Music & clubs

Molecular music: Sophie Hunger

INTERVIEW: After forays into jazz, folk and film score composition, prolific Swiss singer-songwriter Sophie Hunger dives into the realms of synth-pop on her new album Molecules. She celebrates with five consecutive shows in Berlin, starting Sep 15.

Image for Molecular music: Sophie Hunger

Photo by Marikel Lahana

After forays into jazz, folk and film score composition, prolific Swiss singer-songwriter Sophie Hunger dives into the realms of synth-pop on her new album Molecules (out Aug 31, Caroline). She’s celebrating the release of her sixth studio record with an extensive European tour that will include five consecutive shows in her new hometown of Berlin.

How did you write Molecules?

I laid down some rules. Unlike my other albums, I wanted to have very little to work with: synth, programmed beats, guitar and my voice; English only and no band. It was supposed to be like a monologue. When I started writing songs again, it was all over the place. So, I built a small prison. I needed a corset. Anything to make me suffocate. I wanted claustrophobia. Sometimes you need to take a turn to go forward again.

What role do actual molecules play in all this?

After my last album, I attended sound engineering classes in the US. That triggered my interest in physics: what’s a sound wave; what’s air pressure. To perceive everything under these physical categories was refreshing somehow. In music, it’s all about creating emotions. As a contrast, to see everything from a cooler scientific perspective was nice.

What’s more interesting: the facade or dissecting it under a microscope?

One doesn’t exclude the other. I think you can do both simultaneously. For instance, watching football, there’s this part of me that says, look it’s radical capitalism and a neoliberal psychosis, and at the same time, you see a great give-and-go pass, and you still enjoy it.

This is your first album all in English… What happened to your Swiss-German mother tongue?

When I started out, I sang a lot in Swiss-German. The first few years, I had a bit of stage fright. So, I often opened a concert with a Swiss-German song; a cappella, no microphone. It gave me strength. The problem was that the pop scene in Switzerland is small. There were only two or three bands out there and only one female singer, and she has a different dialect than me. You don’t really have any role models; you have to invent everything yourself. I had to dig the damn tunnel until I came out on the other side. But Swiss German is still the most important language to me. It saved me and helped me stand out.

You’ve won many awards in your career. How did that affect you?

Awards don’t make me feel like I’m good at what I’m doing. It’s cool, you can gloat a little, but basically it doesn’t help at all. Awards don’t write songs. It’s pure narcissism. I still have a mini complex because I never studied music. Off and on, I ask myself how competent I am. By now, it’s too silly to think like that because too much has happened in my career.

You moved here in 2015. Did Berlin push electronic music into your musical repertoire?

I listen to a lot of electronic music here. That’s what this city is about; you can’t avoid it. I became part of a clique that listens to techno a lot. Sometimes you just need a good friend who appreciates something, and it’s empathy that gets you hooked. Being in Berlin started it all, and in London, I developed it further.

You’ll play five shows over five consecutive days – exactly as you did in 2013. Is that your Berlin routine?

Back then, it was the best week I ever had on tour. I was so happy. I was on a high without the hangover after. We wanted to play in every neighbourhood. It’s so absurd. No one does that because it’s not logical and logistically inefficient. To unnecessarily split everything up, drag it out and force everyone to set up everything in a different venue five days in a row, that’s very funny, if you like that kind of humour!

Kesselhaus, Sep 15, 20:00 Festsaal Kreuzberg, Sep 16, 20:00 Heimathafen Neukölln, Sep 17, 20:00 Columbia Theater, Sep 18, 20:00 Kantine am Berghain, Sep 19, 20:00 sold out