meta-scriptTove Lo Talks Magic Of 'Sunshine Kitty,' Teaming Up With Kylie Minogue & Love Of Nirvana & Hole | GRAMMY.com

Tove Lo

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Tove Lo Talks Magic Of 'Sunshine Kitty,' Teaming Up With Kylie Minogue & Love Of Nirvana & Hole

"It's a new experience of being able to write emotional songs while being in a happy place, which I feel like I didn't really believe in before," the dance-pop powerhouse told us

GRAMMYs/Sep 25, 2019 - 04:39 am

Since 2014, Stockholm-born alt-pop queen Tove Lo has served up a growing catalogue of fun, confident, zero-f**ks-given tracks (2014's "Talking Body," 2016's "Cool Girl" and 2017's "disco tits," to name a few). It's evident that the singer/songwriter has always known who she is, and is not afraid to share that person with the world, through the messiness of life, breakups and the like. She's relatable, and with that, her music is not only fun as hell, but pretty empowering, too.

Speaking to the Recording Academy over the phone the day before her fourth album, Sunshine Kitty, was set to drop on Sept. 20, Tove Lo told us how her shimmery project ultimately came from a calmer place.

"Even though it's all my blood, sweat, and tears into, it's been less of the having everything around me be chaos for me to be able to write. It's a new experience of being able to write emotional songs while being in a happy place, which I feel like I didn't really believe in before," she revealed.

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Tove Lo also talked about what she's most looking forward to on her upcoming Sunshine Kitty Tour with BROODS and ALMA (one of the album's collaborators), what it was like working with Kylie Minogue on "Really don't like u" and more. 

You're dropping Sunshine Kitty very soon. How are you feeling?

I'm feeling very excited and a little bit nervous. And I can't believe this day is here already. But I'm very ready for this album to be out, and I think it may be my best one yet, so that felt really good.

That's amazing. Being that this is your fourth album now, what does this one specifically mean to you?

Well, just the fact that, you know, four albums in five years is quite a lot. I guess it's just weird because I feel like, by this point, I know the process and this time, writing this record I've been in a calmer place. Even though it's all my blood, sweat, and tears into, it's been less of the having everything around me be chaos for me to be able to write. It's a new experience of being able to write emotional songs while being in a happy place, which I feel like I didn't really believe in before. It's a special feeling because it's the first album I've written that I feel like it has the same amount of substance and depth and emotions and everything, but without me needing to be in a chaotic place in my life to be able to write it. That's what's special about it.

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font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;"> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)"></div></div><div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style=" width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"></div></div></div></a> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B2noNoVAlkW/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">Gritty Pretty  HERE WE GO  #SunshineKitty Out Now </a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/tovelo/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> Tove Lo</a> (@tovelo) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2019-09-20T04:13:32+00:00">Sep 19, 2019 at 9:13pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote><script async src="//www.instagram.com/embed.js"></script>

I'm curious, did the album title come first or did the lynx character come first? Or how did those pieces play with each other?

It was kind of a simultaneous thing, where I thought, I want to have it elevated every new album. What would I want to add to the art? I wanted to add an extra element, and since I had the lynx tattoo on my hand, and my fans had copied it, with little drawings, they'd incorporate it. Because it's in my name [lynx is lo in Swedish], it's kind of been my spirit animal since I was little, I knew that I wanted to do some kind of character based on it.

But the fact that the title and character was going to be kind of one and the same, that came together when I changed up the title. I was like, "This is it, that should be my little friend." [Laughs.] The extension of me. The album is like a soundtrack to the lynx. There's been so many different ways, but I definitely had an idea of wanting an individual element playing a character, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was going to be yet, so I think that once I had the title, it was kind of like, "Ah! Of course!"

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That's so cool. Does she have a name, or is she Sunshine Kitty?

She is Sunshine Kitty.

That's so cute. And, obviously, I have to know what it was like working with Kylie Minogue on "Really don't like u." That song's just so fun. Even when I'm driving, I have to dance to it.

Aww yay, car dance. It was amazing. It was a very surreal moment for me, and it goes back to when I released Lady Wood [in 2016] and I posted a picture of me with my lyric book, because I write all my lyrics with pen and paper. And she commented like, "Oh, yeah, she's a pen and paper girl." I was like, "what?," really feeling very, "Holy sh*t," you know? So, that was one of those screenshot and save in my folder of memories. And then, randomly, we played the same AMFAR charity event in Hong Kong and I actually got to meet her. I was thinking, "At least now I know she knows who I am, maybe she'd be down to meet me." This was a couple years later, and she was so nice and cool and beautiful. Very, very iconic. She just said, "I would love to write with you sometime. That would be fun." I was like, "Oh my God."

So, when I was writing this record, kind of in my mind was, "It would be so cool to have a song with her." So when I did "Really don't like u," I was like, oh this might be it. I just really felt like I could hear her voice on there, and maybe she'd be into the contrast and the tone, and it kind of had a bit of a Kylie essence to it. I sent it to her and was like, "I love this!" She definitely elevated it a lot. [Laughs.] She just put her ID on it, yeah. It was a very communal experience. She's really cool, we had the back and forth, and she's been really easy to work with. And like "Oh, I love this lyric video idea. What if I sing karaoke to you? Would that be cool?" "Great idea!" Yeah, she's just been so awesome. 

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What was the biggest thing you learned from working on this project?

I would say that sometimes you just have to let the album be what it is. I can't really force it in any direction. Whatever I'm feeling is what I'm going to write about. So accepting that and going with that and not questioning it too much. And that's what will make it effortless. It will feel effortless, if that makes sense.

I think it was a good feeling to have to do something so conceptual and so deep and long as Lady Wood was, and especially, maybe only short term, being so committed to keeping it in one world. That was a really amazing and hard experience.

