Swedish twin sisters Johanna and Miriram Tewolde Berhan released their alt-folk/pop debut album in 2009 on Efterklang’s label Rumraket in their tender teenage years and after a few year’s hiatus, they have returned a little bit older, much wiser, and more captivating than ever with a recent swoon-inducing EP titled Floating Forever. The EP, which they released this past December on their own label, Delicious Demon Records, is comprised of 5 slices of striking vocal harmonies bolstered by lushly shimmering synths and harder-edged guitar lines. Johanna’s and Miriam’s Björk-like, passionately keening vocal delivery is mesmerizing; both sweet and knowing – and totally emotive. The sisters are currently working on their sophomore album and are planning for a release later this year.
Northern Transmissions: Hello Johanna and Miriam! nice to catch up with the both of you. I’m excited to find out more about your vocals-centric recent EP, Floating Forever, and what you have in store for the rest of 2015?
Johanna: Hi Jen! We are honored to do this interview with you. It is new to us to run our own label, which is so much fun, but also gets me busy. I’m really having the time of my life right now, even though I feel like I’m working day and night non-stop. Except for on Thursdays between 8-9 pm when I take a dancing class. I try to be in the studio at least once a week to record new Taxi Taxi songs. Then we have two other releases on our label coming up – a girl called MISSA and this band Swap Babies. I’m a big fan of them both and try to help them out as much as possible, with press pictures and videos and stuff.
Miriam: Hello! Glad you like the EP. I think it’s pretty hectic since we have to finish songs for the album, and we are going to release a new video soon as well, created by a very good artist and person called Marlena Lampinen. Also, I just learned how to sample sounds, so I will have to keep up with that so that I don’t forget how it works. And I downloaded an app so that I can do morning gymnastics every morning. Tomorrow, we’re going to a friend’s working space in the morning. It’s actually the friend that made our logo that you can see on the backside of our vinyl. Clara Aldén is her name, a great illustrator! In the evening we will meet some French magazine or blog, and do an interview. I find it hard to follow my schedule. I’m slow and a little unprepared…
NT: You’re currently working on your sophomore album to be released later this year. How is the album shaping up? Will it following in the synths ‘n’ guitar-pop footsteps of your Floating Forever EP or will you be striking out with a different sonic style for the album?
Johanna: We arranged the songs on Floating Forever EP together with the following musicians playing on the tracks: Kali Malone, Dennis Egberth, Rebecka Rolfart, and Marcus Arborelius. It is a lot, but because of them the EP turned out like it did, and we are really happy about the result! The recording process of the coming album is a bit different. We have already started to record the foundation to some of the songs to really have the control of what we imagine the songs to be. We admire all of the musicians we’ve played with this last year, so we definitely want to have them playing on the album. I barely listen to anything else than R‘n’B, and I think that’s going to shine through on the album.
NT: You have a new video out for the swoon-worthy EP title track, “Floating Forever”, directed by Simeon Frohm. Where was the night-out footage of the both of you shot and what club did you end up going to?
Johanna: Simeon came out to Miriam’s apartment in Blackeberg, a suburb here in Stockholm. Our drummer Dennis drove our parents’ car and we ended up at Stureplan (the “fancy part” of Stockholm), where there are a lot of street lights and lit-up billboards, which means good light for filming. Then we went to a birthday party for our good friend and keyboard player Marcus, who took us to an R’n’B evening at the nightclub Debaser Strand. The ending scene in the video is from that club.
NT: Floating Forever is available on your own record label named Delicious Demon Records. You were previously on Efterklang’s label, Rumraket. Why did you decide to form your own label and how has the business side of it working out?
Johanna: We loved being on Rumraket. We were 16 when signing with them, and Rasmus Stolberg who did all the work on the label was like our favorite babysitter. Then they didn’t really have the time to keep running the label – it was completely undramatic. It was a year ago when I felt I wanted to get shit done. We had been away from the music industry for such a long time, and I really missed playing music. I felt that it would be lame to sit and wait for a label to show up, so one day I started Delicious Demon Records. I learn new things every day, and enjoy every bit of it. Even though I have like 5 bucks at the moment in total… Haha.
NT: Did you pick the name Delicious Demon after The Sugarcubes song of the same name?
Johanna: Yes! When I was 13 my Internet username was deliciousdemon, after that song.
NT: Your vocal intonation and phrasing is reminiscent of Björk, especially on the track “Beetroot”. Are you long-time admirers of her and her work? I was bowled over by her and the rest of The Sugarcubes when they released the astounding Life’s Too Goodalbum. It’s one of my All-time Top 10 Albums.
Johanna: From age 13 Björk was my god! I would get depressed when thinking about that it wasn’t me who had written her songs. Before her it was Lauryn Hill that blew my mind. Then Bright Eyes came along and I envied Conor Oberst. Now I’m all stressed out because of Beyonce. I would probably still shit my pants if I met Björk, and I think that her singing style might be stuck in my voice due to her big influence on me when I first started to write music.
Miriam: I like Björk but I haven’t listened to any of her albums released after Vespertine.
NT: Your lyrics are very reflective and at times deal with various types of relationships. I especially like the lyrics on “Floating Forever” where you sing “I can’t remember the time before I met you / I wonder what I used to do…” Are all your lyrics autobiographical, or do you take on the role of a fictional protagonist at times?
Johanna: For me, the writing process almost always has to start with a feeling about a situation in my life. Then sometimes I create a fictional story around it.
Miriam: Hmmm, my songs are often simply descriptions of pictures or scenes that I have imagined or seen. For example, in the song “Floating Forever” I put together different scenes I had imagined. I’m happy that you like the lyrics! The “can’t remember..” part is both sweet and sad, I’d say. Imagine having no clue of what you did or liked before you met a certain person?! It’s horrible! But yeah, maybe I felt exactly that… But I can’t remember, because I met someone new now who made me forget everything I felt or did or liked before.
NT: Although I’ve just found out about you (and I wish I had heard about you sooner!), you’ve been creating music for several years now, releasing a self-titled EP in 2007 and your debut album, Still Standing at Your Back Door, in 2009. How would you compare your earlier output to your recent EP? What kind of progression or changes have you made over time? Your vocals are definitely, and deservedly, at the forefront of your new songs – and I also feel that you are singing more passionately than before.
Johanna: The recording of Floating Forever EP was the first time we were producing a record by ourselves. During the recording of our previous releases we were still teenagers and a bit insecure when in the company of producers with a lot of experience. Nowadays I also want to focus on my singing which is my main instrument, and that’s why I don’t play guitar on our songs like I used to.
Miriam: Yes, just the fact that time has passed, and we have tried some things… To play in different constellations and bands and listen to different types of music. I think it was good for us to not work with a producer for the Floating Forever EP. I can get insecure when there’s grown ups in the room there to give their opinion… even though it is of course helpful, sometimes. But I feel that our insecurity shone through on our previous releases. Since we started our own label we can to whateeeeever we want. The Floating Forever EP was one thing.
NT: What has it been like to work together as siblings (and twins no less!)? Do you feel that you have an intuitive understanding of how to create your music that maybe you wouldn’t have with other collaborators?
Johanna: We can be very honest with each other, which is great. I haven’t really tried to write music with anyone else though…
Miriam: Yes, maybe a little shared subconsciousness. But since years have passed since we started writing music together, and we have played with other bands in different types of music, we have also grown a little bit apart, but in a good way. On our first EP released in 2007, I knew everyone of Johanna’s references and influences, and I was influences by them too. Now it’s different. If one of us throws on a playlist, our friends could tell which one of us put it together. At least I think that’s it.
NT: What is your live show like? Is it just the two of you on stage for performances or do other musicians contribute in the live setting?
Johanna: Previously we were always touring as just the two of us, sometimes with a drummer. The shows we’ve done after the Floating Forever EP have been with all of the musicians who play on the recording. I think our forthcoming shows will be either as a duo or with full band, depending on the scene, maybe…
NT: What have you been up to since the release of your debut album in 2009? It’s been about 5 years between that and your current EP release. Have you always been based in your hometown of Stockholm, Sweden or have you been able to travel the world?
Johanna: I was very exhausted after our releases in 2007 and 2009. When playing shows back then, I ended up a bit depressed afterwards almost every time due to the very personal lyrics. It takes a lot of energy to basically read out of your diary in front of a room full of people. I got tired of myself and wanted to work with normal stuff. Now I believe I’ve found a balance in the way I write which makes me less vulnerable as an artist.
Miriam: I have been playing with another band called Silverarken. We quit in 2013, so then I started to finish the new songs with Johanna as Taxi Taxi.
NT: I’ve visited countries like France, Germany, and Switzerland, but I haven’t had the chance yet to visit Sweden and the city of Stockholm. What are some of the things (foods, stores, bands, monuments, etc…) that you enjoy about the city?
Johanna: You should come in the summertime. Right now Stockholm is so boring and grey. If you do, buy homemade ice cream from Stikki Nikki and go for a dip in the lake at Reimersholme! You should also see what the DJ collective Namaste is up to – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Namaste/158228527682229?fref=ts – they always throw the best parties.
Miriam: If you come in the wintertime, you should go up north. Go to Luleå, then you can drive your car on the ice and eat waffles with cloudberries. If you are in Sthlm in the summertime I think you should just stay out the whole July. It is so nice to bike around and drive a moped on summer nights. The sun comes up so early here in the summer. It is light outside around 3 or 4 in the morning.