Lene Nystrøm of 90s iconic pop band, Aqua (Norway), speaks about touring and being called a “Barbie Girl”

Reaping honourable success in the 90s, eurodance/bubblegum pop band, Aqua have proven to themselves that they’re a band that will remain a band until the very end. With their timeless classics being “Barbie Girl” and “Doctor Jones”, speaking with Lene Nystrøm brought back very fond memories of my childhood; a chance to “Turn Back Time”. With the success of the band still present until this day, she shares her experiences and what she has learnt so far in her musical journey with Aqua, and I can tell you now, she’s far from being plastic.

I find it interesting that Aqua tends to follow a specific concept in each album. When it comes to making your songs, would you say that using your imagination plays a huge part in the songwriting?

“Yeah it does in a way. We like to create a kind of universe surrounding each song because we do everything ourselves. We produce, we write and we also have a vision for music videos with every song that we make.”

I’ve always seen Aqua as a visual band when it comes to the music you guys create. What intrigued the band into being part of the eurodance/bubblegum dance movement?

“You know we have been working together for I think like 2 years before we kind of created that kind of sound [eurodance/bubblegum genre] and we are still into different kinds of music. I do believe sometimes that in life you need people that you can create something special with, and you’re going to you know, love to bits. I do believe if it wasn’t for the four of us it [their music] wouldn’t be what it is. We all added something to it and I think that’s extremely important. It took us some time to find this sound and we had many discussions in the studio because we decided we didn’t like to sing in a high pitched voice, I wanted to sing with my normal voice. Until we understood how it kind of fitted into our own concept and you know, making it sound unique.”

Expanding on from that question, do you think it’s also something to do with your cultural heritage seeing as in Europe, eurodance is still pretty popular over there?

“Yeah. I think at the time that we started to make our music, it would look like you know cartoon figures coming to an award shows and stuff like that at the start. People thought it was kind of weird and a lot of people didn’t believe in us, but we did our own thing and we had the guts to do it. I think it was about being brave actually. The four of us together were really brave because there was a lot of post-grunge, rock music at the time before Pop music became popular to everyone. We just stuck to it [eurodance genre] and I’m so happy that we did that. At the start people thought we were silly in every kind of way, but as long as you believe in what you do, you will get somewhere.”

Would you say that it’s a challenge to get some radio play, now that there’s competition between EDM and trance music being the more popular alternative?

“We haven’t made anything new in a really long time. We’re just doing lots of touring for the fun of it and the thing is that when we were on top of the charts, we didn’t have time to focus 100% on touring. We’re just focusing on doing gigs every night. We’re having such a blast because we’re a really good live band and the thing we enjoy the most is actually being on stage. So, we’re not planning on releasing anything [new music] either so we don’t think of it as a competition.”

Following after your reunion, in 2011 you released an album Megalomania and music critics gave out mixed criticism for it in comparison to both Aquarium and Aquarius which got favourable reviews, could you tell me more on how this change came about?

“Change comes with every band. We’ve been together for almost 20 years and there’s also change from the first album, to the second album and as a band you need to develop. You have to do what you think is right and trust that it is the right thing to to do. You can’t just write songs and try and please people, you need to please yourself first of all, and that is what we did on our third album; you know you make it or you break it. It [Megalomania] did okay back home, but worldwide it didn’t do as well, but its a chance you have to take.”

Although it caused some controversy towards the Mattel company, “Barbie Girl” was an incredible success in the 90s and still probably a favourable karaoke hit for many people. When you look back at that achievement, do you sometimes feel pressured into releasing a track as good as that one?

“No, never. I mean “Barbie Girl” was a popular track with us at the time it was released. “Barbie Girl” and “Dr. Jones” for example are two of our songs that people think about instantly when they hear the name of Aqua and I think it just has to be part of us and we try to not cover up ourselves on who we truly are because of that song. Of course, that would be extremely cheeky I think but we have never felt pressured into releasing songs that are only known for one hit wonders, you know. It’s never been like that at all.”

It’s funny because nowadays in a normal conversation, people will only know of Aqua because of one hit song. Do you sometimes hate being ‘that’ band?

“We had like over ten number one singles around the world, so we don’t think about it [“Barbie Girl”] as a one hit wonder or anything. We’ve sold millions of records, so we are far from being that. “Barbie Girl” is a title and a song that people remember, because of the controversy and popularity so in interviews, they often bring it up. As a band we have experienced mixed feelings with that song. It’s like sending your baby out into the world and everybody has some opinion about it. In many places, people around the world don’t have a sense of humor and irony that we have. People kind of expected to meet Barbie girl when they met me and sometimes that was a little bit insulting.”

I know previously in the past your health hasn’t been top-notch when it comes to your live shows and it’s an admirable quality that you still are able to give out an energetic performance on stage to your fans. What has made you so strong when you’re at your most vulnerable state?

“The only time I’ve been sick was actually the last time we toured Australia, 2 years ago. I came from a huge production in Denmark I was doing. I was one of the Judges in the show The Voice, and I just finished that as the production ran for about six months for it too. I was exhausted and usually you can hold your sickness back until you’re finished, but I got pneumonia and I was going straight to tour. The first couple of days in Australia, I was really ill and that’s the only time I’ve actually been sick but I think being in this profession, you have to kind of push the button and you just give it your all because there’s nothing, you can’t be sick in this business. There’s no room for it, you just have to pull yourself together somehow.”

Most importantly, I know you’re probably incredibly excited for your Greatest Hits Tour which actually starts today! Would you say fans are going to get their daily dosage of 90s nostalgia in your NZ/Australian shows?

“Yeah! I think so. I’ve met so many people already that are coming to our first show here in Auckland tonight and it’s great fun to hear people’s reactions to us and I’m looking forward to it. Hearing fans go nostalgic about it [their music] and telling their stories about what the songs mean to them and what music means to them, it’s awesome. We are more like a rock band on stage but still poppy. I don’t think people are going to be disappointed because everyone will hear songs that they will know and I’m hoping it’s going to turn out well.”

When it comes to touring especially, what aspects of it make you most excited?

“Hanging out with the people you love, I mean doing this [touring] together is the one of the best things you could ever do in a band. We have extra people on stage; drummers, bass and guitar and all the crew around us and we have such a laugh. Us Norwegians are totally crazy at heart and we love to party and we love to have a good time. So, we enjoy every moment. It’s like a holiday for us and we get to do it with the people we love the most.”

Looking back at your journey with Aqua, what has made it so special for you so far and what do you plan on achieving in the next few years?

“It’s hard to pick out one or two elements from that. I’ve considered myself to be very lucky because as a kid, I really wanted to do something unique. I’ve been singing since I was a child, and I told my parents that I was going to buy them something; something really nice when I get famous. I knew I was going to do something different. When you’re a kid and getting there, it’s a long way to go and you have to have lots of luck with you as well. I’m so happy to be able to live like this.”


Aqua are currently on their “Greatest Hits” tour in Australia so catch them in these remaining shows if you want a dosage of 90s nostalgia:

Monday, 3rd November 2014
Palais, Melbourne

Wednesday, 5th November 2014
Metropolis, Fremantle


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