My Firsts: Ora the Molecule | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 7th, 2023  

My Firsts: Ora the Molecule

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Aug 18, 2021 Photography by Jonathan Vivaas Kise Web Exclusive
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Ora the Molecule.

The Norwegian musician, whose birth name is Nora Schjelderup, released her debut album, Human Safari, last month via Mute. A press release announcing Human Safari said its songs alternate “between joyous, beat-driven avant-pop and slick synthwave.”

“It’s for sure two poles,” Schjelderup agreed. “The speaker is the storyteller and the instrumentals are nature or the way life goes. Sometimes you get scared, sometimes it opens up. It’s life. I wanted to make a landscape where the voice could guide you through and be a safe voice. So even when it’s a little bit darker, you’re still in the story and it continues.”

Human Safari’s blend of accessible electronic art pop was bolstered by a string of truly creative music videos, including the video for “The Ball,” which featured lots of slow motion shots of Schjelderup riding a horse (sometimes in reverse) and the recent video for “Helicopter,” which was filmed in New Dehli, India and featured Schjelderup wandering around a large deserted building and encountering herself.

Read on as Schjelderup talks about the first band she was obsessed with, a first concert that changed her perception of music, and a Disney movie that inspired her to start a band with some friends.

Photo by Helene Stålem Sørensen and Camilla Skavern
Photo by Helene Stålem Sørensen and Camilla Skavern

First record your parents played for you?

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz. Such a tune! Still love that album.

First album you bought?

Like with my own money? I forced my parents to buy me Spice Girls—“Stop.” But then, hm, when I actually went to a record shop and bought a CD myself I think it was Green Day—American Idiot. I was 11 then. After that I only wore black clothes and a self-made choker necklace.

First favorite band?

Spice Girls was the absolute first. I got introduced to them in kindergarten through my very cool blind girlfriend. Their energy is so contagious and fun. We had no idea what they sang, but we would mumble along with the melody. I actually never saw their music videos as we didn’t have a TV and, as I said, my friend was blind, so we didn’t watch things together. I think I only heard the actual recording a couple of times at her place and then we would just sing it all the time.

First favorite song?

Probably “Wannabe” of Spice Girls again… I was proper obsessed when I was four years old. I didn’t understand the lyrics. I sort of sang something like “if u wanna bi me joooooer” for a very long time. That is still what comes natural to me now after many years of re-learning the lyrics. I guess what catches you as a kid is hard to forget.

First concert you went to?

Patti Smith performance at Moldejazz in Norway. This was such an incredible performance. I remember thinking that this woman on stage doesn’t have to try to be cool, she just is. She has this incredible stage presence that even eight-year-old me could detect from sitting on the shoulders of my father. I remember thinking that those people on stage really know each other well, sort of like a traveling family. I guess this sparked my intuitive dream of touring one day with my friends.

First country you visited outside of your own?

Republic of Belarus. I mean I was a baby, like four months old. I think we went there because my mum attended this youth conference for this religion she is following called Baháʼí Faith. I can’t remember anything from this trip.

First instrument?

Acoustic guitar. My mum played a bit herself, so we always had a guitar around.

First band you were in?

Pink Ladies, when I was nine with my two best friends. We had seen the movie Freaky Friday and wanted to make a girlband like in that movie. I was sort of obsessed with that film.

First recording device?

Nokia 7650 telephone.

First time you performed in public?

In 2011. I was 17 at that time, and we had decided to play a show at a public cable car in Oslo with an all-girls band trio. It was me on guitar and vocals, Nora on marimba, and Aurora on contrabass. We had been put together as a school band for the annual school theater, and even though I hated anything that had to do with school at the time, I am really happy I got to meet and hang out with those girls and make a band. That was the first time I had more than guitar as the instrumentation for the songs. I was so excited at the time, bringing my songs to these girls and we could perform them live and then it all sounded much fuller and better. I really fell in love with bass and marimba and they sort of opened up the horizon for me to see the potential of sounds in the songs. We used an hour to build the marimba into the cable car, as it’s such a huge instrument. Nora’s mum worked as a cable car driver, so we could have access to the tram before it went out in the public.

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