Hailing from the small island of Nøtterøy in the Oslo fjord, Anniken Jess Iversen of Anana creates dark yet melodic, emotional yet restrained “underwater pop”. “I didn’t know which genre I could place my music in”, says Anana “so, I made my own genre, and tried to describe it as humorous as possible to make fun of this genre-mania”. It may sound like an old cliché to most of us, but Anniken always just wanted to make music and do it her own way. Although we’re already head over heels with her “underwater pop”, Anana is just happy to just have someone listen along. Still not quite used to talking about herself, we spoke to the elusive Norwegian singer-songwriter about her dreams and goals as an artist.
Words by Peter Quincy Ng
So, for those who don’t know tell us a little about yourself and how you got started into music.
Well, I’m a girl who really enjoys making, playing, producing, arranging and listening to music. I’ve grown up in a music loving family - with a mother always putting on a Prince, Radiohead or Michael Jackson record on the stereo in the living room, and with a father playing Elton John and Supertramp on the piano and Neil Young on the guitar. I started playing classical piano when I was around 6 or 7, and started secretly stealing my parents’ records at 9. I saved up a lot of money, and when I was 14 I bought a 16-track hard disk recorder, a microphone and an electric guitar, and started making my own songs.There covers of Blink-182, of course (laughs). At 19, I got accepted into the BA program in Music Technology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and that was it, really! Anana was born.
I’m sure you’re past your Blink-182 phase these days, what inspires Anana these days?
I’m mostly inspired by music, of course and I’ve listened to everything and nothing through the years. The Mars Volta has made a huge impression on me, with their unusual melodies and progressions. The persona of M.I.A. is also a huge inspiration and I have to mention Radiohead, Erykah Badu, Elton John and Jaga Jazzist as influences as well. Film-wise the movies of Wes Anderson have been inspiration to me and I wish more musicians made music like Wes makes movies! As a kid though, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Grieg and Harald Severud had me really inspired.
The music Anana makes is dark yet melodic, and emotive yet restrained. Tell us a little about your sound and what you mean by “dypvannspop”?
The underwater pop (dypvannspop) thing is a bit of a coincidence. I didn’t know which genre I could place my music in, and I’m really not that good with genres. Like, I don’t know where the borders go. So, I made my own genre, and tried to describe it as humorous as possible to make fun of this genre-mania. Musicians are way too serious when it comes to their music.
As for the sound of Anana well, I actually don’t think too much about what kind of sound I want or am making, it just happens. I can’t really describe it myself - it’s up to the listeners to figure out. I know, that’s such a cliché, but I guess it’s kind of a “positive darkness”, if that makes sense. Like you said, it’s very melodic and simple, but at the same time I want to surprise my listeners, and give them elements and progressions they do not expect. I love that in music myself, and I’m so sick of your predictable hit song where you can sing along even though you’ve never heard the song before. I want my listeners to find new elements in a song every time they listen to it. So, I guess my sound has a “simple complexity” of some sort.
Well you’ve had your first single out for quite some time. How has that been so far?
Island was a stepping stone for me as a musician. I wanted things as I wanted them, so I decided to release it by myself. My first real single ever and on my own label! Kinda cool, but of course you won’t be able to reach as many as you would have with a label supporting you. I didn’t want to make any compromises with my music, so I had to pay the price, I guess but I love it, because all I ever wanted and still want is to make music. It’s a huuuuge plus just knowing people want to listen to my music and something I really don’t expect! However of course it would have been nice to make a living out of this though maybe in the future - hopefully (laughs).
You’ve come a long way from your small town of Nøtterøy tell us a little about it?
Nøtterøy is a small island in the Oslo fjord just south of Oslo. It’s a really beautiful, idyllic island in the summertime, and considered to be the rich Oslo kids’ Hamptons. It’s where all of Oslo spends their summer days and they really just take over the island, and treat it like a dump. During the autumn, winter and spring there’s really not that much to do when living on Nøtterøy. So I got by spending my days listening to all sorts of music, traveling to Oslo to try to sneak in to concerts because Nøtterøy has no “scene” whatsoever and just “hanging out” at a nearby gas station with my friends and their bikes (laughs). But really, Nøtterøy in the summer is the most beautiful place on earth!
But what about your current surroundings in Oslo right now? Can you give us a recommendation if we’d want to visit?
Oslo is a really beautiful and really shitty city. It’s a good mix of the best people you’ll ever meet in the entire world, and the worst. Oslo tries so hard to be this European “metropolis”, but is just a big town where you almost know everybody - which is something I love about Oslo. On the outside, Oslo people seem rude and stressed out, but if you get to know them they’re warm, cosy and very kind. It just takes time.
The best place in Oslo is of course Grünerløkka, with its unique shops, cafes and bars. The best bar in Oslo however is in Youngstorget right in the middle of Oslo. Make sure you pay Angst a visit if you’re in town. However, a very special place that never gets enough attention when talking about Oslo is Emanuel Vigeland’s Mausoleum on Slemdal. If you ever go to Oslo you’ll probably hear a lot about the (Gustav) Vigeland’s Park, and Emanuel Vigeland was the guy behind the park’s brother. Emanuel spent all of his life in envy of his brother, and made his own grave as a huge middle finger towards him. You should go there haha (laughs).
If anyone does happen to come across your music is there a message you would like to convey? Do you have any words of advice or plans for the future?
I really want to make better music - become better in my craft. I want to make a living out of it, so I can devote all of my time to the music. So, that is my goal.
In my music I just want to convey some sort of emotion. Perhaps to convey a memory from when they were a teenager with all that anger, frustration, sadness but ultimately hope. I just really hope they get inspired to do or make something. I guess I want my listeners to get stuff out of their system.
You can check out Anana’s latest single “The Easy Path” below: