The deepwater sound of Anana
An interview with independent Norwegian singer-songwriter Anniken Jess Iversen
Peter Quincy Ng
When speaking of her first single, “Island,” Anniken Jess Iversen, better known as Anana, describes it as a huge stepping stone career-wise. The single, which received its fair share of airtime on Norwegian radio, also managed to garner attention from some of Norway’s top indie prospects. Among those who were eager to put in their own rendition of the track included artists like Bendik, Pieces of Juno, and Team Me’s Elida Inman. “It’s my first real single on my own label, which is kind of cool,” says Anana. “It’s great having your own artistic vision, but of course you won’t have the reach that a major label can provide.”
Although now based in the Norwegian capital, Anana’s story began in the small idyllic island of Nøtterøy in the Oslo fjord. There before Anana was born, Anniken Jess Iversen first began her musical pursuits. While Iversen still thinks of the warm summer days on that quiet little island, most of the time she spent her days listening to music. Her parents left on everything from Elton John and Prince to Radiohead to Supertramp. “It wasn’t long before I started stealing my records and got a guitar and 16-track recorder,” she laughs. “Although initially when I began recording there were a lot more Blink-182 covers.” Today, Anana tries to find herself musically without thinking too much about what it all means. “I called it ‘dypvannspop’ initially, which means ‘deep-water pop’ in English,” explains Iversen, who tries to channel in a sort of “positive darkness” into her music. Like the sea, it comes off as something beautifully calm and melodic, yet still contains all the darkness and mystery of the deep.
This deep-water sound is certainly indicative on her latest track, where Anana’s coaxing vocals and piano keys twinkle against the harder and heavier undercurrents building in her latest single, “The Easy Path.”
“Musically, I just want to convey some kind of emotion,” says Iversen. “I just really hope people get inspired to do or make something.” She feels that Oslo, where she went after finishing her studies at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Tromsø, can be superficially seen as a difficult, stuck-up little place. “It’s such a beautiful and awful city and like every city features some of the best and worst people you’ll ever meet,” remarks the singer. While Iversen claims that Oslo will never be a big European metropolis like the Norwegians pretend it is, it’s great because there’s always this connectivity between musicians; everyone knows everyone else.
After ranting about Oslo, Iversen tells us of Grünerløkka. This little district of Oslo, with its cafés, shops, and bars is hip, but if you want to say hi to the budding singer-songwriter, then perhaps a stop at the “Angst” bar in Youngstorget, right in the middle of Oslo, will yield you success. If you want something more “touristy“ Iversen recommends a very special place that never gets enough attention: Emanuel Vigeland’s Mausoleum on Slemdal. You may know about the world-famous Vigeland Park, dedicated to Gustav Vigeland. Emanuel Vigeland spent all of his life in envy of his brother, and created his own grave as a huge middle finger towards him.
Like Emanuel Vigeland, Anana hopes to make her mark on the musical world, but knows it will be tough. “I never want to make compromises on my music, so I had to pay the price,” she says. “But all I wanted to do was make music people would listen to, even though I never expected anyone to in the first place.” As for what Anana’s hopes and dreams are other than a big, fat check in the mail for her musical efforts: “I want to instill those memories when we were young—anger, frustration, sadness, but ultimately hopes and dreams—through my music.”
You can listen to Anana’s music on SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/ananah. Her singles are also available for purchase through amazon and iTunes.
Peter Quincy Ng is a Toronto-based blogger who writes about the odds and ends of pop music with a focus on Scandinavia and the Nordics. You can visit his blog at swedeandsour.tk.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 12, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.