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Electronic artist SASSY 009
Photography Olav Stubberud @olav, Styling Alva Brosten

The rebirth of electronic artist SASSY 009

As she releases her second EP, KILL SASSY 009, Oslo-based Sunniva Lindgård reveals why her moniker had to nearly die to be reborn

SASSY 009 might have played Berghain’s Kantine venue on Tuesday, but when we speak days before, she’s freaked out about the prospect of getting into the infamous club. “I’m a little scared,” she tells me over the phone from Berlin, “the guys on the door are intimidating.” Although when we catch up later in the week, she tells me she didn’t fancy it in the end. “We went to see Parasite instead.”

The moniker of Oslo-based Sunniva Lindgård, SASSY 009 was born from a throwaway SoundCloud username when Lindgård, then aged 18, was studying at sports college. “I was given the choice to pick a completely different course,” the 23-year-old tells me, “and I picked music. I thought I’d be playing in the school band at Christmas gatherings, but my teacher was like, ‘OK, today you’re going to learn how to produce music’.”

Lindgård was instantly enamoured. “It just hit me immediately,” she says, “I was obsessed.” The child of two classically trained musicians, Lindgård grew up immersed in music, taking – and quitting – violin, cello, and piano lessons. “I didn’t want to learn about the rules of classical music,” she laughs. Though her musical upbringing undoubtedly influenced her tastes. “It definitely shaped what music I listen to,” recalls Lindgård, “I was always the girl in school who liked weird music.”

When Dazed last spoke to the musician, SASSY 009 was a three-piece, with Lindgård’s childhood friend Teodora Georgijevic and her friend Johanna Scheie Orellana, but became a solo project at the start of the year. “All the conversations I used to have with them when it comes to making music, I have to have with myself now,” Lindgård explains. “I think I’m getting to know myself a lot better.”

The artist’s new EP, KILL SASSY 009 – the follow-up to 2017’s Do You Mind – is a room-shaking electronic record, which sees Lindgård hypnotically layer delicate harmonies over disorienting synths, interspersed with urgent vocals and euphoric beats. Inspired by a year of tumultuous emotions, the record sees Lindgård explore the personalities within herself, exemplified most explicitly in the video for lead single “Thrasher”, in which the artist physically transforms into these conflicting personas.

As she releases her second EP – the first since she went solo – we speak to Lindgård about how it feels going it alone, her upcoming collaboration with Clairo, and why SASSY 009 had to nearly die to be reborn.

Since you last spoke to Dazed, SASSY 009 has become a solo project. How does it feel to be pioneering it alone?

SASSY 009: It’s a very different thing. I wouldn’t say I’m a control freak but I really enjoy being fully in charge of the project, and that’s probably because it’s very close to my heart – it started out as this SoundCloud username, and now it’s just me… with the same fucking name! (Laughs) It feels really good, to be honest, it’s been a change of environment and process, and I feel like I’m on a very interesting journey once again.

What impact has going solo had on your sound?

SASSY 009: Now I’m alone, I’m free to explore my musical extremities – I feel very deeply connected to those extremities within me, and that obviously shapes the sound. (This EP) is me on a deeper level, and I feel that’s something the listener can hear if they’ve heard the first EP. I’ve been doing some serious thinking into what I’m capable of and (that’s resulted in) a more distinct sound this time around. 

How would you describe it?

SASSY 009: It’s very enigmatic; nothing is obvious, and it’s very noisy and has a lot of layers – not only sounds but emotions. It’s a very intense journey listening to this record; I mean, it could be background music for sure (laughs), but I think it forces you to listen closely to what’s going on because there’s a lot of details and darkness in there that can be a lot to process.

I suppose that’s reflected through the name – can you explain the story behind the title, KILL SASSY 009?

SASSY 009: The title actually came after I finished the record. Every song on the album was made at a different time – for example, “Okay” is one of the first songs I’d ever written in my entire life, but “Thrasher” is one of the newest. I selected these songs then tried to find out what brings them together, and realised I chose them because I was at a point in my life where SASSY 009 was about to shut down and disappear. I found it beautiful that these songs came together as a result of me almost not having SASSY 009 anymore, and that’s when the word ‘kill’ came into the picture. The word itself is very fascinating – it’s like an order: ‘kill’ – and is one of the strongest words we have in our language. So KILL SASSY 009 was the title that brought these songs together into one emotion.

It’s interesting because ahead of her new record, Grimes said she wanted to ‘kill off’ the persona of ‘Grimes’, but yours is more like a musical rebirth.

SASSY 009: Exactly! It’s a big paradox for me – I’m absolutely not killing SASSY 009, but that is what had to be put out in the universe for this record to become what it is.

You say you collated the tracks individually – was there ultimately a narrative to the EP or do the songs stand alone?

SASSY 009: They stand alone really. The obvious link between the songs is the emotions that I’ve been having during different times of my life; I’m the source of these songs, and each of them is a reflection of something very specific at one point in time.

“I found it beautiful that these songs came together as a result of me almost not having SASSY 009 anymore, and that’s when the word ‘kill’ came into the picture” – SASSY 009

What kind of emotions have influenced the record?

SASSY 009: “Are You Still A Lover”, for example, is a love song of sorts, but it’s also just me reflecting on love and death. I’m a very philosophical person – I like to think about and dwell on things, and try to understand my reality through my music. I’d say the main emotions I’ve been having since the last EP are being in love, falling out of love, feeling desperate, and needing something to cling onto in order to get my shit together. “Thrasher” is also an interesting song for me because I was experimenting with giving myself different voices. One voice is me singing out from me, and the other voice is for me – a voice saying something to me. That’s part of the conversation I’m having with myself. (The record) is very much about dynamics between different relationships with people and also the relationship I have with myself.

I’ve seen you play live a couple of times now – both since SASSY 009 became a solo project – and I feel like your shows are very distinctive. How did you establish the dynamic, and has it changed since going solo?

SASSY 009: It’s partially new and partially something that’s always been there. It is completely different now with the (new) trio (Sunniva Mellbye and Marit Thorvik) because I’m the front figure so have had to adapt to a new way of expressing who SASSY 009 is. I’m still exploring who I am on stage; SASSY 009 is very abstract for me – I don’t know if it’s a platform, or a different side of me, but the only way I can really understand it is by going on stage and getting to know that person better.

You’ve got a track coming out with Clairo soon – how did that come about?

SASSY 009: She posted (our track) “Are You Leaving” on her Instagram story, and we were like, ‘OK, holy shit, wow’, then we met at SXSW in Austin after she showed up to one of our gigs to say she really loved our music – later, she also said in an interview that she wanted to collab with SASSY 009. So when I was flying over to the US last November, I thought I could stop by Atlanta – we met in the studio there and made what’s now become the track “Lara” in like three days. It’s like the internet made sure it would happen.

Amazing, I can’t wait to hear it! What else have you got coming up?

SASSY 009: I’m just making music again and looking forward to the new decade – SASSY 009 is definitely not killed.

KILL SASSY 009 is out now