Posts Tagged ‘Katja Nielsen’

At the start of 2020, it looked as if Arre! Arre! had the year all mapped out; plenty more touring to come in support of last year’s incendiary Tell Me All About Them LP, as well as a new EP, the riotous Heavy Breathing, set for a summer release. Then, in March, the pandemic changed every-thing, and suddenly – like millions of others worldwide – the Malmö punks unexpectedly had plenty of time on their hands.

Singer and bassist Katja Nielsen has been putting it to good use. “After COVID-19 hit and gigs were being cancelled,” she says, “I found myself in a vacuum that needed to be filled with creativity.” Isolation lent itself naturally to the start of a solo project, She/Beast, to be written and produced entirely by Nielsen herself – which suited the subject matter. “Because of the personal nature of what I was writing about, I felt that I would not be able to share ownership of the songs the way I do in Arre! Arre! I wanted every little detail to be exactly the way I wanted it to be.”

About a year before she began work on She/Beast material, Nielsen was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder after over a decade of suffering from it. Music, she says, was a crucial outlet for her to channel the rawness of her emotions, to spill her feelings into words and melodies. “Writing music has always been a coping strategy for me. Feelings get bottled up in a very destructive way if I don’t write a song about something I’m going through.”

The result is a pair of EPs, In the Depths of Misery and This Too Shall Pass; both titles are quotes from Vincent Van Gogh, another artist to have had bipolar, and taken together, they represent the emotional arc of the songs, which encompass despair, resolve and hope: there’s frustration in ‘Devil on My Mind’, resignation on ‘A Fragile State of Mind’, and fizzing anger on ‘Take My Pills’. “Just imagine being told that some of your personal traits are symptoms, and if you take your pills those traits will disappear,” Nielsen explains of her diagnosis. “Some of them I was happy to get rid of, and some I still mourn. Making sense of what’s a symptom and what’s a part of my personality – that’s what can be so tricky with having a mental illness. But by writing these songs, I could process one piece of the disorder at a time.”

Written and arranged entirely in Nielsen’s living room, the ten songs over the two EPs were recorded in conjunction with producer Joar Anderson. They mark a dramatic departure from the furious pace of Arre! Arre!’s output, instead evincing a lo-fi, pop-rock sound; the DIY nature of the songs strongly recalls Kathleen Hanna’s 1997 solo record Julie Ruin, whilst the instrumentation – growling bass, scuzzy guitars, snarled vocals – take their cues from both riot grill and post punk. “The DIY thing is just imprinted in my genes. If I could choose, we’d all still record songs in our garage, with just a tape recorder.”


Taken together, In the Depths of Misery and This Too Shall Pass represent an impressively accomplished first solo statement from an artist who, were it not for COVID-19, might not have re-leased one this soon – ten songs scored through with a palpable darkness, in keeping with Nielsen’s vision for the tracks to feel “uneasy and on the verge of despair, kinda like a silent horror film.” There should be more to come, too, as she continues to write on her laptop. “I usually do it in front of the tv – it’s kinda like knitting to me!” 

Releases December 11th, 2020