Both young artists from Sweden, AmberValent and Alton shape the experience of their music through their live performances and the creation of self-confident stage personas. Enter their new universes formed from inspiration sprung out of persistent work
The Swedish singer, producer and club promoter AmberValent describes her own musical past in the underground hip-hop duo ANAYE (formed with MayDar) as highly energetic, with a punk-rock drive that came from them just doing without thinking. The focus was on sparkling live experiences and on the intense work ethic that the two of them shared. Now that Amber has broken through as a solo act, her focus has shifted. The ethic and energy might still be present, but AmberValent’s live shows are purposefully not as explosive as ANAYE’s.
“I try to creat an exhilarated feeling,” she says about how she wants to shape the experience of her music in a live setting. “Even though my music is not that peppy, I still want to show how happy I am that I get to share the moment with those who are there. My songs are more atmospheric, dreamy and even a bit melancholic. The live experience for me is celebrating together instead of being sucked into my world through headphones in loneliness.” She mostly prefers to experience music through film and video, to get a big picture of the expression. “The dream is to make a visual album one day. And a feature film. And anime!”
A performer’s stage persona can be inspired by how others behave when performing and Amber lists fellow Swedish act Gnucci – with whom she is touring at the moment – as such an inspiration. “I love a show with emphasis on live production, visuals, outfits, moves and being pulled into another universe. That’s also what I love with the drag queen/club kid culture, the idea of creating a persona who is the biggest, most flashy, most showy version of yourself. I constantly practise [inhabiting] the enormous ego that is needed to own a stage.”
The most important thing for Amber when it comes to other artists is energy and openness. Included in the creation of a supermodel-of-the-world type, stage-owning, self-confident side of oneself might be the use of fashion. “That is extremely important to me. It might come from my interest in film and video, this creating of a world that the ‘experiencer’ can leap into and live in. I am inspired by people like Prince, Betty Davis and David Bowie in how unapologetic their expression was and that they dared to experiment. I love what Jean-Paul Gaultier did in The Fifth Element – there were so many iconic looks and scenes in that film.
“I don’t have a specific person who inspires me right now. Because of the internet, I get inspiration from all the corners of the world, which is cool, since it hasn’t always been a certainty that anything other than the western world has been brought forward in the media. Now everyone can represent themselves using their own conditions.”
Indeed, social media has given the world a chance to speak up and be noticed, though the west is still most heavily represented. Artists as well as private individuals can shape the perception of themselves – whether this is a good or bad change is up to each of us to decide.
Amber’s interest in fashion and make-up started early and she mentions Whyred as one of her favourite stores when she was younger. She loves Scandinavian design and says that her outfit when she is serving “business-executive realness” includes a Whyred mesh top. Her style has changed over the years, but the consistent energy in her fashion sense is a love for vintage and the deconstruction of garments. “My favourite thing is to raid my relatives’ wardrobes for pieces of gold – it’s the best,” she says. In a postmodern world, that is the way fashion and other culture moves forward: through seeing and living with days past; cutting and pasting things to make them fit for today, we make something that can be viewed as new. Amber’s musical taste can easily be compared with her liking of deconstructed vintage clothing, since she lists hardstyle music as a favourite nest, as well as funk forefathers Parliament-Funkadelic. All the musical styles she enjoys influence her work: “I look forward to what it can evolve into and to what my lyrics will sound like once I’ve matured.”
Her music can be experienced in Swedish and English, sometimes in the same song. It means her work can be perceived in different ways, depending on where in the world she sings them. “My ‘Swenglish’ songs definitely work best [in Sweden], but I play a lot abroad and then it’s nice to have a repertoire in English, too. I really love when songs are bilingual, because multi-culturalism is so sexy.”
AmberValent’s new single 4U, featuring Yemi and produced by Valent, is out this month
AmberValent´s influential mix:
What is experience really? When it comes to music, the phrase can mean two things: the musical experience a person gathers from practising and living through music, or it can be the experience of a piece of music that hits us right in the heart, right in the soul and floors us without warning. We have all got our own favourite stories to tell about that special concert that we will never forget, because of the massive impact such a thing can have on a person.
