A collaboration that had its first stirrings in 2013 eventually bloomed in 2018. Gothenburg’s Maja Gödicke, who makes music under her own name along with other projects, and Stockholm’s Kåre Vernby, of Farväl Till Ungdomen, had released a couple of singles over the past few years together, after initially making contact in 2013, but this year they became a fully-realised band. As Kassia Klein, they released the album Death To All Things Pop, an record of graceful, classical indie-pop. We had a chat with them about the band’s origins, collaboration and DTATP.
To go right back to the start of Kassia Klein, how did you two start collaborating in the first place? You both obviously have your various own projects outside of KK, when and how did you start working on music together?
Kåre sent a song over in 2013. He had heard my first single Ligga Still and had an idea for a duet. It was called Death To All Things Pop and had a lot of distortion on it, it was lovely but I felt ‘not for me’. I tried for a while, but we ended up not recording it at the time. Then Kåre sent another one over in 2016, En Vinternatt. And I realised right away, there was something very special about it.
You initially released the tracks En Vinternatt and Såg Du Röken? before your collaboration even had an official name. Were those intended as one-off collabs, or did you guys always have the idea to become a proper band and work towards an album?
The first singles were most definitely intended to be stand-alone pieces, and we had no idea of forming a band or making an album back then. But we liked working together and exchanging ideas, so sometime after the second single, we decided to start up a proper collaboration and do an album.
The next question focuses on two names, both of which are interesting. Where did the name Kassia Klein come from for the project, and why call the album Death To All Things Pop?
We wanted a female name as a pseudonym, and then we started searching for one and ended up with Kassia Klein, a mash up of two names. Kassia was a poet and composer in former Constantinople, back in the 800s. Klein we took from Yves. Since our first contact was via the song DTATP, we felt it would being the right name for the album. A bit confusing of course, since the record is in Swedish. But who does not like a bit of confusion?
You wrote the record with both of you in different cities, Stockholm and Gothenburg. Did that make it challenging to write across a long distance, and how did your usual writing process work?
Usually, we just sent ideas and musical fragments back and forth until we started to see a full composition, after which we started recording the song for real. It was not challenging to write across a long distance. On the contrary, we think it made the creative process easier in some ways. We both have lots of stuff going on in our lives, and it would have been difficult if we had to make room to sit and write at exactly the same time. Also, we have tried to make a simple and beautiful album, which is really open and emotional. And those kind of themes can be kind of hard to explore when facing another person.
The song Death To All Things Pop feels like a centrepiece of the record, the album’s most cathartic song, and it’s also one of the oldest, having been there in some form when you first made contact about music in 2013. Can you tell us a little more about that song, and how it’s developed over the years?
Cathartic is a nice word for it! Death To All Things Pop is a phrase that refers to the transience of all things, and the bittersweet notion that everything will end. It has taken some different shapes and forms, as a Farväl till Ungdomen B-side called Kyrkogårdar Och Sommarregn, for example.
When you write in that way, from different places, was it then a challenge to come together and translate the music to a live setting for your live shows?
It was pure joy. It’s never fun to try to imitate the album sound-by-sound, note-by-note. Instead we collected a bunch of great musicians and just tried different arrangements out. They were so amazing, and while they were very attentive to our visions, they also brought their own characteristic sound and beat to the mix, which is exactly how we wanted it. And then we got to play in these beautiful theatres which suited our live sound perfectly.
What I like about DTATP is the sense of space and air on the record. The music moves so slowly and gracefully, and nothing feels rushed or stressed. It feels like you’re not afraid to let the music breathe and take the time to build and get where it needs to go in its own time, which contrasts with a lot of tightly-written pop music. Was that effect something you were going for in the writing?
We just wanted to make something that was pretty and reflective, that felt vulnerable. Yes, a lot of it has a slow and graceful mood and this is probably a consequence of what we striving for. Space is precious thing in a crowded world…
You released your last single Tystnaden with a B-Side, Trött På Kärlek. B-Sides are becoming a bit of a lost art in music, are they still something that hold a charm for you?
Yes, there are many examples where the B-side is just as good as the a-side of a single. Yet, the band and/or the record label obviously has doubts about the song, or they wouldn’t have put it out as a B-side. Into the Groove by Madonna was released as the B-side to Angel. Going Down was the B-side to The Stone Roses Made of Stone. Silver Springs by Fleetwood Mac was the B-side to Go Your Own Way. Velocity Girl by Primal Scream was originally the B-side to Crystal Crescent. God Only Knows was the B-side to Wouldn’t it be Nice? The list goes on…
Finally, now that the album’s out, what’s next for Kassia Klein?
We’re not much for planning, but we have a bunch of musical fragments and lyrics that we have started working on. Next year, we will start recording again, though we cannot predict when we will be finished. We are also planning to do some shows, and hope that we can keep the exact same fabulous live band together for that.
Death To All Things Pop is out now on Luxury.
Photos: Olle Kirchmeier