Sondre Lerche discusses the influences behind his great new album ‘Avatars of Love’
Sondre Lerche just released Avatars of Love, a sprawling, wildly ambitious and often brilliant 14-song, 85 minute double album. “This is without a doubt the biggest, boldest, most complex thing I’ve ever done,” Lerche says. “At the same time, it was also the easiest, most natural, and most liberating. As an artist, it’s the kind of project you always dream about.” You can read our Indie Basement review and listen to the album below. Sondre also just released a video for "Alone in the Night," Avatars of Love's gorgeous closing track that's a duet with AURORA. Watch that below, too.
We asked Sondre to tell us a little more about the influences behind Avatars of Love and he returned with a supersized list -- this one goes to 11 -- that includes music (Joni, Jobim, Sinatra, Swift, more), movies, books and podcasts. It's a great read-along with the album and you can check it out below.
There's no longer any specific song or album for me with Joni, it's just the entire body of work. Her way with words, melody, chords, life, it's all become a part of me and made me a much better songwriter and singer.
Hiroshi Yoshimura - Green
This album from 1986 really gave me a kick that I passed on to my co-producer Kato Ådland when we recorded stuff for Avatars Of Love. There's always been a tricky paradox between some of my sonic influences from ambient and experimental music and the rigidity of most of my song and chord structures that's made it hard to fully incorporate my more abstract, minimalist leanings. But on this album the songs finally had room to explore more of that, and ironically, I think it was the precision and importance of the lyrics that gave the songs more room to linger and breathe sonically also. Discovering Hiroshi Yoshimura, Haruomi Hosono, Susumu Yokota, and so many other experimental Japanese artists has been so refreshing for me.
Brian De Palma's Body Double
I've always been inspired by some of the films and themes of Hitchcock, also visually, in videos, of course. But recently I became interested in one of his most ardent imitators and admirers in film, Brian De Palma. The video for "Cut" is obviously inspired by De Palma's Body Double, which I just got to screen and present at an old cinema in Oslo. It's so outrageous, that movie. Stupid and clever and sleazy and sophisticated in equal measures. I like that, and it captures the theme of performative love and seduction really well, which is a major theme on Avatars Of Love.
Frank Sinatra - Watertown
I had loved this album for many years, but I started playing it again at the beginning of 2020, while I was doing a self-inflicted study on male sentimentality, leaning into my nature. This album captures that really well, even when the lyrics are not that good.
Antonio Carlos Jobim - "Waters Of March"
This song has always been with me, since my guitar teacher started trying to teach me to play it when I was 10, because I wasn’t doing my classical guitar homework. I never quite grasped how to play it, but the song itself is a mystery that’s grown inside of me, and that is more influential on my work now than ever. Musically, it identifies some descending chord progression that are essential to what makes me tick. Lyrically "Waters Of March" feels like it’s about EVERYTHING, and that’s the feeling I was left with when I wrote "Dead Of The Night," which I just recently realized borrows its title form a line in "Waters Of March," so I guess it adds up.
Virginia Astley - "Some Small Hope"
There’s actually a bonus track on the double CD edition of Avatars Of Love where I repeat over and over again "Won’t you play it again / Some Small Hope / Won’t you play it again / For me / and Sunset Tower in the rain." I was obsessed so much over this song when I found it. It’s one of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever known. And the fact the David Sylvian joins in, AND Ryuichi Sakamoto co-wrote it… it all makes sense. It’s such a treasure. I just want to be close to it, and it has inspired me so much.
Artist Nikolai Torgersen (@emogutt)
I’ve known Nikolai since 2014, and he’s always been an incredible artist and force. At times I worried about him, as he spiraled into addiction and destructive modes. And then, in the fall of 2020, he got clean and started making these incredible new pieces. Personally, I felt I was on a roll, writing and recording the most gratifying and important work of my life, and I could easily tell that he was on fire in his process. So I reached out and asked if he’d be interested in drawing all the art for my album. He said yes, and we’ve worked closely for over a year now, resulting in not only the artwork for the album, but an entire art exhibition that opens in Bergen on the eve of the album release. All the works will be auctioned off and the money given to families who struggle with addiction and aid to the people of Ukraine.
Marguerite Duras - The Lover
I read this while writing some of Avatars Of Love. It’s strange, I don’t really read a lot of books. I wish I did. And I barely can remember what HAPPENS in this book. But it was so inspiring and meaningful to me. The raw tenderness of the descriptions of sex and desire really touched me and expressed something I hadn’t been able to get at before. With this record I finally feel I’ve been able to write and express myself so freely with regards to sexually and intimacy, and I feel it might have something to do with this very unusual little book, although I can’t quite trace it or pinpoint exactly how.
