I Break Horses on “Warnings” - Slow Down | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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I Break Horses on “Warnings”

Slow Down

May 08, 2020 Photography by James Loveday (for Under the Radar) Web Exclusive
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Maria Lindén has been making cinematic electronic shoegaze music under the moniker I Break Horses for over a decade. A self-confessed perfectionist when it comes to making music, Lindén’s output so far has resulted in two critically acclaimed long players: 2011’s debut Hearts and the follow-up three years later, Chiaroscuro.

Now six years after the last I Break Horses release, Stockholm-based Lindén is back with a new LP entitled Warnings, which is out today via Bella Union. Arguably her finest collection of songs to date, Warnings started out as a bunch of instrumental pieces before gradually turning into the record that’s set to herald one of the most startling comebacks of 2020. It was a recording process fraught with setbacks, which eventually led her to producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady (Beach House, TV on the Radio) to mix the album.

We recently caught up with its creator to talk about the new record, the difficulties of touring, and a relentless quest for perfection that led to Warnings’ existence.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): It’s six years since Chiaroscuro came out. Was there ever a time where you thought people might have forgotten about I Break Horses?

Maria Lindén (I Break Horses): Of course! I counted on that. I didn’t even know if I wanted to make another album. I was just into making instrumental music and doing something else so it didn’t worry me. I’m quite taken aback and thrilled at the response to the first few tracks that came out off the new record. I didn’t expect anything, as it’s been a very long time. But the few listeners I have out there, they don’t seem to care about the time it’s taken between records, which is amazing.

Do the songs on Warnings go back over a long period of time? Which is the oldest track on the album?

They go way back. The album has been ready for a year. I’ve just been waiting for it to be released. The first sketches actually came together in the two years after Chiaroscuro came out but then my computer crashed completely. So I lost two years worth of work and felt broken. I didn’t have enough money to get it repaired, which made me think it perhaps better to start again from scratch. The process of making the album started with me just writing instrumental music. It wasn’t until I felt this urge to add vocals and lyrics that those instrumental sketches slowly turned into what became the new record. So it’s been a long process. I guess the combination of being a perfectionist/control freak and bad luck with collaborations that didn’t work out then ending up doing everything on my own takes time. I did keep some studio recordings but most were made on my laptop. The fact you can change things in an infinite number of ways on a laptop is fatal to me, because I am trying to perfect everything that nobody will hear except me! It’s been a long process but also a fun time, and I’m quite happy with the results so it’s been worth it.

With the lyrics coming after the music, was there a running theme or pattern?

Definitely. My original intention was to make an instrumental and the working title was Warnings from the start, relating to the dark era we currently live in. So the title stayed with me and I would describe all the songs on the album as warning signals of something not being quite right. But there are also a few anthems of hope for people like me who are outsiders and have self-reservations about finding their way in the world. Showing them that being a misfit is a beautiful thing and not something to be brushed aside. So it’s basically an album full of anthems and warnings about personal shit that made sense when it all came together.

There are also three interlude pieces on Warnings, which give the record a cinematic feel and split into four segments. Was that your intention?

It was, definitely. There was a point when I started writing my sketches where I ran movies [of my] youth for inspiration while composing. So I think that had a big impact on how the album turned out as well. It was such a long time ago so I can’t remember all of the movies but I’d say the overall theme was about some kind of forced relationship between broken people and that had an impact. I remember running Bad Timing, Images, and 3 Women, for example, then also visually striking films like To Die In the Country and Blow Up, so I think they had an impact on both the lyrics and overall sound.

As the album was originally a collection of instrumentals together with the influence of several films, did it ever become something that may have ended up as a score piece for the movies or television?

That’s what I was doing in the beginning. I was basically creating my own soundtrack to those scenes in the films I just mentioned. That’s where the inspiration came from originally, so definitely. It’s always been my dream to write film scores.

Chris Coady collaborated with the mixing on Warnings. How did that come about and what did he bring to the record?

He just got everything completely right, which was a huge relief to me because I initially mixed it with someone else that just didn’t work out. Whereas Chris just got everything I had worked on and turned it into something beautiful. I read this interview with him where he talks about loving sounds that have been slowed down because they create these textures and shapes that are really interesting. I feel exactly the same when a track is slowed down on tape. I’ve done that a lot with drums we’ve recorded in the studio. If something doesn’t fit right in my ears I’ll slow down the tape and cut them up. I love the sound of that, so after reading that interview I felt Chris would get this and he really did. So I’m super happy with the mixes. My recordings are obviously pretty lo-fi so he pushed them into something else which was interesting, because I want to try new ways as well. I don’t want to create the same album over and over again.

That really stands out when listening to I Break Horses’ complete catalogue. All three albums sound very different to each other, and there’s a definite progression from one to the next culminating in Warnings.

That’s the way I like to work. I like to go with my instinct. Artists that just repeat the same album over and over again are totally uninteresting to me unless they create fantastic music, which is very rare. I just want to create something I’m in love with at the time. It needs to be fun, and I guess that’s why whatever I do will not be the same thing repeated because I just cannot work that way. With Chris it was a great collaboration. He brought so much to the tracks. I’m very thankful to him, and it was a huge relief because I’d already spent so much of my budget on the first mixes that were scrapped. So I spent my last few pennies on those final mixes but it was definitely worth it.

Are there any plans to play live and tour the album?

I plan to tour but also struggle with a huge amount of stage fright. So its always very divided emotions with live shows. I really want to meet the listeners out there so I know I have to overcome this situation and play live. Obviously it’s a matter of money because touring is expensive and at the moment I don’t have a band. So it would mean hiring musicians otherwise I’d have to do it by myself. I haven’t really figured it out yet but I will definitely do my utmost to tour and meet the beautiful people that listen to my music. So a tour is the plan, but nothing’s scheduled yet until I’ve found a way to make it work both financially and musically.

If you had the benefit of hindsight is there anything you’d do differently or change with the first two albums?

To be honest, I haven’t learned anything! I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Over working stuff, looping stuff, recreating and coming back to the first sketches. Realizing these are the best ones then changing my mind then going back to the original demo. I guess with the second album I could have done that more because I just wanted to get it out there. I do like that album but also feel I could have given it some more time. I rarely go back and listen to my old stuff at all so it’s difficult for me to even compare this album to the other ones, which to me sounds like a great thing.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out as a songwriter or musician? What would you tell them to do? Or even avoid?

It’s difficult for someone like me to give advice because making music has driven me insane! I can’t come up with anything new because this is what every musician says, but just go with whatever you like. Go with what your heart tells you. Always try to look ahead and go forwards. I would like to see subcultures coming up from this dark era that we’re in. That’s what I’m hoping for and I think we’re going to see more of that. Music has become more streamlined than ever. I don’t know if that’s just me? Of course there is loads of fantastic music out there, but I wish the subcultures would gain more attention. If these dark times can bring something good it would be giving these subcultures more spotlight. I think there’s going to be a change. I really hope so. There are so many amazing artists that fight on with so many important political messages and I want to contribute in my way spreading love. Mainly because it feels like there’s so much hate out there, so much negativity. So find your own way of contributing to this terrible world and don’t listen too much to what others think. That’s my advice.


Read our rave review of Warnings.

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