El Perro Del Mar – I Need To Make Music To Feel That I’m Alive
Swedish songstress Sarah Assbring is known as “El Perro Del Mar” (“The Dog from the Sea”), and like this stray dog she describes in our interview she wanders lonely from one musical style to the next. On her five albums she moved through decades of pop music: starting with the 60s on her first album in 2005 (think of Brian Wilson, Neil Young, BBacharach), she ends in the 90s now on her new album “Pale Fire”, doing smooth dance electronica (think of Saint Etienne, who even did a Remix you can hear below) with even a wink to 90s Dance Über-track “Killer” by Adamski on “Walk on by”. She was nice enough to answer our questions about her artist name, her urge to make music and what music means to her life.
Please tell us the story behind your artist name, “El Perro Del Mar”! Why do you use it?
I don’t think that I really consciously thought that much about, why I was gonna use that name when I started. It was just a very natural thing. I happen to come up with the name El Perro Del Mar when I was in spain during a time in my life when I was quite in a typical 24/25 identical crisis. Everything was just whirling around in my head. I was thinking of what to do with my life and if I should try to really give all my afford on doing music. And during that time in spain I bumped into a stray dog that I started calling El Perro del Mar – and there was something during that moment with that dog that kind of made it very special – and gave me clues of what to do next. So that name just stayed in my mind and I decided to really focus on music, give everything for the music. There was no other name that came to mind to me.
Even not your real name?
No, I never really thought of using my own name. It has nothing to do with the fact that I have a funny last name…
Really? I never noticed that…
Well, you google it – it’s funny in english … anyway, the way I felt about it when I took it – it gives me the absolute freedom to do whatever I want to do. It’s the perfect kind of “umbrella” for the music that I want to make. I want to be as free as possible. I don’t want to feel like there is any certain sound I have to stick to and upon this time I still feel that the name gives me freedom to do what I want to, gives me freedom to be myself and to express myself in a perhaps exaggerated way – but that is still me. I don’t think that using my own name would give me that broad freedom.
I think musically you are using this freedom a lot over the past albums, starting from more 60s inspired songs up to the 90s electronic sound on “Pale Fire”.
Yes, moving forward!
Was this a natural progression? How did this happen?
I think it’s just also very natural – it’s just a part of who I am. My music is closely linked to who I am and to who I am in that certain moment when I make an album. And I change – I change every year, I change every half year – like any other person I guess. And therefore my music changes. I also have this kind of restlessness in me that wants to move on and always kind of reacts against – or towards what I did previously. So it’s a natural development to what I did on the last album. But I feel like I have the possibility to sound differently – without sounding that differently, you know.
There’s a fundament in my music which maybe is my voice and my lyrics, the way that I write songs, that still is intact, that people recognize when they hear my music even though it might sound different. But for me that is only on the surface – if you look closer youll find that it’s still El Perro Del Mar. So I feel very secure in that way, I feel like I can move on and explore different sounds but still sound familiar.
I wonder what kind of relationship you have to your own music. How do you feel about your old albums? Are there songs you don’t like to sing anymore and you got kind of alienated to because maybe they are linked to experiences you don’t want to live up with again?
Yes, definitely. The songs that you write in a certain situation or in a certain time are bound to make you feel easier or harder, better or worse when you sing them again. I feel like I always head into my songs when I am writing them in a very full armed way, I am very much like totally into the feelings of them and sometimes they can be very painful to go back. So I do have a problem when I’m touring with a new album to blend in older songs cause they kind of belong to a past that I find hard to bring to the presence.
Maybe because I feel like I just changed so much or I need to move on. It’s very much a survivalist thing that I have in me – that I need to move on and don’t stand in the same footsteps. But I like them, I feel for them – but I don’t feel like doing them much.
You are more or less a one woman project and I think solitude is a main theme in your lyrics and even can be found in the story of your artist name. Is solitude an important drive to make music for you and to write songs?
Yes, I think so. I don’t know why, really. I always had a close relationship to loneliness and solitude ever since I was a child. A kind of love/hate relationship. I need solitude a lot. I need to have time on my own. I need it not only for myself to feel good but I need it in my work. But there is also a destructive side to it when solitude becomes loneliness. I think I struggle a lot with my ideas surrounding it. Since I write music when I’m lonely or when I’m alone or if it’s self chosen solitude – all of those different kinds of solitude – it’s things that I write about, it’s definitely a repeating theme in my songs.
I always wonder what music means to musicians – what is music to you, what do you need it for – is music a place where you hide a kind of language which helps you to communicate with others? Or do you need it to express your own feelings?
For me I think of it as a way to survive. I need it like I need food and like I need water. I need to make music to feel that I’m alive and to be really concrete.
At the times when I’m not been making music I felt like I was a shadow of myself – going around like half alive almost. It is much about hiding into a fantasy world, really in the same kind of sense that I felt when I was a child, going into a world where you are playing you are king. That very uncomplicated state where you are ruling everything and where you are building up this castle of sounds. But also I think it is connected to the need I have to be alone.
I feel like I have a problem to communicate and relate to people sometimes. So it is used to express myself and to communicate with other people maybe in a way that I feel like I have trouble doing otherwise. So it stands for a lot of things in my personality I think. It’s just a life force for me really.
Is there something you can do better than making music? Or is there something you ever wished you could do better?
Well yeah, I thought about that all the times believe me. Well, I’ve tried a a lot of different things before I made up my mind, I’ve been very much kind of here and there until I really just had to decide: No, music is what you’re gonna do. It took me a lot of time and effort to come to that point where I could accept that to myself – so I can’t really say that there is anything else that I could do …
Yes, it’s hard enough to find at least one thing!
Well yes, it is. Well, I don’t know – work with animals maybe!
There he is again, the Perro del Mar … thank you very much for the interview!
Pale Fire Tour:
22 Nov – Göteborg (SWE) Nefertiti
27 Nov – Paris (FR) Magic
28 Nov – Barcelona (ES) Music Hall
29 Nov – Zaragoza (ES) La Lata De Bombillas
30 Nov – Madrid (ES) Circulo Des Bellas Arte
1 Dec – Stockholm (SE) INGRID PRESENTS @ Strand
7 Dec – Oslo (NO) Blå
13 Dec – Helsinki (FIN) Korjaamo
photos © Jens Herrndorff