Gilberto Gil - "Febril"
This song has been with me for about 10 years, I’ve always brought it up but never had the material to fully transcend its inspiration. I love how it is a deeply melodic bossanova song but it also has am ambient '80s feel that I somehow connected with some of the great Japanese ambient and New Age music of that era. I became obsessed with the idea of creating the plastic bossanova sound. Bowie had his plastic soul sound, I want my plastic bossa! And to merge these two hugely inspirational nations, Brazil and Japan, it just made sense to me. Particularly in the song "My Love Still Waits."
Taylor Swift - folklore and evermore
Obviously, I mention both these albums in Avatars of Love's title track, along with a bunch of other artists, songs and albums that spoke for me when I couldn’t yet. A lot were things I listened to during the summer of 2020, when I was on the road in Norway, all alone, playing social distanced solo shows and working my way through some very uneven heartache and desire. folklore almost seemed to narrate my mind at the time I heard it — I remember that morning so well, it was a Friday and I woke up in a hotel room in Steinkjer, Norway, where I had played the night before. My life was very surreal and overwhelming at the time, I was moving so fast, feeling so much. It was too much, but it was also the beginning of writing what would become this album. I had a vague sketch for something called "Avatars Of Love," but it would take me eight more months to actually make a proper song out of it. But then it suddenly came pouring out. And in the interim, Swift had released yet another (also good) album, evermore, and I had tried to move on to other dreams and songs, and suddenly only one of the shoes fit. And what began as a very internal joke with myself, that I could only embrace half of evermore, turned into this whole rant of songs and albums, comparing one to the other, or allowing one to remind you of another. I hope James Blake doesn’t mind that I call him Jimmy Blake, btw. Some Swifties have, of course, taken offense that I don’t fully embrace all her albums equally — but that’s life too. It’s a love story, nevertheless.
You Must Remember This podcast (The Invisible Woman season)
I’ve always been interested in director Peter Bogdanovich, who kinda lost his mojo a bit when he stopped working with his ex wife Polly Platt in the '70s. So this season of the fantastic movie podcast You Must Remember This was of immediate great interest to me. And it’s such a great insight into sexism in Hollywood, the challenges of working together as a couple, getting lost in myth, desire, addiction and ego, all the things that compel me! I listened to this on a trip up north to TREVAREFABRIKKEN in Lofoten last winter to work on a book I’m supposed to start writing. But all I was driven to do was write and finish this song called "Avatars Of Love." It just grew and grew, and suddenly both Pete and Polly were are part of it, in the final chorus, along with all these other stories and fates, much like my own. And in January, Peter Bogdanovich died, as his ex, Polly did ten years ago. Their lives were so interesting, so intertwined and shaped by their initial encounter. This podcast captures that so well and inspired me so.
Sondre Lerche - 2022 Tour Dates
4/09/22 – Berlin, DE – Badehaus
4/10/22 – Amsterdam, NL – Tuinzaal
4/13/22 – Dublin, IE – Pepper Cannister Church
4/15/22 – Manchester, UK – Gullivers
4/16/22 – London, UK – The Grace
4/17/22 – Paris, FR – 1999
4/18/22 – Zurich, CH – Photobastei
4/19/22 – Milano, IT – Biko
4/29/22 - Vancouver, BC - Fox Cabaret
4/30/22 - Seattle, WA - Crocodile *
5/01/22 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir *
5/03/22 - San Francisco, CA - The Chapel *
5/05/22 - Los Angeles, A - Masonic Lodge *
5/06/22 - San Diego, CA - Soda Bar *
5/07/22 - Palm Springs, CA - The Alibi *
5/08/22 - Phoenix, AZ - Valley Bar *
5/10/22 - Santa Fe, NM - Meow Wolf *
5/11/22 - Fort Collins, CO - Aggie Theatre *
5/12/22 - Denver, CO - Swallow Hill *
5/14/22 - Minneapolis, MN - The Parkway *
5/15/22 - Chicago, IL - City Winery *
5/17/22 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark *
5/19/22 - Millersville, PA - Phantom Power *
5/20/22 - Boston, MA - City Winery *
5/21/22 - New York, NY - LPR *
5/22/22 - Pawling, NY - Daryl's House
5/24/22 - Philadelphia, PA - City Winery *
5/25/22 - Washington, DC - City Winery *
5/27/22 – Atlanta, GA – City Winery *
5/28/22 – Louisville, NY – Zanzabar *
5/29/22 – Nashville, TN – City Winery *
6/15/22 – Bergen, NO – Bergenfest
8/15/22 – Oslo, NO – Øya festival
* w/ mmeadows