#MUSICMONDAY: Anna of The North
Anna Lotterud hails from Norway, where she says “everyone is a musician” and “everyone is also [a] model.” This description can also be applied to Anna herself, who recently became a brand ambassador for both Adidas Gazelles and KENZO x H&M. She is also one half of the wistful synth-pop duo Anna of the North, along with her Australian producer, Brady, whom she met in a bar while studying abroad in Melbourne.
Anna sang at the bar that night at her friends’ suggestion and caught Brady’s eye. While she has music in her blood (her father is a professional pianist), Anna never sought out to pursue it as a career. But everything changed when she met Brady. The two began talking and sharing music, toying with the idea of making something together. At the time, Brady was a folksinger-songwriter—“a Bon Iver type,” he tells me, “but not as good.” (The duo later remade Anna’s favorite of Brady’s acoustic songs, “The Dreamer,” their sublime single that initially hooked me.)
Brady and Anna kept in touch when Anna returned to Oslo at the completion of her studies. After Brady taught himself how to use electronic equipment, they made their first single, “Sway,” over Skype. Anna describes to me the surreal experience of Brady uploading the track in Australia while she was asleep, and waking up in Oslo to 5,000 streams on Soundcloud. “Who are you?” people continued to message her. “I was like...‘no one,’” she tells me, in what I soon learn is a characteristic Anna Lotterud modesty. That was in 2014. Now, two years later, the duo is working on their debut album, fresh off touring Europe with Norwegian DJ Kygo. In January, they dropped their single “Oslo” to critical acclaim.
“Is Brady still in Australia?” I ask.
“No,” Anna says. “He’s actually right here. Do you want to speak to him?”
I few times prior to this, I think I hear little snippets of Anna of the North music the background, unsure if I’m imagining it. It turns out that Brady is literally working on the album as we speak.
“Do you two live together?” I ask, which is really me asking whether they’re dating. Their romantic meeting story and the fact Brady is physically by her side seem to confirm my suspicions that they are. But I’m wrong.
“No,” says Anna. “Which is good, because we’d probably kill each other if we did.”
“We’re more like brother and sister,” says Brady.
I ask why they decided to live in Oslo as opposed to Melbourne. Brady echoes something Anna told me just a few minutes earlier—Norway is a small country, which makes is “easier to build a name for yourself.” Moreover, the Norwegian government is supportive of artists, and there is a well-established international appreciation for Scandinavian musicians (see Little Dragon, MØ, The Knife, Miike Snow, Lykke Li, Robyn, Tove Lo, Royksopp, the list goes on…)
“Do you speak Norwegian?” I ask Brady.
“Norwegians find it awkward when people try to speak Norwegian and can’t,” Anna steps in. “We’re like – ‘stop, you’re making a fool of yourself.’”
“Norwegians are kind of perfectionists,” Brady says.
“Unless you’re good at something,” Anna says. “Don’t do it.”
Don’t be fooled by her casual style and demeanor. It quickly becomes clear that Anna brings her homeland’s taste for perfectionism to Anna of the North. Their music has been described as “pristine,” “sleek,” and “beautifully-executed.” Anna herself is the effortless beauty you secretly want to hate because she looks stunning in a tracksuit, her hair falling in luscious tangles. Her style secret: “the most important thing is to be comfortable and look natural.” She brings the same minimal, effortless aesthetic to the duo’s music videos.
“Anna has a very clear idea of what she wants everything to look like,” Brady says.
A graphic designer by day, Anna has a strong visual acuity. (A Google image search of “Anna of the North” reveals a stunning grid of Anna in oversized white T-shirts before pink and teal backdrops.) The videos for “Sway” and “Dreamer” are meant to give viewers a glimpse of scenic Norwegian countryside (Brady says that when their budget increases, they plan to film farther north to capture the glaciers and the Northern lights). “Baby” is more polished and abstract, in Anna’s word: “weird.” She is currently involved in the process of editing their newest video.
I seem to be catching the duo as they take their first breath of fresh air since the whirlwind that began with their debut two years ago. Their first show was before 500 people, and shortly thereafter they were playing stadiums throughout Europe. Now, it’s time to stay in Oslo and channel that Norwegian perfectionism.
“Brady says we were at level 2,” Anna says. “Now we’re going to level 3.” She pauses. “How many levels are there?” She laughs.
Anna says after her first show, she was so nervous her parents told her she appeared as though she’d seen a ghost. But she’s gained more confidence and now enjoys performing. “Anna is killing it,” says Brady in the manner of a proud older brother.
I part by telling the duo they have to tell me when they come to LA.
“We’ll need to bring sun screen,” Brady laughs.
Anna of the North’s debut album is scheduled to debut this Spring.
Article by Anna Dorn