Following 2014’s protest single ‘Russian Kiss’ – released to coincide with the Sochi Olympics – Annie’s back with a superb EP of 90s-referencing, holiday-pop called Endless Vacation. We caught up with the Bergen-born, Berlin-based star to talk summer soundtracks and holiday romances, and to find out more about her future musical plans.

Hi Annie, where are you today and what are we interrupting?

I’m in my kitchen in Berlin. My dog, Rosa, is sitting on my lap, sleeping and snoring on my arm. So if I’m writing something in a weird way, blame Rosa.

The last time we heard from you was during the Sochi Olympics, with the release of ‘Russian Kiss’. Can you tell us about your decision to release a protest song?

I had been following the developments in Russia – through different gay communities, reading lots about it – and it just made me extremely sad, disappointed and angry. It was a big topic over here, in Berlin; [there were] a lot of reactions to the way the Russian government act, and to the ‘anti-gay law’ in Russia in general. I woke up one night, started writing, and decided that it was something I wanted to do.

Were there any nerves about the reaction the song might get?

Yes, of course, but at the same time, when I decided that I wanted to write the song and got more involved in the process of making it, there was no way back. It was something that had to be done.

Was the response generally positive, or did it rile certain factions?

I would say that there was a good variety of reactions! Some were extremely positive, some were surprised, and some found it very provocative. YouTube put a censorship warning on the video. It was obviously too much watching people of the same sex doing a bit of kissing on a Sunday afternoon!

Is there anything you learned from the experience?

There’s always a part of you that wishes you could have done more, and somehow make more people aware of the situation. But I have accepted that I tried to spread the word, and at least I spoke up; made people aware of the situation when it’s sometimes easier to stay quiet.

So, a big congratulations on the new EP. How long did Endless Vacation take to put together?

Richard and I started sending each other ideas earlier this year. He’d send music or just an idea of what a song could be about, and we would swap and keep reshaping the original ideas. In May, I came over to London, and spent two weeks writing and recording all of the EP. We ended up doing a lot of songs, some that aren’t on this record.

The tracks are tied together via the concept of “holiday pop”. What inspired you to explore that idea?

I was watching ‘Rear Window’ by Hitchcock, when Grace Kelly said with the phrase, “A tourist on an endless vacation,” and I thought it was perfect. Endless Vacation is like a dream: you’re having the best time of your life – or it might be the total opposite, a nightmare – that looks perfect on the outside, but you’re actually really lonely...

What are the key ingredients of a great holiday anthem?

You need to feel the heat, or the cold. The music should take you to the right destination which is “holiday world”. I always loved holiday songs that are somehow slightly relaxed. Going to Rhodos for the first time, I was listening to ‘La Isla Bonita’ and it felt just perfect at that time. That’s the magic, but then again certain tracks by Inna also give me the holiday glow. It really depends on where you’re going, and maybe who you went with...

Are there any songs that you specifically associate with holidays you’ve had?

I remember going to Crete for the first time, and I heard Laid Back’s ‘Sunshine Reggae’. I remember I found it a bit annoying back then, but every time I’ve heard the track since, it takes me back to the island, and I somehow love it, and dislike it at the same time.

Both aesthetically (in terms of the classic Kylie artwork) and sonically (the euro-pop feel of songs like ‘Dadaday’) the EP has a wonderfully nostalgic feel. Does writing with a strong concept in mind make the process easier or more difficult?

It’s always fun to write with Richard [X]. He’s a brilliant producer, and he’s got such a creative mind and such a good taste in music. I sometimes come up with some weird ideas, but he somehow gets them. And I always have the best time working with Richard. Stefan Storm was a big inspiration too. We talked a lot about Enya, ‘Mad Max’ and dogs. But, yes, we definitely had an idea about the concept, but it kept on developing over time.

The EP feels like your purest “pop” moment yet. What was the goal sonically?

It’s funny you say that, because it was not the main intention to make a pure pop record. The perspective of holidays, and escaping from somewhere, was on my mind. And ‘Cara Mia’ was always the main track.

‘Cara Mia’actually reminds us as a modern day ‘La Isla Bonita’. Is there a specific story linked to that song?

Ah, that’s really a compliment. Well, I think it’s a story we all can relate to. I remember one of my first trips going to Rhodos when I was 13 years old. I fell in love with the local waiter who served us food every evening. Nothing really happened, but I was still feeling heartbroken going back to Bergen, and hoping to be back to Crete next year. My ‘Cara Mia’ is an actual person, but I’m not gonna talk more about him just now… Ha!

As well as Richard X, you also worked with Stefan Storm and Hannah Robinson. What attracted you to work with each of them?

I heard a lot about Stefan from Richard, who worked on his Sound Of Arrows record, so it was good to finally meet him. He’s a wonderful musician, and somehow has a filmic way of thinking when it comes to writing and making music. I like The Sound Of Arrows a lot, and Stefan is such a good songwriter. I hope I can do some more work with him in the future. It was great to be back with Hannah too. She had some brilliant ideas on ‘Work’ and she’s such a good songwriter. We’ve worked together on and off for years.

It’s been six years since your last album. What are your feelings towards the format right now?

I really like the album format: it’s like a book, with stories that somehow belong to each other. But I always end up buying more singles than albums myself. I really enjoy the EP format: that’s like a small collection of short stories to me.

Is it a medium you’re intending to return to in the future?

My plan is to do two more EPs, then an album.

What’s next on the horizon?

I’m working on my next EP that will be out sometime early 2016. I did a track for Tuff City Kids too, but I’m not sure when that will be out.

So we can expect lots more new music?

Yes, lots more...

Finally, where would be your ideal spot for an endless vacation?

You can enjoy your endless vacation wherever. It doesn’t have to be in the most exotic place: it could just as well be the fake tropical island just outside Berlin, in a solarium or in a tent in your parent’s garden.

October 2015