Singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche has called Brooklyn home for six years. Unlike many residents of the borough's hip Williamsburg neighborhood, however, he didn't move there to be part of hipster nation or because it was the epicenter of indie rock.
"I wanted to disappear," says Lerche, 29, who was already a well-established pop star in his native Norway before he decided to relocate to New York in 2005. After three years in Brooklyn, the move became permanent. "The first half year, I felt no need to leave the apartment," he says. "I had had a couple of years of intense traveling after some nice acclaim. Wonderful things had happened and I remember thinking, 'At this point, I can live anywhere I want and work as a musician.' Coming from a small town in a small country, I felt I should take advantage of that."
When Lerche moved to New York, his third album, "The Duper Sessions," was already in the works. In Norway, where he was signed to EMI, Lerche's brand of chamber pop bounced between the melancholic and the cheerful. In the United States he took a jazzy interlude with "The Duper Sessions" before opting for punchy rock songs that retained a level of pop sophistication as heard in the arrangements on 2007's "Phantom Punch" (Astralwerks) and, two years later, "Heartbeat Radio" (Rounder). He also wrote a song score for the 2007 Steve Carell film "Dan in Real Life."
Lerche's new self-titled disc is the first he has self-financed and the first album on which every song was written in New York. Although he says he would've preferred to record the album in Brooklyn as well, he wound up in a studio in Los Angeles with a collection of collaborators from his new hometown.
"When I looked for a studio [in Brooklyn], I wound up meeting a lot of musicians I wanted to pursue and experiment with," says Lerche, who brought in longtime producer/collaborator Kato Adland to work with his new bandmates. "I really wanted him around, thinking he would get the most out of me working with new people. I also wanted the limitations. 'Heartbeat Radio' was layer upon layer and I felt I didn't want to dress up these songs. I wanted to capture a moment rather than make it stylistic."
Lerche says the difference between the new album and his previous efforts is "a stronger connection with reality." Dreamy elements have been replaced with some assertive, no-holds-barred band performances, giving some songs hearty improvisations as they conclude, as on the song "Domino."
"You keep pushing," he says of the recording process. "It was very new to me in a way. I wanted the atmosphere of a song to set the tone. There were some big moments, times when we got closer to the intensity that is experienced in a live show. I wanted that urgency and risk and potential. It can get tricky and uncomfortable."
Lerche created his own label for the project, Mona, that Yep Roc will distribute stateside when it's released June 7. Telle Records released the album May 30 in Norway and will issue it Sept. 5 in the rest of Europe. Deals in Japan and Australia are forthcoming.
"I was looking for independent solutions," he says of his decision to not sign with a label. "I'm far more in control of the situation and ultimately it's self-released, though I have good helpers. I feel blessed to have established a career in the last 10 years and also to [have] made a transition."