Reigning from Copenhagen, Denmark, Emma Acs is back with her first EP or album-for that matter since 2015, While I Shoot from My Fortress of Delusions, which is out now. But the new EP is just the start to the glam rock’s year.
In an interview, Emma talked about her process behind this album and all that she’s been up to since her last album came out, including graduating from college.
Her music is a strange but masterful use of the glam rock genre, taking these pop futuristic sounds and distorting them into darker landscapes. But in this EP she also elevated those landscapes by painting in a bright sun, adding more brighter and happier sounds, like acoustic guitar to cap off more solemn songs.
In the interview, she talks about those sounds, the projects and plans she has for 2020, and how XXXtentacion played a role in her music making process.
Antonio Villaseñor-Baca: You’re in Los Angeles, where and why the decision to move to L.A.?
Emma Acs: It’s because it’s always been my favorite place and there’s something about L.A. that’s is kind of like escaping reality. And L.A. is so weird and movie-like in so many ways, so in a way it’s a great place to be if you want to live in that state of mind, you know?
And how long have you been playing music? I think the earliest thing that I found was a single called “We Make Sense” in 2010.
Yeah, that was my first single. That was my first official release but I was playing music since I was a teenager. I had a couple of bands as teenagers that were, okay. They weren’t amazing or anything but we were trying things out, learning how to play music together, and then those bands broke up. When I was 17, I wanted to start a new band so I joined this band called The Setting Son and then I kind of just slowly took over the band and made me the lead singer, because I was starting to write my own songs and we started recording them.
Is that still the band playing with you today?
No, there’s been kind of a change in the band during the years, slowly because it was ten years ago now and we were 11 around that time, like seven years ago when we recorded my first record and started playing as a band but it was always kind of like my project the same way that it would be like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: like definitely a band but it was my project. And for that reason, my band members would also focus on other things and with time some of them even like quit and focused on other careers and some of them just got older and they started families and stuff. So it kind of went really natural that it would change after time.
Can you tell me about members of the band now and how long you’ve been playing with them?
My band now kind of depends on the shows that I’m playing, kind of like inviting people to play so it’s not always the same people; but one person that I’ve worked a lot with who I always try to get to play with me is my bass player Ida [Duelund] and she’s been playing with me since the Give in to Whatever record. She’s in general, one of my very favorite musicians ever to work with. We’ve been doing a lot together. We also wrote and composed a symphony together, we’ve been doing a lot of projects and she’s always very, very creative and very inspiring to work with.
Right. And so now talking a little bit more about the music, I want to ask about your influences, like you mentioned Nick Cave, I don’t know if that’s one of them? But specifically the genre I see listed for you is glam rock. What does that genre mean to you and how did you start playing that?
I just love glam rock because, I know that I just kind of made it kind of serious but I kind of like music when it’s not taking itself too seriously. I can play randomly and it can be emotional. I mean, it can be all things but it’s also wild and it’s also playful and jokey in a way. Yeah, I don’t know. There’s just something about glam rock that is just so self aware and also so escaping reality, like a totally different planet. I just always was really drawn to that. I’m drawn to the sound of that. I’m drawn to the looks of that. it’s just been a very inspiring genre. I always wanted to start a proper glam rock band myself. Maybe it’ll happen soon.
So I saw the glam rock label on your Spotify bio but I also wanted to ask about how on Instagram your bio says “sippin tea in yo hood, genre fluid”.
Haha, yes, I think I’m just having a hard time describing the genre for this record. Some people call the singles trip-hop [and] I’ve been listening to that so to me it’s kind of fun that it would be called that because it was never music that I would be into. It’s not that I dislike it, I just never really, it was never my thing you know? And I feel like the songs are kind of different. I feel like they’re more…dramatic. I feel like it’s a dramatic EP. I kind of feel like it’s just the most rock music that I’ve made. It’s definitely more rock than anything I’ve made before.
2015 was when your last album came out, so what have you been working on since then?
Since then, I have been working on this EP of course, and then I also did a symphony, just like a 50 piece orchestra symphony. I wrote that and that took like half a year. That’s the one I did with my bass player, Ida. I also finished my education and that’s something. I’ve been doing a lot of projects and experimenting with a lot music. It also took a while making this EP. There’s a lot of songs that kind of got removed from the EP. It maybe turned into something else because I definitely took the time of experimenting on the sound and then trying to do something I found exciting and not repeating myself and just life happens. I’ve been doing a lot of different stuff to live and make ends meet. I was going through a rough time and it was just very hard for me working on music at that time. Just life.
