In Search Of The Forever Sound With Linn Koch-Emmery

Photo: Karin Lundin

Linn Koch-Emmery loves guitars, and that love is painted all over her debut EP Boys. Norrköping-born but Stockholm-based, she released her debut single Come Back in mid-2016, and followed it up with Forever Sounds earlier this year, two songs that showcased her ability to write lo-fi indie with melodies so sharp that they bury their way into your head for weeks. Boys shows off a wider range of Koch-Emmery’s sound, from the scuzz-rock of opener Bby Nevermind and Forever Sounds, to the moody shoegaze of Under The Sun, and we caught up with her to talk about it.

Ok, so you started off playing with your twin Lea (currently in Kid Wave). At what point did you decide to step out on your own as a solo artist?

Lea moved to London right after high-school, so the band we had during high-school and middle school split up. I had one year left in school in Norrköping. I was still writing new music, and I ended up having lots of demos lying around, and I knew I wanted to do something. So I moved to Stockholm around 2013. I finished the demos, and I had one that I felt was really good so I sent it to my friend and producer Niklas, and it kind of started out from there.

What was the timeframe of that? Because you officially debuted in summer last year.

We properly started recording the songs, I guess that was at the beginning of 2016, and then Come Back was released on June 1. I think we started in February or March, so we’ve been recording for a while, and then we just had to get on track with where I wanted to release the music, and all the stuff around the music. There’s so much other stuff around the music that you don’t really think about, and all that has to fall into place.

You’ve spoken about being a solo artist, and you’ve said that you really like the fact that the creative responsibility for everything is on you. So is having that freedom, that control over every aspect of the project really important to you as an artist?

Yeah, that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to go solo and do stuff by myself, and not play in a band. I always had really firm views on how I wanted it to sound. When you play in a band you have to compromise a bit with the sound, that’s natural. So I felt if I’m going to do it in my name, by myself this time, it has to be 100% me, all the way. I want to write my songs completely by myself, and have the final say about stuff. I guess that’s what I like most about going solo. Sometimes it’s really good to work with a producer and band members, because you can get their input in it and other points of view.

I think the quote from one of your interviews was “you have a band but you can tell them what to do”?

Yeah [laughs], that’s exactly my view. You can tell people ‘I like that, that’s good!’, or ‘I want it to sound more like that’, or ‘can you add something there?’. I can’t play drums or bass very well, so I do have to work with [other] musicians, and they are all individuals. I can take their stuff, and if I’m not entirely satisfied with how I want it to sound I can try and work around that and communicate with them [how I want it to sound]. The guys I’m working with are really cool, they know exactly how I want it to sound, so we nailed it straight away, which is amazing. It’s also good for me work with other people and get other input and perspectives, otherwise it would just sound the same all the time, and be boring as well.

Moving on to the EP itself. Two of the songs on it, Bby Nevermind and Forever Sounds, are these really direct songs, they’re got these big sparky guitar lines and these huge choruses. Is that something you really aim for in your songwriting style, that you want to write these massive catchy songs that stick in people’s heads?

It’s nothing that I aim for. It kind of just happens. When I first wrote Bby Nevermind, I imagined it being quite fast and bit quirky, I did not think of it as something that was necessary catchy. Then we recorded it and we realised, when we played it live for the first time, that it sounded completely different, both recorded and live, than it did on my demo, my demo is much more plain [laughs]. So it kind of just happened. But I guess that’s also my sound, I like it when it’s really simple, and I think that it’s simple stuff that can be the most catchy, it gets repetitive in your brain, it’s easy for your mind to get that.

Do you tend to write music in a way that matches the mood of the lyrics of the song? If you take a song like Little Feels, it’s more fragile and vulnerable in the lyrics and it’s got that softer, gentler music to it as well.

There might be, but even if you listen to the other songs the lyrics are quite melancholic as well. I think the lyrics on the EP are basically about the same type of stuff, and have the same kind of vibe to them. But in the context of the other songs being more punky and direct, it feels like Little Feels is more vulnerable. But it also is, it’s a really sad song [laughs]! I also feel that when we play that live, it’s almost a bit awkward. The others songs you can kind of hide behind, because they’re more catchy and danceable, Little Feels, there’s nothing happy about it at all. It’s definitely more direct in that way.

