With a milestone birthday on the horizon, Sondre Lerche decided to revisit his most life-defining moments.
The Bergen, Norway indie rock singer-songwriter and guitarist mines past relationships, experiences, and emotions on his latest ambitious, cinematic double album, Avatars of Love.
“I’m going to be 40 this year, and suddenly, I was able to write songs that have a much longer arc. It’s more like a movie where you’re able to move and jump from different periods of your own life and other lives in a way,” Lerche said.
“Imagine seeing the places, the moments where you fell short and seeing the moments where you could have taken the other road and seeing what that meant in a bigger picture. Some of my greatest experiences in life are in these songs, and it felt very important for me to capture it.”
Throughout Avatars of Love, Lerche vividly reconstructs endearing scenes of self-reflection across 14 storied tracks. Spanning nearly 90 minutes in length, the album glides alongside lush ambient and orchestral soundscapes, poetic lyrics, unconventional song structures, and majestic instrumentation.
“Because the lyrics linger longer, I found myself more interested in letting the songs have bigger perspectives, like zooming out from the stuff that’s purely personal and seeing if you can make a connection to the world in a way,” he said.
“At the same time, I was also zooming in on details. I was more interested in the color of the sky and the color of the room, and it’s what brings more of the cinematic elements. I was working more as a script writer … outlining a movie script because I had an idea for a way of structuring a story.”
Inside Avatars of Love
Ominous percussion, eerie synth, hypnotic acoustic guitar, and fluttering strings unveil nighttime vulnerabilities as he sings, “Every power balance turned around / Every night spent scrolling without a sound / Our souls vibrate, our senses kneel / Our great escape, our chance to heal.”
“We’re in the lead role in our own lives, and we feel all these fantastic and terrible things that we experience are unique to us,” Lerche said. “The night is a metaphor for basically everything that we want to keep secret.”
After leaving the “Dead of the Night,” Lerche shifts to the balmy memories of old flames on “Summer in Reverse” with Japanese experimental pop quartet CHAI. Sunny pop sensibilities nicely complement Lerche’s ironic lyrics about heartache and introspection.
He sings, “New Year’s Day / I’m still weighing my options / I dozed off on the floor / Sorting through receipts / And bygone omens / Of nights I still long for.”
“I did write that song on January 1 of last year, and I just came over these chords and that groove and felt that it should be a song,” Lerche said. “It’s a pocket funk song, and it’s playful. I also liked the idea of a song that looks and laughs at yourself for being so desperate or being so hopeful.”
Lerche also tries to reinstate hope on the haunting Avatars of Love closer, “Alone in the Night,” with Norwegian pop artist AURORA. A wistful symphony of nylon string guitar, bass, percussion, synth, and strings echoes Lerche’s despair about lifelong partners facing dementia.
Along with AURORA, Lerche sings, “Our memories slip through the hands of time / Like stars, eclipsed in the dark / Like you and I / All alone in the night?”
“For lovers who have spent their whole lives together, it just seemed like one of the most heartbreaking, cruelest things to experience,” he said. “That one is doomed to forget everything, and the other is doomed to remember.”
In fact, Lerche distinctly remembers writing and recording the 14 tracks for Avatars of Love in 2020. At the time, he’d relocated to his hometown of Bergen, Norway after living in the U.S. for 15 years and allowed the sprawling tracks to naturally emerge.
Those songwriting stints quickly morphed into recording sessions with a team of international producers and collaborators, including Kato Ådland, Matias Téllez, Dirty Projectors’ Felicia Douglass, Rodrigo Alarcon, and others, to help shape the album remotely and in the studio.
“Because of the pandemic, everybody was game and said, ‘I’ll just record it at home. It’s no problem.’ They were so generous to do it in the first place. In this case, it worked every single time, and it just blended,” said Lerche, who also released Patience in 2020.
“I felt I was pretty specific in what I was after, but at the same time, I think the songs communicated with people, and they found a way to integrate themselves into it.”
On the Road
In support of Avatars of Love, Lerche has embarked on 22-date U.S. tour through May 29. With stops in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Ann Arbor, it’s his first nationwide tour in more than five years.
“I’m anxious to see how it feels for me to tour to that extent again. I’m thrilled to be sharing and playing these songs and having a chance to meet the fans and the listeners,” said Lerche, who’s adapting to the uncertainties of touring in a pandemic-era environment.
“I’m really hoping people will take a chance on going to seek out live music again, and that we can create a really safe environment for the thing that we love to do and that we love to share.”
Lerche will share tracks from his latest release as well as Patience with an Ark audience on May 17. He’ll be joined by a full band and special guest mmeadows, which features Kristin Slipp of Dirty Projectors and Cole Kamen-Green.
“I want to represent different eras of my catalog. It’s fun for me to revisit old songs,” Lerche said. “I love playing ‘Two Way Monologue,’ ‘Sleep on Needles,’ ‘Modern Nature,’ and certain songs that are staples of my set. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of focus on new songs that we want to share.”
After wrapping up his U.S. tour, Lerche will perform a series of live shows in Norway this summer. He’s also eager to get back into the studio.
“When I finish a record, I always leave some things unfinished so I have something to return to and continue,” Lerche said. “There’s no rush having just released so much music, and I’ll be on the road a bunch. I like to have something cooking at any given moment.”