An hour before her scheduled press meeting, the manager of Brooklyn’s Danish pop electronic artist Oh Land calls with a caveat: “Just so you know, Nanna is very, very deep into rehearsal.”
And she is.
When we’re let into her Brooklyn rehearsal space, past a line of metal framed doors someone didn’t tape before painting the walls, and door #3 opens, Nanna Øland Fabricius is leaning over her piano, deep in conversation with her keyboardist about ... something.
“—yes, but it’s with the kick. Dah-da-dah-da-dah-da-DA. And then the jam—.”
She looks to the drummer, who kicks up a punkish beat and then strikes a broad white panel on his lap. This emits a machine-sharpened, lazery noise, piercing the cymbal and kick drums’ rattley beat. The overall affect is both schizophrenic and surprisingly, naturally satisfying, rather how Shake Shack’s Chocolate-N-Bacon concoction tastes after a long night on the town. Kind of unbelievably just right.
Artists like space. I need room to do what I do. That’s why I moved there. And now my feet are getting cramped.
Incorporating polarities like these — old, new, blurry, hyper-focused — was an early goal for 'Wish Bone,' Nanna’s second studio album that’s out next week on Federal Prism, the label started by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, who also produced 'Wish Bone' (which can be streamed at The New York Times).
“I wanted contrast,” she says a few minutes later, balled up on the couch outside door #3, while an '80s metal guitar wails behind door #2. She takes a swig from a water bottle. “Like, the album was recorded on vintage analog equipment, but the guitar and percussion used a lot of affects.”
Like the white panel the drummer was playing?
“Yes! That’s called a TrapKAT. It’s a perfect example. Old with new. And we’re using it on the tour because we don’t want any laptops on stage.”
So why did a Royal Swedish Ballet alum with an opera singer’s genes move not just to New York or just or Brooklyn -- but to the Williamsburg neighborhood?
I’m expecting an answer about the power of young energy. The chummy neighborhoodness of good old Billyburg. The creative enclave with a magnetic pull—
“Artists like space," she says. "I need room to do what I do. That’s why I moved there.”
But that was three years ago, she says, “And now my feet are getting cramped.” Where?
“I don’t know,” she says before suggesting Bedford-Stuyvesant, another neighborhood with a gritty past.
The photographer’s waiting for his minutes with Oh Land, removing an autographed photo from the blue wall he’ll shoot her against, where she’ll do happy, serious, and pensive faces, bust out a few dance moves: the Twist, the Watusi, and the Mashed Potato. Then it’s time to work again. She shakes our hands, asks if we’ll be at her Williamsburg show Friday night, then walks back into the room, turns, and shuts the door.
Oh Land's tour begins tonight, September 20, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. More tour dates can be found on her website.
Cole Louison is the author of 'The Impossible: Rodney Mullen, Ryan Sheckler, and the Fantastic History of Skateboarding.'