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Sondre Lerche interview

| February 28, 2007 | 0 Comments

Sondre Lerche
On Elvis Costello, Burt Bacharach, And A Decent New York Apartment


The somewhat serene, expansive surroundings of Norway — Sondre Lerche’s homeland — are in quite significant contrast to his location during this particular conversation (his recently acquired New York City apartment). For starters, it’s apparent there’s plenty of hustle and bustle in the background, plus the singer-songwriter sounds slightly out of breath for the first few minutes. And that he should, especially because it’s his first day back in America after visiting family and friends and he has to transition from unpacking to album promoting.

Appearing: April 1st (moved from March 30) at Double Door in Chicago.

“Yeah it’s pretty different, first of all because New York has a lot of people crammed into one very tiny area whereas Norway is a pretty big country with four-and-a-half million people spread out,” he says in an inviting accent, breaking the ice with a quick contrast before addressing more pressing matters. “My wife studies here and I travel so much that basically I can be anywhere, but I have noticed the apartments are a lot smaller here.”

If all goes according to plan with the tunesmith’s latest project, Phantom Punch (Astralwerks), chances are he’ll be moving on up to a much larger highrise or into a house all his own. So far odds seem to point in the 24-year-old’s direction given a rabid grassroots fanbase overseas, not to mention in the American underground. It’s a platform Lerche has steadily built since debuting as a mere teenager in 2002 with Faces Down, and has carefully cultivated across 2004’s Two Way Monologue and last year’s Duper Sessions.

“On the first two records, I was very keen on making the songs as elaborate and as full of ideas and arrangements as possible,” he asserts. “They were full of a lot of color, strings, and production. When we set out for Duper Sessions, I had already decided to make Phantom Punch [in America], but had to wait due to scheduling reasons. So I got together with my band [The Faces Down] at home in Norway and we tried to make really short and concise songs, which carried into this record. They’re stylistically different, but both records are about getting just a few musicians together and trying to make a lean sound.”

Much of that newfound, minimalist inspiration came from touring with English rock legend Elvis Costello, one of Lerche’s all-time favorites. At first, the opportunity was nerve-racking for the relative newcomer, especially because Costello’s fans were split between the open-minded and the freakishly loyal.

“Some nights it was really fun and others were harder because you had a feeling they just wanted to see Elvis, and you can’t really blame them for that!” he offers with a laugh. “But the tour really helped inspire me to make a record with my band that was really physical and restless, where you could feel the energy of four people in a room. I went back and listened to a lot of his earlier records and some later ones, along with early XTC and a lot of early-’80s British pop.”

Those influences are clearly apparent come the gutsy grinds of “The Tape” and “Face The Blood,” along with the sweeping melodies of “Well Well Well,” “She’s Fantastic,” and “Say It All.” But just when Lerche’s code might crack, he throws in some pretty serious loops, including his love for Brazilian music and Burt Bacharach (in his hipper, Austin Powers phase as opposed to the Dionne Warwick era).

“When I first took guitar lessons [at age eight], I learned a lot of Brazilian standards,” he recalls. “That was my first exposure, but the interest has stayed with me and I’ve went on to discover a lot of other different artists and their takes. I’m a huge fan of Burt Bacharach, which makes a lot of sense because his main inspiration was Brazilian music.”

Andy Argyrakis

Bossa nova around Chicagoland to find the March issue of Illinois Entertainer and finish the article.

Category: Features, Monthly

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