Anna Lotterud is a thoroughly modern pop star. The Norwegian singer-songwriter met her producing partner Brady Daniell-Smith while studying in Australia, which meant during the infancy of Anna of the North, the pair worked remotely, with Lotterud recording vocals via Skype. (Daniell-Smith has since moved to Norway.) But whatever the origin story, the success of the duo’s fizzy electro-pop is undeniable and, recently, very attention-worthy. Just ask fan Tyler the Creator, who featured Lotterud on two tracks of his recent album Flower Boy. Or, for that matter, Schoolboy Q, who, following Lotterud’s recent aborted attempt to perform on The Tonight Show (an issue with the work permit had her sitting out), affectionately dubbed her “a weird-ass white girl.”
“Oh my god, that’s so good!” Lotterud squeals at the memory, grabbing her rose-gold iPhone and quickly typing a note. “That’s too good to forget. I need to put that on a sweater. Merch!”
Lotterud is not the type to shy away from any questionable monikers—even if her music is unquestionably radio-ready. In person, she favors rapid-fire conversation, and, unprompted, muses on everything from the meaning of life (having goals and following through) to some of her weirder Google searches (“Can you die of a broken heart?”). The energy is partially due to the adrenaline of a just-completed set at Gothenburg’s Way Out West Festival, where the crowd cheered between songs for a solid minute and toasted the frontwoman mid-song. (“I thought I was going to cry!” she coos.) But more than a momentary rush, it’s just her. She’s curious (a word she sources from Google translate) and doesn’t like the idea of anything standing in her way.
“My life has been pretty weird,” Lotterud admits. “I think why stuff happens is because I’m not afraid. I talk to a lot of people. I do what I want to do. I don’t need to fit in or do what other people are doing.”
Of course, heroes aren’t always born—sometimes they’re made. Lotterud recounts a childhood marked by music, melodies, and pretending to be a video star while riding in the back of her parent’s car. But in reality, without any like-minded friends, she found herself playing soccer. (“I was really shit!”) In high school, beset by fear, she skipped a crucial audition that would have allowed her to study music. As fate would have it, though, Lotterud landed in the packed-out design program, where she learned the skills that led to her day job.
It was the low-key nature of working on music with a friend that kept her from freaking out in the early stages of her music career. It wasn’t until Anna of the North’s first track, the reverb-drenched ballad “Sway,” caught bloggers’ attention in 2014, when both she and Daniell-Smith realized music might be more than a lark.
“When it was picked up, we thought, Shit, should we start a band?” Lotterud recalls. “Let’s do it. We’re different people with different styles. We had to ease into it; it’s been three years since we started. It’s perfect timing since we had to try and to fail and we had to go through everything. The growth that we’ve had has been really important. And we’ve been through all those steps. We haven’t been label-made. It’s been really organic. It’s been us trying to find our way, and I’m really proud of that and where we are today.”
Anna of the North’s debut full-length, Lovers, expands on the handful of singles they’ve released since “Sway.” The sound is electronic, fizzy, and anthemic—the pair expertly pairing uplifting choruses with production so shiny you could take a selfie in its slick surface. But even though the album title conjures images of romance, there are some intense relationships chronicled, from “Money,” that calls out gold diggers to the opening track, “Moving On,” which focuses on talking a friend through a breakup born more out of obsession than love. Some of the darker themes, Lotterud admits, came from her attempt to make herself feel better after an intense breakup. But she’s okay with sharing the intense stuff. Especially since these days, things are looking up.
“When it comes to love, you can’t get too personal, because everyone goes through the same stuff,” Lotterud muses. “Maybe if it was like…”
She trails off, and the bursts into song, “I had sex with a guy name Alex yesterday!”
“Yup, that would be too personal,” she confirms after a quick bout of laughter. “Awesome though.”