By Courtney E. Smith
The country of Sweden has born some of the greatest pop music ever heard . Thanks to hit-makers like ABBA, Robyn and omnipresent pop writer Max Martin, they can more than hold their own in a pop music Battle Royale against any of the world’s biggest exporters of the stuff. Their latest export, a trio called NONONO, have hit the American airwaves like a powerhouse with their single “Pumpin’ Blood.”
The group’s singer and songwriter, Stina Wäppling, along with the production duo Astma & Rocwell (real names, Tobias “Astma” Jimson and Michel Rocwell), began playing together in the spring of 2012. In addition to her day job as a psychiatric nurse, Wäppling was working at becoming a songwriter. It wasn’t going well.
“I was feeling down about the songwriting process,” Wäppling said. “I hadn’t done any of it before, but a lot of it was analyzing a topic and figuring out who it should be for. I didn’t know how to write like that. It started to feel like songwriting wasn’t for me.”
Wäppling came back together with the guys, who she had previously worked with informally, looking to start an actual group. The guys didn’t need too much convincing, since they had been fans of what Wäppling had done on her own and with other bands, and she says that working with them helped her to “love and find joy in writing again.”
Wäppling says they all had “similar goals and views” on music, which helped them coalesce. That common ground helped smooth the differences in their vastly different tastes. On paper, their individual influences, which range from hip-hop to ’80s dance to female singer songwriters, shouldn’t work well together. But when you listen to NONONO’s music, it’s clear it somehow does.
Wäppling said that a journalist had a theory that if you took every member of a particular band’s first influence, “the first type of music that they really fell in love with,” that a listener would be able to find the core of said band’s sound.
“So we all said our first album that we ever bought and it feels like that is sort of the mix our music sounds like,” Wäppling explained. “For Michel, he was really into Depeche Mode and the Cure — ’80s dance like that. Tobias was heavily hip-hop influenced, by all types. I was more singer-songwriter, like Martha Wainwright.”
Sure, it sounds like the makings of a disastrous mishmash, but if the success of their single “Pumpin’ Blood” is any indication, this mishmash might be solid gold.
The song, which Wäppling wrote about finding a new beginning as a songwriter, has also attracted attention from the worlds of TV and film appearing in an ad for Garnier Fructis, the film Endless Love, Glee, Revenge, Cougar Town and the Vampire Diaries.
Wäppling doesn’t know what makes the world like a song, but she does offer some insight into her own feelings of attachment when she completes one.
“When you make a song, you don’t compare it to anyone else,” Wäppling said. “At that point it’s like the best song in the whole world. All songs need to have that moment for you to not have any regrets with it and accept it for what it is; it’s perfect in itself. That doesn’t mean someone else is going to think it’s the best song in the world or that you’re always going to think that. But all the songs that you really stand by need that moment. I strive for that.”
NONONO’s debut album We Are Only What We Feel hits stores on July 1.