INTERVIEW. "Von August" Talk Environmental Issues and Painting Pictures with Sound
Einar Stray Orchestra's cult classic debut album Chiaroscuro turns 10 years in 2022. To celebrate the event, Berlin-based label Sinnbus is releasing a series of cover versions and reworks of all the album's songs.

Awesome Norwegian art pop and electronica trio Von August release their version of "Yr Heart Isn't A Heart", translating the lyrics to Norwegian. The band ditched the lush flowery exhuberance of the original for the bare-bones minimalism of cold Nothern electronica. The track starts with the sounds of nature and ends with a harsh industrial techno beat, highlighting the song's lyrics dealing with environmental issues.

Listen to the track, read how it was made and make sure to check the trio's unique style showcased on other songs included in this feature.
— Why is the original important for you and why did you decide to cover it?
— When we were deciding what song to cover from the album we first listened through it and instinctively felt intrigued by the drumbreak-intro of 'Yr Heart Isn't a Heart'. When we eventually decided to go for this track and dived into the lyrics, we quickly got a sense of the universal importance and relevance of the message, as well as how we wanted to deliver it through our music.

The message of this song is concerning environmental issues, and as we usually write songs more concerning personal relations, this song in a way felt "refreshing" and "different" from what we are used to writing about. The environmental issues are global, and something that concerns (and should concern) all of us humans on the planet. In that way, even though the message of this song at first seemed a bit different and more political that what we use to write about, we quickly realized how similar and relevant the thematic is to all of us: The song is about basic living needs and relations. In the end, we feel like this song has ended up being a way for us to communicate an important message through our music, and we appreciate this opportunity.
— What are the lyrics about?
— As we usually write all our lyrics in Norwegian it was natural to us to do a translation in our interpretation of the original song. The lyrics describe matters concerning climate change and thoughts around protecting what we have, before it all disappears. They are full of metaphors, connected to both wild nature and more industrial landscapes, making a rich lyrical palette that gave us a "boost" towards our version of the song. In the process of translating the lyrics, most of the work involved finding good metaphors that both made sense in Norwegian and at the same time retained the original essence.
— How was the song recorded and arranged?
— We feel like it has ended up being one of our most "purely electronica"-sounding songs. We started off creating a demo version of the track in our rehearsal space in Oslo, during the late fall of 2021. Then Simon moved to Bodø, and we finished the song later that winter in a local studio up there. We mainly used Ableton Live with simulations of analog synthesizers as our starting point, adding on later with mostly modular synths. Simons iPhone was used to record field foleys which later on was added to the production. Vocal-wise we recorded the track at a slower tempo than what it ended up. Speeding up the vocals digitally in combination with autotune adds on to the "robotic" and "future-like" sound, which you might argue is typical for genres and songs related to electronica.
— What did you bring to your interpretation of the song, and why did you make the artistic choices you made?
— To reflect around the lyrics our main idea behind the interpretation was to amplify the nerve between sounds from wild nature and electronical industrial soundscapes. This take can be demonstrated with the opening and the end: a forest atmosphere with birds chittering transforming into a synthesized/harsh/robotic bird in a world at a breaking point. We felt our approach was similar to painting a picture. As painting with sound goes, we felt that using contradictions was suitable to fill our "sound canvas". Starting off with atmospheric vocal lines, synth pads and soft drums, slowly merging into a more "dry" and "rough" techno-like ending, was our way of painting.
Check out more tracks released by Von August's labelmates Bodi Bill, Mayuko, We Will Kaleid and Odd Beholder on Sinnbus.