Fever Ray plays Webster Hall tonight and tomorrow. We are excited. So excited that even after this, Max Willens got her on the phone to ask about the inspiration for her icily brilliant videos. The answer? Google Image Search.
With Fever Ray‘s cover, the image of a woman standing between a small town and the wilderness, did you give Martin Ander, the designer, any indication of what you wanted?
Yes, we had some discussions. I told him I wanted to be on the cover, and that I wanted to be shooting rays [laughs] or beams in some way. And we discussed a lot of different points and artists–Charles Burns, Juni Kiwasaki, a Japanese filmmaker–I just think I wanted it to be very direct, and clear what was going on. And I think we succeeded in making that happen.
The chord it strikes echoes throughout your videos, too. Even though you worked with a bunch of different directors–Andreas Nilsson, Martin de Thurah, Johan Renck–there is this tribal, ceremonial aspect to the costumes and the action. Are all of these things part of a larger idea?
I think it’s mostly that I’ve been discussing the ideas with Martin Ander and all of the video directors. A lot of the costumes and characters in the video are taken from our live show. People, sometimes band members, sometimes just their costumes, appear in the videos.
So you’d already conceived of the live show when you had to make the videos?
I think “If I Had a Heart” and “When I Grow Up” were made before the live show. But “Seven” and “Triangle Walks” came after. And we have a fifth video coming out, also directed by Andreas Nilsson, that will feature a lot of the characters already laid out. In different ways, there is some character from the Johan Renck video in our live show, but when it’s put in such a different location, it becomes something else, in a way. I think it’s very interesting, the way they all get along very well.
Just as an example, what was one of the images you sent out to them? Was it a photograph? A film? A painting?
It was a lot of things. Me and Andreas would sit by Google Image Search, typing in words we found interesting and seeing what happened. I think it’s not savagery, it’s more like primitive culture, or folk culture, that’s we would show with masks, costumes, accessories. Like, in Sweden, we have–I don’t know the English word for it–like a minority…
An ethnic minority? Indigenous people?
They live up in the north, and they take care of the reindeer.
Oh wow, I had no idea.
We haven’t treated them very well. They live in Norway and Finland also. But also, Inuit and North American, some Middle Eastern and also Eastern European cultures. And we just took the best parts of everything and brought them into the live show.
So they’re not part of some grand design or plan? Not meant to evoke our inner savagery or anything?
It’s more like we had been discussing films and sending pictures to each other, and for the videos I hadn’t been any more involved than that. I wanted to let the video directors interact with the music, and it just happened, I think. I mean, of course, I choose the video directors, so I am directing [laughs], but from the outside. There haven’t been any master plans, though.