And I think, for this record, I managed to reflect where I am right now. Because we're able to move and represent wherever I was during that time, I can't try to redo that. I need to write from the space I'm at which at the moment is very kind of impulsive and playful. Kind of doing without thinking, I guess. And that's been really, fun.

I think I need to get that tattooed on my wrists. "Don't think about it so much," something along those lines.

Yeah. Just do it, don't think. It's kind of like that. Just let it be what it is. Just let it happen.

And then, you're going to be bringing the Sunshine Kitty Tour to the U.S. and Europe next year, which is very exciting. What are you most looking forward to about this tour?

As much as I love playing festivals, because I just love the vibe and I play to huge crowds and get new fans, and see other acts, you kind of just go. There's no preparation. I love the pulse of that, but there's something so special about playing your own headline show, where it can be almost two hours long and you have a cool connection to the crowd.

I'm just really looking forward to [planning] this right now, and I'm reading through the comments to see what everyone wants to hear, their requests. I've really given the show a story arc, a dramatic curve that I want to take the crowd on. I love bringing it together. I'm excited to go out and be a box and see my fans, and yeah kind of be in that bubble, which I love.

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Do you have a song that you're most excited to perform live? 

I just performed "Sweettalk My Heart" on Late Night With Seth Meyers last night. It's vocally kind of challenging and it's a fun challenge. I'm looking forward to performing that one and then just hearing the crowd just belting it as good as they can, just like screaming it back in my face. [Hums the chorus.] It's just a very satisfying melody to sing. So, looking forward to that one.

And then, I'm really looking forward to playing "Are U gonna tell her," because we're creating a really, really cool lighting thing with that, and it's probably my two top live ones, I think.

What was the first CD you bought and first concert you ever went to?

I think the first CD I bought with my own money was Nirvana, the MTV Unplugged [in New York] album.

That's amazing

It got me hooked on Kurt Cobain's voice. [Laughs.] I was just discovering him, and realizing that he wasn't around anymore, so it shock and heartbreak. And then the real Nirvana fans, were like, "Oh, he hated doing that show, he didn't want to play Unplugged, I can't believe you have that album." And then would listen to it in secret, and then all of the other albums. [Laughs.]

And the first concert that I ever went to was Robyn in Vossenberg. I was 11. I didn't understand anything about music and so I heard they were sound checking, and we went to the festival area early. I can't remember what the festival was called, I kind of remember watching her sound check and thinking that it was the show. I'm just standing there and nobody was there, and she was talking "hey guys, turn up the mic," as I'm staring and taking pictures of her. Being like "Does nobody know that she's playing right now?" That was my first show.

That's also amazing. I have yet to see Robyn, so I'm jealous of 11-year-old you.

I mean I just saw her again in New York a few weeks ago and it was f***king amazing, it was so cool. She's awesome.

When you were younger was there an artist that you admired or loved, that made you want to go into music? Someone that helped you switch from being just a fan to "Oh maybe I can do this"

I mean [Robyn] was definitely one of those. I was like "She's been around in music since so young. I can maybe also do that." I was also a big Hole fan, of Courtney Love. I just loved the embracing darkness, that was very appealing to me. So yeah, I would say her too. Kind of on the different side of the spectrum. But yeah, a mix of the two.

BROODS Talk Trippy "Peach" Video, Resurrecting Bob Marley & Finding Strength On "Too Proud" | Up Close & Personal

Remi Wolf press photo
Remi Wolf

Photo: Ragan Henderson

interview

On New Album 'Big Ideas,' Remi Wolf Delivers Musical Poetry In Motion

Alt-pop favorite Remi Wolf took inventory of her psychological state while on "back-to-back-to-back" tours, and the result is a winning second album: 'Big Ideas.'

GRAMMYs/Jul 16, 2024 - 02:04 pm

How can you write a song, when you have nothing to sing about? One trusty well to return to is life on the road;  the musical canon is filled with odes to whizzing highway dividers, beds in strange places and, on occasion, a deteriorating home life.

The buzzy and prolific singer/songwriter Remi Wolf just folded these experiences into Big Ideas — her second full-length album, and one born of perpetual travel, transit and transition. (And, it should be said: her Carmen Sandiego traversals led her to NYC’s 2024 GRAMMY U Conference.)

"Well into my 20s, it was like a second puberty, because essentially, I was reborn as this touring musician," the thoughtful and loquacious indie-popper tells GRAMMY.com, over Zoom from her rehearsal space. (Even then, she's in motion, ducking from room to room to evade clamorous comings and goings.)

She evokes her breakout 2021 debut album: "I'd never toured like that before. My whole entire life felt so new after Juno was released."

This led to a white-hot writing streak. Big Ideas' highlights, like advance singles "Toro" and "Alone in Miami," directly address change and upheaval. Goes the former: "Dancing around and spilling wine/ You look good in my hotel robe." Goes the latter: "Met up with Maine, bought cocaine/ Clothes in the lobby waiting for me."

"There's no frills in that s—," Wolf says. "They're quite literally about real life." Read on for a full interview with Wolf about Big Ideas — a locus of that life, in all its nuances and dimensions.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I love how funky and rhythmic 'Big Ideas' is. Which rhythms from the musical canon got you going? Are you a Purdie head? A Dan head? 

Oh, all of the above. I love a Purdie shuffle. The Purdie shuffle is a pretty legendary groove. I'm a huge fan of Steely Dan. I went to music college; I feel like as a music school student, you kind of have to love Steely Dan. Well, some of the kids choose to hate them, but I chose to love them. 

But yeah, I love a funky groove, a funky beat. I also like simple s—, but we love syncopation in this household. 

What'd you grow up listening to on that front? 

