Sarah Assbring, aka "El Perro del Mar," has been playing indie pop for years in Sweden, but only recently has she garnered international attention, due to her collaboration with Lykke Li in 2010. (See the "Change of Heart" video below for the results.) Assbring recently talked to The Huffington Post over the phone, and our conversation ranged from learning about her new album, which debuts this November, to the creepy fan who regularly texts her messages of undying devotion. "Walk On By" is the latest song from her upcoming album, which you can listen to here.
Change of Heart with Lykke Li:
HP: I know you and Lykke Li have toured together and are good friends. From this, we've concluded that all Swedes are friends. Are we wrong?
SA: I would have to agree with that, because it’s basically more or less true. It’s to do with the size of the country -- it’s so small, you’re bound to get to know each other sooner or later.
HP: What have you been listening to lately?
SA: I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic instrumental music. Old school club and dance music like Chicago house and acid house, which is quite interesting when you think of me dealing with lyric based songs. I was going back to my old loved ones, like Cocteau Twins, in a new kind of way. That helped me become more artistic in a way [on the new album]. Gang Gang Dance has been a really great inspiration, too.
HP: Your music seems so honest, but after TV appearances and multiple concerts, we'd imagine it's difficult to channel the original emotions when you're performing. How do you deal with this?
SA: Sometimes you can’t stop and you have to go through with it and I get sick to my stomach. I can’t do it well. When I’m in the situation when I can’t have the possibility to be honest, I feel extremely bad. I try to avoid those moments as much as I can. I think I’m more or less famous for being stubborn because of that fact.
Sometimes it just isn’t possible, but you need to find some kind of way to get that moment synchronized with whatever it is you need to feel pure and reach into that feeling, so you feel good about what you’re doing.
HP: What were you trying to do that was unique with "Pale Fire," your upcoming album?
SA: I was trying to challenge myself and work against myself, especially when it comes to writing and structuring my songs according or not according to a specific pop structure. What would happen if I was breaking the standard structure apart and still get the feeling of a pop song? Even if it doesn’t have a basic verse or chorus. I had to break up my own ideas about how music should be and what my ideas are, because I can be anal and strict.
HP: What's been your weirdest fan moment so far?
This really strange French guy has been following me around and he popped up again yesterday on the Internet. He started calling me at night a few years back and sending weird texts. On the one hand, [he is] loving and typical fanlike, and on the other hand, [he is] hateful and awful.
HP: How did he get your number?
SA: I don’t know. Everytime I’m in France he’s there, following me around. He looks like a typical serial killer.
HP: Have you reported him to the police?
SA: I was thinking about it. Now that he’s back again with these strange messages, I was thinking how awful it is that this stranger thinks he has a right to creep under your skin like that. I guess he totally feels like what I do totally goes directly into his heart, and that he feels like he knows me.
I remember when I was in Australia there was this really crazy guy who brought all of these giant pictures of me out of pictures of me on the web. He just wanted to show them to me. He had no grasp of what my reaction would be. He just said, "This is my work of art, this is what I built of you." It felt like a promise and a threat.
HP: That's the difference between pop stars and indie stars, right? Indie performers seem so accessible, which can be dangerous. So... to move on past stalkers, we wanted to know how this new album is going to differ from your previous ones?
SA: I look upon this album as my first political stand, which is very new to me. The whole core of the album came out of a very dark landscape, which was hopeless and kind of dystopian. When I started writing and feeling like that and looking around, I just felt like there has to be something different [to do]. I wanted to spread another kind of message. I feel like I’ve been very insular and it bored me. Especially these days, there’s something special going on and I wanted to talk about the hopeful and good things. In short, I wanted to make a dark album bright.
The lede song, "Pale Fire" -– I feel very close to it. It’s the first song I wrote for the album. That has to do a lot about finding love in a world that is quite dark. There’s another song about politics called "I Carry the Fire" that was inspired by the Arab Spring and the happenings in the Middle East. I think it’s good that people are protesting and people should do that more!
"Pale Fire" is out November 13, 2012 on The Control Group.