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Karen Marie Ørsted has a contained manic energy. She speaks without reserve, she curses cheerfully, and she’ll address anything. The Danish singer, who goes by Mø, released her first album, No Mythologies To Follow, in March 2014. She collaborated with Diplo on a track last year, and currently has a collaboration with Iggy Azalea which she’s still perfecting. Despite her name being incredibly hard for non-Scandis to pronounce, she’s certainly part of the conversation, with comparisons from Purity Ring to M.I.A. She’s been touring America and Europe, and is next looking forward to making a new album and her impending move to L.A.
Just before her performance at Pitchfork Paris on Oct. 31, she sat down and chatted with us about her Sporty-Spice tinged love of vintage, her imperfect SNL performance, and exploring the teenage mind.
Can you tell me about your band name, “Mø”? It’s a bit provocative, because you’re obviously very strong, yet its means “damsel,” something relatively sweet.
The name started because in the beginning when I did Mø — back in the day before I met my producer and became Mø as it is now — I was doing this kind of political provocative crunk rap where I would play this alter ego, where it was, like, about how insane teenagers are, like “hey, f–k everything.” I’m like “bleuh!,” just swearing all the time, being as provocative as possible. Like too much, you know. [laughs] But I thought it was funny. I wanted the name because it means “maiden,” to be kind of a virgin to life — pure and young and unspoiled and that was like the direct [opposite] of this insane teenage madness, f–king up everything. So I thought it was funny to be like, you know, like “yeah, you’re just a little f–king girl and you have a whole life in front of you, you don’t know anything.” Even though you grow up and, especially nowadays, we like to try to maintain that child-ness within, because everyone thinks you have to be grown-up very fast, and be like “ohhhh, blah blah blah embrace all that stuff.” I think it’s so important that you try to still remember that child inside of you. Because otherwise it’s too boring.
Are there preconceptions you wanted to fight against, from a female point of view? Like was there something to prove?
When it comes to being a woman in the industry, it’s not… there’s a lot of people asking about these things, and I know that the industry is still, like, it’s definitely many more men than females, but the thing is, if you look at a lot of the big, big solo artists nowadays — in pop music, at least in the Western world — they are women. Rihanna, Katy Perry… big, big solo females.
So much power. So I don’t see it as a problem. And actually, I’m like, I don’t think the sex — I mean the gender — is interesting when you talk about… why do we have to talk about the gender, it’s about the best music, you know? Like, I wanna talk about it, but you know what I mean.
Right, you don’t want to focus on it.
It’s like f–k the sex! It has nothing to do with this thing! Yeah, I’m a person. There’s a lot of persons in this industry. It’s not that important. But of course I know it’s something that people talk about, and of course I want to set a good example for other women — but I also wanna set a good example for other men!
Yeah! It’s not important.
How much does your style inform your performance?
I’ve always considered myself as not being very good at fashion. I don’t know a lot of brands. When people ask me about brands, I’m like “Uhhhhhh … American Apparel?” It’s very important for me that you dress the way you feel like, in your personal taste. When you make music, or when you make art or videos or photos—it has to be personal taste, and it has to come form the artist, all of it, so it has a red line through it. It has to go hand in hand, and it has to be true to what you think is cool. To me it’s about feeling natural and comfortable, but still having that kind of UHH! I used to be punk, so I don’t want to be too pretty-looking unless I have to. I love vintage and finding old Everlast trousers [she gestures to the Everlast sweats she’s wearing] and stuff like that.
So, I don’t know if you wanna talk about it, but—
No, I wanna talk about everything!
There was a bit of a snafu recently with your SNL gig. Does the risk factor of performance intimidate you? Have you ever had performances where you were just like “Oh God.“
Actually, I never worried about the risk factor until… [laughs] last Saturday. No, but those things happen. I must say, when I woke up the day after, like I said on the internet post, I was really so f–king sad. I thought it was such a shame… I don’t know how to fake stuff, so I was like, oh shit. I’m so happy that people are cool. It’s not that it was that bad, but it wasn’t great from my side. Sometimes when you really wanna do good, you fail. But that’s life. It’s also an indicator that you’re human. Even if people see me as down to earth, it still sucks to not do great on worldwide television [chuckles]. But f–k that.
Which act would you love to see perform?
I would really love to see FKA Twigs. Everybody says her performances are so amazing and so intense. She doesn’t have opening bands, but [instead] dance performances and artsy things. She seems like a musician who also embraces art. I think that’s very cool. I went to an art academy myself, so when I hear about people like that, that’s something I adore.
What did you study [at the Academy of Fine Arts in Denmark]?
It was actually sound, I tried to do music in an art context. It’s a very hard balance, because I do see music and art as the same thing. But it’s different scenes. You put something in a gallery and that’s one thing; then you have a concert. It’s two different constellations. Of course it’s possible to mix. I was trying to find a way to combine it, but the music industry and the art industry are kind of different, even though they’re the same. It’s a science.
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