Do you think it’s got an important place on the EP in that sense, because you’ve three faster, more scuzzy aggressive songs, and then you’ve got this breathing point in the middle with Little Feels.

Definitely. It’s a part of me as well, I write a lot of different songs and they’re not always fast and catchy. The EP turned out that way, but Little Feels is a dimension of my songwriting as well. It’s just a different arrangement and set-up of the song, but the song is telling the same kind of story, has the same kind of guitar sound. It’s just a different way of telling the story. It’s nice that I have a breather, it gets really fast and intense with some of the other tracks, and it’s also nice to show a different view of myself, that it [the EP] has more than one dimension, because it definitely has.

You’ve called Under The Sun “maybe the meanest break-up song ever written”, do you think having that little bit of emotional poison in the song makes it more compelling, gives it a bit more bite? Those are often the songs we remember most, the ones that have that bit of edge.

Definitely. It was the first song that I wrote for the project, and it kind of set the vibe for the rest of the songwriting for it. It definitely has more of a bite to it. I’m not an aggressive kind of person, and I don’t think it’s an aggressive song, but it has something arrogant to it, like in the lyrics. I think you can get some irony and a fun vibe off it, when you listen to it as well, it’s not necessarily meant to be taken literally. The good thing about songs is that you can write them and write about the stuff you don’t really say.

It’s an outlet

Yeah, definitely. It doesn’t have to be strictly literal. I don’t have to take responsibility for what it says, it’s just my thoughts on it [the subject], and that’s really nice with songwriting I think. I’m not responsible for the things I say, it’s just a song [laughs]. It’s fun, but it is definitely a mean break-up song. Someone compared it to Beyonce’s song, Sorry. It’s not that kind of forward, direct I-hate-you song, it’s more of an I-don’t-care kind of song.

What’s the line? “I left you under the sun…”

“…I’m kinda sad it hits so hard”. You don’t want the person you’ve spent some time with to say “I’m kinda sad”, I would be really sad if that happened. If someone wrote this song about me, I would definitely get upset. It’s a punch in the face, but a soft one. Not even a hard one, because you don’t want to put the effort in [laughs].

So you’ve worked with your producer Niklas Berglöf for a lot of years. So what does he bring to the table, and how much of an asset is have a working relationship with someone for that long? Especially in music, where you really need to trust the people you’re collaborating with.

I’ve actually never worked with anyone other than Niklas. We found each other when I was 14, 13 in Norrköping, when I started my first band, and he’s recorded all my musical projects since, which is kind of cool, I think. He was one of the reasons I moved to Stockholm, because he’s also my best friend. He loved the same kind of music that I do, he inspires me a lot, and he also plays guitar in my band. So he’s a big influence. And the thing is, when you know each other that well, we’re also really straightforward with each other when we work. So we can say ‘that sucked, you’ll have to do it again’ and ‘that’s not a good idea’. Which I think makes the process a bit quicker, because no one gets offended. And of course sometimes we don’t get along with each other. I think he really inspires my songwriting and is a great producer in general, so I’m really happy that he’s also my best friend, and we can do this together. He’s a few years older than me and has been in the music industry for a while, and he’s like my brother in the whole process. And I call him about everything! Which bugs him a lot I think! But it’s great to have someone who you can ask those questions, even when they’re dumb questions.

To wrap it up, Boys lands on October 20. What’s next once that EP drops?

I want to play a lot live, and we’re probably going to have some release shows with the EP. Then I’m on the way to writing new material, next EP album, whatever. So I’m a step ahead already, I’m personally most excited about that. But when the EP comes we’ll celebrate that and play some shows. But the next project is already on the way, it’s more fun like that!

Photo: Alva Roselius

Boys is out on Welfare Sounds & Recordings on October 20.

Words: Austin Maloney