Tobias Isaksson is a fan of a good party. After having made upbeat slop pop with his previous band Irene, and scaled-back folk as part of Laurel Music, he’s been around the block a few times—able to laugh about things like entourages and riders. (Memo to booking agents: he loves a dry white wine.)
Now writing and performing as Azure Blue, Isaksson is still quick to crack a joke. But his music has taken a more solemn turn, full of whispery electronic odes to love and the heartache that follows. His second album under the moniker, Beyond the Dreams There’s Infinite Doubt, continues the melancholic, New Order-for-dreamers vibe; Isaksson weaves together a synth- and drum-machine-fueled, slow-motion disco.
Interview joined up with Isaksson for a quick cup of tea in a Stockholm café. There, he filled us in on heartaches, reinventions, and why his life isn’t so different from The Beach Boys. He also provided Interview readers with an exclusive premiere of his new video for Beyond the Dreams There’s Infinite Doubt track, “Time is On Our Side.”
HOMETOWN: Varberg, Sweden
CURRENT CITY: Stockholm, Sweden
FEELING “BLUE:” I was going towards something like The Ocean Blue with the name. But there’s a band from the ’90s already called The Ocean Blue. My last band had a strong Beach Boys connection. If this is the mature version of my old stuff, it goes towards Dennis Wilson’s epic soundscapes, with more colored chords and the random hero that comes from nowhere. There was a legend that they were soundchecking onstage with Beach Boys. All of a sudden all these beautiful chords were coming from a grand piano. They thought “Brian, shut the fuck up!” But it wasn’t Brian, it was Dennis playing. They asked him were it came from, and he said, “This is my old stuff.” He got a record deal and made Pacific Ocean Blue. That’s a paraphrase of that. The American name was taken, and I felt like if I was going to be more mature, I should go for something closer to home. It couldn’t be the North Sea Blue. The water is dark here, it isn’t that dreamy.
SING OUT (OR NOT): I’ve been saying that at my funeral I want “Someone I Know” by Margo Guryan to play. She made one record called Take a Picture. When she came into the Myspace thing, I actually exchanged emails with her. She was the one that got me into whispering rather than singing out loud. I asked her about singing techniques. She said she went to one singing lesson ever, and they asked her to sing out and she left the room and never came back. If I never sing out, I can never miss a note either. I will just slide slightly out of key, and it’ll just sound smooth.
MENDING A BROKEN HEART: I’m making the same album over and over again, about breakups. This Night and the Next was about it’s all going to be the same; it’s never going to get any brighter. Then came Apple Bay, which was a homecoming thing with some breakup lyrics. Some recent love stuff. Then the second album by Irene was another breakup story. Going towards breakup and post breakup stuff. Rule of Thirds was a compilation of three different breakups. I’m counting to nine before I’m done. I’m at number four now. I’ve made another breakup album called Beyond the Dreams There’s Infinite Doubt. Beyond the Dreams There’s Infinite Doubt ends with “Beyond the Dreams.” Before that, it’s a cover of Sade’s “By Your Side” which I made for my friend’s wedding, which is the most optimistic thing ever. It ends with that, then there’s a dreamy thing that leaves it open. I get goosebumps thinking about this. For me it’s so personal and so beautiful.
A BORN LADIES’ MAN: I remember in the summer holiday, when I had my first bad break up. After that, I stayed away from romantic stuff, from fourth grade until after secondary school. Then I got some interest from girls again. I got really short, which is crazy because I was looking good when I was seven. Then I became small and short and wore heavy metal t-shirts. So I was a bit of dork. Then, back when I was 15, the girls in school started saying, “You’re pretty hot.” So I got back into getting interest from girls. I was basically just into music in the intermission.
ABSENTEE VOTE: For our final, for leaving primary school, we didn’t go to our graduation. Our math teacher, he was so heartbroken that we left for Denmark to watch Guns N’ Roses on our graduation day. They were doing the Use Your Illusion tour. We were four guys from a glass of 25 that didn’t attend the graduation because we were going to Guns N’ Roses… Last year, when I was nominated for the Manifest Award, which is the independent Grammy award, I was on national TV talking about how I don’t believe in competition anymore. You shouldn’t compete in music. But that’s my belief until the day I win it all. I didn’t think I had a chance, so when I won that award I was in Spain on tour.
A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: It’s beautiful to have the pop scene. I can see the community. Walking around Rough Trade East the other day, I felt like okay, it makes sense. I belong more in an indie/dream-pop pocket. I’m also a DJ that plays disco and house music…you can play whatever you want. You just have to find some framework for it. In a way, it’s beautiful to play hip-hop in bars and clubs, and dance music and pop whenever. I can play anything. But I miss the sense of being part of a community that makes me very clear in one of those pockets.
FOUND: I think at some point soon, I’ll have to stop reinventing myself and find the destination. But then again, I just saw a documentary about space, saying that since the universe is moving outwards, there is no final destination. It’s just an infinite slipping away. That’s very depressing. The moon is leaving us, they say. Once it leaves us, the climate is going to go straight down the drain. Since everything is leaving, I think you should have a bittersweet view of life. But I really appreciate everything. Almost in a religious way. It’s so important to find fun and beauty in things.
BEYOND THE DREAMS THERE’S INFINITE DOUBT IS OUT NOW VIA HYBRIS. FOR MORE ON AZURE BLUE, VISIT HIS FACEBOOK PAGE.