Soul-pop singer Lykke Li can be so cute and dark simultaneously, singing about heartbreak and insecurity while playing the kazoo around her neck and dancing better than Beyonce. She may one day surpass Sasha Fierce for Youtube videos of 300-pound men imitating the Swedish darling’s moves and clothing. Yes, she has great style, but please, world, stop comparing her to an Olsen twin. This interview by Daiana Feuer.
You say your album is a diary of your life—if we attached a travel guide to Youth Novels, where would we go?
A lot of places in Stockholm. Dark, winter, nights, windy, nobody’s out. Quite depressing, actually. It’s not very glamorous at all. You could come into my bedroom as well. The walls are white. There’s a lot of old black and white pictures that my mom took. I have a black, old piano. I always write about quite sad things but I like to dance as well. I think that’s always going to be a big part of me—conflict within myself, contrast, two forces pulling on each other. I’m not sad all the time—definitely not. But when you’re happy, you’re happy. If you’re eating ice cream, there’s nothing to write about.
What’s the last happy thought you had walking down the street?
It’s been so cold in Sweden and today was the first day of spring. That’s major happiness because it’s so dark and cold here so everybody’s out. So I was very happy today walking down the street. It’s been a very late spring and in the winter it’s dark all the time. When spring comes, people go mad. I mean they’re normal again. In the summer, it’s great. People bike around. They love their alcohol here. It’s a small country but it’s still good.
You spent your childhood in Portugal—what’s your favorite word in Portuguese?
Coração [means ‘heart’]. I was speaking fluently when I lived there but since I don’t speak it here, I’ve forgotten a lot. I can still get by. I went to a Portuguese school so I could write and everything, but I’ve lost a lot.
How many languages do you know?
Swedish, Portuguese, English, I can get by in Norwegian. I think sometimes in English. When I write music, the words come to me in English. I am struggling still with the language so I’m a bit limited, but English is the language I’ve always written in and listened to. It’s a very poetic language and it’s really good if you want to write about love.
Can love be a tangible thing?
It already is—it’s love. It can never be one thing because love is different for everybody. That’s the one thing that will never be a thing. It’s a state of mind.
If you were only allowed to dance or to sing, which would you choose? You would not be allowed to move while singing.
You ask a hard question. Um, sing. I hope this doesn’t happen.
In the chorus of ‘Everybody But Me,’ what’s the third thing you mention?
[Sings:] ‘When everybody’s drinking…when everybody’s smoking…when everybody’s’…ugh, what the fuck do I say? It’s about everybody being high. Oh, [sings] ‘When everybody’s floating.’ Floating on ecstasy.
Do you not do those things?
Yeah, I do those things. Of course. But there was one particular night when I didn’t. When you’re out and everybody’s high and you’re not feeling it. It’s that night.
How did you and Bjorn Yttling [of Peter Bjorn and John] end up working together to produce your album?
We met at a French restaurant on a corner. We bumped into each other and started talking. We were talking about movies and then later on I called him up and begged him to work with me—because we both love All That Jazz.
What’s your favorite scene?
The one when everybody’s naked. I love the whole movie. I love the one in the bathroom when he takes all his pills.
Would you like to be in a movie?
Yeah! I’m in my movie every day.
Do you carry around a camera?
Yeah. I tape things, observations about life.
What’s a recent observation?
[Giggles] Me in the mirror. I was filming myself, and I put some African music on it.
Do you consider different forms of art as separate entities?
No. I just happen to get a bit of success in music, but my mind doesn’t have a limit. It goes sideways, both ways, everywhere. I’m not only thinking about music when I express myself. It’s not even art sometimes—it’s opinions about life. Everything I do has some weird thing to it. When I choose something to eat, that’s as much myself as when I sing.
Do you believe in chance or fate?
I believe in chance and choices and fate. You can definitely control your own destiny but you can’t control the circumstances. You can never set a time-scape to anything. You have fate, knowing things will come if it’s meant to be.
What do you want to do all day when you’re an old woman?
Smoke weed and hang out with my grandkids.
You seem to dig necklaces. What’s your most treasured one?
It’s a crystal my grandma gave me that bounces off bad energy. She passed away so it’s very treasured to me. I wear it all the time. I think grandmother giving a gift to her grandchild is such a powerful thing.
Is there a song that’s hard for you to sing because of what it’s about?
It depends on what kind of mood I am. Some songs or all songs can be hard. I like that feeling when it hurts. I sing better.
Is it weird experiencing a personal moment in front of an audience?
It’s completely natural for me. I took a ballet class when I was five, and I played a show at twelve in the night—because in Portugal we have late shows—and nobody gave me flowers. Then some girl got a flower and I pushed her off stage.
LYKKE LI WITH MY BLOODY VALENTINE, NO AGE, PUBLIC ENEMY, THROBBING GRISTLE, THE CURE, CLIPSE, BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE AND MANY MORE ON SUN., APR. 19, AT COACHELLA AT THE EMPIRE POLO FIELD, 81-800 AVENUE 51, INDIO. 11 AM / $269 / ALL AGES. COACHELLA.COM. LYKKE LI’S YOUTH NOVELS IS OUT NOW ON LL. VISIT LYKKE LI AT LYKKELI.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/LYKKELI.