All About Love with Lykke Li

All About Love with Lykke Li

All About Love with Lykke Li

In the middle of her “EYEYE” tour, V caught up with Li to talk all things honesty, love, and womanhood

In the middle of her “EYEYE” tour, V caught up with Li to talk all things honesty, love, and womanhood

Text: Kayla Curtis-Evans

Lykke Li is nothing short of a musical aficionado, first venturing into the realm with her 2008 debut album, Youth Novels. Along the way, she has released four sublimely poignant projects, each allowing her to dig deeper and deeper into her core with the goal of recovering the most highly-coveted treasure: a profound understanding of self. 

Matt Adam

While Li expresses there is still a large part of that expedition she has yet to traverse, she has come a bit closer to achieving unbridled acceptance through her latest project, EYEYE. The introspective album explores themes of love—how it feels to be loved and to grant love—from soft exchanges of intimate touch to the neurological processes that drive the emotion. Through understanding these raw feelings and scenarios, Li has come face to face with the totality of womanhood. EYEYE is a meditation on love, the immense fulfillment, and at the same time, the harrowing responsibility that comes with being a woman.

Matt Adam

Told in two different chapters through Li’s “EYEYE” tour, her poetic strings of words are brought to life upon a brilliant backdrop—with Li’s longtime band, costume design by Casey Cadwallader for Mugler, and choreography by Imre and Marne Van Opstal. 

Dialing in from her home base of Los Angeles, the artist joins V to reflect upon the new project, her artistic tour, and how themes of love and womanhood consistently inspire her work. Although soft-spoken in demeanor, her words hold an undeniable power, managing to keep us hanging onto every sentence. Read more, below!

Matt Adam

V MAGAZINE: You’ve been performing with your band since you were 20 years old—what has changed since then? How have you all evolved, sonically, personally, and collaboratively?

LYKKE LI: The thing about this time is that we all were on a break for a couple of years because of COVID. I was nervous to get back out there so it was just kind of beautiful to see that the foundation we laid together for over a decade is still in there. It's like muscle memory. We've all evolved and have big personal lives, but when we play it's still a very intimate, ceremonial thing. 

V: Although you have found your lane in the music space, you came from the dance world originally. Can you tell me a bit about that and how you still continue to honor that passion through your current projects?

LL: I quit dancing when I was 15 and that really was my world from when I was five until then. I took a really, really long break and I haven't really dipped my feet into it since then. So it's the same thing there. It's quite emotional to bring back my childhood and teenage dreams and how I spent my teenage years. So it's very, very beautiful and emotional. 

V: You’ve mentioned before that EYEYE is your “Los Angeles” album. In what ways has that city informed your work and led you to new revelations about future work?

LL: For me, LA—like it is for many people—is kind of a clean slate. It's not like you bump into your school teacher when you go get your groceries. Everyone comes from somewhere else. I came at a young, novel age and then I really spent a lot of time owning my craft and finding myself as a woman. So it's a very deep place for me that's seen some of the hardest times in my life, but some of the deepest. Especially as a writer, it's really where I've grown the most. 

Matt Adam

V: I think it's really interesting to see how your environment impacts your work, especially as a creative person. Why did you decide to split your tour into two different acts—do you feel like your older work honors a different side of you and your persona than EYEYE?

LL: Well, I really wanted to honor the new album, which is something that is very ripe and best experienced in one, long go. But then I also wanted to show all the scars that led me to be who I am today. So it's almost like the first act is the real show. It's me as a boxer in the ring—I beat myself, I won. So the second half is really showing that I'm a champion. 

V: I really enjoy that analogy and also the idea of weaving a distinct through-line between your old work and new. Along with that theme, you also write about commonly meditated-upon tropes—love, heartbreak, turmoil. How do you manage to avoid the derivative qualities of those themes in EYEYE?

LL: When I'm writing, I'm just trying to accurately describe the exact scene that I experienced. Especially on this album, I would live the thing and then I would go and write exactly what happened and how I felt. It's really just painting images and scenes and being as close to the truth as possible. I mean, love is banal. But I'm curious to hear anyone's love story when it's completely honest. 

Matt Adam

V: I think that honesty is evident in your music and that’s what makes the album so easy to resonate with. How has your understanding of these deeply emotional and formative feelings shifted with the birth of your son? Did that spur a rebirth of the self, in a sense?

LL: Before rebirth, there's death. So definitely, in giving birth to a child, a part of yourself dies. Your autonomy, your freedom, your youth. First, you have to experience death. And I've done that many times and that can be a difficult part of the process. But then the beauty is that there is always rebirth—but it doesn't all happen at the same time. I'm not writing all the time either. I take breaks and try to really live life intensely in between. So I'm just very grateful because when I worked on this album, I felt like, 'Wow, I don't know if I'll ever be this immersed and bursting with lyrics again.'

V: That experience has to ground you and bring you back to the raw emotion of the experiences that you're reliving through these songs. Being in the industry as long as you have, you’ve curated your own lane sonically, but it seems you also have an interest in self-expression through style as well. How did your relationship with Casey Cadwallader and Mugler begin?

LL: I don't necessarily see it as fashion—especially with Casey, it's more so costuming and tailoring. Before I met Casey, I would go to costume houses and take a jacket and try to copy it. And it was kind of done in a very 'do-it-yourself’ vibe. So when I finally met him, that all changed. I mean, he's just a master of women. He appreciates women in a way that I've never seen a designer do and it's really empowering. The first time I was lucky enough to wear his costumes, it felt insane. There's really no going back from there. But I don't usually see it as fashion. For this tour, it's more about, 'How do we embody this album?' And it's more about creating a costume and a character that I can step into. It's also a shield from being exposed on stage.

Matt Adam

V: I definitely understand that. His work allows you to transform and makes the messaging of your music even more powerful. The album is accompanied by seven visual loops, meant to be viewed as puzzle pieces to a larger picture or story. What is that story you’d like to tell?

LL: I'm looking at love from all aspects, also from a neuro-scientific place where it's really describing the chemicals, the rush, the cycles, and the addiction. That goes into larger themes than love. It's kind of about dissecting womanhood.

V: You mentioned female empowerment and wanting to show all facets of that —what does womanhood look and feel like to you?

LL: It's about how complex it is—strong and soft at the same time. We all know, to be a woman and to go through what we go through, is a hell of a ride. I think that's all I can say. We are in a part of the world where we're blessed to be expressing ourselves because it can be really difficult to be a woman. Especially to be a woman and an artist. 

V: What is the greatest lesson or realization you gained through this album creation process?

LL: I'm not fully over it yet, so I can't conclusively say what the lesson is just yet. I'm still very much in the process. But all I can say is getting to do what I do is essential for my existence and it's the most powerful medicine—to be creating with your collaborators and to be able to spend time in another world, completely immersed. It's the greatest gift on earth. 

Matt Adam
Credits: Images Courtesy of Matt Adam


anOnlyChild Lit Up LA Fashion Week
anOnlyChild was the star of LA Fashion Week.