Tove Styrke is one of life’s perfectionists, so it comes as little surprise to hear that her new LP has been far from a quick process. With the release of long-awaited third album Sway on Friday 4/5, the Swedish singer-songwriter is understandably excited for the world to hear what she’s been working on for such a long time.
We’ve been tracking Styrke’s unique brand of off-kilter pop for a long time now, so decided it was well beyond time that we had a proper catch-up with her to find out all about the album, and her upcoming support slot on tour with pop superstar Katy Perry…
SYNC: So tell us about the new album. It sounds like it has been a real labour of love for you.
TOVE STYRKE: This album means so much to me. I’ve poured so much of myself into this album and into the songs. I wanted to make the best possible album that I could, which is one of the reasons that it is quite short, as I wanted to spend as much time as was needed on each song. It’s also been a real journey for me in terms of writing. I initially started out wanting to write songs about other people, how you connect or don’t connect with others. About halfway through the process though, I realised that instead of using the songwriting to figure other people out, I actually found myself figuring myself out. It’s as if other people are mirrors to yourself as a person – if you like the way you reflect off of a person then you like that person, and if you don’t reflect so well when you interact with them then it can be frustrating and make the relationship weird. In that respect, it is a very personal album. Sway is ultimately a collection of love stories; some are romantic and some really aren’t that romantic.
Tove Styrke – Say My Name
SYNC: How has finishing this album felt compared to the feeling of finishing each of the first two?
STYRKE: It’s been different because the pace has been much slower. As a result though, I feel like I’m more ready for the release, so ready and excited to get the album out there. And yet, on the other hand, I’ve grown so attached to these songs that it is a little tough to let the songs out there for everyone to have. So there are some mixed emotions and I feel a little bit sentimental about them.
SYNC: A couple of the tracks will already be familiar to many of course – Say My Name and Mistakes are particularly huge tunes. How much are they representative of the album as a whole?
STYRKE: I think there is definitely a very distinct theme to the album. The songs really feel like they belong together and you can tell that they belong in the same ‘universe’, but at the same time, each one tells a different story too. I’ve tried to make the production really work with each song to enhance the feeling and give each its own unique flavour. I really wanted each song to have its own ID, but for the album to have a sound that is very cohesive.
SYNC: In parts, the album sounds quite ‘minimal’. Given the long time you’ve spent on putting the songs together, has it been hard to avoid the temptation to ‘over-produce’ and throw more and more elements at each one?
STYRKE: Yeah, I think that’s been one of the biggest challenges. To ensure it remains as minimal as possible but to still keep it interesting is a real challenge. Making it interesting and also keeping it simple is what has taken so long to get right in fact, but it is also something that has been so much fun. To give you some idea of how much time some elements have taken, just the handclaps on Say My Name took two days. If you listen to them you can hear that they’re not exactly the same each time, and that they have just the right sound and not a generic clapping.
It takes time, and I’m also happy and grateful that I’ve been working with such great people that were willing to spend that time helping me to get it just right.
SYNC: We’ve been big fans since Ego – that was the one that hooked us in. What’s the journey been like for you since then; creatively and, as a person?
STYRKE: The biggest difference is probably that I’ve grown so much in confidence throughout the years. Right now, I feel like I’m in a place where I can totally trust my own ability. I know my strengths, but importantly, I also know what I need help with. That’s so great because feeling comfortable with yourself and what you’re capable of is such a feeling of freedom. It’s like there really aren’t any limits. That’s really what has made a huge difference, and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been doing this for a while now, or if it’s just an aspect of getting a little older and growing up.
SYNC: We caught your London date at Hoxton Square last year and from what we saw that night, you clearly have some massively dedicated fans. What do you think it is that has helped you connect with people like that?
STYRKE: I feel like there is this special bond. At the end of the day, everybody that I work with – no matter how hard they work and how much time and energy they invest in the project – they still ultimately go home to their life, whereas for me, my music is literally my life. It’s me. And in some ways, my fans are the only ones who have that same feeling as the music is as important to them as it is to me. That’s what kind of brings us together and means that wherever I go and whoever I play to, there is that wonderful familiarity with the fans who know me and my music so well, and it’s so special.
Tove Styrke – Mistakes (Live)
SYNC: So having toured with Lorde already this year, you’re now hitting the road across Europe with Katy Perry – need we even ask if you’re looking forward to that?!
