Sweden-based musician Rebekka Karijord didn’t see her father, who struggled with addiction, for most of her childhood in northern Norway. In her early teen years, she found a notebook of her father’s poems, lyrics, and sketches — most of which were about her and her mother — in the attic. She eventually travelled to Norway’s west coast to reunite with him, at which point he gave her two big plastic bags filled with his own lyrics. She used his words to find her own voice — an experience that comes full circle on her fourth album, We Become Ourselves, a stunning work that explores Karijord’s relationships with men with equal parts power and vulnerability through dramatic orchestral parts, tribal drums, sparse piano, and an overall vocal-driven style comparable to Lykke Li and Zola Jesus.
While the album was originally released in Europe back in 2012, We Become Ourselves will finally receive a stateside release next week, along with a full album of bonus tracks. Flavorwire is pleased to premiere a new video for the album’s standout track, “Oh Brother,” along with a Q&A with Karijord about the global pressures of masculinity, and surrounding herself with men she loves for the video, which she directed.
Flavorwire: “Oh Brother” captures all these complicated ideas about gender and feminist male allies, presenting them in a way that’s open and empathetic. Was there a specific experience that inspired the song, or was it a lifetime of interactions?
Rebekka Karijord: It is a song I’ve been trying to write for a while! A tricky topic to write about, without using clichés. I wanted it to be a personal song, because I believe the best political art is always personal. I grew up without my dad, amongst strong, working class northern Norwegian women. So in my childhood, men were quite mysterious.
But now I am blessed with so many, wonderful men around me; the musicians I work with, friends, the father of my daughter. I wanted to write a song to them. I believe many men in my generations had quite confused dads, who on their side grew up in the ’50s with very traditional fathers — before they were in the middle of women’s liberation in the ’70s. It has affected manhood today.
I consider myself a feminist, but first and foremost, I am a humanist. I think it’s important to highlight that we all incorporate the same feelings and needs. And the song has made men in the audience cry at my concerts, which I’m very proud of!
FW: One of the most striking lines in “Oh Brother” is, “If I ever have a son, I’ll teach him it’s OK to cry.” You live in Sweden, which is routinely named one of the world’s most gender-progressive countries. Despite that, would you say an overtly masculine culture still prevails?
RK: Sweden has definitely come a long way regarding equality, but if you look at the rest of the world, we still have a lot of work to do. That is clear both in the music industry as well as in global politics. That sentence reflects upon men being allowed to embrace softer values.
I believe confident males don’t have problems embracing their feminine sides. Unfortunately the world is ruled by a lot of men who doesn’t dare to lose face and starts wars instead of communicating.
FW: So much of your work has accompanied films, dance performances, and theater productions. Do you find that those experiences have made you more of a visual thinking while songwriting at all? What did you want to get across, visually, with the “Oh Brother” video?
RK: Yes, the visuality goes hand in hand with music for me. It can offer an underlining of the message of a song, or sometimes a contradiction. With “Oh Brother,” we simply filmed a bunch of the men around me that I love. I was interested in the relations: the father and the daughter, the son and the mother. Softness, love, how we depend upon each other.
I really love the video, as I feel it captures something difficult to express with words. It’s perhaps my favorite of all the videos I’ve done.