Queens And Creativity: Meeting Mira Aasma

In a year of strong albums, Mira Aasma’s self-titled debut stood out. The Gothenburg musician released it in May, and its range (it takes in several styles, from indie to electronica) and emotional power, and a series of acclaimed live shows across Sweden, made it clear that she’s a new artist you simply have to watch. We caught up with her to find out more.

Let’s start from the start. Tell us the story of your album briefly, from when you started to when you wrapped it up.

It started with the idea of making an album, and then I had a few songs that were already almost done. And then I had some ideas that would become future songs. So I collected them and started sketching which songs were going to be on the album. I actually started producing them at the same time, producing them from the demo to the final production. Some of lyrics are a couple of years old, and then I put them in new contexts and they fit.

So you were picking up lyrics and bits of memories you had around for a while?

Yeah. Mostly I mix different ideas and then put them together into a song. When I was producing, I started with the electronic parts, which I could do at home, and I then I collaborated with a studio, Music-A-Matic on Tredje Långgatan. I worked with the sound technician there, we recorded drums and vocals there. We worked a lot with the vocals with a voice coach, to get the best out of the vocals and the lyrics. Then I sat down and sliced up drum packages, sat in the studio for ages editing drums. I’m really a perfectionist.

A lot of your songwriting is pretty structurally complex, Machines for example goes through a bunch of different phases. So I was wondering what your songwriting process is like, how does a song go from start to finish normally?

That’s actually a difficult question, because it’s a such a cliché to say ‘It differs every time’! But it really does. For Whatever on the album, I woke up with the chorus in my head, with the whole arrangement, with the lyrics, with the soundscape. So that one just came, and that’s quite annoying, because you can’t control when it happens! But I think when you’ve opening up those creative doors in your mind, it’s much easier to get those ideas. Because when you start writing, it’s always something you’re thinking of, for example when you hear someone say something poetic somewhere. Then you think ‘Oh, I have to make a song about it!’. Or you just come up with melodies in your head. If you have a creative period, it’s much easier.

Talking about your songwriting topics. The opener, Snow White Wedding, is about a couple falling through the ice on their wedding day, and Machines is about technological dystopia. So are you attracted to darker themes in your songwriting?

Hahaha, yeah. I think I process the darker parts of my mind through stories and tales. It comes from somewhere inside me, I’ve always been fascinated by supernatural things. When I was small I was really into UFOs and the Lough Ness monster. Those were the most exciting things for me.

So stuff a little outside the everyday?

Yeah. I think it’s a way of communicating. When we talk about the supernatural, we’re always talking about our own feelings. It’s always about something inside us I think. I’ve always been fascinated by it.

I wanted to ask about My Queens. You’re a woman in the music industry, which has a history of sexism. Was that a particularly important song for you to make?

Yeah, it was, and Mirrors was too. It’s about how you always have concerns about your body, every girl or woman or non-binary person I know has had concerns about their body. It’s so frustrating to have your life circling around that, that it takes up your time and energy. With My Queens, I made that song quite quickly. My friends had a demonstration in school. There was photography teacher that had forbidden a picture of a girl showing her tits, they cut it from an exhibition. So my classmates had a discussion with the teachers about it, and the teachers were assholes about it, so they had a demonstration, at the school festival. They went up on stage with tape on their nipples. I saw it on tape afterwards and I was so proud of them, it was so amazing. I wanted to make a tribute to all those amazing people, who stood up against something wrong.

There’s quite a few different musical styles on the album. You go from something like Mirrors, which is aggressive and electronic, to Lyckans Famn, more soft and orchestral, then Machines, which is experimental, then My Queens, which is almost indie folk-pop. Were there a lot of different ideas you wanted to get on the record?

Yeah, exactly. I think it’s really hard today, because it feels like in the music industry you have to stick to one idea. It’s been hard for this album, because it’s too experimental to be pop, and it’s too poppy to be experimental, it’s too this and too that. You can’t put it in one box. And that’s really quite boring I think. I understand that people want to place the thing they’re listening to, but… I think it’s quite sad that the music industry has to always be really, really specific about what genre you are. It’s quite a special album in that way, it’s not adapted to the music industry. I’ve had so many great experiences and opportunities because of this album, but it’s hard for it to get the most listens on Spotify. It’s hard to get it out there. But I don’t think that matters so much, really. I’ve had a lot of great response to the album, and I’m so happy that people get something from listening to the album.

You mentioned in interviews that music started for you with your parents, who played in samba groups. And I know it’s a long way from what you do know, but was it advantageous for you to be around musicians and music so early in your life?

Yeah, I think it really was. I’ve never seen it as growing up in a family that worked in culture, but they were rehearsing and they would take me to places where they’d be playing together, I was shaking maracas and singing along. I think it had a lot of impact on my drum-mind. I really like working with drums, so maybe it’s widened my perspective on drums, beats and rhythms. I was going to a music school for high-school in Gothenburg, so I was always around musicians, but I never felt like I found my place until I started production.

So was learning to produce the thing that opening the door for you, to take music really seriously and start Mira Aasma as a project?

Yes, definitely. The summer I made my first demos I started to email people and get my music out there. I got in contact with Birds Records. We signed back in December, two years ago, and then it really became for real. It’s psychologically really good to know that you are releasing something soon.

So what’s next?

I’m making a lot of new music. I’ve written a lot this summer and spring. I had some ideas and then the creative doors opened. I actually had a meeting this morning with two other producers, and we’re putting together a new song. I don’t have a release date yet, but we have the demo. It’s going to really interesting to just work on one song for a while, and make it the best it can be. It’s going to be cool!

Mira Aasma is out now on Birds Records.

Words: Austin Maloney

This article first appeared in Totally Gothenburg