There is something wonderfully unique in thea wang’s solar system. With deep intensity she transforms random encounters, loneliness and love into euphonious short stories that open doors into others lives – and we get to be guests for a little while. With her singles, the Norwegian songwriter has already proven that she possesses the ability to write folk-pop tracks that dive into the deepest of human emotions. Now it’s time for her debut album While He Is Still Asleep, out now.
thea’s debut album is made up of melodic pop songs that take unexpected leaps and fit her magical voice perfectly, helped by electronics and samples that modernize a traditional acoustic singer-songwriter sound. You can hear Joni’s heart beats in her writing, Regina Spektor’s tender humour in her lyrics.
We asked thea to do an in depth track by track breakdown of While He Is Still Asleep for us. Read it below.
I Wrote You Letters (fieldrec from andrews porch)
A field recording of me and my boyfriend Gudmund (playing the the guitar) trying to figure out how to arrange the song, recorded on my phone from the porch of andrew, in Alhambra, Los Angeles. Feels like a time-capsule of the magical days, making the record.
Tell Me About It:
The first time I listened to this song when finished, in Andrew’s studio I felt whole. If I died the next day, it would be ok. It was first made by being alone in my room in Oslo, fooling around with my op1. I Remember I found a really nice synth sound and put my phone in recording mode to record my improvisation. I then showed it to Jørgen Kasbo, and we tried to play it, and finish the structures. I remember listening to the phone-recording after our rehearsal thinking “This feels like a new beginning. I really love this”. I then worked a loooot on finding the right words to it, getting help from Sidsel Endresen, Sophie De Rohan and Gudmund Guren with some sentences here and there, so it would feel right. I wanted it to be a song for the times when I’m a bit lost, and need someone to get me back into my own skin again. The last part with the lyrics was something I added in LA, that I had written in my notes – and happened quite spontaneously, when I felt it was lacking a part. I still remember recording this song in the night in Record Plant, singing this upon the last part and feeling like it all came together.
While He Is Still Asleep
The song that was the start of making this record. The first song I wrote on the guitar – and the first song that made me understand that I had a solo-project within me and a lot of stories that had to get out, in order to move on. WHISA as I call it is a short glimpse into your neighbour’s apartment. It’s a melancholic song about heartbreak, love, and the timeless early signs of erosion of a relationship. I had just bought a guitar, tried to learn how to play, and out of that this song appeared. I saw this story and couple clearly in my mind, and for some years I thought I had made it all up. Years later, I realize there may be some hidden truths from my own life at that time in it as well.
Save Me For Later
“He shook his head said: it’s early. She shook her head, said: it’s late. Life as they knew called for changes. She grabbed her coat, he said wait”. We recorded this outside in Andrews porch, with wind-chimes and the sound of Alhambra. About summer and long-distance relationships, weather, and feeling like a stranger in each other’s worlds, based on a true story.
Cat From Molina
“The cat from moletto never leaves you alone”. A song I produced myself in Copenhagen while procrastinating a school-task. I had the lyrics written from when I was in Italy, and then asked my friend Bjørn Helge if he could send me some beats or something I could create something to. He then sent me this loop, and I improvised some Norwegian lyrics on it, that was a bit wack. I added some vocal layers, and one field-recording from when I was in France with my friends, having a bit of a cold in the beginning – singing straight into my logic project using the built-in microphone. I brought it to LA and figured out we should have some English lyrics on it – and then I found this old text and tried to make it fit the rhythm from the last version. I then added many voices and had tons of fun while adding layer by layer, and that was it. I really like the vibe of this one, and at the same time as it is a bit less “clear” than the other songs on the album, it is one of the scariest lyrics I have written, making up another person’s side of a story. I love the vibe of it!
