The Swedish artist talks about her new album “Dirt Femme”, about her first sampling experience and about her music presented in “Euphoria”.
On Tove Lo’s fifth album “Dirt Femme” she is the main one. The bold collection of alternative pop tracks, in which she explores femininity in all its aspects, is also a first for the Swedish singer and songwriter: This is the first album she has released on her own label Pretty Swede Records.
“I like it when I have the last word,” she jokes, discussing her new role as head of the NME label in north London. Having assembled a team of employees, she unconditionally trusts Pretty Swede (“I am an employee: I have a great team around me, which I try to really listen to. I don’t think I know everything — I think it’s important when you open your own label!”), she likes to take the initiative: “It’s a lot of work, and it’s a little scary at times, but I like it.”
Her debut release on her own label demonstrates Tove Lo’s clear creative vision. A record in which her signature sound is combined with new influences and with the participation of many intriguing collaborators, these sounds are accompanied by her frankly honest lyrics. “Suburb”, which begins with the words “Now I’m here with you / I never wanted children,” analyzes the social pressure that women face to act “normally”, following the established path of marriage and children. This is a typical Tove Lo approach to songwriting, smuggling powerful themes with killer hooks.
Ahead of the album’s release, Tove Lo joins us to discuss the latest episode of In Conversation on NME, to discuss “Dirt Femme”, working with First Aid Kit and the “How Long” feature on Euphoria. Here’s what we learned.
The name “Dirt Femme” refers to how Tove Lo defines her femininity.
According to her, the original working title of Tove Lo’s fifth studio album was “Female”. “A lot of the songs play on my relationship with my femininity, on how it helped me and hurt me, and how I didn’t feel as proud of my feminine traits before as I do now,” she says of the album’s earliest moniker.
As an aspiring artist, there were times when she felt the need to “strengthen her masculine traits by moving forward in this industry” in order to fit into the male-dominated world of music. “I would consider my feminine traits a weakness, not a strength, and over the years this has really changed. So there is a rudeness in me that I also accept.”
Her debut film role helped her overcome her creative block.
The process of writing “Dirt Femme” began with “No One Dies From Love” in January 2020. “I remember thinking: “I can’t wait to release it before the summer festivals this year,” recalls Tove Lo. track. “And then, obviously, [we all pressed] pause.” For the rest of 2020, gripped by the pandemic, she did not write a single song. “I wasn’t inspired at all. But as soon as I started taking acting lessons for [the 2021 film “Emigrants”], it was kind of a method of acting, but basically it’s digging into your past to find traumatic memories that I could use in this role of a starving prostitute from Sweden in the 1850s. who was my character in the movie.”
The fact that she stayed in one place for so long and did this “kind of therapeutic work” and was completely outside her comfort zone during the making of the film meant that Tove Lo finished filming feeling inspired and ready to write the script. “I think that’s why it’s so dramatic, cinematic and emotional,” she adds of the album, which was written in 2021.
Working with the first aid kit was a dream
In the middle of “Dirt Femme” there is a quieter moment of reflection in the form of the magnificent “Cute & Cruel”. A collaboration with Swedish sisters First Aid Kit, this is a short respite among the sweet synthpop and elegant electronics that dominate the rest of the record.
“I think because it looks like such a turn on the record, I wanted to build on that,” explains Tove Lo of her decision to turn to a folk duo to appear on the track. “I’ve always been a fan of them, I know them personally. And I think I just thought: “Who do I hear in this song? I feel like it would be nice to add someone else’s zest to it.” The result is a stunning, stripped-down version in which Tove Lo and the First Aid Kit create lush, cohesive harmonies on top of a plucked guitar riff. “I’m just really, really happy that everything worked out, and I can’t wait to play with them live. I think it will be beautiful.”
A sample of Tove Lo’s “Popcorn” became the first in his career
“Dirt Femme” includes an unlikely sample in the form of “Popcorn” Hot Butter. Appearing on “2 Die 4”, Tove Lo combines the classics of synth-pop of the 70s with modern electronics and crisp sound. Reflecting on how the sample came to be, she explains to NME that when working on the song with Swedish producer Oscar Gerres, they originally intended to explore a more “trance [sound] world of the 90s.” Having created the opening synth riff of the track, “Popcorn” “just popped into my head!”
Humming a melody over synthesizer chords, they realized that “Popcorn” fits so perfectly that they started cleaning up the sample, which, fortunately, they managed to do. “To be honest, it was the biggest problem to match the lyrics with the message of this melody. It was very hard, but it worked! This is my first time sampling or doing something like that, and I’m happy that it’s him.”
It was an honor to have the “How long” feature in Euphoria
The very first taste we got from “Dirt Femme” was “How Long”. The release of this single in January coincided with his appearance in an episode of Euphoria on HBO. Being a big fan of the show, Tove Lo sought to embody this feature. “When I saw the first season of Euphoria, I was amazed. I thought: “This show was created for me, I need a song in this show.”
Deciding to bring this to life, she wrote a letter to the show’s creator Sam Levinson and sent the show’s organizers some songs that, in her opinion, would be suitable for the show. “I just said: “I’m a big fan of this show, I like the way it’s shot, the visual plot, its crudeness, I just think it’s amazing,” she recalls. “It would be a great honor for me if you would play one of my songs in the show, here are a few options.” And it worked — after all, if you don’t ask, you won’t get.
Tove Lo’s new album “Dirt Femme” is released on Friday (October 14)