Momentarily you are alive and things are done and then there is the rest of infinity to not exist. So you have very little time to decide on what you’re going to do with this finite job you’ve been given. Maria Lindén plays under the banner I Break Horses, and this is how she’s decided to mess with the awesome of space and the universe. Hearts, the first single off her LP, summons the ghosts and lets the sun in all the same time, Lindén’s voice a mechanical echo from long ago. Here we talk about soundscapes, letters and mousetraps.
Smashed Chair: Would it be too much to ask where you¹re from and what parts of the world you have lived in? Origin of your life, genesis, etc.
Horses: I grew up in the countryside in a tiny village in the southern parts of Sweden. I guess the lack of things to do made music a great option for me to escape reality for a while. It was either music or sports, and I’ve never been much of a sports freak. I think growing up like that made me quite humble, focused and just slightly paranoid.
Chair: What was the writing process like for this album?
Horses: I suppose that I am quite a solitary person, I have always spent a lot of time on my own and so writing music alone does kind of come naturally. Even though I did use some proper recording studios at various times during the making of the LP, for the most part, this is really a bedroom recording. When I record tracks in the bedroom for that first time, there is an edge, an energy to the recording that comes from it being so new, and so instinctive. When I take that recording and try and re-create it in a proper studio, it may sound ‘professional’ and to an engineer’s ears perhaps technically better, but to my ears it usually sounds pretty horrible! So after a few failed experiments, I ended up doing all the recording that I could at home! And this makes up the bulk of what you hear now on the finished record.
Chair: Are you a visual artists - do you have an image in your mind when writing music, like for Hearts, was there an image that you wanted to translate into musical notes?
Horses: That’s a great question. Building a soundscape with guitars and beats and keyboard textures is very much like painting or sculpting, and sometimes the picture doesn’t reveal itself until right at the end. I am obsessed with film and yes it has an impact on me emotionally and I try to bring that feeling into my music.
Chair: Are you influenced by your immediate environment?
Horses: Perhaps. I don’t think I would describe my music as uniquely ‘environmental’ though! Being stuck in a small room for a long time can of course influence the sound in a few different ways. Not always how you’d imagine! It could be a claustrophobic sound to illustrate the feelings I had, or it could be entirely the opposite, the expansive, wide, spacious I guess as my way of visualizing something bigger and better outside of my own environment. I would like to think the end result is somewhere between the two.
Chair: Some musicians say that they cannot listen to their old recordings. Do you feel the same way?
Horses: I think it is natural for musicians with only one or two records out, to be thinking about new songs and ideas, how to do something you hadn’t been able to do before and to listen to the old recordings isn’t going to be particularly useful, relevant or helpful. Most early records of bands are of songs that have been around for ages before the band get signed and then by the time their debut record comes out, those songs can be like 3-years old, and probably recorded in some shitty studio or on Garageband etc. So I do understand and share that sentiment to a degree, but on the other hand, I don’t really have any old recordings yet! Maybe I will feel that more in a couple of years.
Chair: How old were you when you decided that music was something you wanted to devote yourself to?
Horses: I have known it for a long time, but knowing it and doing it are two very different things. It’s only a recent thing really. Confidence is a very fragile commodity for me. I think for a lot of musicians it seems to be the same? Having a label and a booking agent to help me do all that record business kinda stuff helps a lot, cause it means I can concentrate on making these funny noises in my bedroom. And let someone else do the other stuff.
Chair: What music did your parents listen to when you were growing up?
Horses: They listened most to classical music and jazz. I loved Nina Simone and that music will stay with me forever. Even when I didn’t understand so much about music I knew there was something very special about her, and she wasn’t just singing a song, for the producer or whoever, she felt and meant every word and those old recordings are just so full of drama and atmosphere.
Chair: When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone?
Horses: The letter that first comes to my mind is one I wrote for an invention contest when I was about 9. My contribution was a very detailed mousetrap and I worked on the layout for more than 2 weeks (Small town issues!) I won a Frisbee and was thrilled about it. Later on I discovered that everyone won that Frisbee and that kind of killed the excitement. I guess mousetraps with better design had already been out there for quite a while though.
Chair: Did you have any formal voice lessons or are you a natural singer?
Horses: I’ve never had any formal voice lessons, no. But I’d really like to if I get the chance! I like to treat my voice/vocals in the same way I treat other instruments and I guess the more I learn about my voice, the more I can do with it.
Chair: When you put together this album was there a narrative you had in mind a constant?
Horses: When Fredrik and I were working on the lyrical ideas, we did seem to find ourselves pre-occupied with the workings (and the non-workings) of the body, whether it be through our own obsessive fears, or through illness, and it seemed that during the whole writing process, these feelings consumed us.
Chair: What is the oldest object in your possession?
Horses: That would probably be my father’s first Gramophone that I’ve taken over.
Chair: Are you a romantic or realist?
Horses: I’m more of a romantic idealist.
Chair: What is your response when people ask, 'what do you do for a living?'
Horses: Another great question. Thankfully no one has asked me yet, cause most people I know, know! And to be honest I think anyone who would even ask me that question in the first place would have to be a person I’d rather not be talking to, so whatever my answer would be, I imagine that there are only one, two likely responses:
1. ‘Oh really that’s interesting (meaning ‘no it isn’t) or
2. ‘Cool. So anyway, where do you live?’
If it happens, (when it happens) I think I will say that I am an inventor, currently working on a new modern update on the domestic mousetrap.