INTERVIEW: Royksopp

With the final touches to their new album almost complete, Royksopp are taking a short break from the studio.

"It's a beautiful day here in Bergen," says Torbjorn Brundtland, the blonde half of Norway's premier electro-pop duo.

Recording sessions for Senior, the second part of a "duality" of albums that Torbjorn and his keyboard-playing partner Svein Berge have been working on this year, have been going well and his mood is as sunny as the weather.

The new album is intended to be a counterpoint to the bubbly dance grooves of Junior, the album they released to widespread acclaim back in March.

"We try to show that we are, as a matter of fact, human," says Torbjorn of a record with strong echoes of their million-selling 2001 debut Melody AM. "We are nice people, we are not evil machines – well, maybe just a little bit."

Junior featured vocals from regular collaborators Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knife, now Fever Ray) and Anneli Drecker; but there were new guests too, such as Scandinavian pop princesses Lykke Li and Robyn.

Lykke Li they found via her MySpace page. "We liked her demos and we hooked up with her. We played a match on the rooftop and wrote two songs together – one is on Junior and the other one is on a bonus version of the album."

With Robyn – if Torbjorn is to be believed – they had to use less conventional means of communication. "We had known about her since we were kids – she's been around for a long time. We admired her voice. She's taking her career into her own hands. She's a very cool role model.

"But we could not contact her. We had to use the message-in-a-bottle method. We went up to one of Sweden's biggest lakes and wrote (a note saying) 'If the person who finds this knows Robyn please give it to her'. It was her uncle who found it, who's also the ambassador of Sweden. Then we had a line of communication."

Like most electronic bands, Royksopp are not averse to using samples in their music. Yet unlike many of their contemporaries they're not simply content to lift a hook wholesale.

"We are more like video artists when it comes to using samples," says Torbjorn. "Cutting-edge video artists use something interesting from, say, an Eastern European animation movie and interweave it into their own material."

"Stealing" someone else's melody is anathema to Torbjorn and Svein. "The reason you like the sample is because of the sound quality of it, especially if it's old and on vinyl. To be able to do your own thing with it has always been our goal. It's like when you're crayoning and you come across a crayon that you don't have yourself, that's our take on samples – a sound that would take us a really long time to reproduce we would rather sample it."

Via their website the duo invited fans to remix their track Tricky Tricky. Torbjorn says they have yet to "make a judgement" on the results; from what they have listened to so far though they've been impressed.

"We are basically amazed about how many people have made an entry," he says. "It's going to be really tough to pick a winner because there's so much good stuff out there."

The experience has also be cautionary. "It's almost a bit overwhelming to think about it. It's like they used to say 'Everyone's a comedian'; in 2009 everyone's a musician – which makes it even harder for us to make something that's going to be remembered."

Keen web-surfers won't have had any problems remembering the video for the band's latest single This Must Be It. Directed by Filip and Andreas Nilsson, it features a motorcycling drummer attempting to bring rhythm to a nudist colony's loincloths.

"We just wanted to make something that's unexpected," explains Torbjorn. "The director came up with the idea of having a nudist camp take on it. We spoke about the drum car – to us it's like a dream come true having something like that put on sale.

"Some people think the people in the video are decidedly unsexy. I don't agree. They are normal people. In everyone else's videos you see people who are particularly perfect specimens. We put normal people in that video. It's fun to see that. Well, they are normal in terms of their looks, not in terms of what they are doing."

Senior, which is set to arrive "this winter or early spring", will be an altogether different kettle of fish to its predecessor. "It's definitely a bit demanding," warns Torbjorn. "It's music that you have to take time to appreciate. I would say it's quiet; it's like a quiet riot inside you.

"The aesthetic message is sometimes a bit obscured which makes it demanding. Without being too snobby about the whole thing, it's a bit for the connoisseur, people who are really interested. We are working on new ways to present our material."

This month Royksopp are due to play a two-date mini UK tour. The first of their shows is at the Leeds University venue Stylus on Wednesday, November 4. It seems the duo felt compelled to come back to Leeds for somewhat Zen reasons.

"The last time we played Leeds there was a homeless guy," Torbjorn says. "He said to us that we would meet three times – not once, not twice, but thrice. Everyone that uses that word gets a plus in our book. 'Thrice I will meet you'.

"We just met him once. We felt that if we met him three times he will help us. The inner journey in life, people say there are no shortcuts – but there are. We want to get there now. Anyone who has prophetic ability can help. We want to see this homeless guy again."

So what kind of show can we look forward when Royksopp perform in Leeds? "We have a basic ground rule, it's to try to have fun. That's about it when it comes to our show. It's not like there's a deep, complicated philosophy behind it. It's to have fun and make it feel the audience also have fun."

Tickets for Royksopp's gig at Stylus are available in advance from Jumbo and Crash Records or from www.seetickets.com.

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