Interview: Ember Island Talks Beats, Britney, and Vegan Pancakes!

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Ember Island is an up and coming Swedish Indie-Pop trio taking the internet by storm! The group is comprised of Alexandra Andersson on vocals and longtime friends and former bandmates Didrik Franzén and Joakim Bergkvist on the production end. Ember Island first gained popularity with their chill electronic covers of popular songs such as Jack Ü’s “Where Are Ü Now” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”, featured on their SoundCloud page. Their cover of the alternative anthem “Creep” by Radiohead really stuck the landing, having topped the Hype Machine overall charts shortly after the Billboard release of their music video for the eerie and ethereal jam. Take a look and listen here:

While Ember Island’s incredible interpretations of pop songs have increased their following, they’re also beginning to stake a claim to land of their own with some original compositions. Their debut original single, “Stay”, is slightly more upbeat than their covers, but maintains their signature synth-pop energy. Their second single, “Need You”,  is a chill yet powerful electronic track with a pleasant but rainy background that perfectly complements everything from a night out with friends to an inclement solo drive.

With the solid reception of their first two singles, Ember Island is now working on another collection of original compositions to be released over the next few months. Here’s what they had to say about their production process and much much more:  


To start with a little background, how did you all meet, and where does the name Ember Island come from?

“Me (Joakim) and Didrik met each other when he wrote and produced with my old hardcore band I had. When we disbanded, me and Didrik started to hang out more and we started to write music together just for fun. We soon felt that we had something really special going on so we started to look for a vocalist. We had some common friends that told us about Alex so we reached out to her and met up in the studio one day. It immediately felt so right and we were totally blown away by her beautiful voice. We started working together all 3 of us, and that’s how Ember Island was formed! The name is taken from a place far away from here. It symbolizes a place where anyone can go when they want to escape reality for a while.”

Your arrangements are clearly based in quality and technical vocals and beats. Are you self-taught or do you have a formal background in music? Do you equally share the responsibility of composing?

“Everyone of us have taken musical lessons when we was younger for our different instruments – viola, piano, guitar, bass and vocals. I was self-taught for many years before I started taking lessons and Didrik did the opposite, started taking lessons early but stopped after a few years to focus more on learning how to produce. Alex has been playing viola since she was 4 years old – how crazy cool isn’t that?! In the studio we all share the equal responsibility of composing, and we do it different every time. We love to improvise, to try new things and to experiment. We’re still learning so much every day.”

Your cover of “Creep” by Radiohead recently topped the Hypem chart (congrats!), but your originals are also leaving a big impact of their own. Do you have a preference between arranging covers vs. original compositions? How is your creative process different between the two?

“Thanks a lot! we’re still blown away. It feels so good and we always try to stay humble when things like this happens. The creative process is much faster when we arrange a cover since the structure and melody is already there. When we create our own songs it’s a much longer process with more writing, recording demo versions etc involved. But as soon as we have the lyrics and melody we work very similar on the production in the studio. Everything is very spontaneous, we usually try to capture the first feelings we get, the first takes of an instrument recorded and so on. Then we go back later to work on details. We love doing both, although we will focus a lot more on our original work in the future!”

You’re coming out with quite a few new tracks over the next coming months, can you give us a hint as to what they might sound like, and how you went about producing a larger body of work?

“These new songs have been created over a long period of time so I think it all came very natural. Our next original song is a very dreamy song, with a big sound and very story telling lyrics. It’s one of our personal favourites so far. We also have a remix coming out for Gallant soon, he’s such an amazing vocalist and songwriter and we are so happy for that opportunity!”

It’s clear that you have some electronic influences, and a lot of popular Swedish artist are known for their contributions to popular dance music, from the 1970’s pop sensation ABBA to Dirty Loops to the modern club headliners Avicii and Icona Pop. Is your calming sound purposefully going against the grain of Sweden’s history with popular upbeat dance music?

“I think when we started out both me and Didrik just had got enough of the previous music scenes we were in. I was playing metal/hardcore music for 10 years and Didrik was (and still is) in the electronic dance music scene. We wanted go back to doing what we love the most – writing beautiful music with a lot of emotion. We didn’t really think much more than that, it all just happened very naturally when we met Alex. We still love dance music though, we are super excited about all the remixes people are doing of our songs!”

Is there an out of the box song you’ve been waiting to cover, but just haven’t found time to yet?

“‘…Baby One More Time’ with Britney Spears. When we performed at Denniz Pop Awards we played a little part of it as the outro of our set as a small tribute to Denniz Pop. We have been wanting to record the full song ever since. Hopefully we get time to do it in the future!”

Is there anything else you want your listeners and our readers to know about you or your current work?

“Ever since we started we have been doing almost everything in the band by ourselves and with the help of some very close friends. Writing the music, producing it, making the artworks, recording the music videos and so on. It’s a very beautiful thing to be able to have such creative freedom and that’s something we really want to continue to have!”


Casulin Quickfires:

Favorite Venue: Frizon Festival main stage: “Magasinet”

Favorite Food: Vegan Pancakes with blueberries

Favorite City: Los Angeles


For more on Ember Island, check out their SoundCloud and Facebook!


the author

Jillian Hurst

All music is dance music

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