In this interview we meet Kassandra, the electro-pop artist coming all the way out of Sweden. In the midst creating her project Fantasma, she generously spared some time to speak with me on topics such as the current state of music in Europe, debuting almost five years ago, and what we should expect from her in the future!
Read below for full interview:
Q: For the readers who are being introduced to you today, would you like to introduce yourself?
A: Hello! I’m a passionate and nerve wrecking singer, songwriter who’s 100% part of my music productions, from Stockholm/Sweden. It’s also safe to say I’m opinionated, stubborn and at the same time silly af. As a person I wouldn’t call myself happy, although I want to make sure everyone else is which makes me a little clowny. I’m pretty talented in various sorts of aesthetics but pretty darn terrible at things like earning money.
Q: Is music something you’ve always been interested in?
A: I sort of always stumbled across opportunities, applying to music schools and getting in, ever since I was a child. To be honest I was more into doing arts with my bare hands than making music for a long time, but the environments I was in made music the easiest way to imagine some sort of artistic career.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to do it professionally?
A: It wasn’t until I found the blues at age 17 that I really understood singing is my core expression. Plus, having grown up side by side and dreaming together with some of Sweden’s pop stars of today such as Icona Pop and Tove Lo, has of course triggered me to do something more with my singing.
In 2008 I moved to London and besides playing with my live band, I was put into auditions and sessions but frankly, hated the music I was singing. Three years on and realizing I needed to be able to introduce my personal sound to the industry before going into sessions, I moved back and taught myself some basic music production. Eventually I found my perfect producer match; Martin, this metal guy writing songs for Polish pop stars who worked in a studio deep in the forests of the country, too many bus hours from Stockholm to mention… But when I found him I knew “this is it”.
Q: Is becoming a musician something your family/friends was supportive of?
A: Everyone has always been beyond supportive, but more for their pleasure of listening than for me surviving economically I’d say. It’s easy for people to have ideas and give advice on how I should be doing this, but it’s such a fragile thing and no one but me will ever know how to do it in the way that I feel is right. Sometimes it feels rather like a curse than a great thing to know that this is what you’re aimed to be doing.
Overall, yes, very supportive. Through some phases I’ve wanted to just let go of the inhumane idea of pursuing a music career as a female indie artist, but it’s when I see the questioning and shocked faces of the people around me, that I’ve understood I better just keep going.
Q: You are from Stockholm which is the home of artists such as Loreen, Léon, and Tove Lo, do you think Sweden is finally getting the recognition it deserves?
A: Well, I don’t know… Personally, I think Swedes are suffering from serious hybris when it comes to our music export and that is ever since ABBA. I don’t believe I’m possessed with this hubris hysteria within the Swedish music industry, although I’m majorly proud of my well deserved friend and old roomie Tove Lo. ❤
Q: Speaking of Loreen, the way I was introduced to music from overseas was because of her performance during Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision has been held in Sweden two times in the last 5 years, the last time being in Stockholm in 2016. If they were to be held there again, would you think about trying out?
A: Over my dead body. There’s no risk in universe.
Q: A lot of the music from Europe that makes airwaves here in America is typically pop, you do have songs that are pop but there are some cases where you incorporate genres such as trap and even a little reggae; do you think it is important to experiment with different genres or should artists stick to one sound?
A: Artistry and sound don’t necessarily have to go hand in hand according to me. Although, at some stage – in today’s social media boomed society – I think, as an artist you’ve got to choose what you want to communicate and that includes the sound.
I personally separate what I “inhale” from what I “exhale”; meaning what I take in/listen to, for pleasure/cure doesn’t exactly match with what I’m in need of creating and expressing musically. Those are two different things. I listen to quite minimal, electronic indie music with no clear pop melody such as Kllo or FKA Twigs, because I need to calm my brain, while my own expression is much more dramatic and melodic.
I’m not a huge fan of radio hit songs and feel that Swedish songwriters generally are, but since I origin from here I’m obviously influenced by the Scandinavian way of writing songs. I’ve always been torn between what I feel l am and how I sound but after many years of experimenting I feel like I’ve now come to the perfect, distinct sound of Kassandra.
Q: Who were/are some of your musical influences?
A: Aretha, Janis, Nina, Ray
Q: Is there anyone you want to collaborate with in the future?
A: Blood Orange!!! And someone at the radio please…
Q: Do you have a dream collaboration?
A: Singing opera with Grace Jones. There’s a YouTube clip I can watch over and over where Pavarotti had the honour to do it.
Q: What are your favorite 3 songs out right now?
A: Nikes by Frank Ocean, In The Morning by Nao, not Despacito…
Q: You released one of your first songs Abdicate in 2013, do you remember what you felt to release your first piece of music for others to hear? Were you nervous about how it would be received?
A: Abdicate took two years to finish and it’s still not yet mastered. As a nobody in this industry and on top of that a girl, it is a struggle just to make people believe in you and want to put their precious time on you so after a lot of convincing I finally had it finished.
Yet a year later when I was mentally crashed from my full time job I woke up one morning and just felt “fuck it, I’ve got to just throw myself out there” and used Universal’s distribution site for unsigned artists for the release on where Martin found me! So I suppose the crash did something good/meaningful in the end. But to answer your question; I was terrified.
Q: Since then you have released a number of songs including “Run and No Longer Lovers“, what is the process you go through when creating a song? How do you usually come up an idea of what to write about?
A: I collect stories, not one night stands. I think that’s how I fill up with content. My forthcoming album Fantasma is all about how to live like a human being as the survival spirit of a killed relationship. I was in a 7 year relationship which I realized I had to cut. From the darkest rooms my songs are being created. For me I don’t get any stimulants from re-telling a happy, pleasant experience. Cliché as it sounds, but writing songs is my therapy. There’s no other way to put it.
Q: Your latest song “Friend Zone“, was released last June. Can you briefly explain what the song is about?
A: I’m quoting my words on it from my official Facebook page on the release day:
“I wrote this one in the midst of a sudden turn in life. In the feeling or non-feeling of being weightless and not being able to predict the outcome, as the income came as unpredictably. Or predictably. Not even my gut knew anymore. I let the words flow from my brain through my tongue into a computer and haven’t changed a single one since that one demo recording. No metaphors, no beautiful, brainy sentence could make this song sound “a little less sad”. FriendZone equals complete darkness – the experience of murder and death of something which was intended to be so alive and so sweet and how you, after having made the decision to slice two bleeding hearts into pieces, will have to eat them for dinner, night after night, after night, after night afterwards.”
Q: Out of all the songs you have released what are your top 3 and why.
A: Abdicate – because it was a milestone for me to have it finished and then for my self critical persona to dare to throw it out in the cyber world.
Run – because it’s the first song that I felt was 100% “me” after all the years of working towards my sound. It was also the first one I release together with Martin and it got a huge response with no PR what so ever.
No Longer Lovers – because it’s my first release after having been bound to a major record deal for two long years (it was supposed to be three but I managed to get out of it finally). And then again, a huge response even though released all indie with no PR backing me up. It was just another sign that proved to me that I know my vision best.
Q: What kind of advice could you give someone who may want make a career out of music but is too scared of what others might think?
A: I’d say, don’t do it if you’re scared. There is no spare room or time to worry about what others might think. You are too easily replaced in this industry, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. And regarding family etc. who means well in telling you not to go for a music career – there’s no point in trying to convince anyone of that this is a clever choice of work. If YOU know you gotta do it, you just gotta. When it’s a matter of feeling alive or feeling like a walking dead, I choose the feeling alive option.
Q: You have officially been out for nearly five years and have yet to reach mainstream success. For a lot of artists, especially independent artist, they tend to give up because they feel their efforts aren’t being shown. What has kept you going for this long, and do you have any words of wisdom for other aspiring artists?
A: To be fair, I have given up many times. Strangely, I always tend to be sliding back in here after a couple of months trying to live like an ordinary homo sapiens, going to my job, getting promoted yada yada. But two months is apparently enough for my urge to do this. And it’s all thanks to people like yourself which motivates me to continue, thank you for that!
While now famous artists have been releasing music that has changed a lot through the years, I could say that I’ve been experimenting in “silence”. I guess I respect my project and potential listeners so bad that it’s been the way for me to grow into the artist I am and to be sure I present a cohesive sound and artistry. I’m very sensitive and obsessed with and dedicated to honesty.
I would say: Don’t listen to men, like really don’t. And let me explain. I don’t mean that men have nothing to say or add to your vision. I mean, just don’t make yourself think they know something about you and your potential and how it should be managed, better than you do, because they don’t and never will. No decision I’ve ever made with my brain has taken me somewhere I’d wanna stay. When times are rough or when you’re lacking experience in the industry it’s easy to start trusting in what people with more power say they’ve got to offer. But I say, don’t waste your time, just keep going with your heart and conviction.
Q: You’ve been signed previously but now you are independent. Do you feel there are benefits to being signed? Do you think a machine (label) is still needed when we have platforms such as social media to connect with others and find success?
A: The machine is going down. At least until a new generation is taking over who understands the part of which the machine is ought to play today and will do onwards. The role of the labels is changing majorly at the moment and they’ve got to adapt to and follow this change before they lose all the brilliant artists out there and they really don’t have any work anymore.
Q: If I were to introduce someone to your music, what song would you want me to play for them?
Q: Last but not least, do you have anything you want to tell your supporters?
A: Please stay patient and please follow me on Instagram/Facebook . . . (also request live shows)
To listen to her latest song Friendzone, click here.