Tove Styrke Brings Her Minimalist Pop To Houston

Sweden's Tove Styrke makes minimalist pop tunes that stick with you.
Sweden's Tove Styrke makes minimalist pop tunes that stick with you. Photo by Emma Svensson
In pop music, standing out can be a difficult endeavor. Music, as crowded as it is today, doesn't leave much space for artists attempting to crack into the upper echelon of the industry. However, once you hear the music of Sweden's Tove Styrke, you should almost immediately become a fan. Styrke, has been pretty popular in her home country since 2009, and now ahead of her tour as the opener for Lorde, she's ready to step into a much larger role. The Houston Press was pleased to chat with Styrke about where she's from, what we can expect from her new album Sway due out on May 4, and what Houston should know before she takes the stage at Toyota Center on March 19.

It should be known that Styrke isn't coming out of nowhere, in fact she's already had a ton of exposure. Aside from the fact that she was on Swedish Idol, or that her string of singles from last year ended up with nods from Rolling Stone and Sam Smith, or that she's a Grammy nominated artist in her homeland. Styrke hails from the academic city of Umea, where punk rock has been a staple for a long time, and also where The Refused is from. When I remark about this, Styrke is shocked that I actually know about her city. "There's plenty of music there, but I think I'm the only pop princess there (laughs)," remarks the singer.

But regarding herself as a pop princess, no matter how tongue in cheek she means it or not, isn't too far off the mark. As a contestant on Swedish Idol, Styrke became known overnight though the show is very different than how it is here in the states. When we asked if she'd do it all over again she says, "Um, I think yeah. For me, in the end I got a record deal. I barely remember it, I was so young. But I got good at live T.V., and I was working with people I really liked. It wasn't a bad experience."

Listening to her early work, you realize that the Tove Styrke from several years ago isn't the same as who she is now. Her latest singles "Say My Name," "Mistakes," and "Changed My Mind" sound like nothing else out there right now, with a minimalist touch full of weight and an almost elemental feel to them. When asked what made her decide to go this route, she politely replied "I had two things I wanted to do with this project, and when I say project, I mean this album, these songs, and the album after it. I wanted to tune into my inner dialogue. I enjoy songs, I did a cover of "liability" by Lorde because it feels like my life. I wanted to make songs like that, where it feels real to me and another person. I wanted to strip down production, while keeping it interesting, but each song has it's own I.D. For me, it's important to keep production sparse but make each song special. The claps on "Say My Name" alone are like forty tracks."

Sparse production or not, the songs she's dropped ahead of Sway are hard not to love. Coming closest to some of the sounds that Sophie used on works several years ago, they definitely have their own sound without sounding too far off base. When asked what she'd been listening to when she began writing this new record, the producer replied, "I was listening to so many things, just nerding out on sounds. Everything from Blink 182 to Post Malone, I really like SZA. The way she describes things, her lyrics are relatable but still different. I just want to carve my own little space, and feel free to do whatever I want to do. I want to do everything my own way."

click to enlarge Tove Styrke will get Toyota Center moving when she opens for Lorde. - PHOTO BY EMMA SVENSSON
Tove Styrke will get Toyota Center moving when she opens for Lorde.
Photo by Emma Svensson
Knowing that she is a huge fan of New Zealand's Lorde, who put her track "Say My Name" on her own playlist, we were curious how surreal it was as a fan to open for one of her music idols. "Usually when you're asked to do a tour, there's time around all of it, figuring out everything before you say yes. When I was asked I said yes in two seconds, so it's definitely surreal. I hope her audience sticks around with me in the future and that they like what I'm doing," says the platinum selling artist.

While getting the chance to play in front of the sized audiences Lorde draws is something anyone would definitely want to do, the tour is throughout March, several months ahead of her album's release. When we inquired s to what her plans were later this year, and if we'd see her come back around after the album drops, she excitedly replied, "Oh, I'm definitely coming back. I'm sad that I'll miss New York this time around, but no matter what I want to come back. I dunno yet this year, my biggest plan is to just keep releasing music."

No matter when we see her again, Tove Styrke is an artist you need to keep an eye on. With catchy songs that hit like most pop music isn't, there's no doubt she'll be just as big in the states as she is in Sweden. You can stream her music in all of the usual places, or keep up with her through her website. You can catch Tove Styrke in person when she opens for Lorde at Toyota Center on March 19. The all ages show has a set from Run The Jewels as well. Doors at 6 p.m.; tickets $39.50 to $99.50.
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David Garrick is a former contributor to the Houston Press. His articles focus primarily on Houston music and Houston music events.