music journalist since 1992 | educator since 2004 | podcaster since 2020 | Iranian American since birth
A Camp’s Nina Persson interviewed for their album, Colonia, for Venus Zine Magazine Issue 39:
A Camp: New Colonialism
Nina Persson sparks another Harlem Renaissance
By Lily Moayeri
Published: March 1st, 2009 | 3:52pm
“We had to become goldfish,” says Nina Persson in all seriousness. The exquisite frontwoman for the Cardigans and A Camp is referring to the creation of her latter project’s second album, Colonia. She explains, “Goldfish have a very short memory. We had to erase our memory of our past and pretend we had no idea what we had done before.”
Persson is speaking from her now permanent home in Harlem, New York where she is ensconced with her husband and bandmate, Nathan Larson (Shudder To Think). Along with third member, Niclas Frisk (Atomic Swing), the three have made a concerted effort to get as far away from A Camp’s self-titled debut, released in 2001.
A Camp is a country record in the sense that it was made by Persson and Frisk in a tiny village in their native Sweden. “[It’s] the kind of place where you have to go to a local tobacconist to order alcohol,” says Persson, “because the nearest alcohol store is a two-hour drive.” A Camp draws its inspiration from the country and from its creators’ surroundings at the time. The (then) duo purposely put itself in a rustic setting, arranging themselves in a small cabin in the woods. Roughing it with bunk beds and pseudo-camping circumstances, the idea of “A Camp” was derived.
In contrast, Colonia, is a city record — intentionally so. Written and recorded quickly, almost on a whim, efficiency is a key element in the album’s development. Taking its cues from ‘70s and ‘80s new wave sounds, but keeping its feet planted in the singer-songwriter tradition, the idea is to make Colonia glossy, shiny, and decorated — a noticeable distinction from A Camp.
The name Colonia is taken from the first part of “colonialism,” — an act that Persson unabashedly accuses herself and Frisk of. “Like so many other people that come to New York, we are gold-diggers,” she states. “I don’t know if we are necessarily going to make a lot of money, but we want to take part of that inspiration. We are colonizing.”
This setting makes for a restless body of work that is not as cozy as A Camp’s previous offering. While both A Camp and Colonia offer a darker side — particularly to Persson’s signature tones —they deviate from each other in the former’s American country music bent and the latter’s determination to not have any identifiable retrospective reference points. Prevalent on Colonia is grand orchestral instrumentation over which Persson’s voice coos painfully such as on “To Be Human” and “The Weed Had Got There First.”
“I was freaked out about making the second record,” admits Persson. “First records are always a ‘best of so far,’ because you’ve written the songs for quite a while. For the first time, I felt second album-itis, that I never felt in the Cardigans.”
Despite that second album-itis, Persson feels none of this apprehension when presenting her ideas to her A Camp bandmates. “Women in general are scared of considering themselves experts in any field,” she points out. “You can’t be scared … if you need to use words like, ‘laser’ or ‘cotton balls,’ you should allow yourself to use that kind of language and not be afraid.”