Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Interview - Action Biker
Swedish musician Action Biker has released her debut album, Hesperian Puisto, the title of which is named after a park in Helsinki. Sarah Nyberg Pergament credits influences as diverse as Moondog, Francoise Hardy, Syd Barrett, Flying Lizards, and Maurice Ravel. And yes, it's actually possible to perceive hints of all these inspirations.
The texture of her carefully arranged songs feature tendrils of delicate melodic lines woven in distinct counterpoint. The finely etched details of her compositions are probably due to her many years studying classical music. The brief tracks are interspersed with even briefer miniatures like diverting intermissions between vocal tracks. A fan of old musicals, she even does an idiosyncratic cover of the old standard, "By Myself," from the 1937 musical, "Between The Devil," by Dietz and Schwartz, performed by Fred Astaire in the 1953 film, "The Bandwagon." Fans of Au Revoir Simone or Broadcast should love this album.
Her thin, girlish voice is perfectly matched to her vulnerable and delightfully personal lyrics, including a quirky tribute to her favorite grocery store.
The title track is based on this lovely chord progression: A flat Maj7 / g min7 / d min / C Maj7.
I recently interviewed Sarah about her new album and her musical background:
Your new album is lovely. Are you happy with the way it turned out?
Thanks. Yes I guess I am. But it was quite difficult to finally decide that it was finished, but after working on it for a few years I felt it was important to complete something. The second one will be much easier to make and won't take another five years!
I know the name Action Biker comes from an old computer game. Why do you use a pseudonym?
I like to keep some distance between who I am and what I do I guess. Even though it's very related. It was my friend Anton who came up with the idea of the name. He was a big Commodore 64 enthusiast and he just decided that that was to be my artist name... if ever I'd release something. This was after I'd made one or two songs, and I had no idea that people would actually would come to hear them.
Why did you choose to record the tune, "By Myself?" And are you playing flute on that, or is it a sampler?
I'm a big fan of old musicals, especially the ones with Fred Astaire. In the musical "Bandwagon" he gets off a train and starts to sing this song to himself. I chose to include some flute on it since my father is a professional flautist, and I felt I wanted to include him on the record somehow.
Your songs are very meticulously put together. Did you study classical music?
I used to play violin for ten years and the piano for seven years. But I gave it up when I was fourteen. I took some singing lessons a few years later. I've grown up with classical music, since my parents are classical musicians and I listen a lot to it still.
There are a number of short tracks on Hesperian Puisto. What role do these miniature compositions play in flow of the album?
It's just something that felt natural to me, since I've done a lot of tracks like this that I guess maybe don't seem to make sense at all but still they are part of what I do. I just wanted to be honest. I wanted to include things I like to do.
As I listen to the album, I keep feeling it is telling a story, rather than just a collection of tracks. True of false?
I'm not sure. If that's how people feel that's fine. The record and my lyrics are quite personal even if the subjects vary a lot. A difficult break up or thoughts about refrigerators. I never intended to do a story though.
What software and equipment do you use for producing music?
Reason and Cubase.
Swedish pop acts, for example: Komeda, Club 8, Cardigans, and Robyn, are all very different from each other. Yet, they seem to have certain qualities in common, such as lightness, poise, restraint, melodic inventiveness, and pretty surfaces. How do you think the Swedish national character is reflected in its pop music?
I don't know really, since both the light pop and hard rock scene is quite big here. The Indiepop scene here has got quite a reputation during the last couple of years, I don't know how it reflects the Swedish people though. We're told to be quite introverted and shy, maybe we need to make music to express ourselves. Aaah! I don't know!
I read an article in Spin magazine that the Swedish government takes an active role in supporting pop music. How has the Swedish government helped you in career in any way?
Not in any way whatsoever! But I've never tried, I'm happy to work on my own without support, I really don't care about money or anything, not even gigs that much. This is something I do on my spare time. I get my money for being a student, I sure wish they'd help the students more over here!
I read that you played the NYC Popfest at the Cake Shop in June. How did you like performing in New York? Will you be returning to the US any time soon?
I must say I got a strange feeling somehow. I can't explain it. I liked it, but I was very jet lagged so I felt quite confused. I'd love to return some day. I had a wonderful time in New York. I loved Central Park.
Thank you Sarah!