When Catharina Stoltenberg listens to Smerz’s debut album Believer, she feels emotional. Stoltenberg and her best friend and musical collaborator Henriette Motzfeldt worked on their first record for over three years before its release in 2021, and to play back these songs feels very much like encountering their past selves. “It’s a very detailed diary for the two of us, musically and lyrically,” Stoltenberg tells Apple Music. “I feel like music has that power of bringing back the feeling you had, you get transferred back.” Making Believer was not a static experience for the duo. It’s a record that was made in apartments, in schools, in some remote Norwegian cabins, by lakes, and in public libraries across the globe whilst the band were on tour. “We often go to libraries because you’re out in this big city and there’s nowhere you can be calm,” says Stoltenberg. “Libraries are often that place.” That feeling of a grand voyage, and of trying to hide away from the world in order to understand it, underpins this bewitching debut. It’s a record that mixes ambient electronica, warped avant-pop and dreamy soundscapes. “It’s a lot about communications and relationships and how you often meet yourself in relation to others and the struggle for relationships to feel honest or real,” says Stoltenberg. Let the Norwegian pair take you on a tour of their sonic chronicles, track by track. Gitarriff Catharina Stoltenberg: “It’s a bit inspired by some spy movies and maybe the opening of some Alicia Keys songs, a very grand opening where you try to get the feeling that something big is going to happen.” Henriette Motzfeldt: “And it’s maybe not that grand, but it’s more like the suspense.” Max CS: “It’s about this imbalance that can happen in the relationship when the other person’s look on you becomes stronger than your own look at yourself. The arrangement is based on these asymmetrical bars which are put into a very strict grid and tempo. So to us, the message or the movement feels both floating but also very rigid.” Believer CS: “It was lyrically written over almost two years, which is not typical for us. We often finish stuff in the heat of the song. I feel like we thought it was finished at the time, but then it was just the feeling that you had something more to say. So it just opened up for more and more. It ended up having this other type of development lyrically, but one that moves across different parts of an emotional journey maybe. It underlines how confused one can be and how you can keep on telling different stories to yourself.” HM: “The arrangement is based on these loops of different lengths, so they sometimes coincide, that’s what gives it this propulsion.” Rain CS: “This song was made very quickly, at least the important first draft. I think that it’s caught the vibe you get when you want to have sex. That sums up the song. Then we replaced the sample strings with real strings, working with violinists and cellists who could play on top of the chords.” HM: “It was fun to experience how our music can take another direction that made it into something new.” Versace strings CS: “I think we actively tried to work with the movement and breathing in the music through the computer in a different way than normal. We focused a lot on the movement and breathing, and not so much about the tonality. We played it live on the MIDI keyboard and then we fixed the tones afterwards, but we wanted it to give this fluffy, romantic feeling.” HM: “It’s a bit like these overtures that you often hear in opera where it’s a very dramatic opening, which is just a fun format.” 4 temaer CS: “It means ‘four themes’.” HM: “It’s based on these four themes that we made separately and each theme has two phrases that are of different lengths. And then we made them work together and let different instruments and sound both play the different themes.” CS: “I think that if you make these very strict rules for yourself, you don’t have to think about all these surrounding things, you only have to think about some kind of core in the message.” Hester HM: “We wanted to make something where everything followed this one rhythmic pattern, so that was the basis of it. And then it follows this simple idea of an AB structure.” CS: “We got very fond of ways of shifting and developing our structure, and that happens on ‘Hester.’” Flashing CS: “I got inspired by the feeling of euphoria that music is able to make. And lyrically, it’s about losing the feeling of being in a team, in a relationship, maybe when you go from feeling happy to looking at it from the outside.” The favourite HM: “It was inspired by various folk songs and Schubert’s song cycle, which is called Die schöne Müllerin, and [Edvard] Grieg’s ‘Solveig’s Song’. It’s made in real time, which is quite unusual for us. Catha was playing the MIDI keyboard and I was singing into the computer.” Rap interlude HM: “This was also made in real time, and we jammed on top of this loud trap song. I feel like it was partly just for fun, because sometimes if we’re not very eager to work or if we don’t have anything specific we want to do, we will just do something.” Sonette HM: “This was the quickest song we did. I think it was because we had this week where we were isolated and only made music, so I guess we’d spent some days getting synched and then this just happened. It also helped that we had just discovered or developed these sounds that we're using in the song, and that can be such an inspiring point in the process, where you’re finally able to make it into something new or something unknown.” Glassbord CS: “Musically, it’s inspired by Pink and 50 Cent. And lyrically, it’s maybe about the feeling where something’s very dramatic or you’re extremely sad, but you’re able to switch in and out of it, and maybe play around with your own emotions. Maybe because something is so big that you don’t understand it so you can switch on and then switch completely off. It’s about that confusing state and the lyrics play a bit with that sensation. And the glass table—glassbord—it’s like dancing on a glass table. Maybe it sets the scene of something being a bit forced.” Grand Piano CS: “We’d watch a lot of instrument tutorials on YouTube, and the inspiration for this came from one of those, and also maybe this vibe that is in the audience before a play or before a sit-down concert begins, right before the curtain goes up. And then the last part with vocals, I remember us doing it on our couch when we lived together in Oslo, with our USB mic and headset.” Missy HM: “‘Missy’ is very simple, it’s just this one sound which just is a very direct translation of a circular emotion.” I don’t talk about that much HM: “Again, musically, I think we were inspired by the Eurodance universe. The drums started out being these polyrhythmic patterns.” CS: “I feel like the rhythmical part of ‘I don’t talk about that much’, and of ‘Max’ and ‘Believer’, how it works for me is that I understand it body-wise and dancing-wise, so you’re able to float a bit around it. And it’s nice to not be so aware of what’s going on in a way so you can just go along with the rhythms.” Hva hvis HM: “This was me playing violin on top of samples of me playing violin, and it turned out to be this kind of folky song. And I think the title, which means ‘What if?’, is because it felt a bit hopeful. We wanted to finish with it because of the hopeful feeling, and also it’s not very concluding. That made sense for us.”

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