In the Mean Girls universe, Norwegian pop princess Anne Lilia Berge Strand would be Public Frenemy Number One. Some girls get hated on because they’re too pretty. Others, because they’re too smart. Worse are those who are both pretty and smart. And if she happens to be popular with the boys, then you may as well call her Carrie and fetch the pig blood. On the surface, Annie seems built to order. But on the afternoon we caught up with her to discuss her long-awaited sophomore CD Don’t Stop, she had been up all night DJing, helped a friend in the morning, and stayed up waiting for our call.
Annie: “I Don’t Like Your Band” From the album Don’t Stop (Smalltown Supersound), out now in Australia and the UK, out November 17 in the U.S. [audio:http://www.smalltownsupersound.com/dl/downloads/05%20I%20Don%27t%20Like%20Your%20Band.mp3%5D
Flavorpill: How are you?
Annie: I’m exhausted! I had a DJ gig in Oslo last night, and then three hours later I helped a friend move his things in Bergen.
FP: Nice, most people I know wouldn’t take the subway to help you move. So your new album took four years to make. What happened?
Annie: First of all, I was doing a lot of shows, touring all over — US, South America, Australia, all over. And then I did a DJ Kicks [mix] as well, and I had to promote that. After that, I started to record the album, and then that thing with Island [Records] happened. It was a bit annoying. I signed with this guy and then a few months later, he disappeared. Typical A&R, it happens to a lot of artists. Then you get someone who doesn’t get what you’re doing.
FP: What kind of advice did these label people give you? Madonna, Britney, Kylie — the blonde pop star isn’t a hard sell…
Annie: And Kylie — she’s not even writing her own songs. I was talking to Brian Higgins [of Xenomania] and he says — and I think — that many labels just don’t know how to work with artists. They’re not sure if it’s going to be a hit; they don’t know how to build up people. They don’t trust the artist. At the same time, they want something and they don’t know what they want. For me, it was uncomfortable to work like that.
FP: You cover a lot of styles; I can imagine all kinds of other people wanting to play these songs. Do you keep the rights, or sell songs to other artists?
Annie: Yes, I do, and we were just talking with some people, but I can’t really say yet. I’m doing a lot of writing with Xenomania, writing for a couple of other people and it’s quite inspiring, but I’ll let you know.
FP: What else are you working on?
Annie: I’ve started working on some new stuff with French producer Fred Falke. So I’m basically just writing for that now to finish before Christmas. Next year, I start touring.
FP: Richard X, Brian Higgins… how did you end up working with them?
Annie: Richard X was already keen to do something, so that was easy. When it came to Higgins, I met him through Saint Etienne because I started doing a song with them that didn’t end up on my album, but wound up on their album, “This Is Tomorrow.” Brian always loved “Heartbeat” and he didn’t know that I wrote it myself, so he was immediately interested. I was skeptical in the beginning about Xenomania because I didn’t really know them, I just knew about Girls Aloud. But it turned out really well; it was nice to work with someone that knows about songwriting and not just production.
FP: Were you worried that a lot of people heard these songs before?
Annie: Of course. The whole business is going down. I know that a lot of my fans are Internet people. That’s just the world, so you can’t really think about that. But what really annoyed me is that you like to have some kind of secret, something to give to people when it’s ready. It’s really annoying when someone else destroys that.
FP: How did you end up at Smalltown Supersound?
Annie: I had started my own label, and this album was the first thing I wanted to do on it. But my problem is that I’m not a business person. I know that I have to work with other people.
FP: Your song “I Don’t Like Your Band” — is it about someone specifically?
Annie: I just thought it would be interesting to do a song about something that you don’t like, but not from a hate perspective. I’m just looking at you and telling you it’s wrong. I’ve had a couple people contacting me, really so sweet, and you want to work with them, and you’re thinking, “Sorry, you’re really nice, but….”
FP: You’ve written songs titled “My Love Is Better” and “I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me.” Do other women like you?
Annie: I think these days they do. But I’ve always been the sort of girl that hung out mostly with guys. I like to think that women like me. It would be pretty sad to think they didn’t. There seems to be a lot of men at my shows.
FP: Go figure. What kind of teen were you growing up?
Annie: I used to be kind of nerdy. I used to collect magnets. I was always into magnets. Then I got into machines. I always felt most girls cared about silly things, and I’m not saying that I hate women, but I did spend more time with guys.
FP: What did you study in school?
Annie: Well, of course, I was going to be a photographer, like a lot of girls. But I was never really good. And when I started to do music I realized that this was what I wanted to do.
FP: Have you thought about doing anything else lately — acting, fashion, a cartoon maybe?
Annie: Actually, there was supposed to be a cartoon. There was this guy who was going to start up a magazine. And he wanted to do a cartoon about Annie. But it didn’t work out.
FP: If you were a cartoon superhero, what kind of super power would you like to have?
Annie: I would like to fly so I don’t have to pay for airplanes or deal with air conditioning. It’s terrible. One of the nice things about this part of the world is the clean air.