Ahead of their performance next week, Hassle caught up with Lina Tullgren who is a Northeast based experimental rock musician who originally hails from Southern Maine. Having broadened their locale in recent years, Tullgren has performed around the world in London, Milan, Berlin and of course, New York City. Tullgren took a quick break in North Carolina from their tour to answer a few questions about their work and career.
Boston Hassle: How has your upbringing in Maine impacted your musical growth? Does it still?
Lina Tullgren: I was fortunate to grow up in a tight knit area of musicians, artists and actors as my close peers and family members, all of whom were teachers in their own ways. In high school I worked at a bakery on the weekends and was the only teenager amongst people in their 20s and 30s and that was where I heard Deerhoof, Brian Eno and the Twin Peaks soundtrack for the first time, among other formative things. In these places there is a lot of space to be yourself and develop from tiny human being into taller musician alien. On the other hand, there is only so much growth that can happen in a space on that scale, so I was almost always trying to get out.
BH: Some of your lyrics lament the inevitable process of growing up and discuss the difficulty of finding oneself. In this sense, to what extent is “Won” a coming of age album?
LT: I wrote the songs for this album between ages 20 and 22. If this is a coming of age album then one could make the argument that most albums are coming of age albums simply because the passage of time is a construct to how things are made. “Won” is essentially a concept album with the through line being this idea that home doesn’t exist: it isn’t a tangible thing that you can touch or taste or feel, it is an invention of a reality that you create for yourself with the help of people around you who are trying to do the same thing for themselves, they’ve just been doing it for longer than you have. It isn’t hard to find yourself, you just do it.
BH: A theme that appears, at least to me, is mental health. You sing, “nobody’s perfect, now I just run in circles” and “home alone inside my head, it’s happening again.” Do you intend to address mental health in your work?
LT: I don’t intend to address mental health specifically, I intend to address existence which by association also addresses mental health. It’s selfish and irresponsible to not acknowledge something so vast that effects every person on this earth. I spent a lot of years not focusing on open, active communication with the humans i was close to and what resulted was chaos and breakdown, usually by my own hand. I really am trying to be good to the people I bring into my circle.
BH: One thing that really stood out to me was the monochrome of your first two albums. Do you mind talking about this choice?
LT: The album cover for “Won” is based on ectoplasm photography from the late 1800s which predates color photography. I tend to favor quality simplicity over quantity mediocrity.
BH: On this topic, your new album cover for “Always Fine” is much more colorful and the sound is much more electronic and trippy – has working with NTHNL altered your prospective musical style?
LT: I am obsessed with pop music — specifically UK power pop and Japanese music from the 70s and 80s. Making music with my friend NTHNL continues to be an opportunity to flex a muscle of creating sonic landscapes that I’m less capable of creating with my solo project at the current juncture. It’s easy to feel alone writing my own music all the time, like you’re on an island screaming into the void and with collaboration you learn how to be a better listener, how to break habits you might make for yourself.
BH: Where do you see your musical career going?
LT: What’s my 5 year plan do you ask? I’m on tour right now. When i get home from tour I will make another album. It might be called “free cell” but I haven’t decided yet. NTHNL and I will make more songs. I will continue on an upward quest reaching out for something.