The buzzer goes off on the cooker once more as we hear Hanne Kolstø pad off to check on her dinner. We’ve caught the synth pop artist on a Spring evening in the picturesque setting of Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Keeping up her recording stamina, Kolstø releases her third solo album in three years, Stillness and Panic this month on Oslo based indie label Jansen Plateproduksjon.
With postcard-looking small fishing villages nestled in fjords dotting Lofoten’s rugged coastlines, it’s a setting that seems to have continued to inspire Kolstø who has been rather prolific in her musical output since her humble beginnings in 2008. Starting life in a number of different guises – poporchestra Love:fi, synth voyagers Post and electro duo Thelma and Clyde – Kolstø has produced no less than 14 releases. Not one for writers block then, clearly. “There will be one or two months where I feel relaxed after I’ve released a record but after that I just want to start writing again”, she confesses. But it was her solo debut Riot Break in 2011 that really impressed the Norwegian critics and also landed her a nomination for the Norwegian Grammy award for “Best pop album in 2012”.
Today in the surrounds of her current island dwelling, she’s honest about her evolution as an artist and how, despite the initial intrigue, she’s definitely more comfortable in her skin as a solo performer: “In the bands before, I was testing out different sides of myself. Thelma and Clyde was kind of my trip hop self. I tested out being a rock figure, I did the jazzy poppy thing. In the end, I think I saw that I was going to merge the whole thing into one. It was just a natural thing”. She goes on: “The other people in the various bands, they didn’t really have the same ambition that I had. They wanted to get proper jobs and I was like ‘Fuck it, I’m going to live off my music and if you don’t want to join me, I’m going to do it myself”.
Kolstø is nothing short of ambitious when it comes to songwriting or, indeed, self production and management. Recounting the tales of her booking and promoting all of her own tours, she laughs. “Everything is more professional now- I mean, in the long run I couldn’t keep doing that, I was just exhausted”. Seeking solace in the idyllic surrounds of the Nordland county, the Norwegian artist has been taking some time for herself instead and looks to her future as a sustainable artist. “It’s not like I’m just doing this for a couple of years and then becoming a teacher, you know? If I’m going to do this as long as I live then I just have to think about my health just a tiny bit. I can’t travel around all the time”, she admits.
Spending much of her teens working in a record shop and listening to music, Kolstø isn’t one for traditional forms of inspiration when it comes to chalking up her slew of synth releases. “I’m always writing music and when I’m writing I don’t want to be too influenced by other things. I want to be influenced by film or dance or art. I’m a bit afraid that I would copy other people as you say there’s a lot of great bands and artists in Norway and I just think ‘Oh, I want to sound like that’ so I’m actually afraid I will do it”. The Norwegian surroundings too seem to have helped the creativity process, in general. “I really enjoy being myself and being close to nature and when I do that I’m fit for fight when I go out to play to people again”.
Heading back to her childhood home of Sykkylven, Stillness and Panic was recorded with old marching band instruments and pianos in the chapel where she once started as a soloist in the children’s choir. Crafting this selection of songs following a few months off, after Kolstø worked from the high peaks of the Sunnmøre alps. The silence, and the reflections made on long, solitary hikes alone in Western Norway, are apparent in deeply personal lyrics and the album’s title.
Stepping away from the receiver, Kolstø heads towards the kitchen to check on dinner. Leaving her fish dish basting, we begin to build up a picture of her creative space tucked away in another corner of the archipelago. “I’ve been reading a huge book about existential psychotherapy. It’s really heavy but I’m trying to work out what’s going on in my head like a lot of artists, and I’m finding that really nurturing for my lyrics”. Like the sombre shades of the artwork for the new record, Kolstø is also complimentary of the smoke shrouded opening sequence of Louisana set, True Detective. “The intro is so nice. It’s like artwork. The music and the design reminds me of Six Feet Under“.
So when she’s not hunkering down with an Irvin D. Yalom tome or ambling through the Norwegian hills, what does Kolstø have planned for 2014 (or need we ask..) “I’m trying to release another record by the end of the year – I think we’re going to go to the studio in June”. And there’s plans for pastures new. “I want to move to the Alps so I’m going to try and do that too”.
“New mountains?”, jokes TGA. Kolstø answers as only her implacably determined self could: “Bigger mountains”.
Stillness and Panic is out now on Jansen Plateproduksjon