Karen Marie Ørsted, otherwise known as MØ, produces dark, dreamy retro-dance tracks that have her in line to inherit the throne from reigning genre queens Grimes and Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches. The 25-year-old self-proclaimed tomboy—often clad in ’90s-inspired sporty-chic crop tops, sky-high braids, pink fur chubbies and grunge-inspired toppers—is the whole package. Killer style aside, we’re obsessed with her recently released debut album, No Mythologies to Follow (Chess Club/RCA Victor), which features youthful bittersweet yearning bundled into sparkling synths and bouncy hooks. We spoke to the rising star—who plays Wrongbar in Toronto on May 26 (tonight!)—about present-day inspirations and how she harnesses the power of the past.
Why did you choose MØ as your stage name? MØ means maiden, like a pure, young girl, unspoiled and unprepared for the big, dangerous world. I chose it because of the irony. A lot of my songs are about this period of time where you, as a child, get thrown into the madness of the teen years; when you experience all these new feelings and you search to find yourself. It’s this middle ground between being a child and a grown-up and that’s where all the darkness—but also a lot of new, great stuff—happens.
What are some of your musical influences? My biggest inspiration of all time has been Sonic Youth, but that’s very much an attitude thing and something about the lyrics, the whole thing that they did was so different but still worked so awesomely. Kim Gordon is my biggest role model.
Recently, you did a cover of the Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There.” What made you choose it? When I was seven years old, the Spice Girls were my heroes—they inspired me to become a musician. I thought it would be funny to take this song and make it into a MØ song. It was, of course, with irony, but I had fun doing it. Even though I don’t like their music, I still love the Spice Girls for what they represented to me back then. And I think they preached some good messages about girl power.
Many of the big acts on the scene right now include female vocalists. What do you make of this trend? It’s cool to see some strong frontwomen but [ultimately] I don’t think sex matters.
How do you like to dress for performing? I like to feel comfortable. I think my style is a mixture between grunge and sporty and natural. I’ve always been a tomboy type, but I still think it’s nice to have some femininity in there, some sexiness. I really like to wear black because it’s my favourite colour.
You often sport a high, braided ponytail—is this a part of your usual beauty routine? I’m very energetic when we play live, so I adopted the look to get my hair out of my sweaty face. Now, I’ve had that plait for so long that it just seems like a natural part of me.
How do you want your audience to experience your music? I want to tell stories and just let go and be myself and show the audience my true self. I don’t want to be this perfect machine and stand there and sing perfect and look perfect. It’s [more] about living in the moment.
What should first-time listeners expect from your debut album? The title of the album is No Mythologies to Follow and a lot of the songs are about trying to navigate this modern society as a young, searching person. Our society is all about “me me me,” and you have to be perfect all the time and be good at everything. It’s just so hard to live up to all those expectations when you’re young.