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I Break Horses

In Black and White

Apr 16, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia Bookmark and Share

Sweden’s I Break Horses broke out in 2011 when their debut, Hearts, was met with critical acclaim across Europe and North America. Within a year, singer Maria Lindén and collaborator Fredrik Balck were invited to support M83 on a tour across the United States. Lindén faced a dilemma: her band was to play some of its first shows in front of massive audiences, and she was battling stage fright.

“I remember being nine years old and having to do concerts,” she says. “I was devastated, I was shaking. I’ve been struggling with those fears since I was a kid. We had only done a handful of live shows before we did the M83 tour, and it helped a lot. By the end of the tour it felt almost natural…. It was a huge step for me, from having to throw up before going on stage, to doing that tour.”

The touring took its toll on Lindén. I Break Horses broke for a year while she recharged and found new inspiration. During this hiatus, Lindén wrote new material, which Balck later helped finish.

“The year was crazy for my mental well-being. I had my highest highs and lowest lows, and I wrote songs during that time,” she says. “When I’d written something dark, I would think, ‘Come on, write something dance-y, pull yourself together.’ I could get out of that state of mind by creating a denial song.”

The new songs reflect their composer’s clashing emotions. Hearts’ gauzy shoegaze has given way to a more danceableand sometimes, undeniably darkalbum. The new record’s title, Chiaroscuro, is an art term that refers to a stark contrast of light and dark elements.

“At first I wanted to do two EPs, one black and one white, because I didn’t know how to fit the songs together on an album,” she says. “But then I realized the black album would be longer. There would only be a few moments of brightness. I felt I should be able to put these songs together in one album, and the title could describe that. It allowed me to write whatever I felt at the time.”

Lindén switched up her writing process this second time around, composing the songs fully on a piano before layering on synthesizer and pedal effects.

“I had my synth orchestra in my head while just working on the piano,” she says. “It was nice to have limited instrumentation in that sense, so you don’t spend hours with knobs, creating the ambience while writing, because that makes it a much longer process.”

Before forming I Break Horses, Lindén started composing in hopes of one day writing film scores. It’s an ambition she’d still like to fulfill; she says she is currently awaiting requests. So, filmmakers: think you’ve got a movie that could use an atmospheric score from I Break Horses? Lindén has a type of film in mind.

“A really dark, scary horror movie,” she says, with a laugh. “Then I could freak myself out while writing it.”

[Note: This article first appeared in the February/March print issue (Issue 49).]


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