrists? The only reason I have friends, because I was so strange at school, was because I was always asking “what’s going on” and “why do you feel this way?”
KL: You’re a sounding board.
AURORA: Yeah, it was always my position in a friendship, which I don’t mind, I love it.
KL: Do you have a hard time finding interesting people to talk to when you’re always on the road?
Sometimes. I find very many people uninteresting, and I find many people also interesting. But I hate small talk, I’m not good at it. I’m better now because I’ve met like five million people in the last four years, but it really makes me bored sometimes, especially at parties, or if I’m at a bar alone. I love going out alone to drink and dance, and I hate it when people try to talk to me! Unless it’s a fan or something, then it’s nice.
KL: What was the last thing you consumed – whether it be a tv show, or a movie, a song, a book, or something else, that made you feel something strongly?
AURORA: Actually, I think it was that last book that I read, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, the one i gave to the boy on the plane. I guess it’s not too big of a spoiler to say that someone dies, because it’s a very brutal book. But, a person died, and I had to stop reading for two days before I could go back to the book because I felt I had lived with these people for so long. It was really sad, and I had to stop. I love it though.
KL: It’s beautiful that things can make us feel like that.
AURORA: And only for a short time, because if you really come to your senses, you realize “I really have nothing to be sad about!” But it’s also nice to be sad.
KL: Yeah, it’s funny. It’s not someone you really know, it’s separate from you, and yet you are overcome by this intense emotion. It doesn’t make sense, it’s not logical. But it happens, and you feel it. Which I think is beautiful.
AURORA: That’s my favourite thing about emotions – that they’re so wild and so irrational. In a way, we act the way we do because of all these emotions. It’s so beautiful, it’s so fragile.
KL: It’s what makes us unique, and you do a great job of encapsulating all those emotions, and all that human weirdness and wonderfulness in your music.
AURORA: Actually, I have to tell you one more thing, I know I told everyone that there are 11 tracks on my album. but something happened. I had a dream, and I decided that I had to do my plan differently. This will make much more sense, and still has a yin and a yang feeling to it. There will be confusion, and then understanding. But you’ll see.
KL: Is it 111 songs now?
AURORA: I decided a few days ago actually, I told everyone on my crew, on my team, and they agreed. So it’s going to be exciting.
Thank you AURORA for taking the time to chat with us!