IRL euphoria for the terminally online: Namasenda talks live shows & staying independent as a pop artist before Balance / Club Culture Festival

, 20 September 2022

“I’m only talking to the people that I’m actually working with creatively,” says Stockholm’s Namasenda, on forging her path as a pop artist through independent labels. “Everyone else, I don’t go telling them what to do business-wise. I feel like working with a smaller label often means that you get to kind of decide, do your own thing and, and basically get help with building your brand.” 

Namasenda (2021). Image courtesy the artist + PC Music, London.

Calling via video chat from her home in the Swedish capital, the PC Music stable member is talking in the lead up to Leipzig’s Balance / Club Culture Festival, where she brings her euphoric stage show to a celebration of club music’s expanded field, alongside Loraine James, DJ Swisha, Métaraph and more. Emerging with the eurodance inflected pop of 2017’s hot_babe_93, Namasenda signed to London’s PC Music in 2019, finding a kindred production collaborator in labelhead A.G. Cook. She’s since gone from strength to strength with 2021’s anthem-laden Unlimited Ammo, collaborated with and had her work remixed by the likes of umru, Himera, Woesum and more. There’s a consistency for ecstatic hooks across her discography, from the bubblegum favourite ‘Donuts’ off her first release, through to the self-confident bravado and hoover synth accentuation of 2021’s ‘Finish Him’ featuring Joey LaBeija.

While her’s is a sound beloved by a terminally online generation, it’s nonetheless music that is best heard in a sweaty crowd through a PA, with her energetic live show making the artist a favourite in appearances from her label’s recent showcases in London, to the main hall of Berghain this summer. This is an opinion shared by the artist, suggested in her reflections on the pandemic’s sending gigs towards livestreams. “I hate the online stuff. I think it’s so cringe, so I just kind of did it because there was nothing else to do,” Namasenda explains of the digital gigs that became a staple of 2020. “It was kind of fun the first couple of times, but it’s really not my vibe at all. I just like the ritual of going somewhere, getting ready for the show, meeting people in real life.” 

**You have an excellent stage presence. Do you write music with playing live in mind?

Namasenda: That’s a really fun question. I mean, it’s not like when I’m doing a song I’m thinking about how it will be live, but I know the only way for me to know if a song is good enough is if I feel like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait to play this.” It doesn’t have to be a party track, it can be a calm one. But if I’m excited to play something live then I know that it’s a good one. 

Namasenda. Image courtesy the artist + PC Music, London.

**Being from Sweden, how has the country influenced you musically? With labels like YEAR0001, who you’ve worked with, there’s a very distinct thing going on there—but also the eurodance history, I definitely hear that in hot_babe_93.

N: It might not be so much musically, it can be more the whole vibe, visually, everything. Everything that I did for hot_babe_93 is very Swedish or European in my opinion. I think it’s that we have this sense that we like it here, but also a sense of longing, wanting to be somewhere else. That’s very present in Swedish music and I think in mine too. 

**PC Music is independent, has this been interesting for you as a pop artist, rather than working along a major label pathway?

N: There’s a lot of artistic integrity. You’re allowed to do your own thing. I have this rule where I don’t discuss the creative stuff with people that aren’t creatives themselves. I’m not gonna talk to an A&R about, oh, we should do this with this bridge, or what do you think about this cover. Because an A&R or someone that sits in an office, they don’t know. They know the business side, so they should do that. I feel like when it comes to a lot of major labels, a lot of people that don’t even know what they’re talking about, they’re having a lot of opinions. I can’t really do that. I don’t even do it with PC. 

**How has working with A.G. Cook on the production side of things played a role in your songwriting recently? How do you two bounce ideas off each other?

Namasenda (2021). Photo by Arvida Byström + Hannah Diamond. Image courtesy the artist + PC Music, London

N: I think he was one of the first people that actually really listened to my ideas, and made me trust my ideas, made me believe that I had good ideas. So I feel during this process I’ve grown a lot as a songwriter. To be able to have the confidence to sing a melody that might not be the best, but if you’re three people in the room, then someone can be like, “Okay, let’s take this and do this and this.” That’s how you collaborate, and to be open to sometimes singing or writing something that’s not really great, but because you wrote that we can take from it and make something.

**There is a very strong visual element to your work. Can you tell me about this side of your project, do you keep visuals in mind when writing music?

N: Usually I do. Right now, it’s not really that I have an idea, but I feel for the first time the visual idea is kind of growing with the music. So I don’t really know what’s gonna happen, because with Unlimited Ammo I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew exactly what type of influences I wanted, and what the whole theme was, already set before we started writing the mixtape. But now it’s a bit more floaty, so it’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of it.**

Namasenda performs as part of Balance / Club Culture Festival, Leipzig, on September 30, 2022.