Exclusive: Tove Styrke Breaks Free
Tove Styrke popped into Milk Studios this past week for a quick chat before going on to perform the last show of her debut tour in the USA. Styrke is the latest electropop sensation to emerge from the pit of musical talent that is Sweden. She released her EP ‘Borderline last Fall to critical acclaim and just yesterday dropped a new single from her much anticipated upcoming album Kiddo. However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for this Elvin-like chanteuse. The singer-songwriter has been at it since an early age honing her sound, before catching a break on Swedish Idol in 2009. While it presented her with a myriad of opportunities, Idol was admittedly a bitter sweet moment and a "unnatural way to enter the music industry" as she puts it. Half a decade later and Styrke has broken free and is in full control of her craft. Watch this space.
What is your favorite decade of music?
I’ve never been asked that question before! Wow. It’s tricky I must say. I feel like I’m really spread out. Maybe the 90s. One of my first musical crushes was Bjork. I actually saw that she just released an album on your website but I haven’t had time to listen to it yet! I heard it was about heartbreak. I’ve been in love with her music since I was ten.
How long have you been experimenting with music?
I’ve been making noises since I was really young. I always experimented a lot with my voice. How high can I go? How low can I go? Trying like..”Can I sound like that bird I heard today?”
You were on Swedish Idol. Was that an interesting experience?
It’s a pretty weird experience. It’s kind of an unnatural way to enter the music industry. You do that competition, and its not about music…its more of a popularity contest really. And so when you’re done there….and I came in third…you suddenly have all the fame but you still have everything to prove musically. That’s when the real work begins. I was only sixteen when I started.
Did you have control of your own image? What about now? What does that mean to you?
During [the competition] you don’t reflect on that. You’re just trying to make it through. But now I am very much in control of my own image. It means everything. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I’m lucky because I ended up with a record label that understood the value of working longterm. Which In this case that means…If I get to do what I want to do… and we can cooperate and they help me to do what I want to do…we can make something that’s really great together. I’m the boss.
Amen to that. So, you’ve been doing a bunch of back and forth traveling lately, performing your first live shows in the US in LA and NYC, and weren’t you just in Tokyo?
I went to Tokyo just before Christmas to shoot a video. It was so cool. GO THERE. I was devastated that we couldn’t stay so long. I didn’t have that much time to see the place. But what I got to see I loved. The people were so nice. They have vending machines with hot AND cold drinks and they have toilets with heated seats. We also went to Svalbard. Which is like an Arctic island. You go to Norway and then you fly four hours North. There are more polar bears than people there. We were shooting a video there as well for Borderline. Although I’m doing all these things, I’m still so inspired to be traveling all these places and meeting new people. I’m not even close to being exhausted. I’m having a lot of fun with this.
And how would you want your audience to define your music?
Oh my. To me, my music after I’ve made it and put it out…It’s not mine anymore…it’s theirs. For me, If I understand from people that they are relating to it, and they have their own relationship to the music…that’s the most satisfying thing for me to hear. That’s means I have succeeded and made something that communicates to people.
What would you like to communicate?
I think Borderline is the best example. That song is about – or what I usually say its about haha – is “breaking free from the patriarchal chains of society.” I try to write as if the patriarchy is The Matrix and you can wake up from it and realize that its all bullshit. It’s something that we have created. The problems that bother me the most are these big issues that seep through everything everywhere. A lot of times people ask me like: “Oh isn’t the music industry…isn’t really bad being a woman there? Isn’t it horrible?” And I’m like, really? This problem is everywhere. It’s not isolated in the music industry. The music industry is traditionally very superficial, but its everywhere. The way we look at people and judge them, you know, depending on their gender, you’re treated different. And that’s bullshit. That’s the problem. Borderline is basically just my anger and frustration about that, and trying to just break free from it.
So when you’re not breaking free, what do you do in your spare time?
Haha I don’t have much spare time. But I play computer games. Really just lame games like Diablo. I like video games because I don’t care much about them, it’s a thing that I can just do. I have to focus on them but I can’t get really frustrated. It’s kind of relaxing and it takes my mind of off everything else. Another game, if you like Diablo, is Path of Exile. It’s an older game and it’s the same people who made Diablo too. It’s old school and a little bit cooler.
And what are you going to do now!?
Im going to Soundcloud to say Hiiiii!!!
Listen to Tove Styrke’s new single "Ego" from her first full-length US album entitled, Kiddo, due this Spring.
Photos shot exclusively for Milk Made by Tyler Nevitt