MØ on First Loves, Darkest Fears, and Seeing Ghosts
We spoke to the Danish singer about sex, sushi, and being afraid of the dark.
This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into their psyche.
When she was growing up in Denmark, Karen Marie Ørsted was obsessed with Spice Girls. Now, in her twenties, she's essentially a punk Sporty Spice with the best cover of "Say You'll Be There" you've ever heard.
At 18, she formed Mor, a trashy band, and toured Europe and New York, playing at squats. She loved 80s hardcore and got heavily into left politics, spending her free time campaigning and attending rallies. Realizing she had to go solo and switch to electropop, she began project MØ (pronounced halfway between "muhh" and a cow noise). Her debut No Mythologies To Follow came out in 2014 and captured the confusion of being a young adult along with massive bass and pulsing synths, via pop choruses of Spice Girls-level catchiness. Now she's co-writing Major Lazer songs and has just released a song with them and Justin Bieber.
Just before her Diplo-produced second album drops, we met her in Rough Trade and shared a weird avocado toast thing and talked about being scared by everything.
How many people have been in love with you?
Maybe six or eight. Some of those were when I was young and when you're 16 you know it's not forever. It's a little easier for me to attract people now—I think back to when you're younger and fall for people in bands, even though you barely know them. I've been with my boyfriend for two and a half years and he's a musician himself and super down to earth. Ever since I was 19 I've been in a relationship, to be honest. I always go from one to another, for some weird reason, and I always find someone where I connect on a personal level.
Why did you break up with your first boyfriend or girlfriend?
He broke up with me. I was so heartbroken for so long because it was the first. As a teen it's the first time you feel everything so when when that happened I thought I was gonna die. I was so fucking ruined. I heard the reason was that I didn't want to do anything sexual. I was only 14 and wasn't ready. I was scared. Afterwards I was so scared of falling in love for real.
What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
They've always been supportive and just wanted me to do something that makes me feel uplifted in life. The only thing was my dad—he wanted me to go to college and get a basic education after high school. My parents are both teachers and my dad is a psychologist now. And actually, I wanted to go in the end because all my friends were doing it. I was scared that I'd miss out on getting drunk with my friends. I'm happy that I did it.
How many books have you actually read and finished in the past year? Don't lie.
I'm a pretty slow reader so maybe only two books. But I really want to read more, because it also inspires me a lot. When I wrote my first album I was reading Joseph Campbell, he's this philosopher who writes about mythology. That inspired the title, No Mythologies to Follow. I think books make you think in a different way than movies and documentaries. We live in a very stressful time, with like screens all over the place, and I think reading a book can make you really relaxed. It's almost like a yoga class, because it makes you get into something that's organic and natural, it's not about scrolling or clicking, it's different. So I want to do it more, and I find it really pleasant. Right now I'm reading Kim Gordon's Girl in a Band. I loved her and Sonic Youth as a teen so it's like candy.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
All my life, like I'm a child. I was super scared of the dark. I have a crazy imagination and it's a visual one that can be scary from time to time. I still have a nightlight now. If I've had really long working days for many days in a row, I'll get more anxious, and that's when sometimes, when I'm about to fall asleep, my mind goes, "Oh, what the fuck?" and ghosts start to come up the side of the bed. When it gets really bad, I turn on the light. I hope I'll get over it some day. It's not bad, but this is definitely the thing that scares me the most, because in real life, if I'm in situations that are a little bit scary, then I don't get scared. I toughen up. Definitely the most scary times are in my head.
What would be your last meal?
I don't know if I'd be able to eat if I knew it was my last. I don't even have a favorite food but I'll say sushi. I like the classic little maki rolls with salmon and avocado.
If you were a wrestler, what song would you come into the ring to?
It would be like a sensitive, but very dark, rough song. Maybe Wildfire with SBTRKT and Little Dragon, because that has the emotion and fragileness but it's still crazy. Inside my tornado brain, that's how I see myself; a vulnerable person, but at the same time...
What film or TV show makes you cry?
The older I get the more I cry when I watch stuff. It's always on the plane, because you're like fragile and the air con is drying you out. I cry a lot during documentaries, especially when it's about nature and real people. Show me an animal program about predators on the savannah with all this poetry, like, "Oh, a predator is always out there. Those poor leopard kids are never going to get anything to eat!"
If you had to give up sex or kissing, which would it be?
Oh, sex for sure. The love and intimacy that a kiss represents, I could not live without that. I would rather walk through my life and have the tension and not get sex but have the love, than walk through life and get the sex but not have that tender moment, because the sex stuff, that's the explosion, but I would rather have the flames.
Where did you go on your first friend vacation and what did you do?
I miss that so much! The first one was just with my best friend who I still talk to every day and another friend. That was just before we really started to drink, but we started drinking there, with some guys. The two other girls hooked up with the guys, and I got so angry because one of the girls hooked up with the guy that I was kind of in love with, so I got so angry that I started crying and went in the tent to sleep angry and drunk.
What memory from school stands out to you stronger than any other?
Being in a group of girls and just having very special times that would only be within these walls of childhood. You don't know you would split up and everything would be different, and the whole world would change. That thing you have in school was really special and magic. Being so close and being like the family that you chose yourself. The thing with my job is that where I used to be with my girlfriends all the fucking time, now I see them only a couple of times a month. It's one thing to have a great family, and even though you love that safeness and you have a good time with them, when you're with friends that are your own age, you're in a whole different mindset. You reflect upon yourself in a much deeper way. You mirror yourself in all these people and it's so important.
What is the nicest thing you own?
I have my lucky cats, I have my bum bags. I don't have crazy eccentric thing, really. No matter how much I make on certain things right now, this is my life savings, like I'm gonna live off this my whole life. It's important to be rational about it. I have that from my mom and I'm happy I do.
Do you think that drugs can make you happy?
I don't believe in drugs because I have such a fantasy mind that I think if I took anything psychedelic, I'd be shit fucking scared. But, I get drunk like everybody else. I don't think they can make you happy, but I think they can make you let go and make you realize the other side of things. And even though people say, "Yeah, we did drugs, it's not real," well it is kind of real if you remember it the next day, and for the thoughts you have and the conversations you have, and even the feeling of letting go, because it does make you feel differently. Of course, I have smoked weed, but not for a while, because it didn't really do much for me. I think when I get drunk, that's when I get high.
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