Honestly, not much. I feel like as a young kid, I would just listen to what my parents were listening to, and my dad listened to a lot of '80s classic rock, and my mom really liked Prince 

And then, also, my first album I ever owned was Speak Now by Lindsay Lohan, which is a completely different direction, and I was about eight when I got that album. 

I didn't know she made music. 
 
She had a music career. It was brief, but it was mighty, truly. She had all the best songwriters in the industry at the time working on this album. So honestly, even though it wasn't the pinnacle of musicianship, the writing was really good. Great songs. 

I just flashed back to Hilary Duff jewel cases in grade school. 

Oh, yeah, that's another classic, but I was a little bit more alternative than that. Lindsay Lohan was kind of on more of a pop-punk, like emo front-facing type of songwriting and energy. A little bit more like Alanis Morissette vibes. 

If I ever encounter a Lohan song in the wild, I'll remember your recommendation. 

When I was a high schooler, that's kind of when I started really listening to a bunch of staff that wasn't playing in my house. And that's when I got into Stevie Wonder and the Beatles and Cake. 

I ride for Cake. Great band. 

I ride for Cake, too. Honestly, they're one of my favorite bands of all time. I don't know, I feel super similar to them sometimes. Their lyrics are so wacky and sad, kind of — and bizarre, but they're so funky, and the songs are just great, but they're weird.

Take the readers through the span of time between your first album, 'Juno,' up to this sophomore album. What seed was planted? 

I released Juno at the end of 2021, and I guess the seed that was birthed after that was that I've essentially been on tour ever since. 

This new album, Big Ideas, is kind of the product of: I would go out on tour and come home for a week at a time, because I was on back-to-back-to-back tours. I went on 10 tours in one year; I was only home for about six weeks of all of 2022. And then, going into 2023, I kept touring, and kept doing the same thing. 

Watch: GRAMMY Museum Spotlight: Remi Wolf 

This album is a collection of all these moments and memories, and getting really focused, short amounts of time with me getting home and kind of exploding songwriting-wise — then, going back on tour and building up s— to talk about, and then exploding once again. 

There were about five concentrated week-and-a-half to two-week-long periods of writing that became this album. 

Do you get a charge out of touring? I couldn't imagine doing it again. 

Yeah. I think that there is an adrenaline that I like about it. I like traveling. I like seeing different cities, even if it's for a couple hours. I really like that. 

I like the communal aspect of it. I like getting really close to people and having a routine, to be honest. It's the most routine time of my life. Other than that, when I'm home, I'm just all over the place and doing a bunch of s—, which also has its perks. 

But I don't know, there's something about waking up and doing the same thing every day that kind of is nice for me. And it's cool to be able to just focus on one thing, getting to the next city and playing the show and making people happy. 

What about your life disappearing temporarily? Leaving a partner, your houseplants… 

No, that's really difficult. I luckily don't have a partner right now, but I think that tour is really capable of ruining a lot of relationships, unless you've got a really strong one where they understand the lifestyle and everything. But I've had many houseplants die. It's actually really sad. 

Your life just kind of is on pause. It's like a time machine, or a time capsule. Especially living in L.A. where the weather's the same every single day, you come home, and it's exactly the same as when you left the city. 

Once the emotional and conceptual pieces were on the floor, how did you assemble 'Big Ideas?' 

There are so many iterations of what it could have been. Because like I said, I had five two-week long sections of writing a f— ton of songs. And I'm not kidding, I wrote full albums within those weeks. I would be hunkered. 

I had one week in L.A. where it was five days, and we wrote 10 songs. And then I had another week in L.A. We wrote seven songs. And I had another week in New York, and we wrote nine songs. And then another week in New York, and we wrote 12 songs. And then another week finally back in L.A., and we wrote four songs that time. 

But essentially, I was kind of just doing what felt right. Until I felt like we had an entire album that was cohesive but expansive in its palette, I kept writing. And then finally, at a certain point, I was like, OK, I feel like we have the record. 

But there were moments where I was like, oh, I just wrote an album. I don't have to do anything else. And then a month would go by and I'd be like, I need to do more. 

In terms of choosing the songs, I think I was drawn to the songs that felt the most real to me — that continued to feel the most exciting and real to me. 

Define "real" in this context. 

That is a very difficult question to answer, and I think it is such a gut thing. It's beyond language. I don't know how to describe that. I don't know. If I feel invested. There are certain songs that you write and you like them, but you don't have that same feeling of investment in them. 

Does this really need to be heard? Does anybody need this? 

Yeah. Or: Do I need this? Honestly, it's so inexplicable. 

Do you ever try to work the songwriting muscle of making something specific, universal? Is that part of your calculus? 

Typically, it's not, but there's one song that I tried to do it on very intentionally: "Soup." 

[I had] the intention of making it a song that was built for an arena in terms of the sonics and the expansiveness of the drums and the four-on-the-floor. In my head, I was like, OK, I want this song to play, and then you see the arena with the people pumping their fists and feet. 

I think I'd recently seen Coldplay at Wembley Stadium, and I was like, Holy s—, this is so wild. Their stuff is so arena, stadium-bound. I was inspired by essentially the four-on-the-floor feel — hearing the reverb in the rafters of an arena like that. 

Going into writing that song, I was like, this is the song where it would make sense for me to be blunt and universal with my lyrics. And I think it was a cool experiment and honestly quite vulnerable for me, because I think sometimes I shy away from that type of lyric writing, whether it be out of just wanting to be a little bit more artsy. 

Sometimes I think it's fear-based, in the sense of: I want to hide, I want to be able to be the only one to really know what I'm talking about sometimes. And I think with "Soup," I kind of just let it fly and let that universality shine through a little bit more. 

You don't need to know what songs mean all the time. You mentioned the Beatles: John sang, "Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye." 

Yeah. It's syllables, and imagery. This s— can be anything you want to be, and I always try to remember that. 

What's coming up in your musical life? 

