With her superb debut single “YOU KILL ME WITH A WORD (aim your gun)“, Kaizer caught our attention and didn’t let go. Her second single “FAMOUS!” is not only a cool pop song but also a pleasure to the eyes, thanks to the beautiful music video which Good because Danish premieres for you today.
Kaizer is the artistic moniker of Karen Stenz Lundqvist, an Aarhus-based songwriter and producer bringing a spark of punk attitude into the pop music scene.
“FAMOUS!” has a vibe of early MØ, and it is a compliment. There is something glittering, yet completely honest in the song. Musically, “FAMOUS!” continues the introduction to Kaizer’s universe started by “YOU KILL ME WITH A WORD (aim your gun)”. The intelligent pop melody, spiced up by original samples, creates a sound pillow on which Kaizer’s vocals fall, as if they were flower petals from her crown. However, when you listen to the lyrics, you start wondering if those are flower petals or cleverly-dropped nails. Yes, there is a dose of gentleness in “FAMOUS!”, but at the same time Kaizer makes biting remarks about people who over-focus on fame and success. The whole song is an ironic comment delivered by Kaizer with immense charisma. Despite being a newcomer in the music scene, this young woman is already quite comfortable. She is bold, confident and enjoys making music. Her compositions are pleasing, but she is not afraid to show off her punk, rough attitude in the lyrics.
The music video for “FAMOUS!” was filmed inside the Aarhus Theatre. The glamorous place serves as a background for the group of young women in flowery crowns (Kaizer’s signature styling) and black Dr. Martens. They explore the space as their competitive attitude towards each other becomes more obvious. The video corresponds with the lyrics and is incredibly picturesque.
While Karen was on a train to Copenhagen, we had a chat with her about the Kaizer persona, navigating the music industry during lockdown, and the Aarhus music community. Watch the gorgeous music video and read our interview below.
“FAMOUS!” was created in collaboration with Statens Kunstfond, Aarhus Municipality, Løs at Tråden and E&L BY Lundqvist.
Entering the music business is in general a tough task, but this year is especially challenging. How did you handle that?
During the lockdown in Denmark, I spent some time practicing as a producer. Everything I release, I produce myself. I use help with recording vocals or with technical stuff that requires better equipment, but in general I do things by myself. So, during the lockdown I was on my own, recording all the weird sounds and samples I could think of, as I do in all my productions, and turning them into music. My live band and I were of course really sad that we couldn’t play all of the concerts that were cancelled. But that’s just how it is. I tried to stay positive and use the time to work on my producer skills.
You have a very specific style and a well-thought-out music persona, as well as your visual presence. How would you describe Kaizer?
Kaizer is a holistic project, as you said. The reason is that I have a Bachelor’s degree in Aesthetics and Communication. I was signed by a major label, but felt it made me lose my creative integrity. So I resigned and started writing songs on my own. I decided that I don’t want to make some boring all-sound-alike songs. I want to create something maximalistic, something explosive, something beautiful! Not only repetitive songs, but original music – that was always my goal.
I also want to be a visual artist that is unique. That’s why I started with establishing my own idiosyncrasies: I am 1,85m tall, I have red hair. I wanted to use it in a non-stereotypical way. I was a model (still am sometimes), and the companies I worked with always wanted to put me in stereotypical clothes, like floral arrangements. I decided to use this image in my own, unique way. My mum has a business, she makes flower arrangements, she made all of the flower crowns for me and my band, and the people in the music video. I also wanted to choose specific colours which you’d instinctively identify Kaizer with. I am not a very “pink” person, but I used to have all these big, fluffy flower dresses as a kid. So I chose pink, but wanted to create a contrast with black. Because nowadays I am a romantic type, but I am also very punk, I wear my Dr. Martens all the time. The contrast between pink and black, flower crowns and Martens is spot on, gives you an instant idea of what kind of complex person I am.
Musically, I make catchy pop songs, but my production is unusual for this kind of music. I make everything by myself, I record a lot of samples and then mix and match them together. The whole idea of Kaizer is based on the contrast between pink and black. The music reflects this contrast as well.
You show that there is a million ways of presenting female artists. Women don’t need to be sexualised to be interesting.
Exactly! You don’t have to be sexualised to be a good artist. It’s ridiculous. I don’t want to be that. All of my band members – both female and male – wear small flower crowns when we play live. This is a part of the project’s visual side that is about gender equality. The boys in the band were like, “hell yeah, just because we’re men, doesn’t mean we can’t wear flower crowns!” They were totally into it!
Today we premiere the music video for your new single “FAMOUS!” Can you tell us more about it?
The song is called “FAMOUS!” and the quotation marks are in the title to underline the irony of it. I wanted to make an ironic song about how my generation is f*cked up about becoming successful and rich very quickly in life. If you don’t achieve that before you’re 30, then you’re nothing. That’s ridiculous! Sometimes it is okay to just exist and be your own person. That’s why the chorus goes “we wanna be famous, only want money, nobody can tame us, can we be happy, we don’t wanna know, we don’t, we don’t wanna know, we don’t know what happiness means.” We want to be happy but we don’t know what happiness is.
When my managers and I discussed the music video concept, the theatre instantly came to our minds. We talked to Aarhus Theatre; they have this beautiful old theatre. I am an Aarhus-based artist, so we also wanted to underline it somehow. They agreed, and we recorded the video in these gorgeous surroundings. The theatre’s interior lifts the music by just being there.
The video is also a representation of powerful women and a statement about ginger women’s beauty. It shows the rebellious nature of girls who are trapped in the theatre. They put on punk shoes and get in fights, as a way to stick it to the expectations of society.
The song basically says: you shouldn’t worry about being famous, you should just be you. Which is kind of cheesy, but also true.
You mentioned that you are based in Aarhus. Do you feel the domination of Copenhagen over the Danish music scene?
Aarhus has been a vibrant scene in Denmark for many years. Medina is from here, Hugo Helmig is from here. Many great and huge Danish artists are from Aarhus. It’s because back in the ‘60s a music school was founded in Aarhus and started teaching music in a new, alternative way. So Aarhus has a big music network. For that reason it is,in my opinion, easier to be an artist here. Also because it is a smaller community than Copenhagen, but I feel people are often more eager to start new initiatives and help each other. The second biggest music conservatory is based here as well, so a lot of talented musicians live in Aarhus. I was born and raised in Copenhagen, but have been living in Aarhus for 4 years, and I’m like, “I’m never leaving!”