Words by Laura Studarus
NONONO launched their US invasion last October at CMJ. Although they had a blast performing for the first time at the New York music festival, the Swedish trio admits that they didn’t realize the impact they made stateside until returning several months later.
“We almost felt annoyed with ourselves,” frontwoman Stina Wäppling jokes. “We got into a cab and ‘Pumpin Blood’ was there. We went into a store and it was there. We were hanging out in our hotel room and it came on TV. People must be so tired of us and our song! But it’s so nice. When you hear the song back in Sweden, you don’t understand that it’s actually true that the song has been flown to the US and people really are listening. It’s very special.”
The former psychology student turned songwriter/vocalist is deeply enjoying the ride, one she couldn’t have imagined only a few years ago. Splitting her time between her studies in Brighton, England and her home in Stockholm, Sweden, Wäppling began writing with bandmates Tobias Jimson and Michel Flygare (better known as production team “Astma & Rocwell”) whim. The pair appreciated Wäppling’s untrained style, and two years later, after her graduation, NONONO was officially formed. A year later “Pumpin Blood” would take them out of the studio and around the world.
“At the beginning of their careers they were definitely struggling, sleeping on floors and doing whatever job to pay their rent,” says Wäppling of her bandmates. “They’ve seen the struggle that most people go through. I was thrown into this. They’re good at telling me and reminding me that we are really lucky to have found each other.”
Sure NONONO’s music is ebullient. The songs of the trio’s debut full-length We Are Only What We Feel are riddled with electropop earworms, comprised of caffeinated choruses, crunchy beats, and Wäppling’s ghostly soprano. But as Wäppling explains, it goes a bit deeper than fuel for your next dance party mixtape or workout playlist.
“There’s a lot of things that you should do or should feel or that other people think that you should do or feel,” she says of the reasoning behind their album title. “But how you feel inside is the only thing that matters. It felt like an important thing for us. Both when it comes to writing music and life. You have to go with what you feel inspired by.”
It’s a theme that she circles back to several times throughout the conversation. How do you live your life? Who’s standards are you living by? Where is the pressure to make decisions coming from? Even amidst a heavy touring and promotional cycle, Wäppling makes it clear that the spirit of independence that inspired their music is still the same code that NONONO tries to live by. Take care of yourself, follow what you know to be true, and everything else will follow.
“You want to say yes, and you feel like the more I say yes, the better,” she muses. “But you’re not going to be that who person who’s sociable or happy. Like on airplanes, they say to put your own mask on before you help others. You can’t give anything to anyone else if you don’t have anything to give.”
We Are Only What We Feel is out Now on Warner Bros