I'm going on tour in the fall; today is our first day of rehearsals. We're starting to put together a big show. More travel, more motion. I never stop moving, essentially. Hopefully I'll be writing more soon.

Explore More Alternative & Indie Music

Tove Lo (L) and SG Lewis (R) pose in front of a set of red doors
Tove Lo (L) and SG Lewis (R)

Photo: Nikola Lamburov

interview

Tove Lo & SG Lewis Crafted Sweaty New EP 'HEAT' In Celebration Of Their Queer Fans

"Every time I make anything that I'm excited about, I know that when I pass that to Tove, she's going to deliver something incredible back that I haven't even been able to imagine yet," SG Lewis says.

GRAMMYs/Jun 20, 2024 - 01:05 pm

HEAT, the new collaborative EP from GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Tove Lo and dance pop producer SG Lewis is 15-and-a-half minutes of pure dance floor ecstasy. 

Across the EP's four tracks, which dropped June 14 on Tove Lo’s Pretty Swede Records, Lewis brings in classic, euphoric '90s rave sounds and infectious rhythms. Tove Lo adds her signature sexy lyrics and vocals, with an extra dose of confidence and sass.

"We both really wanted this EP to be a thank you to the queer fans that we share and for the videos and the creative to be an opportunity to amplify those queer voices and to celebrate that community," Lewis says. "I feel very lucky to get to soundtrack moments in these spaces and to also get to learn so much from this community."

The duo gave their fans a first taste of their collaborative magic in 2022 with "Call On Me," a pulsing, urgent hook up tune so good they both included it on their last albums, Tove Lo's Dirt Femme and Lewis' AudioLust & HigherLove. They also teamed up on "Pineapple Slice," a sweet and naughty cut from Tove Lo's Dirt Femme.

Since then, their fans — particularly their loyal queer fans have been begging for more bops from the pair. Tove Lo, who is bisexual and often brings queer themes into her lyrics and music videos, has been crowned a gay pop icon, and Lewis' joyful, upbeat dance tunes have brought him many fans from the LGBTQIA+ community. They made the HEAT especially for their supportive queer fans, dropping it during Pride month with steamy gay clubs in mind.

Amid teasing their fans with snippets of "HEAT" and memes on social media, Nelly Furtado also dropped a sultry new single in May, "Love Bites," featuring none other than Lewis and Lo.

The fun and ease Tove Lo and Lewis feel working together oozes from each of their collaborations. Since they first got together in the studio, the "Busy Girl" artists have become fast friends. Their love for sweaty dance floors, '90s electronic music, and danceable pop bops creates a rich, shimmery sonic landscape for their music.

GRAMMY.com caught up with the two artists on Zoom from their Los Angeles' homes, for a lively, laughter-filled chat about crafting gay club friendly dance pop bangers, their magic in the studio together, and what having the support of the queer community means to them.

What do you hope fans get when they finally hear Heat and where are you imagining it being played?

Tove Lo: I hope that all our fans get completely floored and that they play it at the pre-party, in the club, and at the after-party — in all the spaces where they want to be free and sweaty and have fun.

SG Lewis: From what I've heard so far from people who've listened to it, people can feel the fun that me and Tove were having in the studio making it. I hope that it serves as a soundtrack for hedonism, celebration, freedom, and some really sweaty moments.

I was wondering about the specific sonic references and inspirations that you brought to the EP. I definitely heard some squelchy acid house on "Heat" and on "Desire" I got some Cascada and early trance, '90s Ibiza vibes.

SG Lewis: I have been reading this book by Sheryl Garratt called "Adventures in Wonderland," which tells the story of the birth of acid house and how it was brought back to the U.K. from Ibiza and exploded into this huge moment in the '90s and grows into trance.  As a result, I was just digging through a lot of the records from then.

Also, Tove and I were DJing a lot at parties and with our friends and stuff. A lot of those records that I was playing, Tove was as well; we were arriving at the same point through different avenues. There was a shared interest in those sounds and that nostalgia, so we really wanted to channel a lot of those two genres in this project. It happened very naturally through the music that we were playing and DJing together. We hardly even ever had a conscious conversation about how it would sound.

Tove Lo: When it comes to writing the melody and lyrics, from my end, there's never a conscious, "Oh, I want to make a vocal like this." I just kind of [go with] what is speaking to me in this track and whatever comes up. I don't know where it's coming from, but it's probably coming from us DJing at 4 a.m. and it reminds me of that moment, it's unlocking this thing. [Chuckles.]

Lyrically, I wanted it to feel confident and sexy. I step over the line a few times in certain songs, which is the way I love to write. You really encourage that free space. I don't think you've ever said, "Ah, it's too far. You even said [imitates British accent], "Can it be hornier?" [Everyone laughs.]

I feel like we are very aligned with what we wanted it to be. I don't want to say there's not a deeper message, it's more just us loving music, loving to make music together, and our joint fans kind of telling us that we need to make more music together. So, we are responding to this request. [Both giggle.]

How would you describe the magic of when you two get in the studio together? Because obviously, there's something there that's special.

Tove Lo: It's weird, but it's kind of like when you meet someone that you just really click with. As people, we get along really well and like to hang out, and we have a similar sense of humor, so it is a fun time. But just because you're good friends, you don't necessarily make good stuff together. It's hard to explain it, but it's a feeling of being totally at ease with someone, but still wanting to do your absolute best. That's how I feel when I work with Sam. I want to really impress him, but I feel very comfortable doing the journey together.

SG Lewis: It's a really rare sensation in the studio. This is a terrible analogy, but it's like playing a game of tennis with someone and every time they return the ball, they send it dead down the center in the right position. Every time I make anything that I'm excited about, whether it's a chord sequence or a drum pattern or something, I know that when I pass that to Tove, she's going to deliver something incredible back that I haven't even been able to imagine yet. That's where the energy comes from for me, it's this kind of back-and-forth of excitement in the process. And it's just honestly so much fun making music together. I can't say that I've had such a natural studio chemistry with many people before.

What do you admire most about the other's artistry, music and approach to music-making?

Tove Lo: With Sam, I'm always very impressed with how — I think I've said this to you probably 100 times — you can make it feel like there's the energy of something new, but it still has nostalgia in it. I don't know if it's the samples you're using or you're just inspired by certain tracks, but it gives me a feeling of, "Oh, I remember this, but I haven't heard it before," which is what everyone is trying to do, but it's really hard to. And you just live and breathe music. It goes into performing and DJing too, where you'll DJ for seven hours. You just love music and you know the history. It really gives me a lot of inspiration.

SG Lewis: I'm very flattered. Tove is an expert song crafter and creator of pop music, but to me, she has something that no other writer of pop music has. She is able to speak about things with a freedom of expression in her songs. She'll say things that other artists wouldn't dare to say, out of the rules of society. I think it's why she is such a queer icon and her music is so embraced in the queer community, because she harnesses this freedom of expression in her writing that is so raw. It gives her pop music an edge that no other artist on the planet has for me.

Tove Lo: Sam, that's so nice. Can I get this recording [to listen to] when I'm having a bad day?

Can you speak to your love of crafting gay club friendly dance pop bangers, and how you harnessed that specific energy — like you said, the sweaty, free, hedonistic club space — on HEAT?

Tove Lo: Sam and I share a lot of fans in the queer community, and they basically demanded that we make more music together. So we're like, "Well, this is going to be for you then." So this is a celebration of our queer fans, and also a thank you for the support that we've both had from the community. And I'm obviously part of the community myself, being a queer woman, but Sam, you're like a guest in the community. 

Also, you have to remember, the queer community will choose you. It's not something you can barge your way into. If your music resonates, you're in and the support is always there. My most loyal fans are part of that community. And there's a similar love for that kind of music that you can let go and be yourself; it's a safe space to just really live out your true self in whatever way that may be.

SG Lewis: As Tove mentioned, I've been so fortunate to be a guest in these spaces and to receive so much love from the queer community. I'm a nerd about music, and I study the history and who's making what, and I love that about the queer fans that I have; they're reading the notes on who produced what records and who wrote this and the collaborations. There's a level of obsession with pop music that we both share.

What does having the support of the queer community mean to you as artists?

Tove Lo: For me, it feels like there's a mutual love and respect. When I do my own tours, a huge part of my crowd is queer and I feel like I can fully be myself and really feel free and comfortable in my own skin and body and to express myself the way I want. I feel like they always have my back and I always have their backs. Also, all the cool s*** starts in the queer community. They're paving the way for a lot of artists and creators. They're the ones discovering everything first.

SG Lewis: Speaking to queer friends of mine and artists that I work with, anyone in that space has had to fight to express who they are, and there's an element of bravery in even being who they are and the expression of themselves. As a result, the thing that I feel so lucky to get to witness is that freedom of expression in the queer community that is so, so powerful. That's why these spaces and these parties have such an incredible, amazing energy; everyone in that space has acquired this ability to express themselves in a way that you don't see elsewhere. To have the support of that community on a musical level is a massive privilege — to have music that is celebrated in those spaces where that extreme expression and joy and euphoria is happening is really a dream.

I want to know the story of how you two met, because in one of the press releases, I think it said it was on the dance floor.

Tove Lo: Yeah, it was, but Sam was at my house before we met. I think I was out of town, but my boyfriend and my roommates had a party or something. And Sam's like, "Where am I? Why is there a bunch of Tove Lo art on the walls?"

SG Lewis: I was at a Phoebe Bridgers concert and I was standing next to this tall, lovely Kiwi man named Charlie. We were just shooting the s*** and I was like, "This guy's the best dude ever." I ended up at their place for an after-party. I was like, "Why is there so much Tove Lo memorabilia on the wall?" He was like, "I think you're working with my wife next week."

Tove Lo: That says a lot about me, having a bunch of my own sh-t on the walls. [Laughs.]

During the pandemic, I put up every concert photo I have of all the crowds, because I didn't think anything was going to come back. So, my walls are full of shots of me from behind me with a huge crowd. Maybe this is a little narcissistic. I might need to take it down.

SG Lewis: But it's also lots of photos of your friends. It's a celebration of your life, not a shrine to yourself.

Tove Lo: I can't remember the full order, if we then just met in the studio, but we have spent a lot of time on the dance floor together.

SG Lewis: We've had some crazy times, and I have a feeling this EP is going to lead to plenty more.

Talk to me about your CLUB HEAT [parties], because I know you've had one or two and there's more coming.

Tove Lo: We did one in London when we also did the video shoot, which was a crazy day, so much fun.

SG Lewis: Our second one is on Thursday night in L.A.

Tove Lo: The first one was so fun. It was just exactly what I hoped for: completely packed, sweaty, us [DJing] back-to-back, and me not being able to help myself and getting on the mic and singing way too often, because I love the stage. It feels exactly how the EP feels — sweaty, fun, club. I'm trying to think of the perfect word, but it's just all those words. 

SG Lewis: The format of the CLUB HEAT parties is a back-to-back DJ set with a performance element from Tove. I think it gives this really amazing, unique, chaotic party energy. Those moments where she performs really elevates the energy in the room. It's honestly utter chaos in the best way possible. There was literally sweat coming off the ceiling in the London one.

Are you planning on doing more?

Tove Lo: They're gonna be [announced] last minute. There's not going to be planning far out, but we're going to be doing more. 

SG Lewis: I think there's a kind of pop-up element to them. As the nature of the party being chaotic, I think the planning of them is also quite chaotic. I think that it'd be criminal not to do this in New York, which feels like the epicenter of chaotic, sweaty parties.

