“I am going to be completely honest with you” sings Danish artist Brimheim on the opening to her exquisitely tender track ‘favorite day of the week‘. It’s a simple enough statement, but she delivers it with startling conviction via crystalline vocals and her considered instrumentation. It’s this combined candid and tentative approach that makes listening to her debut album, can’t hate myself into a different shape, such a cathartic and rewarding experience. Set for release on the 28th January, and the follow up to her 2020 EP, Myself Misspelled, it’s a poignant reflection on love in all its forms; romantic, platonic and perhaps the hardest love to articulate: self love.
Brimheim – a name chosen as a homage to her roots in the Faroe Islands, translating as “home of the breaking waves” – worked alongside producer Søren Buhl Lassen to create the sublime sounds on her new record, which blossomed from a place of deep personal pain during a global pandemic. Despite the raw and confessional aesthetic of her music, when I meet her via Zoom she is in good spirits, laughing throughout the interview at her own Aquarian personality traits and willingly fan-girling over Avril Lavigne with me. We speak about her musical origins, her favourite tracks on her upcoming record, and what it’s like to transform moments of darkness into pure and palpable joy…
A good place to start would be with your first memories of music, can you remember who or what first inspired you to start making your own music?
Sure, my mum is a musician and she had a home recording studio in the apartment I grew up in, so ever since I was little I’ve been singing and writing little children’s songs of my own. But it wasn’t until I discovered our queen Avril Lavigne when I was 12 years old, when I saw the ‘Complicated’ music video on a Danish music TV programme that I was like, “oh my god, is this allowed? Is this a way to be?”
She was on a skateboard and she was playing the guitar, goofing around with her friends who were all boys. It was one of those “I’m not like the other girls” bullshit moments, you know? – but as a young girl, that spoke to me. That was kind of my gateway drug into thinking a little bit more about how I could do music, how could I do that and make it my own. I have diary entries from the time where I was like, “I want to go to New York City and become a big rock star!”
My Mum has always been incredibly supportive. She bought a guitar for me and I learned three chords and then I was like, “Okay, that’s all I need, I don’t want to like practice this crap, I just want to write songs and stand on that stage already!” So yeah, that’s kind of how it happened.
I love this and I absolutely love Avril Lavigne too. I was also about 12 years old when her debut album came out. I never got to see her live when I was a teenager, but I’ve got tickets to see her this year in London and I feel like I’m going to cry the whole way through. I’m going to be a 31 year old woman crying in the crowd…
I love that. I’m sure there will be many like minded people right alongside of you, crying the whole way through.
I hope so. Your video for your single ‘hey amanda’ is quite Avril Lavigne-esque. When I first saw it I was concentrating on the fact that you have two members of Baby In Vain in the band with you, but now you’ve mentioned Avril, the video makes so much more sense to me. Tell me all about it…
Totally, that was definitely an inspiration. It was so fun to film because usually I’m a solo act, so most of the stuff that I do with press and with music videos is all just me. I was really stoked that they (Baby In Vain) were in it, they’re my live band and my dear friends, so when I asked ask them “would you be up for just goofing around and having a good time on camera?” they were up for it. Usually I don’t get to do that with people.
The video for my other single ‘poison fizzing on a tongue’ is a lot more ambitious and probably more my vibe, but I wanted to do something that was light and that showcased the other end of the spectrum with ‘hey amanda’. I don’t want to really lock myself into “everything needs to be dark and gothy,” I’d like to be able to to express all of those different things. And some things can just be for shits and giggs!
Absolutely. You wrote ‘hey amanda’ as an ode to your friend and a celebration of platonic love. How did Amanda react when she first heard the song?
Amanda moved to Montreal five or six years ago, so we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. We call each other often and we send stuff back and forth so we have a long distance friendship. I’d sent her the the initial demo of the song and I didn’t get a reply.
I just spiralled. I was like, “oh, no, oh, no, no, what did I do? Did I just totally offend her? Was it too private?” Then I started getting a little annoyed, like, “how can she be offended about this?” already having the argument in my head…but it turns out she just hadn’t seen the attachment. When she heard it she cried. She never really posts anything on social media, but she posted such nice things about it. It was really precious. I’m glad she felt it, because I’m really proud of the song and I mean every word of it.
It’s a great song. Let’s talk about your album as a whole. I absolutely love the title, can’t hate myself into a different shape. I don’t mean to generalise an entire record of songs, but after listening to it, it feels like you’ve transformed experiences of feeling really vulnerable into something that sounds really beautiful and atmospheric.
You explore themes of romantic love, platonic love, and coming to terms with trying to love yourself as well. Was it a cathartic record to write? Because for me, it was definitely a cathartic record to listen to.
First of all, thank you very much. I feel very seen. It was a split experience, I’d say. I was deep in a depression hole in the whole latter part of of 2020, and that’s when I actually kind of launched my career and tried to go pro with this music thing that I had been trying to do my whole life.
I’d had a lot of attention and hype in Denmark and the Faroe Islands especially, way more than I had expected. I was in a really good place with my wife – she’s American and I’m Danish, so we had immigration difficulties – but all of that was kind of landing in nice places and my career was going well. Then, of course, the external factors of a pandemic shutting everything down just made me really fucking depressed. I was struggling a lot and feeling super overwhelmed and unable to cope with my own feelings. This is something that I’ve experienced often in my life, and probably will again, but this was a long stretch of time that it lasted.
