Lina Tullgren Talks New EP Wishlist, Influence, and the Underdog Track

Meredith Schneider

Lina Tullgren

Picture this: A beautiful brunette, riding up to the scene in an early 70s BMW “like a 2002tii in chartreuse” driven by David Byrne or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Probably both, if you can nab one of those “Permit Driver” versions of a 70s BMW. Everything seems (almost) normal, until she gets closer and you realize that the vehicle is packed to the brim with bunny rabbits. The brunette gracefully exits the vehicle–as gracefully as you can exit a vehicle full of bunnies–and says “Hi”, shaking your hand. 

This is how Lina Tullgren would prefer to make her grand entrance into your life. “I’m a sucker for a firm handshake,” she elaborates. Decidedly, her music leaves a firm impression on you, so that sentiment makes sense. On June 24th, she released her EP Wishlist–a collection of songs recorded with childhood friend Ty Ueda in October 2015to the masses, to rave reviews. Inspired by her childhood among creatives and artists, Wishlist plays as an airy love letter to Lina’s own growth, focusing on both the highs and the lows. Entrancing and original, we were hooked from the start.

Lina sat down to answer some questions about her work, the underdog track off Wishlist, influence, and what we’ve got to look forward to next.

When did you realize that music was something you wanted to pursue? Was there a defining moment?   

there were a lot of defining moments – a lot of them happened at maine fiddle camp which is this wild place that i started going to at age 12. it’s an all ages summer camp for all different stringed instruments musicians of really any level to learn about traditional downeast maine, quebec, Appalachian fiddle music. that was the place i started to become comfortable with singing in front of people and collaborating with other musicians and thinking about songwriting. another thing was listening to elliott smith’s “either/or” for the first time. one other moment was when ty, my bandmate / best friend / collaborator, asked me to play bass in his indie rock band and we played our first rock show and it totally exploded my mind with how different it was from playing folk music.

You’re originally from New England. How do you think your hometown has helped to shape who you are, and perhaps your sound? 

i’m from new england. i was born in portsmouth, new hampshire and grew up in all the towns that surround it. they call it the seacoast area. the art and music scene is really special there. i was very lucky to have a lot of older friends, parent’s friends and parents who were constantly challenging me to make things and explore different creative realms. there is also an immense amount of freedom that exists when you grow up in a place where you can be in the woods or on the ocean whenever you want, really alone with yourself. all of these factors really helped shape the sound, even though it took me a long time to really understand it and i had to leave my hometown to find it.

On that note, how would you describe your sound, specifically?

it’s dark but it’s hopeful. sometimes it’s quiet and then it’s really loud. atmospheric, but raw.

What influences your music?

existence, upheaval, change, sense of place. the way we interact with our own minds, with other humans, why we hurt people, why we love people. the times in between: how we get back on our feet and feel like ourselves again after we end a relationship or move to a new place or lose a friend. 

“Grace” is probably our favorite off the mixtape. What was the writing and recording process like for that song?

that’s your favorite ? that’s so cool ! i feel like it’s the underdog of the tape. that song was originally a different song called “home alone” that i used to play a lot to no real satisfaction. i took things i liked about “home alone” and transferred them over into this weirder chord progression while keeping some of the original ideas and also adding newly processed sentiments into the mix. when ty and i recorded it, we pitched it up and ty played organ. i like that it came out all eerie, haunting. 

Are there any specific memories that flood to the forefront of your mind when you hear–or perform–that song?

yeah, there are but they’re tricky. i really fucked with someone i cared about in a way that makes me very sad. but i learned from that and i keep it with me all the time.  

What was it like recording on analog? (The sound is amazing!)

recording on analog is the bomb ! ty has a tascam 388 which is very cool machine. recording in this format really works for me, because there are only a handful of takes you can do for everything, so you try your best to make them all count. i wouldn’t call myself lazy in any respects but i’m certainly not a perfectionist. with this format i have learned to be less self-critical. ty is also a really great producer with a never ending supply of crazy ideas that usually, almost always work. it helps when you’ve been making music together since you were smarmy sixteen year olds.

What are your favorite things about summer?

swimming in the ocean (or any body of water), riding my bike over the mass ave bridge at night after work, driving around in my best friend madison’s bright blue pickup truck, eating lobster sandwiches, wearing all white outfits. oh and the fact that all the terrible college students and all the terrible rich people leave boston for the summer. 

Who would you perform with if you had the chance?

klaus nomi, prince, steely dan and john hartford. maybe in one big band where i’m the bandleader. that would be so fucked up and weird.

What is your definition of “love” or romance in the modern world?

DEAD.

When you think of “home,” what comes to mind?

when i was in middle school, my step mom and my dad would go out on dates sometimes and i’d babysit my little brother who was very young, two or something. after he would go to sleep i’d sit in my kitchen playing my tiny nylon string guitar, writing words to elliott smith melodies and chord progressions. i think about that a lot. i don’t really know why. i’ve moved so many times and i’m always chasing that feeling – like you’re completely yourself but completely alone and you feel so comfortable and at home. know what i mean ? i also think about being in love.

What’s up next for you? (Go wild!)

i’m working on recording an LP. i’m moving to new york in september. i’d like to go on tour. i started working on a play over the winter so i should finish that. yesterday my friend pushed me into the mystic river and i lost my favorite sunglasses so i’m going to make her buy me new ones.

Wishlist is available here.

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