Music is often one of the first art forms we cling to when we are young, the first thing we identify ourselves with completely. Music is something we can fully commit to, no matter our age or earlier experience of it, because the effect of an amazing tune is fundamental and almost primal. No other thing holds such power, because music is the middle man between all cultural expressions. That means that if you are experienced in music – or if you just enjoy the experience of music – the leap to fashion, photography, painting, writing or anything else is not that large. Music is always present in the world of culture, wherever you go or whatever you do.
The Swedish rapper and producer Alton is 18 and has already gathered the musical experience needed to make interesting tracks as a solo artist signed to Cosmos Music. According to Cosmos, the reason for his signing a year ago was that he is a multi-talent who has mastered production and melodies, as well as a keen singer and rapper who delivers a great live show. On that topic, Alton talks about what kind of an experience he wants to communicate through his live performances: “I mostly hope that people can leave pleased with what they got to see, that they feel like I was present.”
Being present is important to him – it is something he wants to be but also something he seeks in others. When he goes to another artist’s performance, he is looking for the same thing that he tries to deliver. “Stage presence and that it feels like they care. That we as an audience can sense how much of an effort the artist is putting in to the music and that we can see they are making an effort to show us how much it means to them.
“I don’t know anyone who has influenced the way my live sets look today, but when my catalogue has been broadened and when I can maybe play bigger stages, I want to give people the same experience that I’ve gotten when I’ve seen Kraftwerk, Missy Elliott and Prince. I’m not comparing myself to them, rather I would like to have the same effect on people as they’ve had during their live shows.”
Alton grew up in a musical home, with a DJ father who let his son listen to music from the entire world. “I think the wide range has contributed most to the sound and the music I strive to create,” says Alton about his father’s influence in leading to him making music at a very young age. “I was encouraged and what I take with me from that is something my father said, ‘Inspiration is not something that you can sit around and wait for if you want music as your profession. You have to work constantly and eventually get an idea.’ He still says that, so sometimes I can tweak a kick drum for two hours.”
Alton’s story reminds me of Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist who rose to fame as a small boy and has fought to not only keep his interest in music intact, but also evolve it. I wonder if Alton has struck the same rock, finding it hard to stay interested in something he has done for a long time. “I didn’t make any music between the ages of 12 and 13, and I started for real when I was 15. So, yes, I have come across that, but I think it can be good to gain some perspective on what it is you want to do.”
There is a slight difference between making music and being an artist, merely the act of stepping forward as a person available for worship. Alton has been creating for the better part of his life, becoming a performer in the public eye later on. Is he comfortable with developing himself as an artist? “I think so, but you don’t know what can happen. I might wake up one day wanting to work quietly, but for now I want people to listen and connect what they hear to me, since I put so much into my lyrics.”
The way Alton describes his curiosity for fashion is also a beautiful description of his love for and dedication to music, summing up him as an artist: “I have a great interest in clothes and I don’t connect that to my music more than that I try to be as honest to myself as I can in both categories.”
Alton´s influential mix:
Whyred supports the experience of music, the people creating the experiences and the people experiencing them. Music and fashion are forever connected as one of the most powerful experiences there is.
Photography by Dan Sjölund
Styling by Pejman Biroun Vand
Grooming by Angelica Beckman @ Mikas Looks
Special thanks to Whyred
All fashion by Whyred
1. SUN STAR T-SHIRT, WAITS CAMO SHORTS, SHOWPIECE SHOES, COADY BACKPACK
2. DOGMAN W BLEACHED BLUE JACKET
3. JANNIKE TWILL JACKET, FERRY STARS SCARF
4. GALLAGHER W JACKET, MILLS SQUARE T-SHIRT
5. JANNIKE TWILL JACKET, FERRY STARS SCARF, ELAY DRESS
6. DOGMAN W BLEACHED BLUE JACKET, VONYA MBORIDERED SMILE TSHIRT, WAITS CAMO TROUSERS
7. SAINT CAMO JACKET, ART DMC T-SHIRT
8. SAINT CAMO JACKET, MARIO II SHIRT, ART STRIPE T-SHIRT, HELL JEANS
9. SAINT CAMO JACKET, ART DMC T-SHIRT
10. MURRY LIGHTWEIGHT WASH SWEATSHIRT, ART OIL DYE T-SHIRT, YOUNG WILLOW TROUSERS, REED SUNGLASSES, COADY BACKPACK