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A picture to promote Kleerup shows Andreas’ head and shoulders torn across the top. It looks a bit like Kleerup’s brain has exploded with white light.
The truth isn’t far off – this album feels like a sudden, intense surge of emotion. It was set in motion three years ago by a song which Kleerup recorded as a challenge to himself. “I wanted to write a song entirely out of the experience of my own life,” he recalls. “I wanted strings and no chorus repeats, just to see what would happen.”
What happened, as it turned out, was ‘With Every Heartbeat’, a song which shot across the world’s blogs and, when it was released the following year, was a Number One single. Complemented by Robyn’s lyrics the enchantingly mournful track struck a chord across the globe, an object lesson in one of music’s most solid rules: that while good pop music sticks to rules, but great pop music breaks the rules and drives pop forward. ‘With Every Heartbeat’ turned out to be a song so robust that it managed to survive Live Lounge covers and endless YouTube tributes and emerged, unscathed, from a violent Saturday night assault at the hands of The X Factor.
Before composing that song Kleerup – a multi-instrumentalist – had spent time in both a thrash metal band and a symphony orchestra, but with ‘With Every Heartbeat’ in the bag things began to snowball. ‘3am’, a pulsing disco track, came next. It felt, sometimes, like he was throwing everything he had into the mix: his phase of being obsessed with Boards Of Canada, his Abba phase, his Stravinsky phase, his Bob Dylan phase. Then there was his passion for Brian Eno’s ‘No New York’ compilation, the idea of curating a project. His thoughts turned to Ingrid Bergman. The snowball became an avalanche: relentlessly moving forward, moving towards something. The idea, in Andreas’ words, was a finished album that “sounded like how it might feel to be alive”.
Moving forward is a theme for ‘Kleerup’. His distinctive sound – one that somehow makes every track sound a little bit like Christmas – is one that’s travelled. It’s travelled from the “suburban sleeptown” Andreas called home as a kid, to his stay in London at the turn of the century, when his west London flat inspired the album and EP track ‘Tower Of Trellick’, then back to Stockholm in his late twenties. The moving forward was really an attempt to move back, searching for the emotions Kleerup felt as a nine year old boy. “I remember sitting in the back of my mum’s car, going to swim on a summer holiday. I heard the radio. I’m just trying to get back there, before I hit 11 and it all started going wrong.”
If this all sounds a bit moody, you have to take into account that ‘Kleerup’ is the soundtrack to both a massive emotional breakup and a massive emotional breakdown, the latter leading Kleerup to a rehab centre in the middle of a Swedish forest where a lot of the album was eventually recorded. “I went into the forest to rehab to get away from it all,” Andreas remembers. “While I was there I thought, ‘hang on, these people are far more fucked up than I am’. I finished half the album there, then left.” What taught him most about music, he says, was when he started DJing. “It was a crash course in how to make people respond to music,” he remembers. One result of this is that his favourite parts of songs are intros and outros – when you’re DJing, they’re both inextricably linked with what’s coming next, and with that recurring theme of continuing to move forward.
At a point when a large proportion of the electronic music showering down from the blogs and websites is distorted beyond recognition, bent out of shape and little more than an exercise in extremes, the subtlety of Kleerup’s signature sound, rushing with emotion, is a welcome reprieve from eardrum-shattering blog house. It’s unmistakeably human. “My music’s not about pushing a button,” Andreas says. “It’s about being a twentysomething guy, broke for years, being so alone.” Even the tracks without lyrics, like Vangelis-inspired album opener ‘Hero’ and Krautrock inspired EP track ‘Hello Holla’, are still sad, poignant and elegant. Add a roster of unique and magnetic singers like Robyn, Lykke Li, Titiyo and Marit Bergman and the result is a powerfully emotive one inch punch of a pop album. It’s easy, on albums like Kleerup’s, for a sense of identity to be lost amid the bustle of guest vocalists, but there’s something uniquely Kleerup about this whole collection.
Flashback a couple of decades to that sleeptown – a 50 minute drive north of Stockholm where everything looks the same and people never leave. Twenty years ago Andreas would sit at school hoping that one day one of his classmates might have the same dreams, know all the same Kiss albums, have the same desire to be in Skid Row. He took decisive action, taking up drums when he was ten and guitar when he was 11. At 14 he wrote his first song to make a grown woman cry – the subject was his first love, the tears came from his best friend’s mother.
These were formative moments in the early life of a complex and fascinating individual for whom art and artefacts are never as isolated bursts of creativity, but are always clues to the real personality of their creator. “I always get back to the person who’s the creator,” Kleerup says. He talks a bit about how his hero, Frank Zappa, was responsible for some total crap alongside all the genius bits, but how even the crap was fascinating. With this in mind, along with the fully-realised depth and breadth of his debut album, Kleerup’s intent on keeping all his scraps of half-ideas. “If I die tomorrow, I want there to be more to find out,” he says. “It’s about leaving a footprint.”