I Wrote You Letters (piano version)
A longer piano-version of the first song, in a different vibe. I wanted it to contain the feeling of you listening to someone listening to the song on an old record. I asked Bjørn-Helge gammelsæther to add piano to it, and he also recorded the room and his hands when playing it. It starts off by those sounds that could sound like someone putting down a vinyl in the vinyl-player. It is about looking back, triggered by seeing someone who you used to be close to being a stranger, remembering every possible path you could have taken, thinking about the different outcomes and how different your life could have been. At the same time coming to terms and toasting to the times you wasted by looking back at something.
A song about looking back at your life, and seeing someone that reminds you of a part of your life long time ago, that feels like a different life. about all the different life-choices made, different paths that you could have taken, how different your life would have been. It is sort of a toast for all the times untraveled, and how life has unraveled from your past choices. For all the time you have spent looking back, and you wanting to close that door – and salute how you ended up with the life you now have.
17th Time That Autumn
One of my favorite songs I have written – but in a long stretched arrangement. I first played this song with 8 saxophones, and where I could easily have recorded the guitar-version I wanted to try and re-make this version for the record. It is about someone who never wants to let go of the last bit of a relationship, making the other person sit on the fence and wait for the other one to be interested. It is about the selfish side of affection, where you want someone whenever you need it, but only when you need it. Very selective love, and physical, sometimes egoistic love. A song about two of my friends. At the same time as the main character is on its solo-travel, they is being in between wanting to be alone – sometimes being quite lonely, then wanting someone, and by that never really freeing the person they don’t really love.
I wrote this song some years ago. Garden Song is about thinking that a person is better off without you, and the other one thinking that you cannot decide what is best for the other person. At first the other person in this story disagrees, but in this story you could see how the couple later split up and meet each other again. About someone being afraid to be a burden so that person decides it is better for the other person to not go on alone. Like saying “just go” even though you want someone to stay, because you don’t want to be a burden. And you want the person to do what they want – and you feel like you are the person responsible for them not living their best life.
At first I thought I had written a story about a woman/or man getting a serious disease or dementia and that when knowing her life will be hard – and that their future together will be very different and hard for her partner, she want her partner to live his best life and that it’s best to she lets him go even though all she wants is being with him – and visa versa.
But then the story got more personal, noticing it partly it’s also about someone struggling with something – thinking everyone is better off without her/him – when really that person doesn’t see how they’re not.
I have struggled with the form of this song for so long, and when we worked on it in LA this was the only song that we just couldn’t figure out. We tried so many different forms and in the end Andrew wanted to let it go, but when I got home I just couldn’t give it up. So I got my friend Andrea to record me adding some acoustic guitar and my friend Håkon to put some violin on it on the choruses recorded by Andrea Horstad – and I wanted for it to sound like some seagulls screaming – for it to be the pain of letting someone go because it is easier than asking them to stay with you. Then I had a session with Preben Sælid that added some texture with reversing håkons violin, And then me and my friend Knærten Simonsen worked on it to see if we could make it work.
I love the choruses – especially the last chorus, even though it’s maybe the first song where all my friends like it but I don’t really like the verses at all. Haha.
Jennifer is a heavy song, but at the same time – just a frame from the inside of someone’s apartment. I watched my neighbours’ confrontation, and then imagined the ultimate breakup where the main character is (almost unbelievably) happy for her partner to fall in love behind her back. The most important thing for this person is for Jennifer to be happy, and free to leave if that is what feels right to her. Went through different recordings of this one as well.
HAHA THERE ARE SO MANY SAD STORIES IN THIS RECORD. Zuzana is a short short song that sort of just flew in the window with melody and lyrics at the same time. For a short period I tried to make it a longer song, but after some time I just had to realize that it was supposed to be a micro-song.
Word On The Street
I wrote word on the street in London after moving abroad, to Copenhagen, being alone in a new country for the first time without any security net, biking through rain and wind and gray skies the first semester. It fell out in an improvisation in London with my friend and guitar player Jørgen Kasbo in a break the same autumn. In London it was sunny with blue skies for a change. After It had been sooo grey, and cloudy and rainy in Copenhagen for a period that felt like a lifetime, the sun and blue skies made me understand how depressed I had been. My mind had soaked up all the bad weather, and this song just fell out in a second.