The title of Röyksopp and Robyn's new mini album, Do It Again – the first release from Röyksopp's forthcoming new album - is more than just a name; it represents a plea from music fans who have been anxiously awaiting another collaboration from the same three artists that first created the head-spinning, forward-thinking pop standards, “The Girl And The Robot” and “None Of Dem”. But while the former was for Röyksopp's Junior album, the latter appeared on Robyn's Body Talk series and both were made in 'album mode' so to speak. The Do It Again mini album represents the evolution of their working relationship. Curated at a time when all three of them were at something of a creative impasse, initial sessions were about feeding off of each other's ideas and harnessing that indelible chemistry they share. The result was to renew their respective passions not just for making music, but songs that moved way beyond anything any of them had done before.
“We just started making music and it wasn't with a particular record in mind, it was just us crashing together and working as a band more than two separate acts.”
That word “band” in all its connotations is important; Röyksopp and Robyn, the entity, represents three friends experimenting in a studio and creating a five-track mini album from scratch, with production and songwriting covered by all three members. “… it will be nice for people to hear that this doesn't sound like Röyksopp featuring Robyn or Robyn produced by Röyksopp, it's just something else entirely,” says Torbjörn.
Started at the end of 2012, the genesis of Do It Again was formed in a decidedly laidback environment, with Robyn travelling to Röyksopp's studio in Bergen, Norway, for the odd weekend here and there. With sessions started for no other reason than they enjoyed each other's company (“we have good chemistry and we like to hang out” states Torbjörn), the weekends soon became akin to a pop youth camp: “Sleeping in sleeping bags and eating candy when you're not allowed to,” laughs Torbjörn. For Robyn, this idea of relaxing with like-minded friends with the pressure off was what appealed. “It kind of had to be that way because I didn't really feel like I had an album in me at the time and I wanted to experiment and do other things than work on my own album,” she says. “We've always had this very relaxed, weird sort of silent acknowledgement of each other's personalities. This weird connection. We have similar references in terms of culture – it goes beyond movies and things like that but into things like mood.”
One of the first songs they started working on together was “Every Little Thing,” the mini album's tear-stained electro-ballad (key lyric; “baby, why you falter, when you know I'm waiting here”). “I was just feeling sad when we wrote that song,” sighs Robyn about the emotional seed she brought to the session. “That was one of the first things we worked on before we really knew what we were doing in terms of making a collecting of songs together. We were just trying things.”
This sense of freedom to experiment led to them creating the mini album's opening song and perhaps defining moment in the shape of the near ten-minute long “Monument”, a remixed version of which will also appear on Röyksopp's fourth album, due out later this year. Built around layers of sampled vocal sighs, a delicate electronic pulse and a lilting melody, it's a song that sounds nothing like anything they've done before, and in a lot of ways helped focus the mini album. “With this round of collaboration it's fair to say that Monument played a big part,” explains Svein.
“Monument was the initial song where all three of us sat together and wrote the lyrics. That part would normally be considered slightly ‘difficult’ because lyrics tend to be very personal. So steering three peoples individual thoughts in one collective direction would be a challenge - at least on paper. But due to our extrasensory synchronization, we prevailed. At that point we all realized which way to steer this mini album.”
“It was the first thing we did where we were like 'okay, this is going to be a whole collection that we're making together,’” continues Robyn. “It was one of those songs that sort of wrote itself. Some songs are like that, they come out very much as a whole piece. We started with the sounds and built this sound world. It was obvious quite early on that this was going to be something different. I was really taken by these sculptures by artist Juliana Cerqueira Leite because they look like ghosts. It's basically a space that she's dug out for herself and her body and made it into a sculpture. It gave me this really physical experience of what it's like to define yourself or stand for something or figure out who you are. It stayed with me for a long time.”
Excited by the idea that the song's grandeur and grace was perhaps not what fans would expect from the trio, they knew it had to be the mini album's opening song. “We had a few thoughts about that because it could come across as pompous, you know, 'let's have a ten-minute piece as an opener,’” laughs Svein. “There was never any discussion about having that one as an opener.” The key to their love for the song was that it pushed them all out of their comfort zones. “We try to avoid repeating ourselves so if it had started off with something extremely pop-y as the first track then that would have seemed like a failure at our end,” Svein adds. For Torbjörn, there was a definitive reason behind it: “If you compare putting together music with being a film director, it's definitely one of those films that have a long opening scene - that is a bit demanding but it says a lot, as opposed to an action flick that just goes into something hectic.”
That's not to say that they've left the massive pop blockbusters out, and in the shape of the mini album’s title track they've created one of the most effervescent, effortlessly uplifting electro-pop bangers in recent years. “We obviously couldn't leave those types of songs behind - we had to have the big pop songs on there as that's what we've been put on this earth to do,” confirms Svein. Starting life as a rave-inspired throwback, the final version of “Do It Again” sounds like it could only have been made by Röyksopp and Robyn. “It was one of the fun nights in Bergen,” remembers Torbjørn with a smile. “We had a really good time, a lot of laughs and we just sat down and wrote the lyrics. It's all about capturing the mood that we were in.” Once again it was about freedom to try new things. “I really loved these chords we'd come up with and we started writing on it and it ended up as this anthemic pop song, but kind of by accident,” continues Robyn. “I think the production is a bit kitschy, but we tried to push it as far as we could into kitsch-land, like beyond EDM and beyond trance and into some kind of land between stuff I used to grow up on and stuff we have in our DNA from listening to electronic music all our lives. It just became a monster!”
Elsewhere, the mini album covers big thumping house in the shape of the club-ready “Sayit”, which features a near duet between Robyn and what sounds like an aroused robot. On the other end of the spectrum there's the closing “Inside The Idle Hour Club,” which utilizes Robyn's vocal discreetly to create a pensive, slowly evolving soundscape that's worth diving into headlong.
The diversity is a reflection of both Röyksopp and Robyn's desire to create something brand new rather than repeating former glories, but at the same time there is a running thread throughout that highlights what makes them both so amazing. The idea was to create “something that feels contemporary but not generic” as Svein puts it, and also to find a mixture of Robyn's rawness and the intricacies of Röyksopp's production. “In this band there aren't any Phil Collins; in this band we're all Tony Banks,” laughs Svein. “It was very much that everyone contributed on every level. We all found the melodies, the harmonies and worked on the production side together.”
It is, as you will hear, the perfect coming together of three distinct musical minds.