Interview: A Camp's Nina Persson on Guacamole, Grumpy People, and Trying to Sing like David Bowie

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Nina Persson got her start as the sultry lead vocalist for the shimmering guitar-pop Swedish band the Cardigans. In 2001, she went out on her own and released a more minimalist, acoustic effort under the name A Camp--a band comprised of just her and her longtime friend, Swedish musician Niclas Frisk. After eight years, and with the Cardigans on hiatus, A Camp's returned with Colonia, an album that isn't minimalist at all, instead showing off Persson's dynamic vocal range within a more grand, sweeping pop structure. Her husband Nathan Larson (formerly of Shudder to Think), has moved into the band permanently too.

We spoke with Persson at her Harlem brownstone, in between video and photo shoots. When offered a drink, I was given the choice between a Led Zeppelin or a Motorhead glass. Zep all the way.

What's the one question you've never been asked but wish someone would ask you?

Oh my god, that's a hard one. I think I've been asked everything. Um. I can't answer that. Make one up, it might be the first one.

Okay. Do you like guacamole?

Yes I do!

You can probably get some good guacamole around here.

Yes, you can. In the Spanish side. There's one taco place and one just Mexican that is amazing. And some great Caribbean food. I eat a lot of the jerk chicken. But that was the first guacamole question in my life, so, there you go.

What's the driving differences between A Camp and The Cardigans?

For me, I feel like A Camp is a lot more mobile and instinctive. The Cardigans is much more of a factory--in a good sense--I like that way of working as well. I think that also has to do with that we have more of a history than A Camp does; we have already painted our way into a corner. We have to think more about what we do. But with A Camp, we can still kind of do whatever.

There has been a considerable length of time between [2001's A Camp] and Colonia. Have you've been writing all this time since?

No, we're all very utilitarian songwriters. We write songs when we know what its going to be for. I think Nick is more in the way where he piles stuff up. For me, I only write stuff when I know what context.

It sounded when A Camp was first getting started it was a very scaled-back affair, especially compared to the Cardigans. But now, maybe not so much. The new record is very big at times.

Yeah, absolutely. The first record I had a need to do something minimalist. The music I was listening to at the time was certainly a lot more minimalist than the Cardigans. I felt the need for doing something that was worked more with the gaps in between those sounds. Also, I was working with Mark Linkous then, who is the master of noise. And that's something I was wanting as well [laughs]. Beautiful noise. But all of us have it in our veins--the "pop" sentiment--we are builders, we like to add stuff, we're maximalists at heart. We all have that drive in is. But in a way, I think this record might be truer to our instincts.

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