Recently, I had the chance to talk with Sondre Lerche, the Norwegian singer, songwriter, and all around talented musician who is best known for his song “Modern Nature” and his work on the soundtrack for the movie Dan in Real Life. From the smooth jazz of songs like “Everyone’s Rooting Just For You” to the undeniably sad ballad “No One’s Gonna Come”, Lerche has explored boundary upon boundary with his music, and he brings his diverse sound to the Independent next Thursday, October 2.
From his first album Faces Down to his self-titled sixth album, Lerche has tested limits, broken expectations and surpassed any sort of ceiling that has been set for him and his music. Please, his eighth album, dropped last week and is another pinpoint in his timeline of progressions.
“Please is deeply informed by the collapse of a relationship that you have built your world and life around and trying to find a whole new balance out there in the world,” Lerche told me with his slight accent and soft voice.
And that it is. A testament that marks Lerche’s focus on his music and the recording process, rather than attempting to capture the mere live-show feel. Please marks Lerche’s step into focusing on producing and emphasizing single songs rather than the album as an entire product. Something, Lerche notes, that he hasn’t focused and taken the time to do before.
Please even features collaborations with Steve Marion from Delicate Steve, violinist Tim Fain from Philip Glass Ensemble and saxophone player Kjetil Møster who plays with Røyksopp, Robyn, and Datarock.
However, the album seemed to work in two different projectiles, bringing together an older product that Lerche worked on about two or three years ago with the entirely new product we see today in Please.
“For a while I thought I had the songs,” said Lerche. “Then things happened in my personal life and in my marriage, and then that disintegrated. For me, it shaped the record and what the record needed to be about out of necessity. It changed what I needed and wanted to talk about. It shaped everything in terms of trying to understand and make sense of the world around me.”
It’s a mystery. The things we grow into. The way we morph and change. There’s a constant, irrepressible feeling that comes with growing up. With maturing. With moving on. With loss and gain.
More use of production, including overlays, reverb, and other smaller things grace the album in a way that hasn’t been done before with Lerche’s music. These small changes can really be marked as Lerche’s comfortability in the uncomfortability. If Lerche’s self-titled album could be seen as the start of a new road, then Please is a small digression that eventually leads back to another vaguely familiar path.
“I think early records are more about an idealized world. How you would prefer things to be – how you would hope things would turn out to be,” said Lerche, talking about the content of his lyrics on Please. “I think things now are much more about how things actually are. About understanding yourself and why people change and why I’ve been changing.”
Please is, inescapably, a diverse sounding album. At first listen, it’s hard to see the clear line that ties everything together. Then you look beyond the surface – beyond the fact that albums have to be coherent and flow. The thematic nature of the album is what ties it together: that each song is a production of its own, a song of its own, and the album becomes a statement. We’re constantly moving. We’re constantly trudging along. Please just does a nicer job of proving that.
“I would like to say it’s a record you can dance to half of it, and cry to it the rest of it, and then maybe dance and cry at the same time,” said Lerche about the album.
But with all the movement, progression, and next-steps, Lerche hasn’t forgotten his roots and the things that brought him to where he is today. In fact, Please is an homage to just that – where we’ve been, how we got here, and where we’re going.
“I can still recognize my adventure. It all comes from the same place, but it’s a different way of looking at it. Things change, we all change from when you’re 20 to 30, needless to say the saying that you create will have to change also. It doesn’t feel compelling to go backwards to do Duper Sessions II, etc. Those records have a clear identity that I recognize and enjoy, but it’s more fun to see what else to say…. I wanted only that color, style or vibe, but a record like Please contains multitudes.”
But things didn’t come naturally. It was a push to change the focus of the album as not just one piece of work, but the compilation of numerous songs into one entity. But for Lerche, it’s been a move that has been liberating and transcending.
“All of a sudden,” said Lerche with a faint chuckle. “It seems more natural and compelling to be bold and to sort of not be so polite and to not hold back.”