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Jenny Hval – inks Sacred Bones deal and heads out on US tour with St. Vincent

By Carl Kristian Johansen Posted: 27. Jan, 2015

Jenny Hval inks Sacred Bones and prepares for March US tours with St. Vincent and Perfume Genius.

Early March sees Jenny Hval heading out on a six-date support tour for St. Vincent, followed by a string of live dates supporting Perfume Genius.

Recently, Hval announced that she had inked a deal with Brooklyn-based label Sacred Bones, hailed by Billboard Magazine as one of the US’s key independent labels.

A new team

On home turf, Jenny Hval has released a string of outings on Norwegian independents Trust Me Records and Rune Grammofon. Her Spellemannspris-awarded (the Norwegian equivalent to the Grammy) album ‘Meshes of Voice’, was the result of a close collaboration with Susanna and released on Susanna Sonata, Susanna Wallumrød’s own label. Hval is also one of the recipients of Music Norway’s Export Programme, a support programme that enabled her to relocate to NYC for a prolonged period of time. Her stay in NYC led to closer ties to her US-based management and booking company and eventually led to her Sacred Bones signing which will result in a new album being released before summer 2015.

– I’ve been working solely with foreign partners for some time now – this has given me a set of experiences that ultimately revolve around my Norwegian origin. Having a fresh set of eyes and see things from abroad has been an eye opener and has made me want to spend as much time working in Norway as abroad, says Hval who is currently also building a Norway-based team.

– I’m a big fan of the way Sacred Bones conducts business. They have a small team and focus on music that other labels don’t dare to touch. They’re doing things the right way and manage to achieve some really good results. They manage to reach out with strange music to core audiences as well as to wider customer segments that are willing to seek out new music. They focus on the music and gave me the opportunity to be based out of NYC – both of which are important factors for me.

Death-defying music
Parallel to her US focus, Hval will now devote more time in Norway to develop artistic projects on home turf with Norwegian as well as international partners.

How would you describe your own working situation, being based in the US, a market that’s pretty far from home?

– For starters, I’m working long hours over here. A willingness to work hard is a prerequisite and patience is a virtue since the US can be challenging in terms of visas, contracts and tax issues. At the same time, there are vast opportunities on the live scene. I love to work with people across the Atlantic and cherish the opportunity to go over to do tours. Being signed to a major booking firm, I have the opportunity to do quite a lot of live shows.

Last year, Hval toured extensively as a support act for Swans. We ask her what the outcome of the tour has been:

– It opened up doors to a whole new audience, says Hval. I could definitely feel that surge. Swans’ artistic standing and Michael Gira’s reputation as a curator created a totally new setting for the concerts – a setting that greatly influenced the audience’s perception of the music presented. I’ve played many live shows alongside acoustic acts, played the role of the pop act at an experimental festival or being pigeonholed with other female artists at festivals and voiced criticisms over this. I’ve now developed an understanding of how important it is to thoroughly curate a night of live music shows – it can greatly affect the way the music is listened to.

Hval’s support tour with Swans demanded a huge effort on her part:

– I recomposed the set-list for each night and did lots of improvisation – in the process I also feel that it boosted my confidence too. An uncompromising band as Swans is also inspiring in that respect.

– It was a real eye-opener to be the support act of someone so uncompromising and to come to the understanding that I can do whatever I want. It’ll be much more interesting for the audience, whatever someone might have to say about the music not being catchy enough. Music is to be death-defying, it should cross borders and it should allow you to do things you cannot do in your everyday life. That’s still music’s very foundation, regardless of you having a management or not. I believe that the audience will understand this.

Hval’s Swans support-slots led to more live appearances, including a stint with Shellac in Helsinki:

– More people have become aware of who I am and what I do now. After the Swans tour came ‘Meshes of Voice’ which was bestowed with favourable reviews – the link between the two was important for me and Susanna. ‘Meshes of Voice’ was based on Susanna’s solid international work and we are now sharing the same press agent who will also work on my releases. It’s nice to have a small world of teams around me that can actually see all aspects of my work.

The will to challenge

March sees Hval playing six shows with St. Vincent, four on the East Coast and two in Toronto. An additional nine live shows with Perfume Genius will follow in the same month.

– We’ll be playing venues of much the same capacity as those on the Swans tour – a nice size for me. Had we performed in front of 7000 strong audiences, the stage would probably be a bit too big for me. I play intimate music and will present new material – that’s better done on a smaller scale.

For her upcoming tour, Hval has recruited US-based video and performance artist, with whom she has worked closely with earlier.

– I believe that you can do virtually everything you want on a rock stage, including scenic performance. Artistically, I really have to go for it – I owe it to those who will be supporting me, those who believe in me and the record label which will support the whole thing. I don’t want to play it safe, I want to do things that challenge people and is differing from what you’d normally see on stage. It’s fun to bring in elements of scenic art – people like challenging experiences. I think music can devaluate itself if you don’t challenge what a live music appearance on stage is and can be, says Hval.

St. Vincent is an act with a solid following – Hval was surprised when the support-act request came through:

– I feel it is relevant to tour with her. I’ve listened to all of her records and she comes across as highly interesting as she has nurtured her own form of expression and excels at creating concise pop music with lots of nuances that’s hard to pigeonhole. Swans’ music is much about creating long and open transformations – it’ll be really interesting to see what the outcome of the St. Vincent tour will be.

– Her lyrics are really strong too, adds Hval. There’s much there that I’ve yet to discover and the same goes for Perfume Genius. Both of them are focusing on exploring the roles of stage presence and sexuality – themes that are also close to my heart. I’m confident it’ll be an intense and rewarding experience.


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