What was it like working with [producer and DJ] Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs [TEED] on the EP, who did some of the co-production? How did he help bring it all together or bring out different things in the music?

SG Lewis: Orlando [Higginbottom, aka TEED] is not only one of my closest friends, he's very much a mentor of mine. He's taught me so much about production. He is one of my favorite artists and producers, and as much as he gets very sheepish when I tell him that, we're constantly playing each other's music.

While the EP came together from Tove and I in the room together, he was the outside voice who was able to take those songs from 90 to 100 percent, whether it's a synth line on "Heat" or "Busy Girl" was both of us producing together. That was a beat that we started outside of the room that I then played to Tove, and she absolutely killed it on.

I have to ask about the new song with Nelly Furtado, "Love Bites." How did that come together? What was it like working with her and having the three of you in the studio together?

SG Lewis: I was put in contact with Nelly because there was word that she was working on new music. Before I know it, I'm texting with Nelly Furtado, and I was like, "What's going on? This is insane." It was immediately apparent that she was extremely friendly and cool.

Tove Lo: She's way too chill. I'm like, you can be so much more of a diva.

SG Lewis: She was like, "Oh, send me some beats." As a producer, you hear this all the time. You send 10 beats and you never hear anything ever again. I sent this pack of beats. I go to bed and I wake up the next day, and she's written a full song on one of the beats and sends me the vocals.

Fast-forward six months, we'd worked on a couple of things, but none of them had really hit the bullseye yet. I reworked one of the things we were working on, reproduced the beat, and ended up with this idea I was really excited about, but it didn't have a chorus. I was going to ask Nelly if I could send it to Tove. Before I had the opportunity to discuss this with Nelly, I sent the idea without the chorus. And Nelly was like, oh, "Could you send this to Tove Lo to potentially write a chorus on it?"

Tove Lo: I dropped my phone, it's still cracked from it. I was like, "Are you kidding?" And [I thought the] beat was so sick. And her voice and the "ey ey," it's just like Nelly! Sam and I went in the studio and wrote the chorus together and sent it to her. And she's like, "I love this. Can we please get in the studio and finish it together?" We had a late session at 7 p.m. I think she's a night owl. I [was excited to] find someone who wants to work night hours with me. The three of us worked all night; recorded it, tweaked it, finished stuff. She's so lovely. She's got such a distinct voice. I was a little bit star-struck when she got on the mic.

SG Lewis: Her voice is so distinctive and iconic. She has the superstar tone where you know it's her immediately. It's really surreal as a producer to get to work with vocals like that from two iconic pop stars on one song.

How long was the period of time from when she asked you to send beats to y'all getting in the studio together?

SG Lewis: It was about six to nine months total. Everyone's sort of all over the world, so it was really cool for it to all come together in this moment, in the studio, in-person, together.

I love that Nelly's embracing a different sound and really daring to try different stuff, because it'd be so easy for her to try and replicate her past successes. But she's just too badass for that.

How Rising Dance Star Dom Dolla Remixed The Gorillaz & Brought Nelly Furtado Back To The Dance Floor

Patrick Wilson, Rivers Cuomo, Brian Bell and Matt Sharp of Weezer in 1995
Patrick Wilson, Rivers Cuomo, Brian Bell and Matt Sharp of Weezer

Photo: Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images

list

Why Weezer's 'The Blue Album' Is One Of The Most Influential '90s Indie Pop Debuts

Weezer’s debut album was a harbinger of nerd rock and its many acolytes, with hits like "Buddy Holly" and "Undone (The Sweater Song)." Thirty years after its release, 'The Blue Album' stands tall for the ways it redefined indie pop and rock.

GRAMMYs/May 10, 2024 - 03:48 pm

We can thank Kurt Cobain and Tower Records for one of the most enduring debut albums of all time. 

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo was working at a Los Angeles Tower Records in 1991 when the store began to blare Nirvana’s "Sliver." His ears perked up, inspired by Cobain’s music and lyrics.

"It’s like, 'Oh, my God. This is so beautiful to me. And I identify with it so much.' Hearing him sing about Mom and Dad and Grandpa Joe, these personal family issues, in a really heartbreaking kind of innocent, childlike way, over these straightforward chords in a major key," Cuomo told Rolling Stone.

Fast forward to May 10, 1994, and Weezer —originally a nickname Cuomo took on due to his asthma-induced wheezing — debuted an album brimming with thoughtful themes, chunky riffs, sublime solos and a song that would end up as a game-changing music video directed by Spike Jonze

Cuomo cut his headbanger hair — he thought metal would be his future — and adorned thick glasses reminiscent of Cobain. Along for the ride came drummer Patrick Wilson, guitarist Brian Bell and bassist Matt Sharp. The cover art for The Blue Album featuring the foursome simply standing and staring at the camera evoked a feeling of awkward geekiness that would eventually lead to the album’s designation as being the harbinger of nerd rock and its many acolytes.

From the time of its release and through to today, The Blue Album reverberated with both music fans and indie rock bands. It felt like a lovechild between the Beach Boys' melodies and the Pixies’ distortion-friendly rhythms. It was certified platinum in January 1995, and has since gone three times multi-platinum in the U.S. Rolling Stone readers ranked the album the 21st greatest of all time. 

In honor of an album that arguably has a banger for every track, here’s a deep dive into what makes The Blue Album such an iconic indie pop record, and how its impact on modern rock is still being felt today.

It Has More Hooks Than A Walk-In Closet

Refreshingly original pop-rock wasn’t sprouting up in the mid-1990s, when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins dominated the radio waves. Enter The Blue Album with songs, such as "Say It Ain’t So," boasting catchy hooks so infectious they became earworm fodder.

It’s not just the big singles blasting addictive hooks. "Surf Wax America" lets Weezer fans ply their falsetto skills when they try to reach the end note in, "You take your car to work/I’ll take my board/and when you’re out of fuel/I’m still afloat."

Tokyo Police Club's Graham Wright said in 2019: "That [album] has such an unfair amount of hooks packed into it. Like, every song has like 5 to 10 hooks that are good enough to easily sustain an entire song in their own. It feels like they hogged everything."

TPC toured with Weezer in 2008.

…And Its Lyrics Were More Than Just Playful

Cobain wrote about drugs, Metallica’s lyrics skewed dark, and some fans couldn’t even make out what Eddie Vedder was crooning into the mic. But Cuomo’s lyrics had that everyman quality fans could find relatable. 

Album opener "My Name is Jonas" speaks of a common crisis Cuomo was inspired to put to paper: Cuomo’s brother was dealing with insurance challenges after enduring a serious car crash. Knowing Cuomo’s MO, the song's lyrics resonate more deeply: "Tell me what to do/Now the tank is dry/Now this wheel is flat."

On "Say It Ain’t So" — the most-streamed song from the album on Spotify — Weezer manages an eternal hookiness with a heavy dose of reality. Over a reggae-influenced beat with guitar upstrokes, the song offers a potent look at Cuomo’s past. It tells the story of his estranged relationship with his alcoholic father ("Somebody's Heine/Is crowding my icebox") and how Rivers Sr. eventually left the family, got sober and became a preacher ("You've cleaned up, found Jesus/Things are good, or so I hear").

The Blue Album Had A Singular Look

If there is any moment to showcase how Weezer set itself apart from other rock bands at the time, look no further than the music video to one of the album’s blazing hits. "Buddy Holly" might have been a reference to the close-cropped hair and wide-rim glasses both Holly and Cuomo wore, but the video is a taste of the band’s nostalgia-heavy, pop culture-referencing personality that other bands would later emulate.

Directed by Spike Jonze (who was also responsible for the Beastie Boys' astounding "Sabotage" video,) "Buddy Holly" featured Weezer playing in 1950s garb as they interacted with characters from the show "Happy Days." The video was a marvel of editing and jokiness at the time: Mary Tyler Moore gets a shout-out; there’s something so deeply satisfying seeing the Fonz dance to Weezer verses and fuzz guitars.

"Buddy Holly" was an early example of Weezer's unique and deeply referential aesthetic; their free-spirited, random and weird viewpoint would appear in videos throughout their run.  In "Undone (The Sweater Song)," a parade of canines runaround the band as they exuberantly play the hit song, with drummer Patrick Wilson shaking booty behind the kit.

Post- Blue, the Muppets danced and sang along with the band in the hilarious "Keep Fishin’," while sumo wrestlers battled it out between clips of the band rocking out to "Hash Pipe."

It Delivered Memorable And Inspiring Intros 

Producer Ric Ocasek ensured that there were no wasted moments in The Blue Album. That includes the intros, which can feature some of the best opening licks to ever grace a Weezer track (as on "Holiday") or flirt with a genre–rock folk– that quickly switches to another (see "My Name is Jonas").

But a true-stand out intro, if only for its experimental personality, comes from "Undone (The Sweater Song)," which opens with a circular riff stemming from guitar picking. Then comes a music-less intro with a couple guys chatting — courtesy of bassist Sharp and friend of the band Karl Koch — that isn’t as meaningful as the song’s more maudlin theme. It may inspire fans to see the song as a fun and silly tune instead of what Cuomo intended: an anthem of the underdog.

That intro is mirrored in other pop-rock tracks of that era, such as Nada Surf’s "Popular" which begins with over a minute of spoken word before the verses.

The spoken intro to "Undone" is a reminder that Weezer never likes taking itself too seriously. They enjoy breaking conventional rules of what a song, or first few bars, should sound like for their audience, and they revel in throwing us curveballs as a way to say, "Hey, we’re a rock band, but we’re not your Dad’s rock band." 

They Aren’t Afraid To Move Away From Traditional Indie Pop

"We're experimenting, trying to come up with the best music we possibly can, so our motivation is pure. We're not just trying to cash in," Cuomo told Guitar World in 2002, reflecting his anti-frontman persona with an honest take of Weezer’s standing in the rock world. That "best music" is shining on The Blue Album but also their inventiveness, which saw them extend the usual track length on "Only in Dreams" from the usual three minutes to almost eight minutes. 

Moving away from the head-boppin choruses of "Buddy Holly" and "Surf Wax America", the final track on the album plays with rhythms and unadorned bass lines reminiscent of early Phish. It careens from dreamy and meandering to chewy distortion and crashing cymbals, and ends with four minutes of instrumental jamming. 

Wavves bassist Stephen Pope took to "Only in Dreams" right away. "[It] stands out to me, as a not-very-technically-skilled bass player, because of how memorable the bassline is even though it’s so simple. It’s extremely Kim Deal-esque, and I attribute a lot of my playing style to Kim Deal and Matt Sharp," he told Consequence of Sound

Bands Love Covering The Blue Album

Everyone loves to try their hand at belting out Weezer songs, especially those from The Blue Album. One of the more notable covers is the pitch-perfectly sung "My Name is Jonas" from Taking Back Sunday, whose own tunes have Weezer-esque personalities. 

Foster the People covered "Say It Ain’t So" in 2011, Relient K cleaned up the distortion for their version of "Surf Wax America," and Mac DeMarco delivered a throaty take on "Undone (The Sweater Song)" where he adlibbed the tune’s spoken word bits. 

And if there’s any sign of the album’s wide-ranging influence, the cast of "Succession" recorded a raucous rendition of "Say It Ain’t So."

