Together, Vilde Nupen and Kristoffer Lislegaard create the Norwegian electronic duo, Sgrow. Nupen sings while Lislegaard is in charge of the electronics, guitar and visuals. Their sound merges pop-esque melodies with haunting guitar riffs and beats to create a sound all their own that’s addictive. On May 8th their self-titled EP was released and we got a chance to talk with the duo about this project and what the future holds for them.

Image: Sgrow

SGROW EP by KristofferLH

What were your major influences for this EP?

Our major influence for this EP was basically the merging of our musical backgrounds and aesthetics. Kristoffer plays electronics, and had been dabbling into the electronic improvisation scene for some time, in addition to creating organic beat based music, playing in different bands and as a solo act. Vilde played classical piano for several years before realizing that singing and writing songs of her own was what she should do. But even though she had a strong musical expression as a solo act, she wasn’t too fond of the ‘wrapping’. A girl singing sad songs by the piano was just something she’d seen a thousand times before, and it doesn’t really represent what she herself likes to listen to. So Vilde asked Kristoffer to contribute on ‘Mind Control’, and we were both so pleased with the results that we wrote more songs together, and started playing a lot of concerts. After two years of that, we decided it was time to record something, as to make it seem more real, or professional, that this is what we are and what we do, or trying to do anyway. On a strict sound level, we find a lot of inspiration in field recordings, sampling, ambient/noise music, techno, shoe gaze, jazz and pop. And in the soundtracks to Finnish/Japanese/Dutch Moomin 1990 TV series.

Sgrow – Mind Control live @ Revolver 16.03.13 from Kristoffer Lislegaard on Vimeo.

Were there any goals or expectations you had in mind for it?
We really just wanted to take the next step, and to be picked up by a respected label and actually become a published act seemed like the logical way to get more exposure and to get to play a lot more concerts, hopefully outside Norway as well. It was also a way to part with songs we’d been sitting on for a while, so that we could move on to new things. We recorded the whole thing without knowing if anyone would like it as much as we do, and if we ever would reach those goals, but we found that it might be more simple if we actually had the finished product, so that the people we would pitch it to could really get a representative idea of what Sgrow is about. Luckily, Karmakosmetix Music eventually picked us up, a label we’d had our eyes on from the start. Feels really good!
How long was the recording process for the EP?
We thought we were prepared going into the recording process, and had originally imagined it would take a month, maybe two. It ended up taking six months, and in retrospect that really was a good thing, although we were a bit anxious to just get it done during the process. The songs grew so much during this time, and we learned so much about our own music. What works live, does not necessarily work as well on a record, and it was kind of nice to sit back and be critical of our own material, and as a result hear it improve in front of us.

Image: Sgrow

You are beginning to play large festivals in Europe, which is really exciting, are there any other exciting things on deck for Sgrow?
We have a few exciting projects and concerts going on, but unfortunately nothing we can reveal right now. What we can reveal is that we are currently writing new material for a full-length album that is set to be released in Spring 2014. We think that is as exciting as it can be!

Where did the name Sgrow come from?
That is actually a really nerdy story. We were producing a new song, and working on some details with a few bars in a loop. The lyrics over that loop were ‘is growing’, but the ‘i’ was cut away, so we sat and listened to ‘sgrowing, sgrowing, sgrowing, sgrowing’ for hours while perfecting the sounds in those bars.

Those sounds, which were glitch-y, plucky, manipulated noises that Kristoffer made with his guitar, we started to refer to as Sgrow-sounds and we use them in a lot of our songs. After not figuring out what we should call ourselves, we decided to just go with Sgrow, as it describes our characteristic use of particular sounds.

Image: Sgrow

If you were to look at the core of Sgrow what do you think you hold as key elements of your band?
When we make our music, we’re not trying to adapt to a specific genre, but rather incorporate all kinds of elements from different kinds of music that we like. We try to blend the electronic with the organic, and we use a lot of manipulated audio that we record ourselves, for example chopped guitars, manipulated vocals, atmospheric field recordings, recordings under water with the use of a hydrophone (underwater microphone) – we basically collect all sounds that intrigues us. The last contribution to our collection was the sound of an old elevator in Venice. When it comes to Vilde’s vocals, she’s attracted to the imperfect, the spontaneous and the heartfelt, rather than technical virtuosity. Her lyrics are also truly a key element of what makes Sgrow.

You describe yourself as ‘charmingly unpolished,’ are there any other singular words or phrases that you think can sum up Sgrow?
Organic, warm, dynamic, eclectic, detail-oriented, honest, deep, catchy, and playful.

You discuss it on your website but it is also very self apparent in your videos that for performances the visuals play a strong role. What brought that decision about?
Since we’re only two people on stage, it was a natural step towards expanding our selves so to speak, or to make better use of the space given. We also find that it helps to intensify our artistic expression, and makes it more interesting to watch, especially since the visuals work interactively with the music. We would like to note that for us it serves as a supplement, rather than something to hide behind.

SGROW – Heartstrings live in our living room from Kristoffer Lislegaard on Vimeo.

Are there other elements of your live performances that you believe set you apart from other electronic acts? It seems that it must be a challenge to have a strong presence when your instruments require you to be behind a table.
We’ve given a lot of thought to that aspect. In electronic music it is so easy to just press play and be fine with that. The problem is that it’s totally uninteresting to watch, at least in our opinion. We both come from backgrounds that make it natural for us to want to actually play as much as possible, and so we’ve made that our mission. Of course there’s challenges to it if we’re to maintain our sound and our musical expression, but we do as much as we possibly can. It would be so much easier if we were to travel around with just the two laptops, but we’ve prioritized to scatter everything over a 30 kg flight case worth of midi controllers, mixers, samplers and effects pedals, in addition to drum pads and the guitar. We’ve mapped out as much of the sounds as possible, tilted the controllers towards the audience so that they actually can see what triggers what, and everything is played to the degree it can be. Hence the ‘charmingly unpolished’, if you miss a button by half a second, people will hear it. But we’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the fact that it is nice to feel a human aspect in a type of music that’s usually really strict and mechanic.

Looking towards the future are there any goals and challenges you want to take on as a duo?
We would of course want to make and release a lot more music, and go on tour in Norway and Europe to begin with. That would be a dream come true! Other things that would be fun are to take on some remix-assignments, make music for film or theatre and maybe collaborate with someone on something.

We also want to evolve our live show further. It would be really exciting to make our visuals more extensive and intricate, involving several surfaces and being even more interactive. Finally, we both need to get our drivers licences if we’re to continue to drag all that equipment around.

SGROW – Heartstrings by KristofferLH

To find out more about Sgrow check out their Twitter, Facebook, or Soundcloud pages.
Images: Sgrow
Words: Emma Remington