2014 Artist Survey: Sondre Lerche

Lerche on Lip-syncing, 2014's 15 Best Songs, Moving Fan Interactions, and the Film Director He'd Most Like to Work With

Feb 13, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Bookmark and Share


For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Sondre Lerche.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.]

Top 15 Songs of 2014

Because I've been so lost in the making of my own record, Please, I haven't really been able to absorb any other records fully, and as such I haven't heard anything remotely as exciting to me as Please. Which probably means I have a lot of great 2014 albums in store. As such, I'll list my favorite tracks of 2014, all killer, super-inspiring one-offs that stopped me in my tracks, for all to hear, off the top of my head:

1. Mac DeMarco: "Passing Out Pieces" 

2. Blake Mills: "Just Out of View"

3. Sisyphus: "Rhythm of Devotion"

4. Lewis: "Things Just Happen That Way"

5. Mac DeMarco: "Chamber of Reflection"

6. Blake Mills: "If I'm Unworthy"

7. Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks: "Little Fang"

8. Michael Jackson: "Love Never Felt So Good"

9. Mica Levi: "Lonely Void"

10. Caribou: "Second Chance"

11. Silja Sol: "Tid"

12. Hooray For Earth: "Racy"

13. S. Carey: "Alpenglow"

14. Bloody Beach: "Smoke Jaguar"

15. Sia: "Chandelier"

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band? 

The highlight of my career so far is Please, which came out this year. I've been tremendously excited to share it, and it's been overwhelmingly energizing to make.

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

Hearing about the plane that was shot down over the Ukraine, and every innocent human being who died such a random, violent death-among them many of the world's foremost specialists in HIV/AIDS research, which to me seemed extra tragic. All the expertise, the knowledge, years of work, education, and persistence it takes to work towards a cure. It's heartbreaking to think about. But then again, that's only one tragic aspect of a tragic story in a year full of so many global tragedies of humankind. There's too many to even empathize with and still get through your day, which is scary to me. 

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

I'm sure it would have seemed less intrusive had the record been more inspired, or even good. They must've been really excited about the idea, so I almost feel bad that it backfired so badly. Both iTunes and the band appeared not to have considered that scenario, which again gives you the impression that all these people live and meet in a bubble of their own, which is totally cool, if the music's inspired or bold, and it just wasn't.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

Generally speaking, I'm into good manners and respectful camaraderie among musicians. That's what I seek and how I operate. I respect most anyone who can find a way to express themselves and have an audience follow over time, even if I don't appreciate the music. It's the hardest thing to do. However, I do appreciate when certain characters can't stop themselves from shaking it up sometimes, and indulge irreverence, childishness, and blatant self-promotion for the sake of it. The world of so-called indie music can sometimes get so uniform, civilized, and earnest. A jackass can be very welcome. As long as he or she kicks upwards, I can enjoy the theater of irreverence, irrationality, and silliness.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

I don't think anyone deserves grief for trying to raise awareness for either ALS or animal testing issues. I try to be conscious, but I'm not nearly well informed enough to be quite so righteous.  

"Weird Al" Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the "Weird Al" version's lyrics be about? 

Obviously "Bad Law" would become "Bad Lawn" and lampoon trivial suburban white everyday challenges and complaints. Again.

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

I don't tend to look for agreement in either praise or criticism of my work, as I rarely find it. Common criticisms or praise are usually caricatures of a fleeting moment that I was over five years ago, so I usually don't identify much with either.

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you're now a successful musician?

I was a pretty successful musician when I was still in school, and even then I couldn't find a way to indulge that kind of scenario. I wish I had, but I was incapable of enjoying most anything other than the music, for better or worse. 

What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?

It's always younger fans who've been institutionalized for mental issues and spend a great deal of time in isolation with their thoughts and challenges, and find company, positivity, and compassion in my music. Those stories touch me most. There are plenty of reasons and occasions for me to doubt what the fuck I'm doing as I'm trying to do it, and I certainly don't feel like I'm on top of the world of music most of the time no matter how good a song I write, so those encounters carry a lot of weight to me.

What's the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be? 

The question I'd love to put to rest is "How has growing up in Norway/living in New York affected your work?"

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

History and religion. I feel quite uneducated most of the time.

Which well-known filmmaker would you most like to direct one of your music videos?

50 percent of us are gonna say P.T. Anderson, I'm sure.

In 2024, as part of the Mars One program, four people might be sent to Mars with no hope of ever returning to Earth. Are they completely crazy or brave? Would you ever consider such a thing?

No.

In which instance did you most sell out and compromise your music?

That one time I lip-synced "Sleep on Needles" on an Italian pop-show on television and threw my guitar in the air during the guitar solo. I loved every moment of it.

Do you ever long for the days before the Internet and cell phones? If so, what do you think has been the worst side effect of those technologies?

Yes, I do, but then again I also long for my iPhone when I'm away from it. What will all this do to us? We'll be writing songs about it for decades. The worst thing? Attention span seriously challenged. Also, old-school manners vanishing. 

www.sondrelerche.com

 

 

 



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