Definitely. And you said you finished your education. You graduated from university?
I graduated from the Conservatory of Copenhagen.
Thank you, but yeah, you know that took some time as well. That is very demanding of your time as well. Even though it’s music, you couldn’t always work on your own release. You have to work on a lot of things.
And this EP, it’s called While I Shoot from My Fortress of Delusions. Can you tell me about the EP. What’s it about, what struggles did you encounter, what inspired you?
The title itself is taken from my favorite song of the EP which is just the most introducing song of the EP. It was the one that I always knew was going to be number two on the release. It was the only thing I knew from the beginning. I just knew it was going to be the second song and it would lead you into what I was trying to say. I see the EP as the only thing that I would throw out of my “fortress.” Like a very bitter fortress and I’ve been keeping it all inside of there and now finally I drop something out of the [walls]. I was very inspired by a lot of things. I went through a phase where I didn’t really listen to anything. I’ve been through so many phases of different kinds of music while making this. I was really into a trap, like the whole emo trap scene. Especially some of the older stuff like the very violent and very aggressive, like XXXtentacion. I was really into that. It was so aggressive and was so, angry and I could relate to it. I’ll always listen to a lot of Scott Walker, who’s always been a huge inspiration for me. I’ve been listening to a lot of like 50’s rock’n’roll, like doo-wop, crooner music. That’s kind of been my biggest thing the last couple of years.
So this single, “Disarmed” was the first to come out in 2020. Can you tell me about it and how it relates to the EP? It has these low and morose sounds with lyrics like “love is a weapon”. Is this sound and the song, a reference to something specific, or what inspired it?
The song is just a song about protecting yourself. Or at least trying to, but not being able to.
And what about the composition for it? With these sounds that sound so melancholy?
This song was kind of funny because it started by being another song and we just remixed it so much that it turned into a different song and that day in the studio, I was kind of feeling a little restless and a little upset that day. Then we just changed the song and made up a new melody. We started moving stuff around and recording new stuff and making up new parts. And kind of just improvised that day. We just let it happen. I felt like we were getting far from the idea of the other song but I was also loving what we were doing. So I said this is a new song now; let’s go with it. Let’s just be creative. And then my friend Bo [Høyer Hansen] came and played the guitar. Because I’ve kind of felt like it was very cool sounding. When we were done with it, I was like, it’s kind of missing some warmth. It really needed some warm acoustic strings to give contrast to the very cool sounds and we invited Bo who plays guitar in [the band] Marching Church and he’s a really amazing guitarist and he just came and played around with it and all of a sudden came up with that part. And we actually moved it to another place which made it even more special. It was just like a weird, fun, playing around process.
Yeah, because the acoustic strings come at the end of the song now, right?
And it kind of changes the meaning of the song with its placement now.
It kind of opened up also. I feel like this song is so closed, like trying to protect itself but when the strings come, it’s like vulnerability, you know? It’s kind of like folding. I don’t know I feel like there’s something very honest about those things in contrast with the cold, pretty, simple, beat. And kind of like very distant ghost, sounding. The strings stood out, because the string arrangement from the– it’s actually a standup bass playing the strings– they were originally planned to give the warmth but they ended up sounding so cold. It’s just so that we just needed another part to fill that purpose.
Well, my last question is, what’s next? what do you have planned? you mention a show in Copenhagen, I think I saw one scheduled in Paris.
I’m playing a show in Copenhagen and Paris and hopefully I’ll play some more around Europe and hopefully I’ll play some more in the States, we are trying to make that happen. In the meanwhile, I’m working on new music and it’ll probably take another 4 years (she says laughing) because it’s gotten to my rhythm I feel like. But also, I started this side project which I’m really excited about and that’s planned to come out in 2020 and I’m really really excited about that so I’m really looking forward to being able to share that.
Is there anything you can tell us about this side project?
I can tell you that it’s kind of like a new band that I made with my friend in Copenhagen. I can’t say that much about it yet because there’s still some things that we need to be sorted out. But I can tell you that it’s going to be really cool. I’m really excited about it. it’s going to be a little easier to dance to.
That’s it for my questions. Is there anything else you want to say about the EP, or life in general?
I’m just really, I’ve been nervous about releasing this EP but I’m also excited about it. I’m really happy I’m doing it. I really miss playing shows and I feel like I’ve been having a very introverted couple years of just being in the studio. I just really miss being out there with my music so I’m really excited about this.
By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca