Listening to Tove Lo’s new album, Sunshine Kitty, is as vitalizing as running naked through a canyon, buzzed on the fresh air. Sunshine Kitty: Paw Prints deluxe edition is full of jubilant dance parties, packed with enough punch to break the emotion out of you. But instead of flowing like a river, you’re held in the arms of someone who gets it.
“Never know tears for that sucker…only one dick, that’s a bummer.” ‘Glad That He’s Gone,’ Tove Lo, Sunshine Kitty
Book-ended with high octaves and atmospheric distortion, the collection is an edgy Tove meets refined, 2020 pop. Like pebbles in the sand, Sunshine Kitty: Paw Prints Edition is decorated with Tove Lo’s emblematic “uh uh’s,” melodic moans, and lyrical pop liberation. She lives through her rasp like a vulnerable whisper, akin to a delicate Billie Eilish delivery, but like rivers leading to an ocean, Tove Lo carries you out into the deep end.
Replacing fear with friendship, ‘Glad That He’s Gone’ is – true to form – one of the most unpredictable and gratifying videos of 2020, and was nominated for Best Music Video at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. Another undeniable gem on the Paw Prints Edition is ‘Sadder, Badder, Cooler,’ no doubt topping as your delicious summer jam, alongside its campy music video.
There’s a sort of empathy, a space for vulnerability, circling around our globe today. When I spoke to Tove, she was raw and uncut as if we’d known each other for years. Tove Lo remains one of the most unfeigned artists we’ve ever seen, reminding us that it’s not bold to be yourself; rather, it’s crucial.
“I get uncomfortable pretending not to have an opinion about something if I know it’s wrong. Not toning myself down has been the key all the way through.”
The overnight pop sensation has continued to be forthright, ever growing into herself as a dynamic artist. Where social media had once favored filters and fantasies, the Swede-native is continuing her stride by stepping into the present where vulnerability is most needed. Our conversation quickly poured into how we can be the best allies for the black community, joining a movement that has been a longtime coming.
Quarantining at home in LA, Tove has been vocal on her Instagram and active in the protests around the city. Speaking about ally-ship, handling extreme emotion, and proud self love, and here is my conversation with Tove Lo.
I don’t think anyone anticipated we’d have to be doing photoshoots over zoom. Yet here we are.
Exactly, here we are. It turned out really cool! In terms of the lockdown, I haven’t been in one place this long for at least 7 or 8 years! I just feel lucky that I live with people that I love, and still enjoy their company.
Have you developed any sort of quarantine routine? Anything keeping you sane?
When I got back from tour in March, it was like “Okay, you’re locked in now for a month.” I’m gonna work out, gonna be cooking more…after getting locked in for longer and longer, everything’s kind of fallen apart *laughs.* I just kind of do what comes to mind when I wake up. I’ve had no inspiration to write, really, but I’ve been making tracks. Just sort of getting into the technical and getting better at producing.
The way your music has developed, you’ve maintained a genuinity that’s autobiographical and edgy – when ‘Habits’ came out all those years ago, did you have a vision for yourself as an artist, and how does that compare to where you are now?
Thank you, first of all, that’s so great to hear! When ‘Habits’ started to take off, I was like, ‘Is this happening now?’ I thought I was going to have a career as a songwriter, and that my artist project would be my indie career on the side where I could do whatever I wanted. And that’s the thing that’s stayed constant. I’ve always done what I’ve wanted to do.
For my soul, it’s really really important. I get uncomfortable pretending not to have an opinion about something if I know it’s wrong. Not toning myself down has been the key all the way through. And that’s become provocative or political, but…just stay honest. And don’t say something that you don’t have within you.
Did you ever have a period of finding yourself as a songwriter, being able to strip back and say what you wanted to say? Or was that natural?
That took a minute. I’ve been writing my whole life, journals, short stories and poems, so I used writing as a way to say what I wanted to say. But there was still four or five years of writing and getting rejected before I got a publishing deal with people that were giving me good feedback, and could highlight my strengths. When you’re doing it on your own and no one is believing you, you’re fumbling and in your own head. I think you need other people around you to really get you forward. By this point I feel really confident in my lyrics, but I know when it’s time to challenge myself. As soon as you get too comfortable in your art, you have to change things up!
Speaking of changing things up, you released these really unique short films Fire Fade and Fairy Dust. For you, how are acting and music similar?
To me, music videos and acting in them shows more layers of the song. Because…it will be interpreted in different ways by different people depending on their own experiences. But whenever I add an acting element to it, it gives it more life. It’s all about body movement and tone, rather than what you’re actually saying. So you’re showing these layers physically rather than with your voice. When I write about something, I think back to that moment and connect back to it, and I feel like I’m in that emotion. It’s kind of the same thing with acting, you have to gather from your own experience no matter what your part is.
Right! When you come off stage, which I guess is kind of a fargone feeling now, but do you have sort of like a comedown ritual? Or sort of something to pull back all of those emotions at the forefront?
Yeah…it depends how many shows we’ve done. If the band and I have had a great show, we’re right away dancing around, laughing, cheersing, keeping that energy level up. If I have a show where I feel like I didn’t do as well, or have the crowd with me, I’ll lock myself in a room and just bang the walls. It’s such an intense moment…your adrenaline is still up and you’re vulnerable but powerful up there and you shift between those feelings constantly. Either way, you need to take a couple breaths. Take in what just happened, have a moment with the band, the crew, and the team.
I like how you touched on those really extreme and intense emotions that every single human feels at some point. Going back to Fire Fade, there’s a sentence in the poem “Someone told me long ago that you’re way cooler if you don’t care about anything but still act like you’ve seen it all.” Does that sort of reflect in your new song ‘sadder badder cooler’ too?
If you go through something making you feel really small, like you’re not worth anything…that’s what you start to think. Then you realize, I can’t keep letting your lack of love for me shape how I feel about myself. It’s a mix of getting jaded but still trying to keep your heart intact. It can stop you from falling into those kinds of people again. The general feeling is that you get intimidated by someone who doesn’t react to things. They all of a sudden have the power instead of being emotional.
I wish it was the other way around that showing your emotions and being honest and vulnerable about being hurt – that that’s what makes you stronger and cooler. I have a hard time pretending that I don’t feel anything. I find it actually provoking when someone does that to me.
Right. Do you feel like we’re going toward a society that is more open? Or are we going toward a society that is telling us to hide how we really feel?
I think there’s a mix…everyone is longing for people to share how they really feel. With social media – which is our most powerful tool – …you need to care right now. The general message that I’m getting from reading all the posts on my feed is that you can’t not care and you have to show that you do.
It takes a lot for people to come out of their comfortable shell of posting “Everything’s great!” It’s almost like we’re fed up with people only posting the perfect parts of life. You rarely get the real image. It’s become this massive marketing tool for people to disappear into the dream life that they could have.
But now it’s getting used for what it’s good for – to make people aware, engaged, and take a stand. Getting information that they would never see. Now it’s being used for the right thing.
A couple of weeks ago, I paused everything that had to do with me…I’ve been out protesting quite a lot, and educating myself to be a better ally to the black community and very focused on that. That’s been a new routine to watch, listen and read things I hadn’t before.
Right. I feel like everyone is kind of rewiring, first because of COVID and now because of the protests and black lives. Your Pawprints edition had just come out before George Floyd was killed…how have things changed for you?
I’ve really been trying to work on not making it about me and my feelings. For an artist, everything is about me and I’m always digging around in my feelings. So this has been a good lesson for me to learn more about the country that I spend most of my time in – and learn about the history. Yes, I know there is a lot of racism in this country. But to the degree that it’s put in the system…I didn’t know enough about! I’m trying to learn more everyday, be a good ally to the black community and my friends.
All the protests that I’ve been to have been really peaceful. As soon as there’s police, you can tell people just get tense. When there hasn’t it’s been so chill. People are just marching, and chanting…it feels really powerful and really hopeful. I find it really amazing to see so many people using their voice for a good thing. Then I feel…fuck, there’s so far to go. When you’re paying the right amount of attention, it’s so heavy and hopeful at once. But I’m trying to just be there, and be a part of it.
Sweden is not America. LA is not America either *laughs* but just making myself read and listen to the opposite view on this – people that I completely disagree with – just to understand the actual view of people in this country and you realize that a lot of people are running this country. I hope it doesn’t fizzle out when June is going because it needs to keep going.
Well said. Thank you for all that. “What the world needs now, is ____?”
What the world needs now…is for everyone to wake up, stay awake, and keep fighting for equality. All around. For the black community, for people of color, for LGBTQIA+, WOMEN!
Yes!! Let’s talk about Pride for a second. What was it like coming out as bisexual?
The funny thing is that I didn’t identify myself as bisexual, it was a fan who asked me. Haha I knew I liked girls, but there was no stigma attached to it for me growing up, it was more figuring it out for myself. After the Habits video, a fan asked me – “Are you bisexual?” And I was like, “I mean I like boys and girls, yeah.” And she was like “Fuck yea! I knew it!” And how happy it made her…made me realize, this is important to be loud about!
It should be everyone’s choice whenever they feel comfortable and ready to come out. I feel such a big part of this community. Thanks to my parents and my whole family, no one’s ever judged it or said anything. I think it’s a lot harder when you have people you care about that isn’t taking it well.
What advice would you give someone who’s still learning how to love themselves? Queer or not?
Yeah. There’s so many people that go through the same thing as you – just turn to them and think about how much you want them to love themselves. And that’s what everyone wants for you. If people close to you are shaming you or telling you it isn’t right – they’re just wrong. They’re not the one to value you. You have to value yourself. It takes a lot of work but just see that they’re not the ones to judge your value. That’s just the truth!
If you feel lost, turn to this beautiful community that will take you in with open arms. People that love you will come around. It’s so individual what you’re going through so finding support can help you get there. When someone attacks you in any kind of way, they’re not right. We take the negative to heart so much easier than the positive.
Well thank you so much, you’ve been such sunshine for today. Ciao!
Thank you, and happy Pride! Bye!
CONNECT WITH TOVE LO
LADYGUNN PRIDE 2020 starring TOVE LO