Oh Land draws 'cinematic' electropop from loneliness
With female pop stars finding inspiration in broken hearts, dance floors and girl-power anthems, Oh Land took her cues from elsewhere: “Just traveling the road, and the restlessness of not really having a home other than where you are at the moment,” is how the Danish singer-songwriter puts it when asked about the source material for the tales of isolation that make up her eponymous stateside debut.
Rightfully, it's understandable that when glancing at her bio, many would say she doesn’t fit into the female pop mold the charts have rewarded in kind. That is, until she walks into a room and her statuesque beauty, flowing tresses and flair for fashion snatch the attention of those around her.
Born Nanna Øland Fabricius, the singer is off to a promising start of getting introduced to an American audience.
After releasing her debut, “Fauna,” back home in 2008, she got discovered by Epic records a year later at the South by Southwest Music festival in Austin, Texas, and immediately packed up a suitcase and hit the road to craft the disc.
Fabricius soon settled in Brooklyn, where she completed the record, which was released in March.
Though her parents made their livings as musicians, it wasn't something she pursued immediately. The 25-year-old spent her formative years pirouetting as a dancer at the Danish Royal Ballet Academy. Then a slipped disc and spinal fracture halted her budding dance career. She channeled the disappointment into “Break the Chain,” a track off the album.
With songs that paint an electro-pop fairy tale -- or, as she described her style, “cinematic” -- the disc goes from the danceable (the album’s breakout single, “Son of a Gun,” and “White Nights”) to the introspective and moody (“Wolf & I” and “Lean”).
“Sounds of the road, like tribes traveling around and a lot of Native American music is what inspired me musically,” she said. “I have a lot of drums that are kind of voodooish. Lots of tribal rhythms. I wanted it to have the feeling of that restlessness from traveling.”
Her videos have racked up nearly 10 million views on YouTube. So far, the Dane has made only a handful of appearances on U.S. television: She’s hit the late-night circuit aggressively doing "Late Night With David Letterman," "Last Call With Carson Daly" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" as well as Logo’s NewNowNext Awards, where she performed twice and collected the Brink of Fame: Music Artist trophy.
She credits YouTube and music blogs for helping build her buzz.
“With the Internet being the biggest music promoter, you can really reach globally because of Vevo and YouTube and all of that,” she said. “Music doesn’t really have a nationality anyways, it’s a universal language. Everybody understands a melody.”
Like her music, her performances flirt with a feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Though she is backed by a small band, Fabricious appears to be alone onstage. She wields drum sticks that she uses to pound on a contraption of drums as video projections beam images of her likeness onto a sea of balloons that fill the stage. Though she isn’t extending her back and legs like she once did, she flails her body about in a frenzy as she dances to the music.
“I go into my own world, so when I go onstage I can give it my all,” she said. “I have these two sides of me: one that is energetic and optimistic and then the more thoughtful, dark and melancholy side. I need to express them both in my music.”
Where the darkness comes from is still a mystery, and maybe Fabricius intends to keep it that way.
“I live a lot in my head. I’m quite a bit of a daydreamer. I feel like mostly I’m looking for answers and I’m searching for them in my life. In my songs, that comes out,” she said of her peculiar vibe. “There are darker songs that come from a place of not knowing where I’m standing. Sometimes, I have moments of clarity where everything comes together and I feel strong or confident where I can express some kind of optimism.”
The singer is currently preparing to hit the road with Francis and the Lights before embarking on her first European tour.
“I’ll be plowing my way through America,” she promised.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photos: Oh Land. Credit: Epic Records