Interview by Miriam C.
Phaedra‘s music is pure avantagarde, that’s the only definition that I can possibly use for Ingvild Langgård‘s musical project. The Norwegian singer and multi-instrumentalist mixes effeciently in her second album “Blackwinged Night” – released in 2015 via Rune Grammophone – classic Nordic folk, dreampop and shoegaze. It was a deliberate choice the word ‘avantgarde’ because with her education Ingvild is able to propose a full-packed artistical journey between music, visual installations and arts. If I say that Pheadra that is an underrated artist is just understatement, so I hope that with this interview I’ll help her a little because her enchanting music deserve more space.
Hi Ingvild, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine! How are you?
I’m good, thank you!
Finally I have the chance to have a chat with you Ingvild, I really loved your debut at the time and I kept wondering how you can concoct such magnificent musical pieces. So, when did your musical journey start? And who are your most representative artists from which you’re influenced?
My musical journey started for real actually three or four years before the debut “The Sea” came out. I had been making small sketches and played around with music for some years already, but it was only when I was in New York for a longer stay and I spent literally ALL my savings on a precious, and very old Martin acoustic guitar, that I really started writing songs that seemed to have a greater value to me. So perhaps you could say this guitar taught me, in a sense. I get my musical inspiration from many different artists, and it also changes over time who influence me the most. For the first album obviously I listened a lot to Nico, Karen Dalton, Vashti Bunyan, Will Oldham, Jackson C. Frank but the one artist that is always there as a the biggest inspiration to me, is Kate Bush. I’ve listened to her music since I was child, and I know her musical universe in and out. So her compositions have influenced me a great deal, I guess they have somewhat settled in my bones. I never tire of her songwriting, especially “The Dreaming” and of course “The Night Wave” song cycle always impress me with their freshness.
This is probably a weird/stupid question, but how should we consider Phaedra? A band or the expression of a solo artist?
This is actually a good question, since Phaedra has been my initiated project from the start, and since I write all the music, but also there has all the time been a small circle of amazing people working with me, brilliant musicians that I am so humble and honored to have with me in this constellation, and the sum of them plus me, is Phaedra. But it does not really work like an ordinary band, since I’m responsible for everything, and since it has been different people participating. But in taking on another name than my own, I wanted to separate this project from myself, so that it could be sort of a character of its own. So in that sense I wanted it to be something more than a singer-songwriter project.
Independently of how Pheadra is, I think that without some really good musicians a solo artist cannot performs and exist. Would you mind to presents us who accompanies you during your performances?
Yes, indeed! That is exactly the thing, there are always collaborators contributing to even a good solo act. Two of my dearest long time collaborators are Gunhild Mathea Olaussen who plays the violin and Ane Marthe Sørlien Holen, who is a a drummer and percussionist in the classical sense. They have played with Phaedra since the debut and has influenced and contributed to this musical universe in a great deal. Another important collaborator for me is Jørn Tore Egseth who played synths and basses with Phaedra for four years, and worked closely with me and even co-produced “Blackwinged Night”. They are all amazing musicians with great originality, and their way of playing their respective instruments inspire me a lot when I do write the music. I have also been lucky to collaborate with several other brilliant musicians over these years, live and in the studio. Another important collaborator who’s inspired and influenced me a great deal, and also has become sort of a mentor in the recording process, is Christian Engfelt, who has mixed both the albums, and who engineered and also co-produced “Blackwinged Night”. The thing all these guys have in common is that we share a lot of the same melodic preferences, such as the love for folk music and the musical phrasing of that music.
Your second album “Blackwinged Night” is already receiving ravishing reviews and I was wondering to know more about its genesis…
Yes it has, really, and I am so humbled and happy for the great reception this album has got! One always hear that the second album is difficult to make, since it builds on the debut, but at least speaking for myself, I wanted this to be quite different from the debut too, since I have evolved as a composer since then. But since they are both part of the same planned trilogy, I also wanted to link the new album to the debut, it should be a natural evolution taking place. And based on the concept for the trilogy, after the ethereal, almost aquatic folk universe of the debut, I wanted “Blackwinged Night” to delve into darker realms, to dive into the moss, stone, earth, the underworld. Musically I wanted to blend a dark dream pop world with deep basses, analogue synths and big drums, with the organic, natural qualities of strings, woodwinds, marimba, and concrete sounds like broken glass, metal and stones.
Would you like to delve into the thematics treated in “Blackwinged Night”?
Oh yes. The trilogy is like this loosely based existential or even shamanic journey, where there is an I, the one who sings, that tells us loosely related stories of this journey or path… Naturally there have to be hard times in every story like this, and this middle part is the darker part of the journey. But as the music evolved, it started to circle more and more around themes like creation and collaps, time, and falling stars. In Greek mythology, “Blackwinged Night” is another name for the primordial goddess of the night, and this character is sort of the beginning of time, the origin of the universe itself. The title track is like a hymn to the night in that sense, simultaneously creator and destroyer of all things… I actually have read a lot about quantum mechanics, the multiverse theory and time over the past few years!
