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Norwegian Folk-Pop Artist Farao Talks Erasing Memories and Dating In a Tiny Village

Try falling in love when you already know all 500 people in your town.

If you’ve ever wanted to erase your past, you’re not alone. It was that idea that spurred Norwegian singer Farao’s debut record Till It’s All Forgotten—something that came from one of Farao (nee Kari Jahnsen)’s favorite movies Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Finding happiness isn’t something that’s simple, but through the making of her album released earlier this fall, it’s something she’s been working on.

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Through gorgeous folk melodies and lush vocals (see “Hunter” below, and “Bodies” which we premiered this summer), Farao’s tracks are ethereal and tinged with melancholy. They're also the perfect segue from her self-titled EP. Although Farao grew up in a tiny village, she’s spent a lot of time traveling and learning about the music industry. With influences ranging from Sigur Ros to Radiohead and even Afrobeat, Farao hasn’t limited her creativity to any particular genre.

We chatted with the singer about erasing memories, learning about the music business from the perspective of different cities, and what dating was like living in a small village.

Noisey: It’s nice to speak with you. What was your debut record inspired by?
Farao: The album is kind of inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s my favorite film, and I was really inspired by the fact that they erase each other’s memories in that film. I was fantasizing about if I could do that. That’s kind of what I tried to do with this album—erasing what you’re not happy with and moving on from it.

So, what weren’t you happy with?
It can be anything—relationships with friends, family, romantic relationships, your job or anything, really. It wasn’t just one thing—it was a general, motivational album to work on the things I wasn’t happy with and not sit around and expect things to change. I’m not going to say specifically what it was, but it was something general. I want people to actually listen to this and build their own interpretations.

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What character did you most relate to in Eternal Sunshine…?
Clementine. She was unhappy in that relationship, and was like, I’m not going to sit around and waste my time feeling like this, I’m going to delete it and move on. It was very selfish, and I don’t think it would be a really good to do that if it was possible in real life. You need the bad memories to not make the same mistakes all over again. I just like the idea of being able to do that.

Before we talk more about your music, what does the name Farao mean?
It’s the Norwegian spelling of the Egyptian word Pharaoh. I chose the name because it has a powerful connotation to it. I like the way it sounds and the way it looks when writing it down.

Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind the album cover? It’s such a gorgeous image of you with rainbow tears.
The album cover was made by my friend Inge who lives in Iceland. She’s actually the sister of Jonsi of Sigur Ros. She did so many Icelandic album covers and made mine as well. It’s just acrylic face paint [on me].

You’ve lived in a couple of worldly places including Reykjavik, Oslo, and London. What kind of influences have you taken in for your music?
I guess London has first and foremost given me the drive to work really, really fucking hard to do what I want to do and not give up as soon as you meet resistance. London is such a hard place to survive as an artist because it’s so expensive and there are so many people trying to do the same thing as you. At the same time, London has this business side to it that you have to deal with—it’s quite tiring. Iceland has taught me to focus on the musical side and not to care about the business side at all because it’s so collaborative. Business isn’t the focus there, while in London that is the focus.

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What was it like growing up in a village full of 500 people? Did everyone know your business?
There wasn’t much privacy—everyone knows you.

How did you date there?
You don’t. I think I had one boyfriend at 18. I hope he doesn’t read this, but you kind of just take what you can get. There weren’t many options.

Your village was so small. Were there towns nearby where you could date?
I was a 10 minute drive with another town with 3,000 people, so that was like a big city to me.

I know in Iceland they supposedly have that app where you can check who is related, but you must have dated your friend’s somebody in your village.
I had a little romance with my brother’s girlfriend’s brother. It’s not really ideal, I think. You have to take what you can get.

Down the line, who would you love to collaborate with?
A collaboration with Dirty Projectors would be amazing.

Till All It's Forgotten is out now on Arts & Crafts.

Ilana Kaplan is a writer in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter.