ice cool norwegian duo smerz talk feeling blessed, thrilled and gender fluid
We catch up with the pair making the coolest minimal pop-techno this side of Scandinavia.
We are long-time fans of Norwegian-born, Copenhagen-based duo Smerz. Catharina and Henriette won our hearts with their minimal techno-pop sound and enchanting live shows. The pair, who have known each other since they were 16 years old, are the best friends we wish we had, the kind of friends that you can talk about everything and anything with, and go dancing with until the early hours of the morning. In Berlin for a show, we looked for a quiet spot on the Spree to catch up and discuss the tracks on their first EP. What Thrills them? Is there something they feel Blessed about? And what does being a Girl mean these days?
The first track on your EP is called Thrill. When was the last time you were thrilled and what thrilled you?
Catharina: When I got home yesterday and had the leftover half of my meal from this great Turkish restaurant. I had two episodes of Girls to watch that I had not seen yet and I was home alone -- that was a good moment.
Henriette: Maybe I was thrilled just now, when the sun came out. My mood is very dependent on weather. I can easily be thrilled but I can easily be sad too.
The second you named Blessed. What do you feel blessed about?
C: I think family and friends, and boyfriends -- if you want to count them.
H: Family and friends and also the community we are a part of in Copenhagen. We have very much the same approach to music and life in general as our friends.
How would you describe this approach?
C: Straight out of the box. That feeling that you shouldn't have to hide anything, like, if you want to do something than do it -- and if not then don't. It's a cut the crap mentality.
H: I think we mostly talk about believing what the artist does, versus talking about what we don't believe in.
Next I want to talk about Sure. What are you sure about?
C: I feel that I am often sure about things in the close future. I am not sure about things further away then two months because of the way we live.
H: I think I became comfortable being unsure, that's my approach these days.
How come? Is this something growing up brought to you?
C: Yes, maybe. Because you have this vision of growing up and then you realise that you never will.
H: Maybe when you get older you realise that the people ten years older than you are not sure either. I guess the reason you hide stuff from kids is that they feel safe but then they grow up and realise that there are a lot of dangers.
Where do you feel safe?
C: That differs a bit. Sometimes Oslo, our hometown, has been this safe space to me. But then again now because we have been living in Copenhagen for so long, this has become a new safe space, it's changing. But I have this vision of Oslo being a safe space. It feels like I know it really well but when I come there now I feel like I only know it five years younger, so of course it is different.
H: Maybe my apartment... though I don't know if I have one safe space.
C: When everything is a bit chaotic, my parents house is a safe space, because everything is in its place and you can just wake up and have breakfast with everyone. But it could also be going out with friends. It depends what your needs are.
Lastly, let's talk about Girl. What are the first things that come to your mind when you think about being a girl?
C: We had a big discussion about the gender topic lately. We asked ourselves whether the gender you feel like you belong to has something to do with who you are attracted to. We asked ourselves why a lot of straight girls seem more girly in a traditional sense -- whether that is a real thing or just something that is expected by society.
H: I wouldn't say that we're girly, but recently we talked about how we often found that we were most aware of our gender in relationships with boys -- so we most defined ourselves as girls when we felt attracted to boys, while our gender was not an issue without their presence. We are generally against all kinds of gender oppression, but when you are in relationships these influences of how you grew up show themselves. Then you suddenly want to feel like a girl and you want the guy to be a certain way, while at the same time you don't want society to be that way.
C: I think we were really blessed because growing up gender was not an important theme for us -- we never felt like our gender was in our way. Generally speaking -- it is of course still a big deal in music. Clearly there are not enough female producers in the industry. But things are changing fast in Norway, there are many more girls in music schools now.
H: I think it is still important for us to talk about our job because this may make it easier for other girls to imagine that they can to do the same thing we do.
Text Alexandra Bondi de Antoni
Photography Sylvie Weber