I noticed a similarity between the cover artwork of “The Sea” and “Blackwinged Night”. Same pattern, different colors. By any chance should we take into account that both albums are thematically related?
Yes, they are definitely related. This is due to them being parts of a trilogy, but also due to them both being designed by the same designer, the Norwegian multi talented artist Kim Hiorthøy, who designs all the cover art for the label Rune Grammofon. If you look closely on the label website you’ll find that all his cover designs are somewhat linked together. But more important, since the two albums are thematically related, I’m glad that Hiorthøy made an effort to link these albums together even more. Actually I have no say in how the covers will look – Kim decides everything. I was quite surprised by the first one since it has an almost childlike naiveté about it, which I myself did not really hear in the music. I guess this adds something new to the music, which is good, and I like the timeless quality of Hiorthøy‘s work, for these sleeves as well as in his other artwork.
I keep watching the video for “Lightbeam” and this athlete running. What is he aiming for? Also could you tell us a bit about the concept behind it and the filming?
It is actually a she who is running, but I’m glad it comes through as almost androgynous. The video is made by the Norwegian director Guro Bruusgaard, who has been a close friend of mine for many years, and who makes such strong, daring and original short films. For this video she actually shot the footage, filmed on Super 8 analogue film, several years ago, but she did not find the proper way to present it – until she heard the song “Lightbeam” and immediately knew this would be a perfect match. I love this video since it is so definite – this person running is all we see, during the whole video. But the subtle chances in her (his!) looks, the attitude that chances, the seriousness that falls upon her after running for so long, this is so hypnotic to watch. Even the nosebleed in the end, is actually for real. I think it adds a new layer of seriousness to the song but I don’t know what she (he) is running for – my interpretation is fleeing from something, from danger, but there is also such a determination, to not give up, to run for it, no matter what it takes.
I’ve also read about an upcoming videoclip with Pernille Holden, a professional dancer. Any updates?
Yes, I have made another video, collaborating with the amazing dancer and choreographer Pernille Holden. I promise you that it will premiere in not too long time, as I can’t wait to show it! I am also collaborating with her again for yet another video, where she works with her dance trio HAUS, and they are drawing its inspiration actually from old Kate Bush videos, this is still in the making. And there’s even more video in to come, in collaboration with the Norwegian visual artist Eirin Støen. This is an animation video, taking a paintstaking amount of time and effort to create… but the results so far, looks stunning. As you may have guessed, I wanted to collaborate with strong artists for the videos for this album, each video becoming an artwork in itself.
I’ve tried to get my head around Cosmic Body. My Norwegian isn’t very good at all, but what I can get is something related with NRK, the national radio. First, would you like to explain more about it and then, how this collaboration was born?
Haha, well, Cosmic Body is a contemporary dance performance made by the Norwegian choreographer Ingri Fiksdal, for which I have composed the music. And it was featured on the national radio, NRK, where it received great reviews. This is the third time I have had the pleasure to work with Ingri, as we have made two collaborations before, together with the Norwegian scenographer Signe Becker, “The Orchard Ballads” from 2011 and “Night Tripper” from 2012. I have really enjoyed this collaboration and to me composing music for stage, creating a whole together with the choreography and the visual elements, is such a fulfilling and interesting way of working with music. The different parts influence each other, so that the result is something new and different. In these projects I’ve made music that I guess I would never have made on my own: it is ranging from dark, ambient soundscapes and foley art in the first piece, to folk based, repetitious patterns, drones and choral pieces in the second performance and for Cosmic Body the music ranges from some sort of 70’s Cosmisches Musik to a strange kind of dark, old school techno. I definitely enjoy collaborating in this way and am hoping to do several more projects like this in the future.
From what I get, Pheadra is more of a studio project and the chances to see you around world promoting your stuff are really scarce. Do you have any plans for a tour and if not, why?
Well, this has to do mostly with Phaedra not having an international booking agency right now. I am looking for the right collaborator and will absolutely do a tour at some point, but probably not right this time. However, my other projects are touring though and Cosmic Body will play several theatres in Europe this year, so this is a chance to hear some of my other music at least!
So, Ingvild, it’s time for your parting words – I really thank you for your time – please greet freely our readers and your fans. Thanks again!
Well, thank you so much, Miriam, it was a great pleasure to talk to you. All my best wishes to your readers and to the Phaedra fans out there. Every single person that is touched by my music, that is so extremely dear to me, and it means so much. All my love!
Photos by Kristian Skylstad & Morten Halfstad Forsberg