“Music is my therapy.”
“Soundscape” is a word often used with regards to musicians who manage to create, sonically, a separate immaterial world. Menke, young Swedish singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, goes even further. Her world is a truly audiovisual one: she weaves her love of black-and-white analogue photography into her music and vice versa. This is particularly evident in her unique visual notebooks that combine both means of expression into one, delivering a sense of Northern mystery and beauty, nostalgia, and melancholy, Menke-style.
Debuting in 2017 with a single called “Moln”, Menke was instantly hailed as one of Sweden’s most promising newcomers. “Moln” is a musical interpretation of a poem by the renowned Swedish poet Karin Boye. The title translates as “Cloud” and it’s a very fitting word to describe Menke’s music: darkness and light combined, translucent, delicate, fragile yet powerful in its own right.
With over 1 million streams on Spotify to date, “Moln” laid a foundation for what seems to be a very bright musical future. This month Menke will release her debut EP “Till Havet” that features further musical interpretations of poetry as well as Menke’s own take on the theme of summer solstice. We had a chat with Menke to find out what inspires, as Line of Best Fit succinctly put it, her sweepingly and poetically beautiful aesthetics.
NBN: What was your path towards becoming a musician and producer? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do or did you have to make some detours along the way?
Menke: While looking back it’s been a pretty straight road but along the way I never felt that this was my only option or only road. I always had and still have other dreams and paths that I would like to explore. But somehow I always end up finding myself on the path of music and writing over and over again, I guess it calls a bit louder to me. And right now, I feel like I’ve only just started, so I guess I will hold on to this road for quite some time.
NBN: You play a whole bunch of different instruments – how did you manage to pick all of them up? Which one do you enjoy playing most and why?
Menke: After learning piano and guitar I realized that there’s a structure that varies from instrument to instrument, but that it all rest on the same ground. My experience is that once you’ve learned one instrument it gets a lot easier to learn another. My number one writing instrument is banjo. I’m not that theoretically skilled on banjo and that makes me think less and listen more. I think that’s very liberating for me.
NBN: You have a very distinctive aesthetic, both in your music and your image as an artist. Where do you draw your inspiration from? What are your aesthetic icons, if you have any?
Menke: Almost all my photos are taken with analogue black and white film. I have my own darkroom in the basement and love the process of developing photos. So, when it comes to pictures I guess that my aesthetic icon is the actual process and result of analogue photography itself.
NBN: Talking about icons, what are your music heroes?
Menke: My top 3 music icons are Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush and Sigur Rós.
NBN: In one of the interviews you’ve mentioned that if you weren’t making music, you’d dedicate your time to photography and film. Are your visual video notebooks in way an attempt to combine both activities?
Menke: Yes, that’s absolutely something I enjoy doing. But I enjoy it even more when working with film and photo without myself in it. It easy to get to self-aware rather than focusing purely on the photo/film process. So, the Notebooks is kind of a golden mean for me to be able to combine both video and music.
NBN: Does the visual component precede the musical one for you or vice versa? Or do they maybe emerge simultaneously?
Menke: No, the music is always prior. The music is often even prior to the lyrics and the vocals, the production and everything else. But I can get very inspired by other artists work. I often find myself being inspired to write music when exposed to a painting, a sculpture, a film, philosophy or poetry.
NBN: To me, your music is the epitome of “melancholic beauty”. Do you think it’s important to let oneself feel melancholic from time to time? Is music for you a way to channel that inner melancholy?
Menke: Of course! Music is my therapy. We are all different, but I do like the melancholy very much. It’s a comforting state of mind for me.
NBN: You lived in Berlin for a while when you were 19. Did you go through a techno phase at some point or did that experience affect you in some other ways?
Menke: I have not yet had a techno phase, but who knows maybe it’s ahead of me. What I did experience though was the true and humble live scene of the city. I’ve never experienced audiences like the ones in Berlin. Never had a crowd listened so carefully, never had a crowd been so humble and yet so disorderly.
NBN: Your debut single “Moln” is an interpretation of a poem by the Swedish poet Karin Boye. Do you write your own lyrics too? Do you plan to continue singing in Swedish mostly?
Menke: I do write my own lyrics to and I like it a lot. I find it very contemplating and meditative to write. I write in both Swedish and English. So you’ll have to keep you ears open to hear what’s coming next.
NBN: Given your German background, can we expect a Menke interpretation of Goethe in the future? :)
Menke: Who knows, I think I’ll have to keep that one open. We’ll see what the future holds :)