I attempted to write songs while I was feeling like shit and had no energy, and it ended up just being very small snippets that I recorded on my phone with my guitar. Small ideas to set the bar for success really, really low for having been creative that day. Then I booked time in the studio with Søren Buhl, who produced the record with me. I hadn’t really worked with him before, I didn’t really know him, so I was nervous about it. I felt like I wasn’t really prepared enough because the things I had were so bare bones and such small ideas. But it turns out that our chemistry and our tastes were super aligned and it was kind of a blessing that the little kernels I had were so open ended, because that made that second part of the process of me and him working together in the studio super cathartic.
I felt like I’d been in this black muddy place, not able to see anything and kind of drowning, and then I slowly started emerging from that through this process of transforming these ideas into arrangements and recorded music with a structure. It was so life affirming. Again, because I am a solo artist, there can be a lot of self doubt and suffering involved! But this was the first time I’ve worked with anybody where it just was easy. So from those little ideas that I brought into the studio, that whole process of transforming them into a finished record took only about eight months, which is like outrageously fast. That makes really excited also to release it, because it still feels super fresh and relevant for me. It took me three years to record and release my debut EP, which is just five songs. But this record just feels really relevant still for me.
Do you have a favourite track on the record? Or does it change all the time?
I think it changes, but I really love the title track which is the second song on the album. For me it sums up what I’m trying to say and I think it was the first song we worked on after we decided we were going to make a record.
I think ‘poison fizzing on a tongue’ might be my favourite track on your new album. I feel like I could listen to it every day and still find something new I haven’t heard before.
Thank you! We made ‘poison’ in the second session in the studio. That was the moment I realised “okay, something really special is going on here.” It kind of came together as it sounds. It just happened in four hours and it sounded like that. I was like, “Oh my God, what just happened? This is amazing!” Especially after I’d been in such a depressive state where I’m like “I’m a piece of shit, everything sucks, I suck” and then being like “this is actually super cool!” that was a good feeling.
That sounds like good affirmation. Do you think that music, whether it’s the music you’re writing or the music you’re listening to, is a good way of understanding or moving past that dark headspace?
For sure. I discovered with this particular round on the depression carousel that I almost didn’t want to listen to music though, because it made me feel stuff. But that also speaks to the power of it, right? I didn’t want to feel anything, or maybe I did? But it felt very vulnerable to feel stuff. Now I’ve discovered that having someone to bounce energy and ideas off of in the studio is incredibly healing.
It sounds like a symbiotic relationship with Søren Buhl?
I can be kind of an Aquarius about things, I can be a little bit closed off to talking about super personal stuff – I do that through my music, that’s where I have my outlet. I can have a little bit of a distance towards people at first, because you know, you don’t want to overwhelm them with your shit! So it was pretty late that I sort of confessed to Søren how very, very special for me and incredibly healing this experience was. I was like “this is one of my favourite things I’ve ever done in my life, you’re one of my favourite people, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that because we just work together,” but luckily he felt the same, which I was so proud of because he works was with a lot of incredibly talented Danish artists.
What would you say you’re most proud of about this particular record?
I think that I managed to turn off any kind of inner critic. You know, the bad mob inside your head that says “no, it’s not this enough,it’s not that enough…” I was very much just saying yes to whatever ideas felt right. I think that really shines through and I think that it sounds really free. I think that’s what I’m most proud of.
What are your plans for performing the record live in 2022? I know Covid-19 restrictions are different in each country, but talk to me about playing live…
You know, launching a music career in the middle of a pandemic, it felt like something was missing because I couldn’t really tour my EP. But then in the summer things opened up, and I got to play a lot of Danish festivals and that was a great experience. It was stressful, because everything had to be booked in such a short time, it felt a little bit chaotic, but it was a really, really, really nice feeling to get to play the songs live to people who were really grateful to be at festivals again.
Then I had my first headliner tour of the major Danish cities in December, and I got to play two of them before the big finale show in Copenhagen got cancelled. That was a hard one to swallow. But I’m going to tour a bunch of Danish satellite towns in February and March. I’m also going to the Faroe Islands to have my first headline show there. I think my agent is also working on getting me to Germany and the UK, but we’ll see restriction-wise what works.
I’m trying to just let myself be excited about it, but yeah, it’s hard after after everything. So many concerts have been postponed that I got tickets for ages ago. So while I’m doing the tour, I have all these great shows to fit in between. It’ll be a wild few months.
Finally, we always ask artists to recommend another band or artist that they’ve been listening to recently. Is there anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?
Sure. A pretty cool thing that happened, at least for my music listening habits during the pandemic, was that I started listening to a lot more local music. The energy was more focused, even in the media, with what was going on locally. A bunch of really, really cool stuff from from the Faroe Islands and Copenhagen has caught my attention way more than maybe it would have before. One of my favourites is eee gee. It’s very retro-pop, vulnerable but still sassy, with sort of a 60s tinge to it, but not overtly, so it still sounds modern. I’ve been really obsessed with this one song ‘killing it’.
And then, of course, my labelmate Greta. We have sort of had parallel paths for the last few years. We met nine years ago and we studied song-writing together and now we have the same manager too. She’s released some some new singles that are like ABBA-meets-Kate Bush-meets-Berlin 90s rave. It’s really, really cool. She became a mum in the middle of everything too and I especially like how she marketed her record with her big pregnant belly alongside this kind of Berlin techno music, I was like *chef’s kiss* this is great!
Pre-order Brimheim’s new album, can’t hate myself into a different shape, here
Photo Credit: Hey Jack