Frida Sundemo may not be a household name yet, but that could be about the change with the release this week of a coal-black comedy that probes the seamier side of the Britpop scene.
The Swedish songstress, whose music has featured on US TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scream Queens, makes her big screen debut in the movie, which stars Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy, Mad Max, X-Men) as a ruthlessly ambitious A&R man prepared to go to any lengths to further his career.
Gavin and Stacey’s James Corden also features in Kill Your Friends, which is based on John Niven‘s novel, a searing send up of his time working for London Records in the ’90s.
Frida plays the frontwoman of a hotly-touted combo Hoult’s character Steven Stelfox is anxious to sign and the soundtrack features three of her songs including new single Heroes, alongside tracks by Britpop luminaries Oasis and Blur.
The Gothenburg alt-pop starlet took time out for a Q&A with Matt Catchpole after jetting in to promote the movie which is out in British cinemas from Friday (6 Nov).
So Frida, exciting times for you. How are you coping with all the attention?
Well, I must say it hasn’t been THAT much attention yet. But it’s really exciting with everything that is happening! I love it when I’m able to share my music with people who haven’t heard it before.
Are you worried things are happening too fast, or are you happy to ride the wave?
No, I’m not worried. I’m pretty down to earth and I would happily welcome everything to speed up a little (laughs). In the music industry you learn fast that things take time and you have to have a lot of patience and a cool head.
What do you make of our capital?
I love London so much! I’ve been there many times over the last few years and it feels like she (London) is starting to embracing me as one of her mates. That’s a nice feeling!
My favorite parts of town are Shoreditch, Hackney and Whitechapel. I love vintage shops and there is lots of tasty food and good coffee in those areas. Not to mention the best bagels in the whole wide world on Brick Lane! (The bakery with the white, blue and red sign).
Other fast food outlets are available! I’m guessing music is your first love, but is acting something you’d like to explore further?
I’m not gonna say that I won’t do it again but I will definitely focus on the music. I had a lot of fun shooting Kill Your Friends, though. It’s so exciting getting thrown into a whole new world, like the movie business was to me. I always try to be open to new adventures.
So tell me about the movie. Can you sum up the plot in a couple of sentences?
It’s a pretty raw satire about the music business in London and the story takes place in 1997. Nicolas Hoult plays the main character, Steven Stelfox, who is a young, striving A&R on a record label who is willing to do pretty much anything (including murder) to climb the career ladder. It’s a super witty movie and a must-see for everyone who enjoys British dark humour.
And what about the part you play?
I’m playing Marcy, the singer of a Swedish indie band ‘The Lazies’. There’s a competition between Stelfox and Parker-Hall, another A&R guy played by Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s Demons) who gets to sign my band to their label. I am pretty much the only good guy in the movie, haha.
How did you prepare for the role?
I skyped with the director of the movie, Owen Harris, and he told me to pretty much just be myself on set. Marcy is after all quite close to who I am, and I can really relate to her. We’re both holding on to our beliefs and we trust our guts more than any A&R guy in this world. Also, I looked at a lot of audition tapes on YouTube, (laughs). I don’t know if that helped me or not though. I quit doing that after watching Henry Thomas audition for E.T. since he totally blew my mind. Everything I did after that felt fake.
Kill Your Friends is set in the dying days of Britpop. What are your thoughts on the original Britpop bands – Oasis, Blur etc?
I love those bands. I learned how to play the guitar through Oasis’ songs and Radiohead is one of my favorite bands ever. I feel very honoured to have one of my songs on the same soundtrack album as they do!
Based on your experience of A&R men, how accurate is the film’s portrayal?
I’ll have to admit that I recognise a lot of stuff from my own experiences, even though I have met nice A&R people too. The worst thing I know is people’s fear of believing in something that might not make it to the charts. I would love it if more A&R’s actually trusted their guts and their personal taste rather than numbers on a sheet. Still, I understand that reality isn’t always that romantic. A company wants to make money after all.
How did you get on with your co-stars Nicholas Hoult and James Corden?
I didn’t get to meet James Corden, unfortunately, but I spent some time with Nicholas in between takes. He was super friendly and a very talented actor. I was so impressed by him and the other actors when doing the scenes. Their professionalism made it a lot easier for me to relax on set and to get into character.
Were you starstruck at all?
I didn’t expect myself to be but I actually was a bit starstruck when I was introduced to Nick for the first time. I came straight to set from the airport and somehow I was overwhelmed by everything. Apart from that, I did fine, haha.
Your music is featuring both on the small and big screen of late. Why do you think your songs work so well on film?
I’m not really sure. But I always see pictures in my head when writing and producing and maybe those fictional movies influence the music more than I’m aware of?
How much of an influence is your homeland on your music?
I think that the long cold winters have had a big impact on me – both emotionally but also simply practically; it’s easier to keep focused in the studio when the snow is whirling outside than on a perfect summer’s day. Emotionally, I always find myself thinking a lot more about different things during the winters than when the weather is fine. I guess that is a good source of inspiration for my writing. It’s like a lighter version of the classical saying that’s it’s easier to create when your heart is broken than when you’re luckily in love.
There’s a tremendous fascination with all things Scandinavian right now; from books, to crime dramas to music, does the interest surprise you?
I don’t know, I guess those things come and go. In Sweden we’ve always looked up to our big brothers, UK and US, in a lot of different fields, but we might actually have found our very own lane in the big highway network. That’s exciting and inspiring!
Who inspired you growing up?
My family inspired me a lot – they made me feel like I could do anything I committed myself to do. Also one of my teachers in high school. He used this revolutionary pedagogics and challenged me and my classmates’ every opinion. That was really inspiring.
Do you have any heroes? Who’s career would you like to emulate?
My big heroes are people who I’m personally related to. I’ve got a lot of them in my life. One artist that I’m enormously impressed by is Björk. It feels like every part of her music is packed with who she is. She inspires me.
What made you want to become a singer?
I’ve always loved to write and create music but it took many years until I sang to an audience for the first time. Somehow I discovered that performing your music live adds another dimension to it. It’s such a magical feeling when you get to deliver a message with your own voice in front of people who actually pay attention to you.