The Blue Album Is So Iconic That Weezer Is Touring It Globally

From Atlanta to London to Vancouver, Weezer’s 2024 tour schedule is solely focused on playing The Blue Album from start to finish. Titled Voyage to the Blue Planet and featuring openers the Flaming Lips, the Smashing Pumpkins and Dinosaur Jr., the tour will be a retrospective of the killer tracks that cemented Weezer as pioneers of nerd-rock and a whimsical sorely needed during the super-serious era of grunge.

As much as Weezer fans also adore the emo classic Pinkerton and admire the ambition of the four-album box set of SZNS of 2021, The Blue Album remains a perfect debut record and one that transcends any age demo. A 50-year-old rock fan and a 25-year-old TikTok influencer will both be front row centre at the tour this year, and expect them to be mouthing the lyrics to "Buddy Holly" while playing the meanest air guitar.

8 Ways 'Musicology' Returned Prince To His Glory Days

Steve Albini in his studio in 2014
Steve Albini in his studio in 2014

Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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Without Steve Albini, These 5 Albums Would Be Unrecognizable: Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey & More

Steve Albini loathed the descriptor of "producer," preferring "recording engineer." Regardless of how he was credited, He passed away on the evening of May 7, leaving an immeasurable impact on alternative music.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 08:17 pm

When Code Orange's Jami Morgan came to work with Steve Albini, he knew that he and the band had to be prepared. They knew what they wanted to do, in which order, and "it went as good as any process we've ever had — probably the best," he glowed.

And a big part of that was that Albini —  a legendary musician and creator of now-iconic indie, punk and alternative records —  didn't consider himself any sort of impresario. 

"The man wears a garbage man suit to work every day," Morgan previously told GRAMMY.com while promoting Code Orange's The Above. "It reminds him he's doing a trade… I f—ing loved him. I thought he was the greatest guy."

The masterful The Above was released in 2023, decades into Albini's astonishing legacy both onstage and in the studio. The twisted mastermind behind Big Black and Shellac, and man behind the board for innumerable off-center classics, Steve Albini passed away on the evening of May 7 following a heart attack suffered at his Chicago recording studio, the hallowed Electrical Audio. He was 61. The first Shellac album since 2014, To All Trains, is due May 17.

Albini stuck to his stubborn principles (especially in regard to the music industry), inimitable aesthetics and workaday self-perception until the end. Tributes highlighting his ethos, attitude and vision have been flowing in from all corners of the indie community. The revered label Secretly Canadian called Albini "a wizard who would hate being called a wizard, but who surely made magic."

David Grubbs of Gastr Del Sol called him "a brilliant, infinitely generous person, absolutely one-of-a-kind, and so inspiring to see him change over time and own up to things he outgrew" — meaning old, provocative statements and lyrics.

And mononymous bassist Stin of the bludgeoning noise rock band Chat Pile declared, "No singular artist's body of work has had an impact on me more than that of Steve Albini."

“We are very sad to hear of Steve Albini’s passing,” stated the Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers (P&E) Wing. “He was not only an accomplished musician in the various groups he played with, but also an iconic producer and engineer who contributed to some of the greatest albums in indie rock, from artists such as Nirvana, the Pixies and PJ Harvey. Steve was a true original. He will be greatly missed, but his influence will continue to live on through the many generations of artists he inspired.”

To wade through Albini's entire legacy, and discography, would take a lifetime — and happy hunting, as so much great indie, noise rock, punk, and so much more passed across his desk. Here are five of those albums.

Pixies - Surfer Rosa (1988)

Your mileage may vary on who lit the match for the alternative boom, but Pixies — and their debut Surfer Rosa — deserve a place in that debate. This quicksilver classic introduced us to a lot of Steve Albini's touchstones: capacious miking techniques; unadulterated, audio verite takes; serrated noise.

PJ Harvey - Rid of Me (1993)

Some of Albini's finest hours have resulted from carefully arranging the room, hitting record, and letting an artist stalk the studio like a caged animal.

It happened on Scout Niblett's This Fool Can Die Now; it happened on Laura Jane Grace's Stay Alive; and it most certainly happened on PJ Harvey's Rid of Me, which can be seen as a precedent for both. Let tunes like "Man-Size" take a shot at you; that scar won't heal anytime soon.

Nirvana - In Utero (1993)

Nirvana's unintended swan song in the studio was meant to burn the polished Nevermind in effigy.

And while Kurt Cobain was too much of a pop beautician to fully do that, In Utero is still one of the most bracing and unvarnished mainstream rock albums ever made. Dave Grohl's drum sound on "Scentless Apprentice" alone is a shot to your solar plexus.

"The thing that I was really charmed most by in the whole process was just hearing how good a job the band had done the first time around," Albini told GRAMMY.com upon In Utero's 20th anniversary remix and remastering. "What struck me the most about the [remastering and reissue] process was the fact that everybody was willing to go the full nine yards for quality."

Songs: Ohia - The Magnolia Electric Co. (2003)

When almost a dozen musicians packed into Electrical Audio to make The Magnolia Electric Co., the vibe was, well, electric — prolific singer/songwriter Jason Molina was on the verge of something earth-shaking.

It's up for debate as to whether the album they made was the final Songs: Ohia record, or the first by his following project, Magnolia Electric Co. — is a tempestuous, majestic, symbolism-heavy, Crazy Horse-scaled ride through Molina's troubled psyche.

Code Orange - The Above (2023)

A health issue kept Code Orange from touring behind The Above, which is a shame for many reasons. One is that they're a world-class live band. The other is that The Above consists of their most detailed and accomplished material to date.

The band's frontman Morgan and keyboardist Eric "Shade" Balderose produced The Above, which combines hardcore, metalcore and industrial rock with concision and vision. And by capturing their onstage fire like never before on record, Albini helped glue it all together.

"It was a match made in heaven," Morgan said. And Albini made ferocity, ugliness and transgression seem heavenly all the same.

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