I feel lucky to have interviewed artists that I love (Stephen Malkmus, Reggie from Black Kids, Honeydrips…); however, this lucky feeling usually only kicks in once the interview is over. In the Schubas’ lounge area above the bar (sometimes used as the DJ area), where a ping-pong tournament between the backing bands to both Lykke Li and El Perro Del Mar was held, I waited for Lykke Li to finish up another interview.
Watching the beautiful, soft-spoken Lykke Li sit down on the couch next to me, nursing her cold with some hot tea, and then begin to answer my initial questions so comfortably and quietly, I realized I had enough material for an article alone. This, and my natural fear of burdening artists who I admire, kept my interview with Lykke Li at a mere 8 minutes. Lykke’s disarming nature inspired me to keep it simple, allowing her brief-yet-telling responses to remain untainted, and hindering my desire to force some perfect question in hopes of uncovering something that probably doesn’t truly exist.
The just-turned 22 year-old put out her first album this year, and her debut EP hit shelves in the United States last Tuesday. Nearly all of the songs from both Youth Novels and the Little Bit EP are layered masterpieces, which all share the same humble beginnings. “I write the songs on either piano and guitar,” and from there, Lykke continues, “I just go with the flow.” Going with the “flow” makes it seem too easy though; she is downplaying her instrumentally intricate visions that come to life when producer Bjorn Yttling (Peter, Bjorn, and John) puts his spin on these indie-pop gems. Lykke is quick to point out how blessed she feels to have Bjorn, and that when an idea arises, her “wildest dreams” are put into action (aka trumpet sections and cool effects, see “I’m Good, I’m Gone.”)
Lykke Li has worked closely with Bjorn, recording and touring, and has played shows with Swedish staples, the Shout Out Louds, and currently El Perro Del Mar. Her ideal show though is somewhat simple, “A small, intimate, but packed crowd, all screaming and into the show. I also really like to interact with the fans.” By my estimation, this was realized later that night with her sold-out Schubas performance.
At the moment she is simply enjoying the tour, letting her records and amazing live act speak for themselves, and while she casually throws in that there will be more records to come, she has nothing stocked up. She plans her career to some degree, introducing bit-by-bit her material to America (which is not a response to downloading), but isn’t on some heavily planned career path. “I put everything I have into the songs I have written,” she says, which holds especially true when you see her stage performance. When I asked what bands influence her, she was completely non-discriminatory, “I like everything, African Big-Beat, Punk, jazz…” In the past she has covered A Tribe Called Quest, but each night of this tour Lykke Li and Sarah Assbring – the El Perro Del Mar centerpiece-get together for their perfect rendition of Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter.”
Looking back on the interview now, I can probably come up with 20 questions that would provide pretty interesting insight into Lykke’s tastes, but I feel no need to further grasp her beautiful essence. Whatever fear of burdening I had yesterday has vanished, and in fact been trumped by an overwhelming sense of luckiness to have gotten to know such a beautiful person and truly incredible artist.