Q&A: Sophie Hunger


Swiss-born songstress and multi-instrumentalist Sophie Hunger is set to release her self-titled debut North American album via Los Angeles label Manimal Vinyl (Warpaint, Bat for Lashes) on April 26. Sophie Hunger features 14 tracks, compiled from her European albums–Monday’s Ghost (2008) and 1983 (2010). Those albums were released to critical acclaim and Top 5 chart placements throughout Europe, going on to sell over 200,000 records.

Sophie’s songs have a folk soundscape packed with introspective, deep lyrical topics. Her music is also influenced by her nomadic upbringing: Sophie was born in Switzerland and then moved to London via Zurich and then Germany. As a result of her travels, this talented artist sings in four languages and the music she creates reflects the variety of musical genres she encountered along her travels.

Recently, after chasing her around the world, Bestnewbands.com finally caught up with the allusive Hunger to chat about her new label, the themes in her lyrics and her goals for 2011.

Daniel Kohn: What was it like making your proper debut in the U.S.? Did you feel any pressure from yourself or the label?

Sophie Hunger: No, not at all, because all of this is science fiction to us. That’s the best way for me to describe it. It’s awkward though. A lot of the music we know, we grew up with and we were influenced by is American but America itself seems unknown to us. This contradictory mixture is an exciting starting position. We just want to dive into it, head first!

DK: Why did you decide to go with Manimal Vinyl?

SH: Well, first of all they were showing interest (which was extremely flattering) and then we also felt that they understood where we were coming from. That we’re a live band, that we don’t have big radio singles but rather reached the European audience with a mixture of songs and languages, that we’re influenced by different traditions, i.e. classical music, jazz, rock, folk and that we need to use all of that.


DK: What are some of the themes you tackle in your lyrics on the album?

SH: One song is called travelogue it’s about moving without having to move. It’s about the power of resistance.

One song is called “Train People,” I wrote it after the economic crises in Europe had started. I had this picture in mind of how we’re all on a train that’s heading into one direction, and we can’t get off. We don’t remember how we got there. All our words echo on the rails, bouncing off leaving no impact on our direction. We cannot interfere.  Everybody knows that we should get off, but we’re too tied up. I tried to capture the feeling of resignation about a system that is obviously nonsensical and self-destructive but over which we seem to have no more power

Another is called “Leave Me With the Monkeys.” I tried to capture the sullen feeling of wanting to resist, the need for denial or defiance. You think you know all the fake story lines that the world has to offer and you decline, you want to defy it. You rather stay with what seems useless and absurd than having to fall for a broken promise. At the same time you believe that in you have every place to go, but that you are not willing to share this for mere pennies. I was in my studio at home, hearing the people upstairs getting ready to leave, I heard the night closing in on the city and with it infinite possibilities awakening of which I felt none would make a difference. It’s not a very wise emotion, but its part of what one feels.


DK: How, in your own words, describe the style and direction that this record has taken?

SH: I don’t know, it’s so hard for me to say. Also, I don’t even want to think about “directions”, I just try to go out and pull things back in and out again. You know? I don’t have an intention; I’m not a politician. I don’t have a specific thing in mind, or a mission of any kind. You know? Maybe you can tell me something about it. I guess it’s for you to judge.


DK: What was your favorite to song off the record? Was it due to the lyrics, the composition or any other reason?

SH: I kind of like “Sophie Hunger Blues” because I can’t recall how I did it. It makes me feel like I’m someone completely different or not a person at all, like I’m just a voice coming from a well, or something like that. It’s the most liberating feeling: being something else.


DK: What are you some of your goals for the rest of 2011?

SH: First of all I want to survive this year without having to see the world blowing up in atomic catastrophes or war over energy. I’d like to see the fall of liberalism and the awakening of a worldwide community saving this planet and of course I’d love to play three sold out shows at the Madison Square Garden and sing the Star Spangled Banner at next year’s Super Bowl and rescue David Shrigley or Miranda July out of a burning house.

With a new release in a new market, the talented songwriter is going to share with the Western Hemisphere what Europe has already known: Sophie Hunger is an artist that will be on your radar.