The process was painstakingly long: A nightmarish marathon of costly collaborations, panic attacks and battles for artistic vision and integrity. But it resulted in a truly beautiful album. Lovisa from SAVANT met Maria Lindén of I Break Horses to hear about the birth of latest release ‘Warnings’.
The new album ‘Warnings’ is a shimmering journey through the most delicate areas of your brain. One second you float through a creepy 1982 independent movie, the next you are stuck in that desperate adolescent high of having met your first crush. It is breathtakingly beautiful and you get to surf those distorted yet glittery I-Break-Horses-harmonies for forever.
This might sound pretentious, but I've always tried to capture a little piece of heaven to present to the listeners.
It took Maria six years to complete I Break Horses latest album ‘Warnings’. A testing journey framed by hurdles such as crashed hard drives, incompatible egos, anxiety attacks and multiple restarts. As time passed, costly studio recordings were thrown out and completed recordings where jigsawed to form multiple new versions of the songs.
That sounds pretty terrible?
– Yes, I've cried so many times during this journey. And being a perfectionist and a control freak didn’t help I guess. Plus I had some really bad luck with collaborations that were just bad matches.
– My artistic vision is very clear to me. Even if it sounds pretentious, I always try to chisel out a small piece of heaven to bring down to the listeners. But it is also so very easy to get stuck up there, and so extremely lonely being stuck with your own psyche. So I was very motivated to try collaborations to get myself out of that bubble.
He humbly listened to me and addressed all my ideas, and that was a HUGE relief. But he must have been terribly tired of me by the time we were done! *laugh*
But the collaborating didn’t go as you planned?
– No. I went to England to mix with someone and it was costing a fortune, but we could not work together at all. It was complete anguish, but I still threw out all those expensive mixes to start over. Again.
– Finally I found Cris Coady (who have produced artists like Beach House, TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). He humbly listened to me and addressed all my ideas, and that was a huge relief. But he must have been terribly tired of me by the time we were done! *laugh*
– I really only have myself to blame for the time it took to finish the album. A therapy session or two could probably have helped, but at the same time, to endlessly flick about things is therapy for me!
...I can’t water down the music just to be compliant
But perhaps the creative process needs to be just that unpleasant? Without those painful retakes you wouldn’t know what your “baby” could have become, what the full potential actually was?
– That is exactly it! However, there is a fine balance since I easily could have continued changing things for another five years. But then again, there is no other way forward for me. No other way to do my artistic deed. And I am really glad I was allowed to redo, redo, redo. That my label let me take all this time to do it right.
– The people who were meant to listen to my music will find it. If it is ten people or a hundred… that is irrelevant to me. But I cannot water down the music just to be compliant.
The theme of the album is “dysfunctional relationships of broken people”. Every song is a warning that something isn’t quite right. That angle I got from the movies.
Tell me about the creative starting point of ‘Warnings’.
– When I started to write this album my intent was to make it instrumental. I love movies and made that the starting point by looping some of my favourite movies with the volume turned down, and creating soundscapes to the imagery.
– The theme of the album is the “dysfunctional relationships of broken people”. Every song is a warning that something isn’t quite right. That angle I got from the movies.
They marketed it as a “a sick movie about sick people, for sick people” *laugh* and I am drawn to that kind of stuff I guess. It has definitely affected the album and the lyrics!
I as really curious about that. What movies?
– I was viewing a movie called 'Bad Timing' a lot. Do you know it? Visually stunning and really controversial when it was released. They marketed it as a “a sick movie about sick people, for sick people” *laugh* and I am drawn to that kind of stuff I guess. It has definitely affected the album and the lyrics!
– Other ones I looped were 'Blow up', 'Images', 'Three Women' and 'Pastoral: To Die In The Country'. I have never done that before. Taken inspiration straight from something visual like that.
'Warnings' is an album for the patient listeners that can hang in there from start to finish. And I sincerely hope they do.
It seems you are creative on many different levels. And therefore it is also important to choose the right creative process?
– Yes! I do need to find new ways to be creative. I never go back to listen to something I did before - I just can't do it. I have to be here and now and ride that in-the-moment vibe. To me it is incomprehensibly boring when an artist makes the same record over and over again.
– 'Warnings' is an album for the patient listeners that can hang in there from start to finish. And I sincerely hope they do.
But it has really upset me that the media often presumed the man to be the producer. I've often been reduced to the “singer”. And that is really my very last instrument.
Your own creative vision is such an obvious and strong center in this, so I must ask: Is I Break Horses really a duo?
– Well, I am the one writing, playing and producing. But Fredrik Balck is helping to refine the lyrics and he also plays the drums. Fredrik is amazing with language and he gives my lyrics a more poetic tilt. Also it has been safe to be presented as a duo.
– But it has really upset me that the media often presumed the man to be the producer. I've often been reduced to the “singer”. And that is really my very last instrument.
– I have worked so hard and for so many years to really go full geek into the science of technical musical production. The producer part of I Break Horses is really a huge part of the project. Which means you don’t want to be labeled “the singer” (no offence all amazing singers out there!). This was the case for me for six years and now I really want to set the facts straight.
...I am a dweller and I don’t sleep. I watch movies a lot and I have a day job where I shuffle numbers.
How do you take time off from your creative binges?
– Well it is now a year since I finished the album and I really needed this long rest. I couldn’t even listen to music there for a while. But now I've actually started writing new material.
– Also, I take really long walks to clear my head (I am a dweller and I don’t sleep). I watch movies a lot and I have a day job where I shuffle numbers. That is a healthy and necessary offset to my artistic endeavours - the walks and the numbers!
We finish up the interview and I go back to listening to ‘Warnings’. Maria might dissect the saddening frailty of broken people, but she creates her cinematic music with harmonies that are stubbornly hopeful.
Like when you are touched by the first rays of sun after an anxiety ridden night. Or when you take a breath in a difficult moment, but have not yet rolled the dice. In these elusive and multi layered states of mind I find myself when listening to I Break Horses. Thank you! <3