STYRKE: You know I am! I’m looking forward to it like crazy. Touring with Lorde was amazing – it changed my life. I’ve never had so much fun before in my whole life. That I get to go and tour with Katy Perry is something I can’t even come to terms with yet. Teenage Dream is one of my favourite songs of all time – and you can check I’m not just saying that because there must be about 50 interviews out there where I’ve been asked my favourite song and that’ll be the answer! It’s the perfect pop song, and now I’m going to be there to see her perform it each night and dance to it.
Of course, these are also going to be massive arenas, and some are in places I haven’t been to before where I know I have fans but haven’t been able to perform for, so it’s all going to be awesome.
I’ve never met Katy, and I’m still in shock that I got this offer because it must mean that she knows my music, and at least must have heard something of mine as she wouldn’t just have anybody on. That in itself is mind-blowing for me.
SYNC: How do you ‘switch it’ between playing big arenas and smaller venues. Do you have to change your approach to the performance or do you just kind of go ‘in the zone’ no matter where you’re playing?
STYRKE: You have to bring a little bit of magic wherever you play. If you play a small, intimate venue then the trick is to make it feel like an arena, whereas if it’s in an arena, you want to make it feel intimate and personal. Ultimately though, the approach to the show is kind of the same.
SYNC: And you’re heading back to London for a show next month?
STYRKE: Yes, I’m at The Borderline on 13 June and I feel like that one’s going to be massive. I mean, even if the venue is not huge, by then the album will be out there so people will get to hear all the new songs, I’ve also got a new set-up with my band too which is a little more electronic. Plus, the London crowds have always been really, really great to me so I can’t wait.
Sway is released on 4/5/18. Tove Styke is supporting Katy Perry on her Witness tour from 23/5 before a headline show at London’s Borderline on 13/6 – tickets here.
ALBUM – TRACK BY TRACK
Tove Styke talks us though new album Sway…
Sway: “Probably my favourite ‘feeling’ on the album and it represents the album very well. It’s probably one of the more romantic songs. It’s the biggest, most epic on the album, and is also my favourite to play.”
Say My Name: “This was the first track we did for this album. Now, I’m probably going to say they’re all my favourite songs but they’re all my favourites in different ways! This one is all about how the production and the lyrics work together. I particularly love the lyric that we came up with for the chorus: ‘Say My Name / Wear it out like a sweater that you love’”
On The Low: “If you were to strip it back to just the bare bones of the song, without any of the production or anything then I guess this would be my favourite to sing. We managed to do with this exactly what I wanted to do with the album, which is to take it back to the minimum and still have it work really well. It’s a straight-up, very simple love song.”
Tove Styrke – On The Low
Mistakes: “I love that we made a video for this one. The visuals work so well with the song. This track is a great example of how the production can really become a part of the song, adding to the character and feeling; like with the little sound effects with the phone vibrations for ‘real vibes’ or the zipper for ‘Levi’s’. It’s a really fun song.”
Changed My Mind: “I wanted it to sound like a night out, and about being a little off/on about a person, like meeting someone and deciding that it wouldn’t be a thing, but then changing your mind about it. And the song progresses so that the first time you hear me say ‘I changed my mind’ it’s clearer, but as the song goes on, it gets a little more blurry until it really gets lost in autotune.”
I Lied: “Having introduced autotune at the end of Changed My Mind, I Lied starts with it and is used more like an instrument, more monotone in a way. It’s about how we sometimes try to hide our true inner feelings about people by putting on a brave face and maybe to get to the real truth, someone has to drag it out of you.”
On a Level: “This was the last one we finished for the album and took a long time over because I had a very specific idea of how I wanted it to be. For a while, we just couldn’t get it how I had it in my head, and I was so pleased when we finally managed it. At the end, everyone loved it and I said ‘I told you! This was what I was trying to explain all along!’ so it’s all good. We broke a deadline or two getting this one done but it is worth it.”
Liability (Demo): “This is a Lorde song and I feel such a personal connection to it. It’s incredible when someone manages to write something in a way that you haven’t heard before but is so relatable. It’s what makes this one of Lorde’s fans’ favourites and why I was so desperate to do a version of it.”
Tove Styrke – Liability (Demo)
Header photo: Emma Svensson
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