It may shock you to know that there is more to Sweden than Ikea, Alexander Skarsgard, and meatballs. Just below the surface of the country's pristine Scandinavian streets lurks a fetish scene, not unlike the one you'd stumble into in Berlin. It's there amongst the whips, chains, and octopus tentacles that you'd find COBRAH, the aptly-titled "lesbian queen of the Swedish fetish scene."
Setting aside the artist's traditionally blonde locks and ethereal glowing skin that seems omnipotent in her country, COBRAH has carved out a name for herself among the dingy underground of the country's S&M crowd thanks to a penchant for ball gags and chains, but the singer isn't ready to rely on shock value and call it a day. On her first single, "IDFKA," COBRAH makes the political personal as she takes on anxiety and self-liberation against pulsing electronic production fit for a voguing battle, chanting "I don't fucking know anymore" in an almost comical monotone.
In the fittingly twisted video to accompany the track, COBRAH enlisted the visual talents of motion designer Erik Hellmouth. She pukes in her own mouth, swallows her body, and, eventually, gives birth to an army of COBRAH clones.
As she celebrated the release of her new single, we caught up with the rising Scandinavian talent to talk her love for Kate Bush, tackling her anxiety, and how Sweden's fetish scene sets itself apart.
OUT: You got your start in Sweden's fetish club scene and have been described as the "lesbian queen of the Swedish fetish scene." People may not usually associate Sweden with fetish scenes. Tell me about what that scene is like.
COBRAH: It's amazing! What I really like about the scene is that it's so experimental, free from judgment. It's an open space for self-liberation and it has helped me indulge and express who I am as an artist without being shamed.
Cities like Berlin are famous for their club and fetish scenes. How does Sweden stand apart or compare?
I used to live in Berlin for a short time and I would say that because Sweden is a smaller country there aren't that many clubs, but the clubs here are more inviting as long as you stick to the dress code, rather than in Berlin where you often have to stand in line forever and hopefully get in if the guard is in a good mood and you know some German words. (Laughs)
What moment sparked the idea to write "I Don't Fucking Know Anymore?"
I wrote it two years ago when I studied music in the northern part of Sweden. One day, a classmate and myself got the idea that we wanted to make something experimental and we listened to good electro music for hours and got buzzed up on it. A week later, he sent me the beat and I'm really into vogue culture, so I wrote repeating lyrics that reminded me of vogue chanting. It wasn't until the song was finished I understood that this is my sound.
What song or artist influenced you when you were younger?
When I was 10, my parents got me an MP3 player and my dad put a bunch of Kate Bush on it. I thought she was so cool and started to do covers of her songs on the piano. When I was 13, I found the band Dresden Dolls led by the amazing performer Amanda Palmer and became addicted to that too.
Today, I would say that Peaches is a really big idol of mine. I've always been attracted to female icons. I think it's because I've always wanted to become a female idol for someone too since I was 10 years old!
Photography by Simon Ljung.
The video for "IDFKA" is wild. How did the concept for it come about?
I had a few ideas that I wanted to do and Erik Hellmouth, the animator, was so excited that we decided to create them all. The concept is the birthing of COBRAH.
COBRAH starts with "IDFKA," and the name is from the song, so I wanted to give myself a beginning. To do that, I felt that I had to confront my anxiety of self-doubt and grow from it, which is why the video illustrates my self-birthing and ends with an army of me's walking into the future.
It's been described as a song to "incarnate anxiety in its pure form." How has music helped you control your anxiety and panic attacks?
I'm anxious about small things that I blow out of proportion all the time and it's been driving me insane. That's why the song is so aggressive as well -- because I'm so tired of being controlled by it.
The thing with music, and especially with performing, is that there's this side of me that's more confident, opinionated and free. Something that I can truly channel and express only through my music.
What's next for you?
The most exciting thing right now is that I don't know. There's a lot more music coming out next year and hopefully, I'll be doing a bunch of live shows [and] fun fashion and performance collaborations, which is exactly what I want to be doing!