NEW HABITS: TOVE LO
photographed by KATIE MCCURDY. written by ALEX CATARINELLA. hair SHIRLEY HAGEL. makeup BUDDY HEAD.
There’s never a shortage of Top 40 bangers complete with hedonistic-heavy lyrics about endless bottle-popping in VIP and “living in the moment.” #Fact. Swedish Pop siren Tove Lo also sings about getting fucked up, but she explains the reasons behind reaching for the blunt or what have you — and it has nothing to do with living the superficial fab life. Take for instance her, yes, seriously addicting shimmering Pop gem, “Habits,” which is very real on all accounts. There’s FML lyrics (“I get home, I got the munchies / Binge on all my Twinkies / Throw up in the tub, then I go to sleep / And I drank up all my money / Days been kind of lonely”), the messy-in-a-good-way music video (lots of tequila tears and girl-on-girl makeouts), and those rafter-reaching, goosebump-inducing pipes. It’s Girl, Interrupted Pop at its finest, and it’ll 100% make you wanna keep “dancing on my own” a la fellow Swedish pop siren, Robyn. “A little bit melancholy, a little bit of desperation. I suck at writing super happy songs,” Tove Lo says to me of her songwriting style, whilst on set getting primped and polished for our cover shoot. In other words, all broken-hearted twenty-somethings can totally relate to the insanely talented young lady — for proof, check out her eargasms of an EP, the aptly titled Truth Serum (her eagerly anticipated full length debut awaits). I mean, “Habits” killer chorus a.k.a. “You’re gone and I’ve gotta stay high all the time to keep you off my mind” is basically a blurb in my diary — if I had a diary and could write eloquently. I will, instead, report that the aptly buzzed about new-comer is the real censor-free/bad ass deal, as noted during our chit-chat. “I’m me all around!” she adorably affirms, and for that, we thank her.
Alex Catarinella: I thought it was kind of hilarious and very attention-grabbing that Pitchfork compared you to a “very sad” Ke$ha. Thoughts?
Tove Lo: I also liked the Pigeons & Planes one where they said, “What Ke$ha would be if she didn’t suck.” I thought that was kind of funny. Nothing against her, but I was like, “Oh, there’s a very strong opinion!” Maybe it’s because I’m singing about a bathtub and she’s in a bathtub in her video, and we’re both singing about whiskey. As long it’s a compliment, I think it’s kind of funny. She’s kind of doing it for fun, and I’m kind of doing it for other reasons… To numb the pain.
Let’s talk about your pre-pop star formative years. Were you in high school musicals? A rock band? A GarageBand-in-the-bedroom singer?
I was kind of the bedroom singer until I went to a music high school in Stockholm. They were very hippie. They were like, “Fuck school! Let’s make music!” I grew up in a very posh area, so it was a big change for me and I loved it so much. I was like, “This is what life is about!” It was awesome. I then started to sing in a Rock band. It was shit. It was hard to play, hard to sing, hard to listen to. But I loved it. To make money, I started doing sessions. I had a few other jobs, but I wasn’t really good at keeping them, and the one thing that worked was going into sessions and writing music. While I did that, I noticed Pop a bit more, and it was like, “Hey I like this!” It’s easy and straightforward. I started to get curious about making that kind of music. Then the band split up about four or five years ago, and I started writing more of my own stuff. I’m not from a musical family, so I was kind of self-discovered I guess.
Your video for “Habits” is awesome. Was there some method acting involved a.k.a did you get really fucked up on set?
In the video, I’m the one carrying the camera. I actually came home from Australia the same day we started shooting. I didn’t really understand what was going on. We were drunk the whole time. It’s all very authentic. We had to cut a lot of stuff out, but it was really tough recording it, actually, like the crying scene… Just summing up everything you’ve ever been sad about. I guess it was a lot of method acting. I think it shows what I was feeling when I wrote the song. I have a really hard time watching it, but I’m so happy with it.
How’s it been going now that you’re signed to a major label?
Obviously it’s a very different feeling when you sign to a big machine, because before I did everything myself. When it came to videos, I wrote the script, directed it, got all of the props… I would do my own makeup, unfortunately, and it wouldn’t look very good. But everyone at the label has been listening to me and has been taking great care of me. I still feel like I’m in charge. So far, so good!
You’ve written for tons of pop artists (Icona Pop, Girls Aloud, Cher Lloyd…!) How do you manage to get in the head of another artist?
I was just in the studio with Adam Lambert. He’s so funny. I love him. Not every song has to be super personal — for my music, it does. Obviously I would say things a different way than Adam would. So I have to keep him in mind if we’re working on stuff for him. It’s always better when the artist is in the room and you’re like, “Do you like this?” “No.” And then, “Okay, cool,” and we’ll say something else. If you’re an artist, you want to relate to what you’re singing about. I try to get into their headspace — “What should you be saying? What do you want to say?” Everything’s about me now, so it’s a nice break from myself to write for others. I love the writing process, and diving into someone else’s story.
So, are you prepared for mainstream success?
I wanna go on a world tour. I wanna be able to do that. That would be the coolest thing in the world. I’m not sure what “mainstream” entails, but I’m not prepared for any of it. I’m just really excited… we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll just go crazy and turn into this awful person. “Nobody can look at me when I walk in the room!” I hope not. I haven’t read any reviews or any reactions, because I take it too personally. If someone writes a bad review, I hate them. I’m like, “You’re an asshole!” Obviously not everyone can love you no matter what you do. I’m very comfortable in the studio and on stage. But this is my third photo shoot ever. Everything’s very new. It’s fun.
This story was produced for & published in SHK Magazine's WEIRD Issue.