There are a few failed attempts before finally landing on a call with Hannes Norrvide, one half of the Swedish coldwave duo Lust for Youth. Once, when the connection dropped between public transit, and then, when we failed to squeeze it into the brief, hours long window of overlap when we were both in Paris. When we finally end up on a phone call together, they’re in New York for a few days, the first thing Malthe asks is how my trip was. It’s discerningly earnest, and empathetic of the collective reality of juggling multiple things at once.
It’s his fourth time to Paris this year alone, and he’s thought carefully about the best season to be in the city. According to him, it’s nice in the winter, much better in the spring, but the summer is too hot. “There’s no wind. You get fried from the sun, and all the concrete that reflects the sun,” he explains. The fact that Norrvide can speak in granular detail to the changing weather conditions of a place he doesn’t reside in full-time reflects the band’s nebulous relationship between time, space, and place, and their unyielding interest in better understanding the many environments, big and small, that they encounter.
Since forming in the early 2010s, Lust for Youth have taken a workhorse-like approach to releasing music. Between their impressive and reverb-drenched debut effort 2011’s Solar Flare, and their most recent, lushly intimate self-titled offering, they’ve released four albums in between: Growing Seeds (2012), their blown our Sacred Bones debut; Perfect View (2013) it’s moderately more polished follow-up, the comparatively pop-leaning International (2014) the following year, and 2016’s Compassion, where they experimented with planting their signature in a more sprawling atmosphere.
Equally channeling the spirit of new wave’s post-punk influenced heavy hitters like Depeche Mode and New Order, alongside the dreamier emotional contemplation of Coceteau Twins or This Mortal Coil, Lust for Youth teeter on an almost invasive kind of emotional intensity with melodies, seemingly, designed to be externalized on the dancefloor.
But despite the twinkling synth-breakdown on “New Balance Point,” or the steady industrial rhythm paired with a Balearic house on “Insignificant,” Norrvide asserts that they build melodies that take on a life of their own. “I feel that our songs are fitting to any occasion. You can dance, but it’s also supposed to be cinematic,” he describes. “It needs to balance two feelings that are contrary to each other — Something that is uplifting and, the word is not sad, but something in that direction.”
Rather than over-prescribing, the duo are curious and ardent surveyors of everything in their vicinity. Their songs start inwardly then grow larger, pulling in outside influences to broaden the scope of what they can address. Like much of their music, many of the tracks on Lust for Youth feature cloudy, ambiguous protagonists (or antagonists) that feel suitable for personal placement — anyone, in any song, can be whomever you want them to be.
“Everything you do you take from your personal experiences, but then you change them,” Norrvide explains. “Not to distance yourself, but to make a better story. You take a lot of things then put them together into a new thing.” It was that approach to unfolding a story that informed one of the album’s standouts, the bold and delicately heart-wrenching “Venus de Milo” which addresses the tension of a familiar, and untouchable, kind of open mesmerization.
“Me and Malthe [Fisher] took off from going to any parties on New Year’s Eve, isolated ourselves, and just worked that evening,” he remembers of the track’s genesis. “There were all of these people celebrating on the street and in the apartments around us, but we were in Malthe’s apartment recording and writing. It had a special feel to it. It was nice with all the fireworks outside, it felt like you were in the clouds.”
“It brought that vibe to the song,” he continues. “You’re looking at someone, [or] you want to take part of something, but you are on the outside. That was how we felt in that moment.”
Their decisive ability to look accurately at the conditions of a situation, and accept its terms without protest has given the band a refreshing kind of humility. Rather than aspiring to break new ground, they’re merely attempting to investigate it. “We’re not groundbreaking, nor trying to push or reinvent ourselves. We have great songs,” Norrvide chuckles. “I think the songs are becoming better and better, and more well-crafted. That’s what’s most important, I think.