When Anna Lena Bruland was growing up in her native Norway, the pressure to conform to the prescribed family/career life-plan grated on her. Norwegian ideals and expectations of success felt hollow and superfluous. “I’m lucky to be raised in a very wealthy country, but because we have all of that we’re expected to live very materialistic lifestyles,” she explains, “it’s been difficult growing up with that thought process; that I should have X, Y and Z before I hit thirty”.
Going by the moniker EERA, Anna’s debut album Reflection of Youth is a record of frustration, questioning and acceptance. Written over three years, the final result is a dark, distorted collection of songs inspired by a process of self-affirmation. “Whenever I go home now, lots of people I know from childhood are married with kids, building successful careers,” she shuffles, “but I get the sense that they always want more, you know: ‘this sofa isn’t good enough, we need to get the red one’. That way of life has always felt alien to me. Writing this album was very important to me in order to fully accept that I have chosen a different path.”
“I was struck by the anger of this [record]. That’s actually what my sister said: ‘have you been really pissed off for the past few years?!’ I think maybe I have been!”
With much of the album shrouded in a ruminating darkness, tracks like the ghostly ‘Beast’ slip into almost creepy territory. “It’s not me necessarily thinking I’m going to be creepy or dark, it’s more just that I love distortion and those sounds,” she says, “I love noise, I love punk. I could listen to a band fucking around with their pedals for three or four songs.” But still, stepping back from the record upon its completion, Anna was surprised by its sound. “Whereas my first EP was more solemn, I was struck by the anger of this one,” she laughs, “that’s actually what my sister said: ‘have you been really pissed off for the past few years?!’ I think maybe I have been!”.
Even songs like the seemingly jovially titled ‘I Wanna Dance’ feel exasperated and frustrated. “That song is about me wondering why the fuck I find things like money and feeling free so hard. The ‘normal’ things,” she shrugs, “now I understand that these things just don’t come to me naturally. I’m a writer, I can’t help but over-analyse.”
But whilst Reflection of Youth is rooted by an internal struggle, it’s equally a declaration of overcoming it. In ‘Christine’ and ‘10,000 voices’ Anna sings about her sister, mother and grandfather as beacons of support in times of uncertainty. Indeed, the album itself worked for her as a form of therapy. “This record has helped me come out of the other side of what was, or could have been, a difficult period of my life,” she says, “if I feel down or frustrated, I feel a lot lighter after writing it down. Imagine doing that x500,000. That’s how making this album felt”.
What then, given the therapeutic release of Reflection of Youth, is next for EERA? With some of the grievances of her youth now eased, how might her sound change in later material? When I put the question to her she thinks for a second before bursting into laughter. “The other week I was listening to Portishead,” she smiles, “I started thinking maybe I’d write some gentle songs, acoustic guitar or something. After a while of playing, I’d ended up making recordings of a track that I labelled ‘Anthem Idea’ – so maybe the softer, more gentle stuff isn’t going to happen any time soon.”
EERA will play a headline show at The Lexington in London on 21st March 2018 – tickets available here.
Just last week, EERA shared a lyric video for “Watching You”, which was directed by Nina Morice. Watch it below.
The track is taken from EERA’s debut album Reflection Of Youth which is out now via Big Dada.