‘Die to Be a Butterfly’: Five Questions + Five Fascinating Answers w/ Ora the Molecule

With all apologies and respect to the parents who named her Nora Schjelderup, from what we can tell, burgeoning young Norwegian songstress Ora the Molecule is definitely more Ora than Nora. Back in February, she was our first really thrilling surprise of 2021, with her wonderfully oddball video for ‘Creator’ captivating in a way that was admittedly somewhat difficult to even put into words.

She has a striking new single, the dramatically titled ‘Die to Be a Butterfly,’ which is a near perfect encapsulation of the classic post-punk sonic ethos (think flanged guitars, gently African rhythms, eerily beautiful harmonies), recalling the likes of Au Pairs and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Lyrically, she reveals that it’s about, “not being so scared of death. All evil comes from fear and all fear comes from being alone. The ultimate idea of loneliness is death. If you can eliminate that basic human fear, maybe you can afford to be good to other people around you.” And we certainly do need people to be good to each other right now, more than ever.

The accompanying video – premiering today, directed by Jody Elizabeth Nolan and Beth Cutting of AJCollective – has so much going on, that we actually thought it best to leave the explanations to her. So we engaged Ms. Schjelderup (Ms. Molecule?) on just what it all means.

N.B. Ora the Molecule’s debut album Human Safari is due out July 23, via Mute, and can be pre-ordered here.

‘Die to Be a Butterfly’ seems an amalgam of so many post-punk influences. What inspired it, sonically?

It’s difficult to point to a specific source, as we’ve been exposed to so much. If I had to choose some off the top of my head, it would be Laurie Anderson, Kraftwerk and maybe even Chromatics. Stereolab has also played a big influence in the musical landscape, as well as Bon Voyage Organisation. The layering of the voices has been influenced by the latter especially. 

The lyrics go “You better learn to fly” and “For what is best / Conquer new horizons” – is the song a kind of affirmation?

In a way yes, but I would say it’s more of a cheap way of validating my behaviour. The lyrics are reflecting on my laziness/fear of failing in a dry, sarcastic way, but simultaneously contemplating that nothing will come in life unless I push myself and learn to fly. The song is sort of a self confrontation with things I’m afraid of. 

Where was the video filmed? 

We filmed in multiple places around our area. At the time, that was a tiny village on the outskirts of Granada, Spain. We filmed in our garden, on the empty schoolyard, on this crazy beautiful reservoir lake called Embalse de los Bermejales, and on the top of the mountain. The natural surroundings made it easy to find good places to film. But as Jody and Beth were particular about the lighting, we had to get up early to catch the morning sun and had to drive like mad over the mountain to catch the sunset. 

There is a lot going on in the video, some of which seems symbolic or metaphorical. Could you elaborate a bit on it?

The concept of the video was very much in the hands of the incredible female collective duo NoCowboys. But from what I understood, their take on the song was a play with the concept of tension and fluidity. Power and powerlessness. To me, the scenes represent a sense of courage and surrendering to the unknown and uncomfortable. 

If asked to describe your debut album, what would you say?

Hmm…perhaps eclectic and unifying at the same time. It’s both alienating and comforting. I’d have to say “pop,” as all the songs are very melodic. Playful pop on top of big electronic soundscapes. But it’s spiced with loads of instrumental parts: Celtic-inspired vocal choir, post-punk drum influences, as well some psychedelic, dreamy guitars. I also think each song is pretty different.

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