Alone – An Interview with Leaveme

Sigurd Ytre-Arne is a slender blonde 27-year Norwegian man with a shy honest demeanour bordering on a nervous disposition. A pair of glasses frames a youthful appearance with a mature voice calculating every word, to best express the ideas behind his musical projects Leaveme. I came across the young artist’s music last year when a friend sent me a link to Leaveme’s Bandcamp site. The cold melodic movements that framed the sample-based electronic landscape immediately struck me as something familiar, yet it was transposed to a context I’d not heard before – something akin a pop song. A few months later, after some impromptu scheduling I finally get the chance to meet Sigurd Ytre-Arne to sit down at coffee shop in Grünnerløkka to discuss his music.

It was through an active member of Oslo’s Noise scene that I would come to know of Sigurd’s music as Leaveme. Sigurd can often be found on stage at a sampler, searching for something immersive amongst the confrontational. “Every time I play with those types of musicians I try to take in something that’s much more popish” says Sigurd and where the noise blends with melody in the context of the live performance, that’s where you’ll often find the classically trained drummer at his most inspired. It’s exactly here where Leaveme finds a balance, between the experimental and the popular to create music that speaks from the personal depths of the artist. “It starts with a live performance, very often with electronics, played and then looped.” Born from the organic improvisation, Leaveme takes shape when Sigurd re-evaluates the raw loops and reworks them into composed songs within the computer. The completed songs get priority on chief project, Wauwatosa, but when vocalist, Natalie Sandtorv can’t find the words to express what the music wants to say, Sigurd recycles the songs for his solo project Leaveme. It’s a solitary process and its one Sigurd is all too familiar with and also where the project’s name stems from. “I make it alone” says Sigurd of the music, and Leaveme is the artist thriving in the personal and solitary process of creating music, a process that he’s been refining since his days as a student growing up in Seljord Telemark.

Raised by musician parents, with liberal attitudes towards their art, Sigurd’s musical education was given an early advantage, when they sent him to the local drum teacher, who in their esteem was the best music teacher in Seljord). His parents “participated in classical music and Norwegian folk music” and from an early age Sigurd was influenced by his parent’s tastes. Although his education was grounded in drum tutelage, Sigurd had a distinct advantage in his father’s occupation, the local folkehøgskole (occupational college), and it didn’t take him long to become a multi-instrumentalist thanks to its resources. When the students were gone, Sigurd’s father gave him access to school, where a world of music and creativity awaited him. “They had a video camera and a music room, but the music room was obviously the coolest” in Sigurd’s opinion. In the summer when the students were off, he “rigged up a kind of studio using all the equipment in the room” and it’s here armed with a little multi-track tape recorder that Sigurd would lay the foundation for a perspective in music that’s the sole expression of the individual.

Sigurd is a solo artists in all respects of the phrase and makes music that’s “very personal” with the musician and personality behind every aspect of the music. It allows him the freedom to release “something that’s more noisy and weird” if he wants to, and by distributing the music through the likes of Bandcamp it allows him the freedom to do as he feels compelled at any time. For a new artist like Sigurd, it’s a very new and exciting era for music, one in which the intermediate of a record label is not required and the connection between musician and audience is a direct one. It means Sigurd and his two projects have total creative control and as such his personal music speaks on a personal level to his audiences. “It’s fun when people actually buy it”, says Sigurd. “I think Bandcamp is great because the artist gets all the money, or at least 99%, and it arrives at the point of the click.” Sigurd is not one to discourage a label if it would approach him stating, “If someone comes along and likes my music, it would be cool, especially if it’s a record label.” But because of networks like Bandcamp and Spotify, the artist hardly considers approaching a label, and all his focus is on the music. “I’d rather just make more music,” says Sigurd and it facilities like Bandcamp means that he can release these tracks as soon as they are ready. Singles like Stranger and Dunja found its way out like this, which then resulted in radio play on Norwegian national radio and gigs at John Dee and Parkteatret.

Eventually there was enough music and Years followed at the end of 2015, with most of the recorded material Sigurd had accumulated thus far appearing on the album, including two new tracks. One track on the album, released as a single just before the release of the album completely expresses the essence of Leaveme. Aleine (alone) is a “story of someone walking around in Bergen, going to a concert alone and going to see a movie alone.” For lack of finding a melodic hook, lyricist Talief Raabe turned to an old poem he’d written, which Sigurd guesses is about the writer. It accompanies a sombre, yet uplifting arrangement that evokes similar themes to Burial’s Untrue. “The name Leaveme is depressive” for Sigurd, and as such has a strong resemblance to the UK producer’s work, which Sigurd admits to being a strong influence in his music. But for the most part this influence is felt only marginally in the music as Leaveme’s sound is far more organic in approach – a result of sampling his own musical parts, rather than borrowing form other sources. There’s a melancholic coldness juxtaposed by a serene optimism in his music, and this I learn is very much informed by his Norwegian roots. “It’s influenced by a lot of Norwegian Jazz,” explains Sigurd that gives the music very epic proportions with “what’s called the Nordic tone, simple melodies and a lot of reverb.” This is found in abundance on Leaveme’s debut album. From the sensual Kim to the noisier Dunja, what you perceive throughout Years is the sense of space without isolation. It feels like being alone, and although Sigurd might delve in the sombre, there’s a constant hopeful optimism in the music, like enjoying a walk in nature on your own.

Our conversation is brief, and after speaking to Sigurd extensively about his music you get the sense that this is Sigurd at his happiest. He appears more relaxed when I switch off the recorder, or maybe it’s just something that he’s become more comfortable with me throughout the conversation. I get the sense he doesn’t often get the chance to talk about his music. I imagine this is not his forté. I imagine that when Sigurd get’s home he’s at his most content sitting at his instruments, playing music, alone.