She’s taken inspiration from traditional Sufi music in Pakistan and the shores of Hawaii. We’ve met with Victoria Bergsman of Taken By Trees to talk about nature, love, and the future.
Beginning her career as the front singer of Swedish indie pop band The Concretes, Victoria Bergsman is now known under the name of Taken By Trees. She made her debut with the much-celebrated Open Fields in 2007, to be followed by East of Eden in 2009 and Other Worlds in 2012. Currently residing in Echo Park in California together with her husband, she came back to Sweden this summer to perform at the Weekday stage at Way Out West in Gothenburg and at Popaganda in Stockholm. We took the chance to interview her and find out how it all began.
– My interest in music began with listening a lot to girls’ bands, such as The Crystals and The Ronettes, Victoria says. I was maybe 15-16. I listened to a lot of Beach Boys as well. It was around then that I wrote my first songs.
I can wake up one day and feel that I want to sing or just do something else completely
– I knew that I had to express something creatively, but I didn’t know exactly how or what. Neither did I feel that I had to stick to just one medium, but that I could make art, film, or whatever. I just knew I had to express myself creatively. In addition to the music I’ve also been painting and working with film and photography.
– Even if the mediums differ, it’s always my artistic expression. Sometimes I feel an urge to express myself through some other medium than just singing. It can vary from day to day. I can wake up one day and feel that I want to sing or just do something else completely.
Even though Victoria has a boundless approach to creativity, it is within music that she has made a name for herself. Before she became known as Taken By Trees she sang in The Concretes for eleven years.
– You have more freedom when you’re a solo artist, but you’re also lonelier, Victoria says. I hire musicians from time to time, but I try to work with the same ones, so that I don’t have to start all over again.
When Victoria made her debut as Taken By Trees with the album Open Fields 2007, she was met with high acclaim for her mix of sophisticated soundscapes, dreamy melodies, and distinctive vocals, rendered with an intriguing instrumental palette. Just as her name suggests, Victoria takes much of her inspiration from nature. She finds it vital to get out of the conventional studio environment, and instead devote herself to the nature and culture of a new place. Her second album, East of Eden from 2009, was inspired by, and recorded together with Sufi musicians in Lahore in Pakistan. Embracing the ecstatic peacefulness of the traditional Sufi music, she reworked their harmonies and instrumentation into an expression of her own.
The combination turned out great, love and Hawaii
Her third album, last year’s Other Worlds, was also inspired by a specific place. This time it was the shores of Hawaii that had caught the singer’s attention, resulting in a dreamy and ethereal album, where the hazy melodies were intertwined with slow backbeat drums, Balearic soundscapes, and the sounds of waves, whistling winds, and bird song. The album was also strongly influenced by love, as Victoria met the surfer and marine biologist that would become her husband while working with the album.
– Those two things occurred at different points in time, Victoria says. The idea about Hawaii came to me way before I met my husband. But I think the combination turned out great, love and Hawaii. Two very strong and beautiful components.
East of Eden was inspired by Lahore in Pakistan and Other Worlds by Hawaii. How come those certain places turned out so important to you?
– I don’t know exactly why I chose those particular places, but I guess that I felt drawn to their specific nature and culture at those specific moments. For me, the most important thing is to get away from the regular studio environment and the traditional way of recording an album. I can’t handle that; it makes me way too stressed. I need the freedom of being wherever I feel like, and record whenever I feel like it.
How do you search for those places?
– It usually begins with a need to isolate myself, to get away from the everyday life and experience something new.
– It took us about a year of preparations before we could go to Pakistan.
Do you know where you will go next?
– I have an idea about where, but I don’t want to reveal it yet, Victoria says with a smile. It’s way too early for that.
Do you see Taken By Trees as a long-term project?
– I take it day by day. I might wake up tomorrow and feel that I want to do it in another way or that I don’t want to do it at all. I’ll see what happens.
– I know that it’s amazing to be able to think like that, but the downside is that I don’t really have any time off. I’m constantly working. Even if I go somewhere on holiday, there’s always something that needs to be done, emails to be sent, interviews to do, music to be written or recorded. I don’t think I’ve been had a real holiday since my early twenties.
So do you have any other thoughts about the future that you can share?
– For me, the future is something fragile, and I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much. But I must say that I find it exciting to think about what the future might hold for me.
Listen to Taken By Trees here.
Photos by Yulia Lindberg.