SASSY 009 – New Norwegian Sounds, pt 3


photography by VICTORIA STEVENS / story by HALEY WEISS

For nearly two years, the Oslo, Norway-based band SASSY 009 has created club music that defies expectations. Rather than bass drops, you’ll find flute solos and hypnotic harmonies on their debut EP, Do You Mind (Hard Up), released in November 2017. Johanna Scheie Orellana, Sunniva Lindgaard, and Teodora Georgijevic, the Norwegian artists who form the group, muse abstractly about attraction, memories, and relationships with cool disinterest. Their lo-fi visual interpretations of their songs (“Are You Leaving,” “Pretty Baby”) speak to two central elements of their intrigue thus far: an experimental, performative aesthetic and sisterly dynamic. This is perhaps most apparent when they take the stage; the three-piece forms a semicircle to face one another, and feed off each other’s energy in a entrancing, coven-like show that they liken to acting.

SASSY 009 spent much of the summer in the studio, so more synth- and flute-laden music is just around the corner. We recently sat down with the three young musicians—all of whom are in their early 20s—to learn more about their friendship and process.

On coming of age:

Johanna Scheie Orellana: I grew up in Oslo. It is nice here with my family.

Sunniva Lindgaard: I was born in Stockholm but moved to Oslo when I was around 6. It’s been pretty chill to grow up here; I’ve always felt free to be who I am, and almost never been afraid of the future. That social safety isn’t just a privilege in this country, it’s a solid springboard for people to create and dream big—because the Norwegian welfare system backs you in doing it. I’m really glad I’ve been raised with that mindset infiltrating me and my surroundings.

Teodora Georgijevic: I was born in Belgrade, Serbia, and raised in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Hercegovina and then later in Oslo, Norway. From Banja Luka I remember being surrounded by nature even though we lived in the midst of a neighborhood full of six-story buildings. Looking back I can see that my parents did a really good job in not letting my childhood be clouded by the all social problems that ruled/rule the country. It was tough moving to Oslo because I didn’t know the language, so I felt very isolated in the beginning, but after I learned how to speak Norwegian it was all smooth sailing.

On becoming a band:

Teodora: Sunniva and I went to middle school together, and Jo and I went to high school and folk high school, [a type of Norwegian secondary school,] together, so we were friends first and then everything came after that.

Johanna: We formed, more or less, on Sunniva’s initiative.

Sunniva: Yes. I produce music on my own, and the last year of high school I started making beats. The two of them went to the folk high school with jazz as a course, and I went to snowboarding school. I produced music on my own in my free time and then after we ended our year at folk high school, we started talking about how we should maybe become a band, because Jo was playing the flute and I was producing music and Teodora is a singer. So we tried it out.

On their dynamic:

Johanna: Our music is very much an extension of our friendship, which has a very strong energy. It’s chaotic, but we have a lot of respect for each other and our differences. We’re very different.

Teodora: It’s very intense.

Sunniva: And very funny—we laugh a lot.

Teodora: Because we’re very funny girls. [all laugh]

Sunniva: We have a lot of fun, and it feels like we have each other under our skin, kind of. It’s our second family.

On their varied influences:

Teodora: I listen to a lot of rap.

Sunniva: Yeah, rap, and I also listen a lot to electronic music in general. The electronic universe influences the productions at least.

Teodora: Independent from genre, all three of us are fond of hard music, even if it’s hard folk music.

Johanna: Basically everything that can make you dance, and we all have classical backgrounds in one way or another in the way we structure things and our way of thinking. It’s experimental but also very, very traditional.

Teodora: Yeah, a lot of the harmonies are inspired by traditional music.

Johanna: Like traditional folk music.

Teodora: [There’s also performance artist] Marina Abramović.

Sunniva: She gave a talk in Oslo—we were there—and a journalist asked her how she felt about the resistance in the beginning of her career, and she said something like, “I’ve learned that a no is just a beginning,” and I thought, “Yeah, it is!”

Teodora: And her recent work, where she’s working with being present, I’m really into that. To me it’s also special because I’m Serbian and she’s Serbian, so to know that she came from the same country and the same values, and ended up where she is—sort of going away from it all and then coming back to it in her later life—it’s very special to watch. We admire her greatly.

On the unlikely combination of flute and electro:

Johanna: When we got to know each other, it was so natural to say, “I can do flute over the beats,” or, “I made some space for you to play,” or, “You should have a solo.” If you listen to the production, there’s a lot of flute on the tracks that I don’t play on stage; it’s just laying there as a layer or a choir. We use it in many different ways, but the sound is very interesting.

Teodora: Since we’ve played so much together at this point, all three of us have also learned to listen to where the flute can fit, and where the most natural space in a song is for the flute to shine. Sunniva and I have started to really love the flute after Jo, because Jo has always loved the flute.

Sunniva: They’re the tools that we have: the flute, logic, and vocals.

Teodora: And it looks really cool when you shred on the flute.

Johanna: The basic part of this is our mutual intention of wanting to make it work between the three of us, so we just had to make it work. We had to make the flute fit, because we’re doing this.

On embracing mystery:

Teodora: We like when a line can mean more things, so it depends on who listens to it what they get from it. We’ve worked pretty hard on not being too obvious.

Sunniva: To be vague.

Teodora: So that it’s not: “I am sad. This is a sad song.”

Johanna: It’s always fun to work with contradictions, because you have something to stretch, to work around, and it makes friction in the music and friction in the audience, like, “Do they seriously mean this? Or does it mean something else?”

Teodora: And then backing it up with the music itself, so if you have a depressive lyric over something really happy—

Johanna: And you put some flute on it, then it becomes something very different.

Sunniva: We also avoid words like he or she, because they’re so concrete. Concrete words are not our thing.

Johanna: We always come to the point of, “It’s not vague enough.” [laughs] It can’t make sense. We have to not make sense.

Teodora: People have to think more for it to make sense.

On what the future holds:

Sunniva: [Our new material] feels like an extension of the EP, really, because now we’re doing the things with our songs that we didn’t do with the last EP. We’re stretching more.

Teodora: And digging deeper.

Sunniva: Digging deeper into each song, and we know each other better, and maybe feel safer.

Johanna: We’ve learned a lot.

Sunniva: Yeah, we’ve learned a lot, and I think the listener can tell by listening to the new songs.

Johanna: We want the listener to hear that we’re on a journey and that we’re moving somewhere—or not at all, or just in circles. [laughs]

For more on SASSY 009, visit their Facebook.



Photographer: Victoria Stevens
Writer: Haley Weiss
Featuring: SASSY 009