Ida Maria

UK pop queen comes to America with a Fortress Round My Heart and colors around her eyes

Ida Maria’s debut LP, Fortress Round My Heart, has a huge appetite for emotional extremity. Gorging on both sultry crooning and bouncy infectious pop, it has many of the hallmarks of ambitious and precocious youth. Fortress made the 24-year-old Norwegian singer a pop queen in the UK, and—after a re-release of the album that features a few new songs and a changed track listing—she’s now on her way to charm America. Even though her lyrics are brash and largely about self-destructive behavior, she isn’t the latest in a long line of brassy, intoxicated pop starlets—and she’s not afraid of breaking a few ribs or head-butting a guitar, either. Prior to her show with Glasvegas Thursday, March 26, at The Black Cat, Ida Maria spoke with The A.V. Club about seeing colors when she hears music, bleeding onstage, and not tolerating any bullshit.

The A.V. Club: What was the decision behind the reissue of Fortress Round My Heart?
Ida Maria: When I was releasing that record, I was on a constant tour, and it was just chaos. Everything happened at the same time. I just chose a cover for the album, and it was random. When I left working with the English company, I took some pictures with my drummer and the album now has three different covers. You can choose which one you like.
AVC: Which one do you like?
IM: I like the one that’s going to be released in the U.S. It’s a very natural picture; I’m looking straight forward. There’s no bullshit. Just me.

AVC: You reportedly have the neurological phenomenon, synaesthesia, where you see colors when you hear music.
IM: I didn’t really know there was a word for it. I just thought I was a bit odd.
AVC: What does your music look like?
IM: Very colorful. As many colors as possible. Every rhythm, every tone, every note, every chord… has got a different shape and shade of color. It’s not, “This song is this color, and that song is that color.” It’s more like a symphony.
AVC: How does it affect the song writing process?
IM: It’s more a handicap when it comes to arranging stuff, because I can’t really communicate very well when it comes time. I have an image in my head, but I think that’s a normal problem for musicians.
AVC: Do you write all the arrangements, then?
IM: Oh, no. I’m not a very good a good drummer. I wish I was. The reason I wanted to play with these guys, they are all really talented and creative. They’re a big part of forming the song. We can have some arguments on what kind of distortion there’s going to be, but the purely musical stuff is very democratic.
AVC: What’s it like having an all-male band?
IM: It’s the best—I wouldn’t dream of having an all-girl band. I get all the attention.

AVC: Your music has a charming but alarming sense of sadness. Is this your style of songwriting, or is this the real Ida Maria?
IM: I think my music reflects me, and I don’t have so much imagination, so I really just write stuff that I know and stuff that I experienced. I’m a very up-and-down person, I guess, almost like manic-depressive.
AVC: You’ve also got quite a set of lungs. How did you discover the power of your own voice?
IM: To tell you the honest truth, I wrote all my songs in the wrong key. So when I started performing, I had to scream to reach the highest notes or else I wouldn’t be able to sing it.
AVC: You’ve said you respect people who put all of themselves into the music when they’re performing.
IM: You know, I think it’s got something to do with the fisherman’s village where I’m from. You don’t really get any respect around here if you don’t put all your energy and all your muscles and your brain and everything together to actually do something. These guys go out in the storm in their tiny boats and risk their lives just for some food on the table. I guess it’s just in my blood.
AVC: Some of your performances have ended in bloodshed. Is that you or is that your stage persona?
IM: If I have to do something, I have to do it properly. Sometimes it’s really stupid. I don’t want to be some kind of destructive artist. That’s just bullshit. Guys have done that for a long time. It’s just sometimes, I bump into stuff—it’s not really on purpose.