Vulture is happy to announce the new album from Sondre Lerche: On June 7, the Norway-by-way-of-Brooklyn singer-songwriter will release Sondre Lerche, his sixth full-length, via Mona Records. And since you won't be hearing it for a while, take our word that it'll be worth the wait. On the self-titled release, the follow-up to 2009's wonderful Heartbeat Radio, Lerche trades sonic variety for candid directness, maintaining throughout his knack for sweet, hummable melodies. Vulture recently chatted with Lerche about the motivation behind the new album, the reason he moved to New York, and the advice he'd give his 16-year-old self.
Why release a self-titled album now?
Usually I have the title for the record pretty early on. I'll know which song title it is, or if it's a phrase from a song, but this time I didn't really have a clear vision of what it might be. I even asked my followers on Twitter for a suggestion. And of course — no offense to them — but that didn't prove to be fruitful. I sort of became obsessed with this whole title thing. I woke up from this dream one day and I had the perfect title, but I couldn't remember it. I'm not going to settle for anything but that title, and if I can't have it, it'll be a self-titled album.
How are things different on this album?
This record is very essential and intense. It still has a lot of the stuff that I really value in music, but it has a stronger purpose. It's not just there for the aesthetics of it, this sort of genre exploration. Sometimes you make a record that is what you want to hear. I've made a couple of those, idealized creations of what I wanted to hear. Then there are records that are what you feel. This one, in a way, has a little bit of both. It is, for better or worse, how things feel at this point in my life.
You've experimented with other genres, including bossa nova and jazz, but this album is more restrained. Why tone things down now?
I definitely wanted to make do with as little as possible in the way of arrangements and production. In the process of making this record, I became much more interested in atmosphere and capturing a vibe. I made a lot of records where a strong sense of atmosphere wasn't something I could afford, because I thought it would take up the space of potential arrangement ideas or stuff that I wanted in there. With this record I found myself much more interested in things I hadn't been into before, which is always exciting. I wanted to make room for atmosphere and I wanted to make it feel very intimate and intense. That's also probably why I didn't want to spend a whole lot of time in the studio.
How long were you in the studio?
We recorded and mixed it within three weeks. I didn't want to just goof around, I wanted to have real risk, to have stuff really be on the line. The last record I made, I didn't have any deadline. We took however long it took. But I wanted this to feel like it mattered.
Were you influenced by any other artists?
I usually enter the studio with a mix of songs that I've been listening to that are relevant to the sound I want to achieve. This is the first record that I didn't have that at all. I was open to anything happening, but mainly just trying to capture the intensity of the song in the form. There was some stuff we listened to in the studio, just to pinpoint a specific drum sound or a type of arrangement, but it was never elaborate. It was more sort of casual references, to help put the other people in the studio in your frame of mind.
You're more than a decade into your career. How have things changed?
I wrote my first record when I was 16 years old, and at that point lyrics definitely came from the heart, but they were more fragmented. They just came with the music. There's a beauty to that as well, but obviously, ten years later, I communicate with an audience who takes every word of my songs very seriously. Other than that, things change from when you're 16 to when you're 28. You go through an immense transformation in that period. I was very cautious; I didn't drink or do anything bad when I started my career as a musician. I've definitely sort of lowered my shoulder since. I'm definitely different from the guy I was back then, and I'm sure he'd be a bit disappointed with some of what I've become. But that guy needs to chill out anyway.
Is your goal for making music still the same?
Yeah, I think that's the same. I started trying to write songs when I was 8 or 9 years old. It's been my lifelong interest, so it took me years and years before I wrote something that I felt wasn't bullshit or pose-y; that was actually truthful and real and also lived up to my musical preferences. To try and sort of create something like that, and get to express yourself, when you're sort of hooked on that, it's really hard to turn that off.
What's the plan for playing the new material live?
I've performed so much solo over the last couple years, and this album I will be playing with a band. That's going to be a new thing. Being alone onstage and performing is sort of second nature to me because I've done that since I was very young. I'm sort of old-fashioned in that I try to write a song that will work if you sit down and play it on the guitar. I need to get really close with my musicians; I need it to be sort of second nature to them so that we can move outside of what's planned, and outside of all these rules and regulations that we use to play music together. I'm actually working on that now. We've been rehearsing.
Why'd you move to Brooklyn?
This is going to sound really cocky and silly, but I found it really exciting to be somewhere where I wouldn't constantly be reminded of who I was. The way my music came out, it was a mainstream success in a very small country. I always found it really nice and cool when I came here, to have a parallel life in America where I was more of an indie niche artist. I guess it sounds strange that you would sort of move to New York to get away from it all.