Interview: El Perro Del Mar

Interview with El Perro Del Mar

El Perro Del Mar


Swedish singer-songwriter Sarah “El Perro Del Mar” Assbring talks motherhood, acid house and why with she hopes to bring “the light of love and hope” to listeners with latest album, Pale Fire.

Questions and answers

Hi Sarah, we hear congratulations are in order! When’s the little one due?

Oh, thank you! It’s due in late January so not too long now. I’ve been feeling very good so far so I’m hoping it’ll stay like this until the end, and that I’ll be feeling up for going back to work touring in not too long a time. I’m looking forward to bringing the baby with me.

So can you clear up the story behind your pseudonym please?

Around 2003, I was in what you might call an existential crisis, which very much included my relationship and outlook on my music. I questioned my real motives for making music so decided to take a break from it altogether, and fled to Spain to think my life over.

While there, I started being visited by a stray dog on the beach. There was something very special about that dog and I starting calling it “el perro del mar”. The name in itself had some profound sweetness to it and I kept it in my mind as a reminder of something that can be kept unspoilt, unhurt and tender at the core. Shortly after my stay, I returned to making music again, and calling myself after that dog and that moment was just very natural. It still is.

Can you tell us a little about the writing and recording process on Pale Fire please?

All in all, it took me about two years, which is a very long time. But I consciously let it take that [amount of] time. I was in no rush and because I produced most of it myself I had to cope with all the problems and uncertainties that come with that.

But there was really no other way for me to make this album. I had such a strong yet abstract vision of it and I just couldn’t translate it into words. I tried and felt it was too complicated and so I decided to take full control over it. It was an f-ing struggle at times, but I’m glad I did it in the end!

Sonically, did you have a clear set of goals for this record?

All I knew was that I was after a different sound and a different take on songwriting this time; something more eclectic and unrestricted. I was into electronic instruments more than anything else and so I started experimenting with various synths and drum machines, and also started using samples.

In many ways, I wanted to break free from my own concept of what a pop song should look like, how it can be structured differently and still feel like a pop song and so on. In that sense I think you can say that Pale Fire made me become freer as a songwriter, a musician and a producer.

And was the decision to use electronic sounds inspired by the music you’ve been enjoying recently?

Yes, definitely. I’ve been listening a lot to club music, dubstep, dub in general, Chicago house and acid house for the last couple of years and naturally that’s bound to show through on the album. I guess what’s key to the album, even though it isn’t necessarily obvious on every song, is my love for dub and dub-ish sounds. I’ve had that love for years but I probably let it show through more on Pale Fire.

You’ve been quoted as saying that Pale Fire’s more political than your previous efforts. Can you tell us more about the themes on the record, please?

With all the things going on in the world, I’ve been having a hard time being as introverted as I’ve been on earlier albums. I guess I just couldn’t – and didn’t want to – shut my eyes to what I see around me and felt obliged to reflect upon it in some way.

At one point I felt this album was going to be very dark and apocalyptic because of how I see the world and the future we’re facing, but then there was something in me wanting to go against that. Something that wanted to hope, that wanted to fight, to react, to speak its voice and to believe in the good in me and people around me. So I think of all those things as the pale fire lighting up that dark world.

Do you have a favourite song on the album?

The title track means a lot to me for some reason. I love the way that it’s a pop song yet has that kind of indefinable quality to it. It sort of lives in its own world.

What would you like listeners to take away from this record?

The light of hope and love. That, despite everything, there is something to hold on to and something to hope for: darkness can disappear, if only for a moment. But then that’s enough, isn’t it?

You also appear on Chad Valley’s latest album: how did that collaboration come about?

He got in touch with me, asking me if I’d be up for singing on ‘Evening Surrender’. I really love his music so I was happy he asked me.

I did my part on my own, so we never really had the chance to really work together, but it was fun to be “inside” his musical world. It’s a special place.

Do you have any more collaborations in the pipeline? And if you could work with anyone, who would it be and why?

I have some stuff I’m working on, but it’s all secret at the moment. I’d love to work with the guys in Gang Gang Dance. I’m a huge admirer of their music and I just think it would be awesome to get an insight into how they work and think.

Ok, we’re currently compiling our Best of 2012 – which albums do you think should definitely be included?

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, GrimesVisions and Ariel Pink’s Mature Themes.

What’s been the highlight for you so far? And what would you like to achieve ultimately as El Perro Del Mar?

I don’t know really. Just being able to do what I do, to follow my path the way I’ve done and having people being into what I do are highlights enough. That’s what it’s all about for me: I’m not after fame or huge success, I’m just hoping I’ll keep having the need and the passion to continue making music and push things forward.